Hydraulic Vs. Mechanical Disc Brakes-Which One is Better?


Hydraulic Vs. Mechanical Disc Brakes

For a cyclist, brakes are the most important thing. A good brake ensures the security of a biker.

If you go through the internet, you’ll find several types of brakes. Among them, the most deserving ones are hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes. Between them, the hydraulic brake is considered as the latest technology.

Choosing the right bike becomes more challenging nowadays for the unavoidable upliftment of technology in the bike world.

Rim brakes and disc brakes are more than anything popular around the world. I am personally suggesting you choose disc brake over rim brake as disc brake seems more cycling-friendly to me.

Disc brakes bike has two branches. One is hydraulic disc brakes, and another one is mechanical disc brakes.

Here, I’ll let you know about every detail about hydraulic vs mechanical disc brakes, their comparison, advantages, and disadvantages. So, stay tuned with me.

How Hydraulic Brakes Work

The central theme of hydraulic brake is using a fluid. The fluid helps to push the brakes pad against the rotor. Rotor squeezes the disc to stop the bike.

When you push the brake lever with your fingers, plunge shoves the liquid through the hose into the caliper. Finally, the caliper presses the brake pads against the rotor.

Hydraulic Disc Brake Pros & Cons

Advantages

  • You’ll be able to stop in all conditions without locking your tires. It doesn’t matter how fast and slow you are.
  • Less force will be needed in the brake lever. With little effort, you could stop the bike. This will make you confident about your stopping ability.
  • Almost maintenance-free. As the system is fully enclosed, there’s no chance to enter dirt, dust, mud, and water in the system.
  • This will provide you with even braking power.

Disadvantages

  • You have to carry maintenance tools wherever you go. If the brake breaks, there will be no way to fix it without oil, hoses, funnel, and syringe.
  • Bleeding of fluid is not easy. You have to follow all the steps for bleeding correctly.
  • For a very long-time ride and extreme heat, the oil can boil and generates air bubbles. As you know air bubble can decrease the braking ability; thus, the brake system won’t work correctly.
  • Hydraulic disc Brake is costly.

How Mechanical Disc Brakes Work

For hauling the caliper, a cable is used in mechanical disc brakes. When you push the brake lever, the cable pulls the caliper down. Then the calipers screws in a washer type piece, that drives the pads on the rotor.

Bicycle brakes follow the universal principle. The main difference is, mechanical disc brakes are using the cable, on the other hand, the hydraulic disc brake system is run by fluid, where fluid works like cable.

Mechanical Disc Brakes Pros & Cons

Mechanical disc brakes have a normal structure. At the same time, it has some advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Easy maintenance.
  • Less costly. That’s why you have to change the cables and pads frequently.
  • No fear of breaking down the brakes. If breaks, you’ll be able to fix it in five minutes.

Cons

  • Less friction and works less in bad conditions.
  • Dust, dirt, mud, water can affect the system.
  • Cable has to replace 2, 3 times in every year.

Hydraulic Vs Mechanical Disc Brake

MechanicalHydraulic
Brake mediumCableFluid
WeightMore weightLess weight
Brake performanceLess sensitive, more squeeze is neededMore sensitive, exquisite brake power with less squeeze
Maintenance Routine FrequentlyYou can change the fluid at least one time a year
Realigning EasyComplex
CostCheapcostly

Realigning Your Disc Brakes

If you are a frequent rider, then you’ll know what realigning means. Brake pads can wear away after regular riding for months. As a result, your braking power can be reduced because the distance between pads and rotors will increase. This causes slow breaking and uneven braking.

Here I’ll let you know how you can realign your bicycle. Reorganizing the brake pads has no difference between mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical has a few extra bolts, and it is one of the main differences in hydraulic vs mechanical disc brakes.

Hydraulic Brakes

The realigning procedure of front and rear brakes is the same. So, I won’t repeat it for two brakes.

  • At first, you have to ensure that the caliper can move side to side by losing the mounting bolts. Don’t take the mounting bolts out completely.
  • Center the caliper body above the rotor. You have to do this at the time of squeezing the brake lever. Continue pressing the lever and at the same time, tighten the bolts. Take out the hand from the lever.
  • Now spin the wheel. Aligned can be ensured if there is no rubbing. If there is no rubbing, tighten the mounting bolts completely.
  • If ribbing is present, loosen one bolt and synthesize them. Make sure there is no space between the rotor and the pads. Then tighten the mounting bolts completely.

Mechanical Disc Brakes

  • At first, you have to make sure that the rotor is correctly positioned before you. The wheel needs to place in the dropouts.
  • Lift the cycle and revolve the wheel. As a result, you can see the rotor. Sometimes, the rotor can show lateral spin. The lateral movement is the cause of not rubbing the pads with the rotor.
  • Rotate the barrel coupler in at the caliper and lever. Ensure the lever arm is discharged.
  • Next, loosen the pinch bolts of cable. It ensures a full brake lever during braking. Now haul the cable tight, so it is free of lax. Tighten the cable pinch bolts. This causes the pads to wear away; they will come closer to the rotor.

Maintenance Comparison:

As a rider, you need to ensure frequent bicycle disc brakes maintenance.  For brakes, it seems more important than other parts. In maintaining purpose, hydraulic brakes are less demanding.

Because you have to inject liquid in the hydraulic system once in a while. On the other hand, mechanical doesn’t need this complex maintenance, but it requires frequent maintenance.

Hydraulic Brakes Maintenance

At first, you’ll need some tools. They are-

  • Brake liquid
  • Mineral oil (For Shimano), DOT 4 (for other brands)
  • Funnel and syringe
  • Brake Block
  • Spanner (7mm)
  • Allen keys
  • Cleaning Fluid for Brake
  • Rag

Make the bike ready

At first, check the hose of your bicycle. Ensure that there is no damage. Otherwise, air may go inside the system. Make sure, the caliper and the connectors of brake lever are tight.

Now adjust the brake lever 45 degrees on the handlebar and tightened up the free stroke all the way clockwise.

Withdraw the pads from calipers by dismissing the clip from the pin. Now thrust the pistons back into the caliper.

Using a 2mm Allen key withdraw the bleed screw from brake lever and join the funnel. Using the pistons thrust into the caliper, set a bleed block to the caliper and tied it with a pin.

Injecting Fluid

  • At first, fill up the syringe half with hydraulic brake liquid. Then tip the syringe up, as a result, air will go to the upper part of the syringe. After that, push the piston of the syringe to put the air out of the hose. Now the syringe completely air bubble-free.
  • Join the hose with the bleed nipple, ensure that no air can get in. By using the spanner give the hose an eighth of a turn. As a result, the hose will open. Thrust the syringe and fluid will go through the hose, and the fluid will come to the system into the funnel at the brake lever.
  • Continue thrusting on the syringe, give no chance to enter the air bubble into the funnel. Black oil will come up. Black oil is the symbol of old oil that had been in the system before. You need to change system oil two, three times in a year.
  • Reattaching the funnel, fill up new oil into the syringe and push the liquid through the hose like before. Keep doing this for several occasions, then you will see new oil is coming out from the funnel. That is how you have to bleed into a hydraulic brake system.

Mechanical Disc Brake Maintenece

Tools, before you’ll need for maintenance, are-

  • Brand New cable
  • Allen key (5mm)
  • Cable Cutter
  • Pick
  • File

Replacing the Cable with Brand New One

  • At first, remove the external part of the grip tape. Then you have to see closely how the cables are arranged against the bars. After removing the tape, they need to be held.
  • It is better to start with the front brake. You have to lose the bolt with Allan key then pull out the cable from the vice. Cut the frayed part with cable cutter to make things easier than pull the cable out.
  • The next thing you have to do is, push the internal cable out through shifter. This will cause an effect on outer cable. As a result, the external cable of the front brake will go free.
  • Do not drop the old cable in the dust bin. You can use it to detect the right length for the new cable. Then open the inner part of the outer cable by using the pick and cut the sharp edges out by using the file.
  • Then use ferrules either both end or one end. It’s up to you. Ensure the barrel adjuster is screwed completely on the calipers. Next, you have to push the inner cable through the outer. Slide the external cable in the shifter.
Lastly, ensure the outer cable installs into place by placing the internal cable through the barrel adjuster of the caliper. Now you can pass the internal cable trough the crimp part of the caliper.

Stopping Ability:

Hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes haven’t the same stopping ability. Stopping power also depends on the quality of brake pads, calipers, and discs.

Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic brakes mainly work with fluid. When you press the brake lever of a hydraulic disc brake, then a piston into the master cylinder will be activated.

The piston will pressurize the hydraulic fluid unto the brake caliper. Then the fluid will create pressure unto the brake system.

The fluid will force the set of pistons into the caliper and help them to move toward the rotor. That is how friction is created in a hydraulic brake.

The key thing about hydraulic brake is, you don’t need to push the brake lever forcefully. All you need is a light push for decreasing the speed in a quick time. That is why hydraulic brake has excellent stopping ability.

Mechanical Disk Brakes

In the mechanical system, they use ideal brake cables to activate the brake. When you push the brake lever, the brake caliper will be pulled by the cable. This will help to move the brake pads come closer to the disc and thus friction will create.

The mechanical brake needs intense pressure on the brake lever to stop the bike completely. It also requires frequent maintenance. But the good thing is it has no issue with fluid.

Which one is comfortable?

The hydraulic disc brake is smooth. You don’t need to press the brake lever harder. It creates excellent friction and more modulation. Good modulation is required in mountain riding. That’s why hydraulic brake allows more comfort.

On the other hand, a mechanical disc brake needs more force on the brake lever to stop the bike. It is not as comfortable as a Hydraulic brake.

FAQ

Are mechanical brakes better than hydraulic?

Hydraulic brake produces more stopping power. As a result, you can stop the bike quickly. That can grow confidence in you.

On the other hand, the mechanical brake needs more pressure on the brake lever. Also, it has less stopping power. In this sense, hydraulic is better than Mechanical. But hydraulic costs more.

Are V brakes better than Mechanical brakes?

No, V brake hasn’t the stopping power that mechanical brakes generate. Also, the V brake has less modulation and needs more frequent replacement.

This is why, if you compare mechanical disc brakes vs rim brakes, you’ll find disc brakes is far better than rim brakes.

What are the disadvantages of disc brakes?

The most highlighted downside of disc brake is it generates overheat. Also, disc brake maintenance is harder than other brakes.

Final Note

So far, I’ve discussed many details about hydraulic vs mechanical disc brakes. There is no exclusive evidence about which one is better for a bicycle. It’s entirely up to you.

One thing I can ensure you that you can stay with the decision of using disc brake. Mountain bike riders prefer disc brake than v brake.

On the other hand, the hydraulic disc brakes road bike isn’t a good option for a cyclist. Hydraulic and mechanical brakes are entirely up to your habit.

If you are okay with mechanical, then you should use that. Even you can upgrade mechanical disc brakes to hydraulic. So, start your journey with disc brake and stay a happy rider.

Related: V Brakes Vs Cantilever

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