Written by 2:15 am MTB, MTB Gears • 3 Comments

Best Mountain Bike Brakes (Reviews & Buying Guide)



Best for downhill rides
Shimano M820 Saint Disc Brake set
-System: hydraulic
-Weight: 306g
-Rotors: 200, 203 mm
- Calipers: 4-piston
  • Great stopping power
  • great modulation
  • easy to set up
  • Heavier
best for trail riding with no steep descent or ascent
Clarks’ Cable Systems Rear Hydraulic M2
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight: 418g
-Rotors: 160mm
-Calipers: 2-piston
  • Unbeatable price
  • incredibly lightweight
  • Relatively low stopping power
Best for downhill and riders operating on a low budget
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight:  395g
-Rotors: 185mm
-Calipers: 4-piston
  • incredible stopping power
  • cheap
  • relatively hard to set up
  • lack customization
Best for downhill and all mountains riding
Magura USA MT Trail Carbon
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight: 1.04 pounds
-Rotors: 203mm
-Calipers: 4-piston front, 2-piston rear
  • Lightweight
  • quality build
  • great power
  • sleek look
  • costly
Best downhill rides and a rider looking for lightweight brakes
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight: 344g
-Rotors:  200mm
-Calipers: 4-phenolic pistons
  • Incredibly easy to set up
  • light
  • more stopping power
  • costly
Best for budget and steep descent rides
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight: 381g
-Rotors:  200mm
-Calipers:  4-piston
  • unbeatable price
  • incredibly lightweight
  • reat power
  • It needs maintenance
  • reasonably lower stopping power
Best for riders looking for lightweight brakes for trails
-System:  Hydraulic
-Weight: 182g
-Rotors:  160, 180 and 203mm
-Calipers:  2-piston
  • Ridiculously light
  • great modulation
  • easy to install
  • Noisy
  • elatively low power
Best for a rider looking for a high-power on fast rides
Shimano XTR BR-M9020 Trail
-System: hydraulic
-Weight: 255g
-Rotors: Not included
-Calipers:  2-piston
  • Reliable
  • high performance
  • great heat resistance
  • Pricey
  • noisy in wet weather conditions.


Shimano M820 Saint Disc Brake set

  • System: hydraulic
  • Weight: 306g
  • Rotors: 200, 203 mm
  • Calipers: 4-piston
  • Pros:  Great stopping power, great modulation, easy to set up
  • Cons: Heavier

Clarks’ Cable Systems Rear Hydraulic M2 Brake

  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight: 418g
  • Rotors: 160mm
  • Calipers: 2-piston
  • Pros:  Unbeatable price, incredibly lightweight
  • Cons: Relatively low stopping power


  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight:  395g
  • Rotors: 185mm
  • Calipers: 4-piston
  • Pros: incredible stopping power, cheap
  • Cons: relatively hard to set up, lack customization

Magura USA MT Trail Carbon Disc Brake Set

  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight: 1.04 pounds
  • Rotors: 203mm
  • Calipers: 4-piston front, 2-piston rear
  • Pros:  Lightweight, quality build, great power, sleek look
  • Cons: costly


  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight: 344g
  • Rotors:  200mm
  • Calipers: 4-phenolic pistons
  • Pros:  Incredibly easy to set up, light, more stopping power
  • Cons: costly


  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight: 381g
  • Rotors:  200mm
  • Calipers:  4-piston
  • Pros:  unbeatable price, incredibly lightweight, great power
  • Cons: It needs maintenance, reasonably lower stopping power


  • System:  Hydraulic
  • Weight: 182g
  • Rotors:  160, 180 and 203mm
  • Calipers:  2-piston
  • Pros:  Ridiculously light, great modulation, easy to install
  • Cons: Noisy, relatively low power

Shimano XTR BR-M9020 Trail

  • System: hydraulic
  • Weight: 255g
  • Rotors: Not included
  • Calipers:  2-piston
  • Pros:  Reliable, high performance, great heat resistance
  • Cons: Pricey, noisy in wet weather conditions.

How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Brakes

There is a lot of things you need to consider when choosing a set of brakes for your mountain bike. Other than just design, you might need to look for other features that will enhance the over performance of your brakes. Here are some of the things you need to consider before you make your purchase.

Hydraulic or mechanical

Which one should you actually go for? Each of these systems comes with its own advantages, but most riders often prefer hydraulic because of so many reasons; one of them being the incredible reliability they offer.

  • Hydraulic brakes

The most popular braking system we have in the market right now. It uses the same technology as a car or even motorcycle braking systems. Hydraulic brakes are some of the most reliable and high performing systems you could lay your hands on today. We are talking about great control and outstanding modulation among other things.

However, despite all the great things you can net from hydraulic brakes, it still comes with one key issue.  They are quite pricey. They sit right at the top of the price range. They are also incredibly complex. It can only be installed by a professional or any other person who is well versed with this system. It does not even stop there; you will be forced to check for oil leaks more often. They also need to be replaced. At the end, really, this can be time consuming.

  • Mechanical Brakes

Some of the oldest braking systems in the market, but because of a few reasons they are fast being replaced by hydraulic brakes. This barking system uses the same traditional technology we are all used to; normally, when you pull the brake lever that also pulls a metal cable. This will tighten the caliper setup that is installed on the wheel hub bringing the ride to a stop.

Few riders still prefer the services of mechanical brakes because it still does come with few advantages. First, it is cheap. You won’t be forced to dig dipper into your pocket for this design. Secondly, they are incredibly easy to install. It won’t take you more than a minute to fix and have it running. Moreover, should it develop any problem, troubleshooting it is also simple. It can take you less than a minute to identify the problem.

Just like hydraulic brakes, mechanical brakes do also come with few drawbacks. First, they are quite heavy. They also required frequent maintenances. You have to clean and also replace the shifter cables.

What is your adventure?

What will you be doing with your bike? Where and probably how you ride the bike will dictate the kind of braking system to go for. For example, brakes that do great on the road are not going to perform well in technical terrains. So when buying this mountain bike’s part, you need to first consider what you will be doing with the bike.

  • Downhill riding

For this, reliability and great stopping power are paramount. You need to go for a braking design with the highest level of stopping power. You might also want to go for heavy-duty brakes. Those that have been built to effectively withstand any heat buildup. For this type of riding large rotors and those extra pistons will be more practical. This will provide much-needed power and reliability as well.

  • Trail Riding

The amount of versatility this kind of riding comes with forces you to consider a number of things; top on the list is weight. Trail riders usually have to deal with a number of encounters ranging from rivers and they might want to keep the weight as low as possible. They can also travel for miles and miles and weight will come into play. So if you are a trail ride, if you can balance between the weight and the stopping power that would be great.

Rotor Sizing

We currently have different sizes in the market; 160, 180 and 203 mm rotor sizes. You can choose any size depending on a number of things. For example, if you are a downhill riding enthusiast, you might want to go for the highest rotor size possible because it comes with great stopping power. Basically, 180 mm rotor, which sits right in the middle, basically, is like a good compromise. For example,  it does come in handy if you are a heavy-duty rider, but would still want that like more stopping power.

Various Component Compatibility

It is for a fact when it comes to mountain bike brake component compatibility; this is one of the easiest aspects when choosing the right brakes. It can also get really tricky if you are not well versed with these components.  Many at times, people are told not to focus so much on preference and taste but focus largely on mount types, sizing, and specifications among others.

  • Rotors & Clippers

Technically, the rotor and the calipers should be compatible at all time, both in diameter and width. At any given time, obviously you will start with the size of the rotor, and the next thing you need to do is to decide on the caliper size. You need to make sure they two are compatible.

  • Frame & Fork Mounts

Compatibility of these two components is crucial, and should be the first thing to factor in. There are different standards and international standards can guide you nail a perfect choice. This, however, can be quite tricky. However, adapters have been created and they can actually help you use your brakes on most bikes.

Brake Pads

Just like car brakes, mountain bike brake also come with pads. They come in different varieties and designs. It could be organic, metallic, or even semi-metallic. You can actually choose one depending on your needs.

  • Organic pads

Made from a mixture of materials including rubber, fiber or even glass, these types of pads are great when it comes to modulation and heat resistivity. They don’t heat so much and come with incredible modulation. However, they are not the better choice for downhill or wet condition rides. They can wear with ease in wet condition. So if you love doing those downhill maneuvers, you could actually do great with another option like metallic brake pads.

  • Metallic brake pads

They don’t do well in lower temperature and speed as well. They are the best choice for downhill riders. They don’t wear quickly. They come with one main issue though; they produce a lot of noise and that can be a nuisance for most riders.

  • Semi-Metallic brakes pads

Although they are pretty much common; most people are now shying away from them. Riders are upgrading to organic and metallic pads. When it comes to stopping power, we could say this option offers a pretty decent level of power. Semi-metallic pads are the best for all riders. They are also durable; they are built to serve you now and years to come.


This is basically how you can control your braking force. The more modulation the more braking power you get. Although different brake designs come with different amounts of modulation as it is often seen as a personal preference, you might actually want to go for one with the highest level of modulation. You will get great amount of stopping power and this could truly come in handy during those dangerous downhill rides.

Front & Rear Usability

Technically, there are two key features you need to factor as that will dictate exactly what you need for your mountain bike. We are talking about the terrain and also how often you ride. Ideally, you could actually go for a brakes system, which you can install on the front and rear wheel. It is important.

Ease of installation

Even most experienced riders would still want something they can install in 1 or 2 simple steps. There is no one out there who wants to struggle setting up the brakes. We currently have pretty good levels of skill when it comes to putting together this crucial part, and obviously, you wouldn’t want to go for one that is incredibly hard to install. Get something you can install in minutes and hit the road. It cannot get better than that. However, remember there are those that require the installation of a qualified expert.

Bleeding system

This is one crucial component in your braking system, but most people tend to overlook it. Many at times, during those prolonged braking; the heat formed right at the caliper can make your braking fluid boil. When this happens, bubbles or air is normally formed and that can significantly reduce the performance of your braking system over time.

However, to help you solve this problem, you are required to replace the oil through a process called bleeding. For that, most mountain bike designers offer different ways you can use to carry out the bleeding and you may want to settle for the easiest one. It should be a simple process and those messy encounters that can last for hours and leave you very dirty

Bottom Line

Like we always love to tell our mountain bike brakes, shoppers, out there, there is no going around it. The whole process takes a few but tricky steps. If you want to strike a perfect balance between performance, stopping power and weight, you need to first factor in your needs, riding style and probably among other things. Once you have that in mind, singling out a design from the crowded market is going to be hassle free. You will find that one braking system that will perform just as you like it.

Updated on December 6, 2021 by Ben

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