This can be a very important decision when you
are buying a mountain bike. There are actually
two answers to the question of disc brakes or
If you want better, more consistent brake performance
in all conditions, disc brakes are what you should
be choosing. On the other hand, if you want the
lightest set up you can have and you are willing to
accept small variances in brake performance, or you
want the lowest price possible, rim brakes are
what you should be choosing.
Over the years, mountain bikes have gone through
many design changes. They started out with the
original cantilever brakes, then went through the U
Brake years, and are now with V Brakes. In most
conditions, the V Brakes seem to work well.
In wet or muddy conditions, rim brakes will perform
poorly. Over time, they can wear right through the
side of your rim, causing the side of the rim to
blow right off.
Disc brakes on the other hand have been around for
a long time in cars but weren’t used on bikes much
until the late 1990’s. There were some issues in
the earlier models, although the cable actuated or
hydraulic brakes of today seem to work quite well.
In terms of performance, disc brakes seem to work
better than rim brakes, especially in wet or muddy
areas. Disc brakes normally require less force
to apply and aren’t effected by the rim or wheel
Cost is an issue, as disk brake systems tend to be
more expensive than rim brakes. Mechanical or cable
actuated brakes are a closer match, although they
will still cost more. Hydraulic brakes on the other
hand cost a lot more.
When you make that final choice, weight out the above
options then make your decision. Some riders prefer
disc brakes, while others prefer rim brakes – making it
a matter of opinion.