Some might consider that bikes and their brakes are the same now as they have always been. After all, how did technology and science influence cycling? But, truth be told, mountain bikes have come a long way since the Breezer 1; it is visible with the naked eye. So did their rim brakes and hydraulic brakes, too.
Today, we're here to tell you that even though they are less visible, the tech advances on bikes are changing how people pedal and adventure in the streets and outdoor environments. One such state-of-the-art innovation mountain bikers all over the world know and enjoy are hydraulic brakes.
Seasoned cyclists know that disc brakes (mechanical and hydraulic) are the go-to choice when they want to ride endurance or adventure bikes. Today, we will focus on the best hydraulic brakes to invest in this year so you can enjoy the safest, most awesome rides!
What Are Hydraulic Brakes?
Let's begin with some basic knowledge in case you need clarifications on what hydraulic brakes are. It is important to know some details, especially if you are a beginner in mountain biking and you want to start on the right foot.
Compared to the classic bicycle rim brakes, disc brakes act on the metal rotor attached to the wheel's hub. The difference between mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic ones is that the first operate by cable (much like rim brakes do), whereas the latter uses fluid (oil) to transfer the force from the lever to the caliper.
As hydraulic discs go, their main feature is a closed hoses-and-reservoirs system. This system contains a special hydraulic fluid operating the brakes. Activating the lever means that a plunger pushes the hydraulic fluid via the hoses into the caliper. There, the pads push into the rotor, and the bike stops.
Are Hydraulic Bike Brakes Worth Their Price?
Here is a question most mountain bikers ask – and for the right reason: since they are more expensive than other brakes types, are hydraulic bike brakes worth their money?
The short answer to this question is "yes." While hydraulic brakes are a bit more costly (although, on this list, you will find hi-tech budget models), they do represent the higher end in braking systems. Providing better performance than rim or mechanical disc brakes is also more efficient and more durable. It is also safer for both beginner and seasoned mountain bikers.
5 Best Hydraulic Brakes for Your Mountain Bike
If you are in the market for some of the best hydraulic breaks for mountain bikes, it is time to see what we have in store for you. As buying tips go, we recommend the following:
- Read the reviews and tips below to get an idea of what to expect from your future hydraulic brakes;
- Make sure you understand manufacturers' tech specs and compatibility issues;
- Read other cyclists' forums and verified buyers' reviews to learn about some real-life issues others have experienced with the brakes you want to purchase;
- Always verify the warranty of your desired product;
- Check prices and compare them while focusing on the most crucial features and tech specs that interest you.
Now that we have our ducks in a row let's see some of the best hydraulic brakes on the market!
1. The Shimano XTR M9120 Hydraulic Brake
Shimano is a legendary name for all cyclists out there, and this hydraulic break does not fall far from the family tree. Therefore, we recommend the M9120 model for riding technical terrain, as it offers unparalleled lightweight control and breaking.
If you worry about extreme breaking on challenging terrains, you should not. The engineering here is outstanding. The heat dissipation features on the brake pads and caliper keep the breaks cool and perform well even in extreme conditions. So let's see some tech specs and features we are sure you will love:
Specs & Features
- ICE TECHNOLOGIES – 4-Pistons – hydraulic disc brake caliper;
- Average weight: 385 g (w/ radiator fin);
- Fluid: Shimano mineral oil;
- Rotor size compatibility: 140 mm, 160 mm, 180 mm, and 203 mm;
- Adjustable levers and brake pads.
If you want to ride harsh terrains in full confidence, the Shimano XTR M9120 hydraulic brake is an excellent choice for all riders out there who want to test their skills and endurance. Shimano is a legendary brand among cyclists, so you will find Shimano products (brakes included) in numerous online and offline stores. Make sure you get the specs you want, check the prices, and make the best purchase for your needs!
2. JGbike Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Brake
The next entry on our list of best hydraulic brakes for your mountain bike this year is also a Shimano – but an affordable hi-tech model you will love the second you try it. For smooth installation, the company delivers pre-bled and pre-assembled brakes. Don't let the price fool you. These breaks can stand toe to toe with their more expensive relatives, as they feature the braking power of the XT or SLX models.
These brakes work miracles on most mountain bikes, e-bikes, fast bikes, etc., offering riders 100% safety and confidence.
Specs & Features
- Rotor size compatibility: 180 mm for the front and 160 mm for the rear;
- Average weight: 907 g;
- Fluid: Shimano mineral oil;
- Four installation bolts to ease the mounting;
- Includes brake resin pads;
- Compatible with 26″, 27.5″, and 29.5″ - but measure your brake hose routing length to make sure you make the right choice.
One downside of this product is that you will have to purchase the rotors separately. But, other than that, the excellent stopping power and the versatility of these brakes are worth every cent.
3. The SRAM Code R Hydraulic Brake
Whoever gets their kicks out of gravity descents and wants some heavy-duty brakes needs to look no further than the SRAM Code R brakes. They pack a serious punch when it comes to design and stopping power, giving you all the control you need over the braking.
The uniform braking modulation is a great feature you will use if you are into heavy mountain biking. This brake system permits you to reduce speed while completely locking up the rear wheel. Since we have been talking about hi-tech in biking, you have to know that the SRAM Code R uses a system that keeps the brakes cool at all times. This feature allows you to enjoy safe and reliable rides no matter how hardcore you ride.
Specs & Features
- Rotor size compatibility: 160 mm, 170 mm, 180 mm, and 200 mm;
- Average weight: 395 g;
- Fluid: DOT 5.1;
- Increased stopping force due to the 4-piston design;
- Lever adjustability without the use of any tools;
- Easy to maintain and service.
Whoever wants to get the best hydraulic brakes for their mountain bike should give this model a chance. The price point is very compelling given the features. Add the easy servicing and the no-tool adjustable lever specs, and you get a product to enjoy for years!
4. Lixada HB-875 MTB Hydraulic Disc Brake Kit
Suitable for most mountain bikes, road bikes, fixed gear bikes, MTBs, and more, this hydraulic brake kit solves one of the most stringent issues among all riders: fluid leaks. While it rarely happens on top-end models, fluid leaking is a major issue. So naturally, nobody wants this to occur during gravity descents or while crossing the most challenging terrains.
Lixada offers the HB-875 MTB hydraulic disc brake kit to solve riders' problems, featuring an integrated fuel tube and brake lever to prevent any leaks whatsoever. But this is not the only thing this Lixada can do! Providing efficient and reliable performance levels at a very reasonable price, this hydraulic brake kit is a great investment for anyone who rides a mountain bike!
Specs & Features
- Anodized aluminum alloy frame (for corrosion resistance, strength, and flexibility);
- Rotor size compatibility: 160 mm;
- Two-way brake levers;
- Average weight: 330 g;
- Front brake oil tube length: 80 cm
- Rear brake oil tube length: 145 cm
The best handlebars for this kit are the ones measuring 22 mm for easier control. The overall installation is a breeze, the price is more than compelling, and the users' reviews are stellar. What more can you ask?
5. Keenso Mountain Bike Hydraulic Disc Brake
The last entry on our list of best hydraulic brakes for mountain bikes is a model dedicated to beginners. Keenso designed a durable aluminum alloy frame, resistant to wear, tear, and corrosion. Even if you use the brakes for a long time, the manufacturer ensures their durability and efficiency.
This hydraulic brake boasts a strong hose and smooth compatibility with handlebars on 22 mm in diameter, among its best traits. Moreover, the package is quite generous for the price point: you will find four screws for easy-as-pie installation and two pairs of brake sets.
If aesthetics are important to you, you are in luck: the color options are varied and exquisite!
Specs & Features
- Average weight: 475 g;
- Font cable length: 75 cm;
- Rear cable length: 135 cm;
- Braking mode: two-way brake hydraulic piston;
- Color options: purple, green, silver, red, blue, black, etc.;
- Easy installation and maintenance.
As it happens with other models, one downside is that you will not find any rotors in the package, so you will have to buy them separately. Nevertheless, if you are a beginner in mountain biking and hydraulic brakes, this Keenso model is your greatest option. So easy to break and reset and 100% trustworthy, this brake kit will carry you on all terrains! While the entire package is budget-friendly from the start, it would not hurt you to spend some time comparing prices featured by different stores.
Buying the Best Hydraulic Brakes for Your MTB This Year: Final Thoughts
We hope you enjoyed our shortlist of the best hydraulic brakes for your MTB. Take your time to check each model's tech specs, features, and price point. One thing to keep in mind when you buy hydraulic brakes is their installation and maintenance.
Of course, you can engage in DIY projects – especially if you are an experienced rider – and get things done on your own. However, we recommend professional help. Take your bike to a pro shop to make your new hydraulic bike brakes run smoothly and without incidents. Also, consider some pro shops for your bike and brakes' maintenance. The more you use your breaks correctly and the better care you take of them, the longer they will last!
From that point on, nothing stops you from equipping your bike for the most amazing adventures!