Selecting the right brakes for your bike can be a simple process but from our experience, its not always straight forward. I hope this guide will help you.
Which brakes are for me?
This is usually determined by your bike. A large number of new bikes are fitted with disc brakes and will not accept any other type of brake, so the decision is made for you. My personal opinion is that disc brakes should only be used on bikes designed for offroad use. This bucks the current trend, however, from experience in all types of riding (on and off-road), I have never felt the need for disc brakes on road use. Caliper/Canti/V brakes have been perfectly sufficient for years and their advantages outweigh the need for disc brakes on road.
If your bike has brake mounts like the fork below, you can run either V-brakes or cantilever brakes.
Both have their own advantages, however we tend to prefer cantilever for general road use as they offer more progressive braking and tyre clearance. V-brakes have very good stopping power (useful for loaded touring). This is achieved by a direct-pull brake, which can make brake "feathering" tricky.
Cantilever brakes need cable hangers/stops and a straddle bridge.
V-brake levers are specific as they have a different cable-pull ratio.
Finally, if you have a 26" (559) mtb, you can run 650b (584) wheels by using the Tektro CR720 brakes. Their pad adjustment allows the higher rim height.
Most common type of brake on a road bike. Cheap to buy, good stopping power and easy to maintain. There are two main types; Single pivot and dual pivot.
Single Pivot - Found on vintage road bikes. Also known as side-pull. Campagnolo have started using single pivot calipers on the rear as they claim offer better modulation over dual-pivot.
Dual Pivot - Most modern calipers are dual-pivot. They have more stopping power and stay aligned better than single pivot.
Fitting Caliper Brakes - Hex or Recessed?
Most bikes up to the mid-90's require a nutted brake. The centre bolt of the brake is longer and protrudes the frame, being secured by a nyloc nut on the back. More modern bikes have a shorter bolt, with a long recessed hex nut to secure the brake. This method is neater and offers a more secure fitting, preventing the caliper from moving out of alignment during heavy braking.
Measuring the brake drop
The last piece of the caliper puzzle. Brakes are available in various 'drops'. This is the distance from the mounting bolt to the brake pads, usually given by the extremes e.g 57-75mm drop. Road bikes are designed with little clearance around the brake and tighter geometry, so they are usually between 39-50mm. Touring bikes and hybrids are designed to accept mudguards, larger tyres and have a longer wheelbase. This usually means a brake drop between 50-75mm.
If you have converted a bike from 27x1-1/4" wheels to 700c wheels, you will need longer drop brakes to reach the rims.
Centre pull brakes are somewhere between caliper brakes and cantilever brakes. Their pivot point is higher than on a cantilever brake, reducing flex and improving modulation. For optimized centre-pull brakes, the pivots should be brazed into place. Alternatively, the Dia-Compe centre pull brakes mount like a caliper brake, and offer drops up to 78mm.