The Best Bike Brakes

The best bike brakes provide incredible stopping power when you need it, smooth modulation when you want it, and never rub your wheels the wrong way. It’s important to keep up on your brakes and change them out when time and usage have worn the components down. There are a handful of bike brake types out there, each with its own unique mechanisms which can only be installed only on specific styles of bicycle. Make sure you know which will fit onto your bike.

After reviewing many different bike brakes we’ve figured out which brakes should be at the top of your shopping list. Prioritizing important aspects such as braking capability, adjustability, and durability, we’ve chosen our top choices for the various styles of bike brakes and detailed many other great models so that you can find the brakes that best match your bike and your budget.

The 5 Top-Rated Bike Brakes

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Caliper BrakesShimano Ultegra Direct Mount4.5
Best Cantilever BrakesAvid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake4.5
Best Hydraulic Disc BrakesJGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes4.5
Best Mechanical Disc BrakesBlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes4.4
Best V-BrakesShimano Acera V-Brake4.3

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Best Caliper Bike Brakes: Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount

Best Caliper Bike Brakes
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Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount

The Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount caliper brakes are symmetrically engineered and fitted with twin bearings for maximum operational efficiency.

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$128.95 USD

Featuring the company’s most advanced SLR-EV design, the Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount caliper brakes are symmetrically engineered and fitted with twin bearings for excellent efficiency that results in enhanced modulation control and improved braking power. This latest caliper iteration from Shimano is capable of delivering 36% more braking power than the previous model. Overall, this new short arm design responds more quickly to user input and creates less friction at the pivot area.

Caliper brakes are the most common type of brakes found on bicycles today, so there are a lot to choose from, but the Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount trumps them all. Being directly mounted, these brakes offer modulation and braking power far above what traditional rim brakes have ever been able to provide.

Shimano was one of the first to jump into direct mount bike brakes, and their Ultegra line has stood at the top of the pack since those early days. Time-tested and cyclist approved, these are the best caliper brakes available today.

Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount Brake Key Features:

  • Symmetrical dual-pivot design
  • Twin bearings for reduced pivot frictions
  • SLR-EV design delivers enhanced modulation and brake power
  • Three-dimensional pad adjustment

Best Cantilever Bike Brakes: Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake

Best Cantilever Bike Brakes
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Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake

Lightweight yet powerful, the Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes are truly the ultimate brakes for mixed terrain biking.

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$109.00 USD

Cantilever brakes are commonly used in cyclo-cross racing where light offroad trails provide unstable terrain and braking challenges that standard caliper brakes can’t handle. Constructed with lightweight aluminum and fitted with wear-resistant SwissStop Compound pads, the Avid Short Ultimate Cantilever Brakes are sitting pretty at the top of the cantilever food chain.

Cyclo-cross style bikes require heavy-duty, sophisticated braking power. Sliding across dirt and loose gravel presents challenges that the typical road bike is rarely exposed to. Because of the purposefully designed high arch and awesome integrated adjustability, these Avid brakes will fit a wide variety of wheels and tires.

Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake Key Features:

  • Aluminum construction
  • SwissStop Compound brake pads
  • Forked post mounted

Best Hydraulic Disc Bike Brakes: JGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Best Hydraulic Disc Bike Brakes
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JGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Ready to fit nearly any mountain bike or electric bike, the powerful JGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes will stop your roll quick no matter the terrain.

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$49.99 USD

The JGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes will fit with 160 mm and 180 mm rotors, and they can be fitted to 203 mm rotors with the aid of an additional bracket. This flexibility is uncommon among hydraulic brakes, making this Shimano set a versatile option, especially for those new to hydraulic brakes. Speaking of newbies, the brake strength is factory-adjusted to a beginner-friendly level of power and can be further manually adjusted by the user to dial in the perfect level of resistance.

These aren’t the most expensive hydraulic brakes on the market, but we believe they are the best bang for your buck, and customers agree. They hold incredible stopping power, and because they work with rotor disc brakes, the braking system can dissipate high levels of heat without damaging the brakes, tires, or wheels of your bicycle. As far as quality braking is concerned, this is as good as it gets. Rotor brakes are the most powerful of all bicycle brakes, and the hydraulic variants are a step about their mechanical counterparts. This specific set may ultimately be a bit week for serious downhill-speed-focused bicyclists, but they are more than capable enough for the average touring cyclist.

JGbike Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes Key Features:

  • Fits 160 mm and 180 mm rotors
  • Braking power set for beginner riders and can be adjusted
  • Pre-bled mineral oil internal fluid

Best Mechanical Disc Bike Brakes: BlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes

Best Mechanical Disc Bike Brakes
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BlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes

The BlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes are top-quality bike rotor brakes at an affordable price.

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$22.99 USD

If you’re looking for smooth power modulation and great stopping power at a price that won’t break the bank, look no further than these BlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes. This fully-loaded bike brake kit comes with two sets of aluminum alloy calipers, stainless steel rotors, 12 bolts, and brake cables. Everything you need to install a fresh set of rotor brakes comes in this one convenient package.

Installation is easy, and so is fine-tuning the adjustment for your ride. Once setup is complete you’ll have a solid set of disc brakes that’ll last for miles upon miles. Though mechanical disc brakes aren’t quite as strong as hydraulic disc breaks, they are far less expensive and powerful enough for the average cyclist.

BlueSunshine BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes Key Features:

  • Aluminum alloy calipers
  • 160 mm rotors
  • Use with linear-pull brake levers

Best V-Brake: Shimano Acera V-Brake

Best V-Brake
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Shimano Acera V-Brake

Well-engineered and properly sorted, the Shimano Acera V-Brakes show that simple, refined design is sometimes the best route to take.

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$12.20 USD

As unpretentious as they come, the Shimano Acera V-Brakes are the best average brakes on the market. While that might not sound like praise, it truly is. These disposable v-brakes are designed to be replaced when the brake pads wear through, but what makes them special is that purchasing an entirely new Shimano Acera V-Brake will cost less than most brake pads would on their own.

The price simply cannot be beaten, and the level of quality craftsmanship you get for that price is astounding. The durable components will outlast the pads they are paired with, and strong steel is used where it’s needed most. Think of these Acera brakes as the Toyotas of the bicycle brake world. Reliability is the key word.

What’s interesting is that Shimano owns the term “V-Brake” and no other company can legally use it on their similarly designed products, even though the cycling world refers to this style of brakes as v-brakes. Other companies use the term “side-pull cantilever brakes” instead, so be aware of that when you take a look at the other v-brakes we have listed below.

Shimano Acera V-Brake Key Features:

  • One-piece brake shoes with integrated pads
  • Disposable with pad and inexpensive to replace
  • Jam proof pivot design

Who Should Buy Bike Brakes

If you own a bike you’re going to have to purchase new brakes at some point. Whether your an avid cyclist who has worn down their brake pads or you’ve let your bike sit for a couple of years and want to get back into riding again, it’s probably time to invest in a new set of brakes. Not only is it much safer to bike with a fresh set of brakes, but it’s much more convenient as well. Old or worn brakes will squeak and shudder when you use them, or they just won’t slow down your bike at all. If you’ve let your bike sit and rust for too long it might be better to bite the bullet and get a new bike, and if that sounds like the situation you’re in you should check out our guides to the best mountain bikes and best electric mountain bikes.

If you happen to have a friend or family member who rides a bike and you’v noticed that their brakes squeal or shudder, a new set of brakes would be a great gift to give them. It’ll be a pleasant surprise!

Cantilever Brake Pick
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Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake

Lightweight yet powerful, the Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes are truly the ultimate brakes for light offroad biking.

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$109.00 USD

Important Features to Consider

There are a few important considerations to think through before purchasing bike brakes.

  • What type of brakes fit your bike? The easiest way to find out is to see what style of brakes are currently on your bike. For example, if you have big rotor discs on your wheels you’ll need some mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes.
  • Wheel and tire height. Most brakes will list out how high of a tire clearance they have. Standard brakes will often fit standard tires just fine, but if you happen to have exceptionally tall wheels or tires it would be worth investigating the measurements before purchasing a new set of brakes. If your new brakes won’t fit over your tires, they’re not going to work.
  • Maybe all you need is pads. If your brake pads are worn and they are removable, then you can simply swap out a new set of brake pads instead of the entire brake system. Take a look at your brake pads before ordering an entirely new brake set.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a bike brake work?

This depends on the style of the brake, but essentially there are two main types of brakes. Rotor disc brakes are fixed to the center hub of your wheels and look like big metal saucers. With disc brakes, a brake pad and rotor are pressed together via your brake lever to slow down the bicycle. Caliper, cantilever, and v-brakes use smaller brake pads that press into the outer rim of your bicycle’s wheels to slow them down.

What types of bicycle brakes are there?

Caliper, cantilever, hydraulic disc brakes, mechanical disc brakes, and v-brakes.

Are V-brakes better than cantilever?

They are very similar in capability. Cantilever brakes are powerful road brakes that work well in light offroading, and v-brakes are great for extreme backcountry downhill mountain biking. They’re both excellent styles of brakes and each has a unique set of circumstances in which they outperform the other.

What does direct mount brakes mean?

Direct mount brakes are directly mounted onto the frame of the bicycle which reduces the redundant components of other rim-compression single-bolt-mount style brakes and lends incredible strength to the brake system.

Other Bike Brakes We Reviewed

Caliper Brake Pick
Buy Now
Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount

The Shimano Ultegra Direct Mount caliper brakes are symmetrically engineered and fitted with twin bearings for maximum operational efficiency.

buy now
$128.95 USD

We looked at 20 other bike brakes. Even though they didn’t make our five best bike brakes list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your bicycling needs. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

Caliper Bike Brakes

Dia Compe Drop Road Fixie

Dia Compe Drop Road Fixie

In the bicycle business since 1949, Dia Compe is a tried and true Japanese brand of fine bike parts. These caliper brakes feature power reinforcement with a dual-pivot mechanism.

Key Features:

  • Deep drop 57-75 mm
  • Lightweight forged alloy
  • 1-year warranty

Cost: $25.00

Shimano Dura Ace Calipers

Shimano Dura Ace Calipers

Improved modulation and increased aerodynamics are the highlights of these contemporary brake calipers from Shimano. The company claims that these brakes provide 10% more stopping power than any competitor caliper brake product.

Key Features:

  • Direct mount
  • Symmetrical brake arms

Cost: $119.97

Shimano Road Brake Caliper Set

Shimano Road Brake Caliper Set

Set with twin bearings at the pivots for smooth operation, these calipers provide a refined braking experience that will go unnoticed in the best ways possible. No tire interference and no grinding make for a seamless ride.

Key Features:

  • Arched design for added tire clearance
  • Aluminum construction

Cost: $141.62

SRAM Apex Brake Caliper Set

SRAM Apex Brake Caliper Set

Amazing stopping power paired with the durability of Swiss Stop Compound brake pads are the hallmarks of this SRAM brake caliper set. Your brakes will function optimally for long periods of time with the included low wear brake pads.

Key Features:

  • Forged alloy construction
  • Glossy finish
  • Low wear brake pads

Cost: $62.87

SRAM Force Brake Caliper Set

SRAM Force Brake Caliper Set

The same Swiss Stop Compound brake pads are set upon these calipers from SRAM, though this model has been slimmed down to its bare essentials for a more lightweight design aesthetic.

Key Features:

  • Aluminum construction
  • Low wear brake pads

Cost: $120.99

TRP Long Reach Brake Set

TRP Long Reach Brake Set

Engineered to reduce flex and maximize stopping power, you’ll be able to bring your bike to a halt with confidence with the TRP Long Reach Brake Set, even on steep downhill rides.

Key Features:

  • Forged aluminum arms
  • 47-57 mm reach
  • Cam style quick release

Cost: $179.99

Cantilever Bike Brakes

Paul Components Touring Cantilever

Paul Components Touring Cantilever

American made with optimal stopping power in mind, these cantilever brakes from Paul Components are simply designed and work like a charm. Users say they work exceptionally well and are easy to install.

Key Features:

  • Brake Lever and LongPull brake actuation
  • Easy installation

Cost: $95.54

Shimano Atlus

Shimano Atlus

Simplicity can sometimes best complexity, and a product with fewer parts tends to last longer than one with many. The Shimano Atlus is about as simple of a bike brake solution as you’ll see from this esteemed brake company.

Key Features:

  • Forged single-piece construction
  • Barrel adjuster

Cost: $17.99

Sunlit Alloy Brake

Sunlite Alloy Brake

Lightweight and ready to tackle long rides, these cantilever brakes from Sunlit were engineered to withstand long-distance touring rides.

Key Features:

  • Forged aluminum construction
  • Linear spring with quick tool adjust

Cost: $10.97

Tektro Oryx Brakes

Tektro Oryx Brakes

Easy to adjust to fit your wheels just right, the Tektro Oryx cantilever brakes will easily install onto many different bikes and can be fine-tuned for perfect braking performance.

Key Features:

  • Z-link wire
  • Linear springs

Cost:  $16.99

Hydraulic Disc Bike Brakes

Shimano SLX Mountain Bike Disc Brake

Shimano Mountain Bike Disc Brake

Tear up the trails with unfettered confidence with the high-performing Shimano SLX Mountain Bike hydraulic brakes. These are a customer favorite in the mountain biking world for a reason.

Key Features:

  • Ice technology to reduce heat buildup
  • Ceramic calipers
  • Oversized ceramic pistons

Cost: $139.99

Shimano XT BL

Shimano XT Hydraulic

With a 20% increase in braking power and better heat dissipation over lesser 2-piston caliper models, these Shimano XT Hydraulic brakes are among the top of the class in quality and reliability.

Key Features:

  • 4-piston caliper
  • Post mounted
  • Aluminum construction

Cost: $149.99 – $311.49

Shimano XT BR

Shimano XT

The Shimano XT BR brakes feature a short stroke Servo-wave mechanism that provides lightning-quick pad engagement which allows you to drop speed in an instant when necessary.

Key Features:

  • Ice-tech brake pads
  • Easy bleed system
  • Oversized ceramic pistons

Cost: $187.49

Shimano ZEE

Shimano ZEE

Taking the high-quality hydraulic of the Shimano XT and redesigning it to best benefit trail and endurance bikes, these Shimano ZEE brakes are top-tier off-road brakes that’ll enforce incredible stopping power when you need it most (like when you’re going too fast down a mountain bike trail).

Key Features:

  • 4-piston caliper
  • Post mounted
  • Aluminum construction

Cost: $109.99 – $265.99

TRP HY/RD Cable-Actuated

TRP HY RD Cable-Actuated

This hybrid hydraulic and mechanical disc brake design reduces the cost and maintenance of full hydraulic systems while improving the stopping force and modulation of purely mechanical disc brakes. It’s the best of both worlds!

Key Features:

  • Aluminum construction
  • Hybrid hydraulic and mechanical design

Cost: $90.99 – $198.43

Mechanical Disc Bike Brakes

Avid SL Disc Brakes

Avid SL Disc Brakes

Precision control doesn’t get better than the Avid SL Disc Brakes with a simple Speed Dial adjustment that lets you hone in your brake performance for different settings. One the road or the cycle-course, you’re going to get the ideal braking power.

Key Features:

  • Tri-align calipers
  • Precision ball bearing actuation
  • Forged two-piece alloy body

Cost: $129.99

BlueSunshine BB5 Mechanical Disc Brakes

BlueSunshine BB5 Mechanical Disc Brakes

A budget-friendly mechanical disc brake option, these BB5 brakes provide smooth modulation, easy adjustability, and simple installation all at a low price that any bike enthusiast can afford.

Key Features:

  • Aluminum alloy calipers
  • Cable actuated

Cost: $19.99

V-Brake Bike Brakes

Mountain Bike V Brakes

Mountain Bike V Brakes

Quality brakes at an affordable price, these Mountain Bike V Brakes come with a large arch designed to fit most any v-brake style bicycle.

Key Features:

  • Aluminum alloy and plastic construction
  • Guaranteed to fit 99% of v-brake bikes

Cost: $17.99

Mx V-Brake

Mx V-Brake

Installation and adjustability are both quick and easy with these Mx V-Brakes. Reviewers praise this brake setup for its quality to price ratio, giving it great scores all around.

Key Features:

  • 67-85 mm reach
  • Multiple color options

Cost: $12.89 – $16.29

Sunlit Side-Pull Brake Set

Sunlit Side-Pull Brake Set

If you need a complete brake system, this is your goto option. Packaged with everything needed to install brakes on a brakeless bike, this Sunlit Side-Pull Brake Set will serve well as a complete brake setup for many miles.

Key Features:

  • 69-96 mm reach
  • Full set with everything you need for a complete brake installation

Cost: $15.00

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