Posted in Cycle
SRAM road bike disc brakes

Road brakes explained

Road brakes control the speed of your bike. By using your brakes you can slow down your bike or bring it to a complete stop. The main type of brakes found on road bikes are caliper brakes. Cantilevers and V-brakes are often used on cyclo-cross and commuting bikesDisc brakes, as found on mountain bikes, are also gradually being featured on road bikes.

Caliper brakes

The most common brake system on a road bike is the caliper brake, they are mounted centrally above the wheel. They are designed so that when the brake lever is pulled the calipers move inwards towards the rim. When caliper brakes are setup correctly, both brake pads will touch each side of the rim in symmetry.

Shimano ultegra brake image

Brake levers

Road brake levers are not specific to brake calipers, however, it is highly recommended to ensure that the levers and calipers are compatible with each other. In some cases the brake cable pull ratio is specific for certain models to achieve the best braking performance. As a rule a brand's brake lever is compatible with their braking caliper or variant. There are different types availabe, Wiggle stock levers for drop handlebars, flat handlebars and TT handlebars.

It is very common for brake levers to integrate the gear shifters into the brake lever unit, this gives you the convenience to shift gear without taking your hands off of the handlebars.


Tektro brake levers


Brake pads

There are different brake blocks/pads available for different rim compounds and weather conditions.  Brands offer wet weather specific pads - these are ideal for winter where the chance of rain is a lot higher. That doesn't mean you can't use them in the dry, as they are just designed for the wet for better performance than standard pads. If using carbon wheels, it is worth checking with the manufacturer to see what brake pads they recommend.

Tektro brake pad image

Brake cables

Ensure you have good quality cables fitted and greased upon installation. Correct maintenance of bike brake cables is imperative for your safety. Replace frayed or damaged cables immediately as any future damage could result in an accident. Believe it or not, you can even save weight with cables such as Nokon


Shimano brake cable image

Caliper brakes

Caliper brakes are available in many different styles, the most common is the dual pivot brake. It comprises of two main parts (arms). They offer great stopping power as well as easy to control the braking. They are very simple to setup and maintain, and the choice of brake for the professionals.

Aero-style road bikes and TT bikes are now available with direct mount brake fittings, these work in the same way as a standard dual pivot brake. The difference is they are mounted with two fixings on seat/chainstay and fork legs, rather than a central pivot mounting bolt.  Aerodynamic gains are the reason behind the production of this brake style.


V-Brakes were originally fitted on mountain bikes but have gradually over the years found their place on touring/commuting/cyclocross bikes. V-Brakes mount onto bosses on the frame/forks. They offer a lot of stopping power, good clearance for mudguards and off-road use.

Cantilever brakes

Cantilever brakes are most commonly found and still heavily used on cyclo-cross bikes. Each brake leg is mounted to a boss on the frame/forks. They work via a centre pull cable that is linked to a straddle cable connected to the two brake legs. Cantilever brakes are lightweight and offer moderate braking power (enough for cyclo-cross racing). They can be time consuming to setup for the inexperienced home mechanic.

Disc brakes

Disc brakes are being introduced to road/cyclocross/commuting bikes. These consist of a brake disc that's mounted to a specific hub and a brake calliper that attaches to the fork/frame. The brake cable type can be cable, hydraulic or a mixture of the two - when using a system such as the TRP Parabox. A major advantage of disc brakes is that they offer excellent braking in the wet, due to the braking action not occurring on a wet rim but instead on a disc rotor.