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E-bike brakes: Hydraulic vs. Mechanical

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E-bike brakes:
Hydraulic vs. Mechanical

We know that components that affect the performance of an e-bike are not limited to the motor and battery. Though they may seem alike, the type of brake is one of the essential components of an e-bike.

What does the braking system affect? Basically the answer is the speed and steadiness of an e-bike in slowing down, as well as the stopping distance. Although the performance of the braking setup may differ according to the brand, there are typically two types of brakes: mechanical and hydraulic. Continue reading and gain an understanding regarding their complex differences to get yourself the e-bike with the right one.

How do mechanical disc brakes work?

Mechanical disc brakes, also called cable disc brakes, were once the only type of brakes in the e-bike world. As you would infer from the name, this type of brake setup consists of a cable, a mechanical disc and a brake lever. While its simplicity provides easy repair and maintenance (tightening its levers and and changing the cables are generally enough), it increases the vulnerability of the braking system to dust and debris which would result in lack of stopping power and control.

How do hydraulic disc brakes work?

Using technology’s wonders, hydraulic brakes consist of a sealed braking system filled with fluid, which replaces the steel cables to prevent the rider from losing control in braking even under extreme conditions. Therefore hydraulic brakes provide better performance, power, control and speed in braking thanks to their upgraded mechanism. But as expected, these advantages come with a certain cost.

Even though they’re different, mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes function similarly as they both sport a brake lever connected to a brake caliper, located at the center of the wheel. As the rider presses into the rotor, the caliper is the part which applies the resistance to the related wheel to slow down the tire. The stronger the rider presses the lever, the more pressure applied by the caliper.

How do mechanical disc and hydraulic disc brakes differ?

So let’s go through the differences between mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes, aspect by aspect:

Control

The main difference between a hydraulic disc brake and a mechanical one is that the mechanical disc brake has the disadvantage of requiring more pulling force, which may result in reduced control. You cannot keep 100% control while squeezing your hand, right? On the other side, hydraulic disc brakes provide greater power as they require only a gentle squeeze to apply. Therefore you won’t lose control and manage to keep your ride stable.

Smoothness

The greatest advantage of having hydraulic disc brakes is the consistent feel and progression of stopping power they provide. Besides a smoother lever pull thanks to the system being protected from debris, you’ll know what will happen depending on how much power you apply.

On the other hand, as mechanical disc brakes get damaged by dust or debris more easily, the resistance they create reduces the smoothness of the operation of braking. Therefore, after some point, you’ll need to apply more power than you would normally.

Power

When it comes to power, hydraulic disc brakes offer much better performance compared to mechanical disc brakes as they are able to augment the force applied to the lever. The hydraulic system also has much less friction compared to the mechanical braking systems, which translates into hydraulic disc brakes being more effective.

Maintenance and spare parts

This is where mechanical disc brakes have their advantages. As mechanical disc brakes sport the same levers and cables which are used by conventional rim brakes, it's easier to find spare parts. On the other hand, for hydraulic brakes, although the systems are becoming more common, it's still harder to find parts like levers, brake fluid, replacement calipers, and maintenance tools outside of a specialized bike shop.

Mechanical disc brakes or hydraulic disc brakes: Which one should you get for your e-bike?

As you see, both braking systems have their distinctive features, and that makes them better choices for different conditions. Making the right choice requires considering both these conditions and your budget -as the quality and smoothness of hydraulic disc brakes comes with a price.

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