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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey there I was wondering what the difference is between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, as the different bikes that I am look at buying have both. Im assuming that hydraulic brakes are better, but i am not sure. Can someone please tell me the pros and cons of each? The specialized rockhopper pro had juicy 3 hyraulics, where as the cannondale caffiene (f3 or f4) have avid bb5 mechanical brakes.
 

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Exploreur de Citée
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Simple...

The main difference of:
Mechanical Disc Brakes --> Cable
Hydraulics Disc Brakes --> Fluid

Pro-riders usually use the hydraulics. Bikes over AUS$ 1000 here usually have hydraulics discs.;)

Mechanicals:
Advantage:
- Easy to adjust
- Fair price
Disadvantage:
- Dirt can clog up the cable
- If dirt did clog up, it won't brake as smooth

Hydraulics:
Advantage:
- Powerful braking
- Use fluid cable
Disadvantage:
- Difficult to adjust
- If not fix properly (bleeding), braking power greatly reduce and would be very dangerous.
- Expensive
- Need regular maintanance

That is from my point of view... But, for the Avid BB5 are quite good! :thumbsup: The best on the market are the BB7.

Hope this help... :D People might have a better opinion on this topic then me. Try posting your question on the Brake Time forum. :thumbsup:
 

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Former Bike Wrench
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A few more pros and cons

I've owned both over the years.

Mechanical:
Good-
Maintenance is simple
Good power if they're Avids (otherwise just go Hydros)
Choice of brake levers
Simple maintenance
Bad-
Tend to be On/Off, a little lack of modulation compared to Hydros
Very dependent on the quality of the cables and the housing
Bad weather can foul cables (though the use of high quality sealed cables will limit this)

Hydros:
Good-
Modulation is usually much better
Sealed system is generally unaffected by weather
Usually less fatigue of hands on long descents
Bad-
Require bleeding about once a year (easy for some, not so for others)
Limited brake lever options (though getting better w/ aftermarket levers)
Can be finicky

Personally, I like Hydros better but I'm a former mechanic so working on them is not a big deal. If the thought of working on hydros (or paying someone else to) pains you, then the Avid mechanicals are a good choice.
 

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A wheelist
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5,991 Posts
Sky1ne said:
Hey there I was wondering what the difference is between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, as the different bikes that I am look at buying have both. Im assuming that hydraulic brakes are better, but i am not sure. Can someone please tell me the pros and cons of each? The specialized rockhopper pro had juicy 3 hyraulics, where as the cannondale caffiene (f3 or f4) have avid bb5 mechanical brakes.
Go to the Brakes page and read the FAQ! FAQ!
 

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From the basic first time user level....

mechanicals are usually the better choice. Generally mechanical disc brakes, esspecially Avids, are easier to set up and maintain than hydrolic disc brakes. This is mostly due to the fact that most riders understand cable brakes to begin with and, unless they are totaly mechanically inept, can unerstand the basic concept more easily. The learning curve with mech discs is realatively low.

With hydros you're talking about a system that is still realatively new as a bike braking system in most peoples minds. For the entry level user they can be quite daunting if they don't "do their home work" and get as much information about them as possible before jumping into them. The learning curve is quite high for a period of time until they gain a good understanding of the system. They are basically in over their heads for a while. But that doesn't last too long if they are willing to learn. And most people discover that while different, the hydro system isn't that much more complicated than a cable system.

Anyway, as for which system is better, it's a matter of preference. As snaky69 put it, I'd take a set of BB5's or BB7's over a low end, low quality set of hydros any day. I've owned both types of brakes and for ease of maintenance I'd have to go with mechanical discs. They are a breeze (usually) to set up and maintain. For power I'd have to go with hydros. But that has more to do with the design of the calipers and the hydrolic advantage. They do require more maintenance, and a rebuild of the system is more involved. For the level of bike and the brakes that you are looking at, BB5's and Juciy 3's the performance will be about the same. The 3's will require annual bleeding, the BB5's will require annual cable and housing replacement. So between them, let the rest of bike specs make up your mind for you. You can't go wrong with either the BB's or the Jucies. They're both good entry level disc brakes and perform well and are realatively easy to maintain.

Bottom line, both sets you are looking at are Avid, so low quality isn't going to be a problem, either style of brake performs well. For the "disc brake newb" I'd recommend a good set of mechanicals. They perform as well as many hydro brakes for most types of riding, XC, Trail, All Mountain. But if you want to go hydros (as long as they're GOOD hydros), it's not that big of a deal and they work great as well. For you the choice is MAINTENANCE! Do you want drop dead simple cable disc maintenance, or are you willing to put forth a little more effort in learning to maintain the hydros. Your choice.

Good Dirt
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Thanks for your help guys. Im sorry I posted it in the wrong place, never saw the forum before I posted this:)
I think mechanical disc brake will be better for me and the avids are already on the bike that I like.
 

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My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
 

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My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
Sorry but - What?

"You have the complete tools" - two syringes, a $2 bleed adapter and 6 inches of clear plastic hose? The "complete tools" cost about $5, and are needed only if you have to bleed them, which you normally don't.

"You need a technician to bleed it" - How about, you need to watch a 3 minute youtube video to learn how to do it yourself, with the above $5 tool kit?

"You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself" - Last time I installed and adjusted hydraulics, I only used a single, slightly rusty 5mm allen key. I don't remember how much it cost, but I doubt it was very expensive.

"It is hard to replace disc pads" - Err.... you mean hard, as in: Undo one screw, remove pads, insert new pads, reinstall one screw? Actually, on my current shimanos, it's not even a screw, just a safety clip.
The most complicated part is that you may have to push back the old pads a bit with a flat head screw driver to make room for the new ones. Wow.
Don't even have to remove the wheel on most brakes these days, this is easier than changing the pads on any V-brake.

I don't care what brakes you ride, but I think you have been severely mis-informed. Don't bash something until you have tried it.
 

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A wheelist
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Sorry but - What?
"You have the complete tools" - two syringes, a $2 bleed adapter and 6 inches of clear plastic hose? The "complete tools" cost about $5, and are needed only if you have to bleed them, which you normally don't.
"You need a technician to bleed it" - How about, you need to watch a 3 minute youtube video to learn how to do it yourself, with the above $5 tool kit?
"You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself" - Last time I installed and adjusted hydraulics, I only used a single, slightly rusty 5mm allen key. I don't remember how much it cost, but I doubt it was very expensive.
"It is hard to replace disc pads" - Err.... you mean hard, as in: Undo one screw, remove pads, insert new pads, reinstall one screw? Actually, on my current shimanos, it's not even a screw, just a safety clip.
The most complicated part is that you may have to push back the old pads a bit with a flat head screw driver to make room for the new ones. Wow.
Don't even have to remove the wheel on most brakes these days, this is easier than changing the pads on any V-brake.
I don't care what brakes you ride, but I think you have been severely mis-informed. Don't bash something until you have tried it.
^^^^ What you said x eleventy billion. Poster Chunky doesn't have a clue about hydraulics and therefore is scared of them. But what's worse is he throws up this generalization that they're no good for the rest of the world just because he's scared of them. How sad.

Changing pads on any of the ones I've worked on is easier than any rim brake. Bleeding, as you say, is just about getting minor equipment and reading or viewing instructions. And it's not as though you have to do it every day - the brakes on my bike haven't been bled since they were installed - probably eight years ago at least.

But then many bikes (with disc brakes) come equipped with Avid cable discs so clicking a pad adjuster once in a while, lubing a cable or swapping pads is all that's needed. And what could be simpler? Even adjusting the caliper alignment with their CPS system is a yawn. Plus brake pads on hydraulic systems are self-adjusting :eek:. Try to get that feature on any rim brake.
 

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$5.00 is the exactly same money for my new Shimano Tourney(2010) crank set I just bought this year. I saw the video last June 2011 and made a carefully inquiry and ask the owners of Deore and XT brakes about cost, maintenance and field repair. They said they have a lot of problems if they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They even let me ride one and taught how to bleed and dismantle it but it was too much for me. I use my bike in the middle of nowhere(some areas neighbors are 5 km apart and no bike mechanic for 60 km) where nobody can help me if my brakes are out. They don't even sell mineral oil and nobody knows how to take a part a modern MTB. The worst part the entire Hydraulic set Deore 2010 cost more than half than what I paid for my nearly new and assembled bike($290.00 with old stock, brand new Tourney and Alivio parts). The brake pads alone cost more than what I paid for my rear derailluer and 8 speed sprocket. I can even buy a new Honda Dream motorcycle disk pads with more than enough money for installation and brake fluid.

I like XT since it is a little easy to use and last long but come on, with a budget like mine can you really blame me. I'm not a stooge who jump in without looking. It took me half a year to build my bike and just finished it January 15, 2012 due to research and budget constrains. Maybe in 7-10 years I will buy one but now is a big no no. No one can help me here and no parts in my area. Alivio Disc brakes serve me for the time being and planing to upgrade for disc with metal pads. The best part is I can immediately repair it with two instruments and less than 3 minutes.
 

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$5.00 is the exactly same money for my new Shimano Tourney(2010) crank set I just bought this year. I saw the video last June 2011 and made a carefully inquiry and ask the owners of Deore and XT brakes about cost, maintenance and field repair. They said they have a lot of problems if they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They even let me ride one and taught how to bleed and dismantle it but it was too much for me. I use my bike in the middle of nowhere(some areas neighbors are 5 km apart and no bike mechanic for 60 km) where nobody can help me if my brakes are out. They don't even sell mineral oil and nobody knows how to take a part a modern MTB. The worst part the entire Hydraulic set Deore 2010 cost more than half than what I paid for my nearly new and assembled bike($290.00 with old stock, brand new Tourney and Alivio parts). The brake pads alone cost more than what I paid for my rear derailluer and 8 speed sprocket. I can even buy a new Honda Dream motorcycle disk pads with more than enough money for installation and brake fluid.

I like XT since it is a little easy to use and last long but come on, with a budget like mine can you really blame me. I'm not a stooge who jump in without looking. It took me half a year to build my bike and just finished it January 15, 2012 due to research and budget constrains. Maybe in 7-10 years I will buy one but now is a big no no. No one can help me here and no parts in my area.
hello chunky1x,

mechanical discs are probably a good option for you.

If you had made a post about your bike build and a picture you probably would have got some good feedback about it.

No need to get on here and make naff comments about hydraulic brakes.
 
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