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You'll likely get....

as many responses for and against either system. It just depends on what each individual prefers.

Both systems are reliable, powerful, and for the most part user friendly. The pluses and minuses of each for the most part are about even. Both require maintenance so it's pretty much a horse a piece.


Pluses: Can be more powerful than mechanicals. Smoother lever feel (on the good ones), usually lighter in weight, pads that self adjust for wear, dual piston operation (both inboard and out board pads move to make contact with the rotor).

Minuses: Regular bleeding is required (bout once a year) and can be messy, lots of little rubber seals, orings etc. that require replacement (not often but still is needed occasionally), brake fluid needs to be disposed of properly.


Pluses: Good quality mechs can perform every bit as good as many hydros, more easily adjusted for lever feel (although they still "feel mechanical"), less expensinve by 1/3 to 1/2 than hydros, easy to work on more environmentaly friendly cable actuation rather than brake fluid, cables are easier to set up for length than hydro lines, work with any v-brake lever, no additional "bleed kit" required to maintain them.

Minuses: Lever feel not as smooth, pads must be manually adjusted for wear, usually a bit heavier than hydro brakes, only the out board pad moves to make contact with the rotor and forces the rotor into the inboard pad (this is one of the reasons hydros can be made more powerful than mechs). Both systems are highly reliable and user maintainable.

As far as what is the same. You have to bleed hydros and you have to replace cables on mechs to keep them both performing at their best, you'll need to rebuild the hydro caliper occasionally and you'll have to tear down the mech caliper to clean and lube occasionally.

The Juciy 5 you are considering is a good brake system. I wouldn't go any lower than the 5's. For a mechanical there's only one choice IMHO the Avid BB7. Nobodies come up with a mechanical system that is more powerful, easier to set up, or easier to maintain.

The only real big plus with hydros is there are MUCH more powerful systems available for hydraulics. This is the big limiting factor of the mechanical disc brake. The BB7 when properly set up will perform as well as many dual piston hydros. But when it comes to needing lots of stopping power, a 4 piston hydraulic will blow a mechanical out of the water.

Anyway, you can't go wrong either way you go as long as you choose a good quality brake system and match the systems capabilities to your riding style. It's simply a matter of personal preference. Each system has it's pluses and minuses and they're about even up.

My preference runs to mechanical disc brakes. But that's just me. I wouldn't walk away from a bike that came with hydros (as long as they were good hydros!), nor would it be a deal breaker with a good set of mechs either. I just like the "less mess" maintenance, the adjustability, and the feel of my mechs.

You'r choice! :thumbsup:

Good Dirt

160 Posts
A good summary towards the topic. One problem of such a comparison is - refering to the mechanical - of which setup do we talk? Avid BB7 with roundagon rotors, interrupted housing, cheap lever or - as the opposite - BB7 with compressionless uninterrupted housing, good levers and better rotors?

My setup (that I recommend to anyone who will get the maximum performance out of the mechanical): BB7/Avid sintered pads + Speed Dial levers + Full Metal Jacket + Alligator serrated rotors:
- fully sealed brake lines, why should I change any cables?
- when braking on the trail the lever feels at least as smooth as any hydraulic lever I've tried
- I have made direct comparisons towards brake power with Magura Louise FR 203/180, two different Juicy 7 180/160, Formula Oro 180/160, Shimano LX, Magura Julie 180/160. When I turn the Speed Dial knob to max. power, my front 160mm BB7 is at least or more powerful as these hydros in spite of the smaller rotor! In the rear (more cable stretch), dialed to max. power, the brake power is the same as with the best of these hydros (I think it was one of the Juicys with swissstop pads).

Which hydraulic brake model with same rotor size could rival this BB7 setup in the front ? Perhaps Formula The One, Avid Code, Magura Gustav ?
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