The most common type of brake found on most modern hybrid and mountain bikes is the linear-pull brake. These are sometimes called "V-brakes," although that name is actually trademarked by Shimano for their version of linear-pull brakes.
These brakes have excellent stopping power, are easy to adjust, and have a quick-disconnect feature that makes it easy to clear the brake pads out of the way when installing or removing your wheel.
Linear-pull brakes are mounted using a set of posts that are built into the frame of the bicycle, one pair on the front fork, and the other pair on the rear seat stays.
Cantilever brakes were common on older mountain bikes and hybrids, but are still commonly found on modern touring and cyclocross bikes. These brakes are distinguished by two roughly L-shaped calipers on either side of the rim, connected by the brake cable, which is pulled vertically away from the wheel. The A-shaped section of cable that connects the two brake arms is called the "link wire" or "straddle cable."
Cantilever brakes provide better fender and mud clearance compared to linear-pull brakes. They are also easy to disconnect for wheel removal. The only downside to cantilever brakes is that they require an additional "cable stop" or "cable hanger" for the brake housing to pull against. This cable stop is sometimes provided as an integrated part of the bike's frame, but can also be an add-on bracket type of device.
The mounting posts on the bike frame for cantilever brakes are the same as those used for linear-pull brakes. Thus, a bike with linear-pull brakes can be retrofitted to use cantilever brakes, and vice-versa, as long as you have compatible brake levers (see below), and you have cable stops available on the frame for cantilever brakes.
|Linear-pull/cantilever brake pads|
with smooth mounting posts
Linear-pull and cantilever brakes use the same style of brake pads. Sometimes, the brake pads have a smooth post that is held is place by a bolt that is part of the brake caliper; other times, the pad itself has a threaded post with a bolt on the end. The threaded style may have a simple single bolt and washer, or on better models, there is a set of curved washers that provide a finer adjustment of the pad position.
brake pads with threaded
brake pads with threaded
|Dual-pivot road brake caliper|
Most modern racing-style road bikes use brakes referred to as dual-pivot caliper brakes. These brakes have a compact "C" shape, with a brake cable that extends vertically from one side of the caliper. They usually have a small, rotating release lever that allows you to temporarily open the caliper for wheel installation and removal.
The road brake caliper mounts to the frame using a single bolt, either through the fork crown on the front, or through the seat stay bridge on the rear.
Dual-pivot calipers are lightweight and very easy to adjust and service. Their only downside is that they are only appropriate for very skinny-tired road bikes; they usually do not have enough clearance to accomodate wider touring, hybrid, or off-road tires. Fender installation with road caliper brakes can be a challenge as well, although some road-specific fenders are available that can work in some cases.
|Mechanical disc brake|
caliper and rotor
Disc brakes have become a popular option on mountain bikes for many years, and recently are starting to become more common on hybrids, some road touring bikes, and most recently, some cyclocross bikes.
Disc brakes typically provide the best stopping power in all conditions, even in the rain or mud, since the moisture, mud, and other debris has less of a tendency to collect on the braking surface compared to rim brakes.
A bike's frame and fork must have disc brake mounting tabs, so it's difficult (usually impossible) to retrofit and older bike with disc brakes. The hubs on the wheels must be disc-specific as well, to provide the mounting surface for the disc rotor.
|Hydraulic disc brake lever,|
caliper, and rotor
|Disc brake pads|
Disc brake pads are specific to the manufacturer and model of brake; there is no universal standard for disc brake pads.
|BMX U-brake caliper|
U-brakes are common on BMX bikes. The attachment posts on the bike frame are similar to the posts used for cantilever and linear-pull brakes, except that they are positioned above the rim, rather than below. They use the same style of brake pads as cantilever and linear-pull brakes.
|Side-pull brake caliper|
Side-pull brakes are sometimes found on low-end department store-level bikes and cheaper BMX bikes. They have a very simple single-pivot mechanism, and also can usually use the same type of brake pads as linear-pull or cantilever brakes.
|Road brake lever|
Brake levers are designed to clamp onto either drop-style road bike handlebars, or onto upright mountain/hybrid handlebars. Additionally, brake levers are classified according to the amount of brake cable that moves when you squeeze the brake lever. Road calipers, cantilever, and BMX brakes all require "short-pull" brake levers. Linear-pull brakes require "long-pull" brake levers.
|Flat-bar brake levers|
|Rear wheel with coaster brake|
Of course, the old-fashioned "pedal-backwards" brake can still be found on one-speed cruiser-style bikes, and some multi-speed bikes that use an internally-geared hub. This brake is referred to as a coaster brake. A coaster brake-equipped bike can be identified by an L-shaped steel bracket that is bolted to the bike's frame and the left side of the rear hub.