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Disc Brakes: Hydraulic vs. Mechanical?

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Disc Brakes: Hydraulic vs. Mechanical?

Old 05-25-17, 01:18 PM
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Truckin75
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Disc Brakes: Hydraulic vs. Mechanical?

Greetings All -

Stepping up from my 5 year-old Jamis Coda Sport this Fall. Staying with the Coda (love the steel), upgrading to either the Comp (which has mechanical discs), or the Elite (which has hydraulic discs).

In terms of hydraulics vs. mechanicals, looking for opinions regarding both performance and upkeep (frequency and cost).

Thanks in advance!
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Old 05-25-17, 01:21 PM
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Hydraulics are worth the bit of extra expense. Assuming Shimano or Trp or other mineral-oil-based system, they are reasonably easy to maintain, and you shouldn't have to bleed them frequently. I do find keeping the pads aligned and working well requires some increased vigilance relative to rim brakes. The modulation more than stopping power per se is the reason to favor hydraulics. They are also easier on your hands.

I'm likely an outlier, but I burn through pads and rotors fairly frequently. I don't have any reason to believe this would differ if I had cable-actuated disc brakes.
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Old 05-25-17, 01:31 PM
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Until recently my disc brake bikes were mechanical and they worked fine. What I have noticed with my new bike and the hydraulic disc brakes it came with is better brake modulation and quicker stops if need be. As far a maintenance, my new bike is too new to require servicing so I cannot directly speak to it, but what I do know is mechanical brakes require adjustment, while hydraulic does not. What the hydraulic brakes require is to bleed the brakes if they become spongy, which from what I have read and heard from more long term rider experience with hydraulic brakes, is 1 to 3 years and in some cases longer. I would have bought my current bike with mechanical brakes if that was what it was equipped with and been happy, but I am really enjoying the hydraulic, although I am not sure I would spend extra dollars just to get hydraulic.
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Old 05-25-17, 01:45 PM
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Having had hydraulic disc brakes for the last 16 years, I wouldn't even consider anything else for my next bike... Everything is better, modulation, 1 finger stopping power, same performance wet or dry, only needed to replace pads for the 16 years I have had the bike, never any maintenance or adjustment after the 1st year when I switched to DOT 4 synthetic brake fluid that is still in there (DOT 3 regular brake fluid was what it came with)...
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Old 05-25-17, 02:43 PM
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If you've done (any of) your own maintenance earlier, then mechanical will be cheaper initially. No special tools required.
Hydros - if you need to bleed then - are more easily handled with the corresponding bleed kit.
IMO, not much to worry about either way.
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Old 05-25-17, 02:49 PM
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Since I do all my own mechanical work, I wasn't sure I wanted to go with hydraulic. But I did -- and I need not have worried. I took my time and bled the system well during installation. Since installation (18 months ago), I haven't had to add fluid, make adjustments, or bleed the brakes. And I've changed rear pads once, but probably didn't have to. Zero maintenance and excellent performance in all kinds of weather and paved/gravel environments.

Before, with cable-actuated disks, brake adjustments were a regular necessity. Not so with the hydraulics.
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Old 05-25-17, 02:55 PM
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I have bb7's on my touring bike, and I would not get them again. I don't notice that they work any better than the cantis I had before, and I am constantly fiddling with the bb7s to keep them from squeaking. I doubt I'll ever get disk brakes again, but if I do they will be hydraulic.
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Old 05-25-17, 02:56 PM
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IMO hydraulics are needless complication. The mechanicals on my trike work great. If you snag a hose, you just lost that brake, while a cable that gets snaged a minor readjustment probably will be all that is needed. After all cable brakes have worked fine for over 100 years.
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Old 05-26-17, 12:19 PM
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My BB7s took a lot of fiddling. It was always a balancing act, getting enough clearance to the rotor without using up all my lever travel, as well as getting the rear pad close enough to avoid squealing or bending the rotor, all without rubbing. Then I got TRP Spyres. Setup was easy and I haven't had to fiddle with them at all since installing them last spring. Hydraulics are even better, I know; but in my case I have a disc in front and a regular caliper brake in back, and I don't want two different levers.
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Old 05-26-17, 12:28 PM
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I run multiple sets of BB7 without issue. I run triples. If they made a 3x shifter with hydro brakes I'd give hydros a try. In the meantime, I'll stick with what works. I can even swap wheels with readjusting them. Sorry so many folks struggle with them, maybe they need to watch this video:
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Old 05-26-17, 12:51 PM
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Thanks for the video, @Mr IGH. The problem is not that people don't know how to adjust bb7's, it's that they require very frequent adjustment. Personally, the juice just isn't worth the squeeze since cantilevers work just fine for the type of riding I do and don't require anywhere near the same level of attention. While I have no personal experience, people say hydros are better in that regard.
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Old 05-26-17, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
...it's that they require very frequent adjustment.....
Can't get BB7 to work (despite all the people who do), so cantilevers are the solution? I'm trying not to laugh, you're kidding, right? Cantilevers, so simple and powerful they left the market within a year of v-brakes release. What's next, $200 centerpulls....

https://paulcomp.com/product-categor...r-pull-brakes/
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Old 05-26-17, 01:28 PM
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What can I say? I think cantilevers are perfectly adequate for the type of riding I do. I don't see what's funny about that, but I'm happy to amuse you at my expense nonetheless.
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Old 05-26-17, 08:32 PM
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No experience with hydro's but have used BB7s for 14 years on several bikes. Currently ride three bikes with a single BB7 on each; two with disc/V-brake and one with disc/double pivot. BB7s aren't perfect but work well. Going to hydraulic would require learning some new skills, maintenance-wise.
Great video posted by Mr. IGH.
I find that my V-brakes require a bit more fiddling than the discs. And, on a related note, I find V-brakes much easier to install and maintain than cantis. Oh, yeah, and they stop well.
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Old 05-26-17, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I have bb7's on my touring bike, and I would not get them again. I don't notice that they work any better than the cantis I had before, and I am constantly fiddling with the bb7s to keep them from squeaking. I doubt I'll ever get disk brakes again, but if I do they will be hydraulic.
I've demo'ed bikes with bb7's before. I was really surprised and disappointed by how grabby they were. All of this talk about discs' vaunted excellent modulation was nowhere to be found with the bb7's.

Mini and regular v brakes work very well on the road. I prefer hydraulics off road though.

I don't know why v brakes couldn't be used on road bikes for more stopping power. Even mini v brakes on 'low end' bikes stop and modulate very well. I just don't see the need for discs for road bikes. V brakes provide a ton of stopping power without the weight penalty.
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Old 05-28-17, 07:56 AM
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Don't like BB7,? try TRP Spyre , road , or Spyke, MTB, or road only Short cable pull, their Hy Rd. cable actuated hydraulic-hybrid.

There are shorter arm, less cable pull demanding, V brakes as well ,

If your bike has all the fittings, and the tires are not too fat.

I have a bike with Magura's hydraulic rim brakes too. its got MTB sized wheels..



...

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Old 05-28-17, 11:39 AM
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I never had cable actuated disks, I went straight from V-brake rim brakes to Shimano hydraulic disks on a new Giant bought 9 months ago. I have never had a problem with them in all that time aside from some rubbing that occurred between the front caliper and disk after I tinkered with the alignment. I can't even remember why I toyed with it but I had to spend an hour searching YouTube and the general web to get a good set of instructions on how to bolt the caliper on properly again. There is a trick to the alignment but once you know it it's easy and no tool aside from the Allen key on the bolts.

In my estimation they are worth the extra money on a new bike but I wouldn't retro-fit them to a bike otherwise.
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Old 05-28-17, 05:41 PM
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I keep looking at getting a disc brake frame for a gravel bike I'd like to build. I like the way hydraulics feel but the way most frame builders accommodate them is just so ugly with that brake line zip tied on the down tube. For that reason alone, I'd go with mechanical (and then run the cables internally).

I've probably been ready to pull the trigger several times, but the added weight and no real performance difference from my v-brake/rear canti set up stops me. I think there are a few more years of innovation needed first. Weight is coming down and there are certainly benefits in tire and rim options when you get the braking surface off the rim but I just don't think we're there yet. Getting closer though.

Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
Can't get BB7 to work (despite all the people who do), so cantilevers are the solution? I'm trying not to laugh, you're kidding, right? Cantilevers, so simple and powerful they left the market within a year of v-brakes release. What's next, $200 centerpulls....

https://paulcomp.com/product-categor...r-pull-brakes/
FWIW, the Paul's center pulls have a lot of application in putting a 700c wheel on a 27" old style steel frame. Niche application, he's not advocating that you add center pulls to an existing bike necessarily.

His V-brakes and cantilever brakes are pretty nice brakes. Can't complain with the ones I have, that's for sure.

J.

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Old 05-28-17, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
No experience with hydro's but have used BB7s for 14 years on several bikes. Currently ride three bikes with a single BB7 on each; two with disc/V-brake and one with disc/double pivot. BB7s aren't perfect but work well. Going to hydraulic would require learning some new skills, maintenance-wise.

Wouldn't that be fun and/or exciting?
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Old 05-28-17, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
Wouldn't that be fun and/or exciting?
Would be good excuse to buy more bike tools/gear, too?
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Old 05-28-17, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
Would be good excuse to buy more bike tools/gear, too?

Exactly.
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Old 05-29-17, 10:30 PM
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I have hydraulic disks on my GT Transeo. Wonderful brakes. My wife's bike has mechanical Textro disks. They're OK.

I installed Avid BB5's on a cheap fatbike. They were weak, but still better than the original v-brakes. Probably impossible to make v-brakes work on 4" rims.

I have an old Diamondback with good v-brakes. In spite of the BB5 experience I put an Avid BB7 on the front wheel as a test. (Got it cheap as a used part and had the rotors lying around) It was initially just as miserable as the BB5's and not half as good as the v-brake, but I did a re-adjustment last week, and suddenly they were stronger.
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Old 05-30-17, 05:30 AM
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Hydraulic disc brakes with thru-axle hubs are a serious improvement over earlier disc brakes. Mine have been 100% trouble free. The easy to modulate action and light effort is a great benefit on gravel descents and damp surfaces.





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Old 05-30-17, 10:59 AM
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I'll chime in on my experience with TRP Spyre mechanical disks. They worked pretty well for me so far and have been pretty happy. But I think they do need to be used with compressionless brake housings to perform their best. I often thought about going to hydros due to having better modulation but it would be only a half-step improvement which might not be worth the extra investment. So I think I will keep what I have for now.

If I had a choice now though, I think I would choose full hydraulic...
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Old 05-30-17, 07:30 PM
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I run a BB7 with a 203mm rotor on the rear of our 'bent tandem, along with an Avid SD7 v-brake on the front. Replaced cable/housing last winter with compressionless Jagwire housing (one section of cable is exposed) and a very looooong stainless steel cable. Seems a bit smoother and more responsive than before.
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