If you are shopping around for a new electric bicycle or looking into upgrades, you may be comparing brake pads vs disc brakes for an electric bike. The best electric bikes, after all, tend to include some form of high-end braking system. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two types of brakes.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • All types of brakes feature brake pads as a primary component, including disc brakes.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes apply pressure via brake pad to the rotor, which connects directly to the wheel hub.
  • Rim brakes, on the other hand, apply pressure via brake pads to the rim of the wheel or tires.

Differences Between Brake Pads and Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Brake pads are a necessary component of any braking system, even when it comes to disc brakes. In other words, there is no real difference here, as all braking systems use brake pads to press against the surface of a wheel to allow the vehicle to come to a stop. Brake pads, however, are used in different ways depending on the type of braking system. For instance, rim brakes and hydraulic disc brakes tend to use brake pads in different ways to achieve similar results. Think of the differences when you compare belt vs chain drive, and you can start to understand rim brakes vs disc brakes.

Rim Brakes and Disc Brakes

These are the two primary braking systems typically found in electric bikes and similar electric vehicles. They certainly have their differences when it comes to performance and other metrics.

Insider Tip

If you can, test out an e-bike before making a purchase and run the brakes through their paces.

Stopping Power

There is no way around it. Mechanical disc brakes, otherwise known as mechanical brakes, offer greater stopping power than rim brakes, due to the nature of the designs. Rim brakes apply stopping force via a brake caliper that is attached to the outer rim. Disc brakes apply stopping force directly via a brake caliper directly to the rotor, which is mounted to the hub. Forcing the brake pads to press up against the actual rotor translates to efficient and reliable stopping power. A disc brake design is similar to the brakes found on a motorcycle. If you are comparing e-bike motors, making sure your brakes are up to snuff should be a primary concern.

Repair Costs

Rim brakes have been around a long time and they are generally easier to access than disc brakes. This translates to lower repair costs, as the technician will easily be able to get to the rim brakes for general maintenance and even serious repair jobs. If you are an avid biker, particularly if you travel off-road, you may want to consider rim brakes just to keep your repair costs down.

Price

Another factor is the overall cost of the brakes themselves and how that translates to the cost of the e-bike. Rim brakes are cheaper than disc brakes, making models that feature rim brakes also cheaper than models that include disc brakes. If you are shopping around for a budget-friendly electric bicycle, you will likely choose one that has rim brakes instead of disc brakes. Generally speaking, only high-end e-bikes that cost at least $1,000 include disc braking systems as stock brakes.

Weight

Rim brakes are lighter than disc brakes, often weighing just a pound or even less in some cases. Disc brake systems can weigh twice or even three times that. As avid bikers know, in many cases a light bike makes for a smoother ride. Additionally, keeping the weight down will allow you to haul more things, in the case of a cargo bike, or go faster, in the case of a street bike.

Wet Weather

Disc brakes work better than rim brakes in wet weather, which is one of the main reasons they have increased in popularity in recent years. As more high-end e-mountain bikes get released, disc braking systems increase in popularity. If you are out riding a treacherous mountain path in the rain, you want all of the help you can get.

Reduced Wear on Wheels

Being as how disc brakes apply pressure on the rotor, and not the rim of the wheel, you will experience reduced wear on your wheels when you use disc brakes over rim brakes. This means your tires will last longer, as there will be less pad wear and less wear on the brake cable.

F.A.Q.S

Should you get mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes for your eBike?

Mechanical disc brakes are more common, yet hydraulic brakes are more powerful and more expensive. Choose one depending on your preference.


What are the other advantages of using disc brakes?

Whether you choose mechanical disc brakes or hydraulic brakes, you will experience some real advantages. These include the ability to change rotor size, a sturdy brake lever, and the ability for more precise braking.


What are the main kinds of disc brakes?

There are two kinds of disc brakes, mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. The latter is considered to be more powerful, though much more expensive.



STAT: The e-bike market is expected to generate around 20 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by 2023. The industry is expected to sell around 130 million electric bicycles between 2020 and 2023. (source)

Lawrence Bonk

Lawrence Bonk is a copywriter with a decade of experience in the tech space, with columns appearing in Engadget, Huffington Post and CBS, among others. He has a cat named Cinnamon.

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