Many e-bike enthusiasts might say that the motor or the battery is the most important component of an e-bike. Yes, those are very important items, but not the most important. The single most important component on any bicycle, motorized or conventional, is the brake. Without good brakes, bicycle riding is dangerous. This is especially true of e-bikes, due to the faster speeds available to the rider. Obviously, when riding at higher speeds, better braking power becomes very desirable!
There are two general categories of brakes found on nearly all e-bikes. The vast majority are fitted with either rim brakes or disc brakes. There are important advantages and disadvantages to each type of brake. E-bike riders should educate themselves on the function and effectiveness of bicycle brakes, and then make an informed decision on what is best.
If you rode a bicycle as a child, there’s a good chance it had rim brakes. They are tried and proven, having been in use by cyclists for many years. There are several different types of rim brakes for bicycles, but all of them involve applying pressure to a brake pad that contacts the rim, as pictured below. A handlebar lever, brake cable or hydraulics, and caliper are used to generate pressure. The greater the pressure, the quicker the turning of the wheel is slowed.
Advantages of Rim Brakes
- Economical — Let’s face it, price matters. Rim brakes are mechanically simple, inexpensive to purchase, with an equally low cost for maintenance and spare parts.
- Trouble-free — Well…almost. Rubbing (brake noise” is rarely a problem with rim brakes. If it does happen, adjustment is a quick and simple task, and easily taken care of on the roadside or trail.
- User friendly — We want our e-bikes to last a long, long time. Rim brakes are simply put less wear and tear on the equipment, and spokes and forks tend to have a longer lifespan. Of course, the lifespan of the rim is negatively affected.
- Convenient — In addition to the simplicity of repairs, riders can generally find the parts needed. Even in the more remote locations, rim brakes are very common and parts are often stocked.
- Effective — Good-quality rim brakes are certainly capable of providing effective stopping power. Effective, but probably not the best…which leads us to the disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Rim Brakes
- Less capable — The stopping power of rim brakes is definitely not the equal to that of disc brakes. Suffice it to say that rim brakes have a lesser mechanical advantage, and cannot create as much pressure for stopping the wheel.
- Inconvenience — Wet weather or muddy conditions can put a stop to your ride. Rim brakes are prone to significant slippage in these conditions and can be unsafe for riding.
- Slower stops — Rim brakes are not capable of stopping as quickly as disk brakes. This has the potential to be a serious factor in an emergency that calls for a very quick stop.
- Hot brakes — Rim brakes are not as efficient as disk brakes when it comes to dissipating the heat buildup that is natural when braking. This can definitely be a serious problem when dealing with long, steep downhill sections. At times, it could be necessary to pull off the road or trail and give your rim some time to cool. In more extreme cases, the heat could cause even more serious problems, such as tire failure.
- Short-lived pads — Although easy to find and inexpensive to replace, be aware that the pads on rim brakes cannot be expected to last as long as the pads on disc brakes. There’s nothing you can do about that, as the problem results from the use of different materials for manufacturing the pads.
If things like current technology, trendy looks, and best safety are important to you, then you may want to ignore the higher cost of disc brakes. Many e-bike owners believe the pros definitely outweigh the cons when considering disc brakes.
Advantages of Disk Brakes
- Safety — As mentioned previously, safety is the reason brakes are the most important component on any e-bike…cruiser, commuter, utility, or other. It’s also the reason why many cyclists prefer disc brakes, as they offer a greater degree of safety. With disc brakes, you can stop your e-bike more quickly in virtually all riding conditions. This includes wet weather and muddy conditions, where stopping power may be reduced but still much better than with rim brakes.
- Cool braking — Disc brakes are cool in more ways than one. A lot of rider like the look of disc brakes, but more importantly, disc brakes are very good at getting rid of the heat buildup that comes with braking. You can just look at a disc brake rotor and immediately see that it is designed to combat heat. You can ride with mush less concern about any long, steep downhill stretches.
- Easier braking — Because disc brakes are so efficient in stopping power, you will not have to press as hard on your brake levers. On long rides, that can be very nice!
- Long lifespan — Brake pads will last longer, and of course, there is zero wear and tear on your rims when you have disc brakes.
- Convenience — When you choose disc brakes, you have a lot of leeway in the tire width you prefer, as well as the wheel size. If you prefer to use rim brakes, you probably should avoid fat tire e-bikes.
Disadvantages of Disk Brakes
- Maintenance — Disk brakes, especially if you choose the hydraulic type, are trickier to maintain. However, there are some types of self-contained hydraulic disk brakes (such as the Juin M1) that are low-maintenance and easy to install if you are upgrading your brakes.
- Inconvenience — When something goes wrong, replacement parts are not as easy to find as with rim brakes. It might be best to order online and keep the key parts on hand until needed.
- Brake noise — Generally speaking, disk brakes are more prone to annoying noise. The pad-to-disc tolerance is very small, and just a small error in adjustment can create a lot of noise. It’s certainly not a deal killer, but more care is required in brake adjustment.
- Cost — Good quality disc brakes will cost you much more than good quality rim brakes. Even more if you want hydrailic disk brakes. And you can’t really opt for cheap. It might be tempting to decide on inexpensive mechanical disk brakes, but that can create problems you do not want to experience. Some of the lower-priced mechanical disc brakes may have less stopping power than the average rim brake.
Your safety is at stake, and so the importance of quality control for e-bikes cannot be overstated. Be sure to select an e-bike brand that is strong in quality control. Otherwise, it is not likely that your new ride will have good quality brakes.
It is rather amazing how many e-bike companies do not even own the factory that manufactures their e-bikes. How can a company expect to have effective quality control if they don’t even own the factory?
Magicycle is not a normal e-bike company. Magicycle owns the factory, and that factory has been producing quality e-bikes for more than 16 years. Every Magicycle begins with the award-winning Magicycle Design Team, originators of the amazing frame design that makes their e-bikes both visually appealing and reliably strong.
Because they control every aspect of design and manufacturing, Magicycle gets to very carefully select the components. Only well-known brand names are invited to supply motors, batteries, tires, LCD displays, brakes, etc. For example, name brand brakes are installed on every Magicycle. These Tektro Aries provide great stopping power at reasonable cost. Only high-quality components go onto a Magicycle! That’s a big factor in the confidence Magicycle owners have in their e-bike.
Regardless of which type of brake you prefer for your e-bike, be sure you are getting brakes of high quality!