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Bicycle brakes, rim brakes or disk brakes?

What will be the choice for your type of brakes? Bicycle brake systems are used to slow down your bicycle. There have been various types through history, and several are still in use today. The most used type of brakes are rim brakes and disc brakes.

Rim brakes

There are several types of brakes in use for bicycle touring. V-brakes are the ones most used. It's an easy system to adjust and maintain. It also works well with suspension bikes.

The Shimao XT V-brakes of my Koga Miyata bicycle   The Shimao XT V-brakes of my Koga Miyata bicycle
The Shimano XT V-brakes of my Koga Miyata bicycle

And for touring I would recommend them over disc brakes. Disc brakes might be better, especially in wet weather but the system is more difficult to maintain on the road. If it breaks in the middle of nowhere it's hard to get spares. With V-brakes that is a different matter.

While being on the road, you will most likely have to change the brake pads. This is easy. Remove the safety pin, remove the old pad and slide the new pad in. Add the safety pad.

Advantages and disadvantages of rim brakes


There are many advantages of rim brakes, especially for touring. Rim brakes are cheap, light, mechanically simple and thus easy to maintain. Most of all, they are very strong.

The big disadvantage is that in wet weather conditions they do not perform too good. With aluminum rims this is less a problem.

Another problem is that mud easily clogs around the brake and in between the brake pad and the rim.

This was in my case especially problem when I cycled in Guizhou China on bad roads in the rainy season. Every few kilometers I had to clean the brakes with water from the padifields. But that's part of the fun, isn't it?

Of course you will have your maintenance. Brake pads wear easy out, even the good quality pads so bring always a few spare sets.


The rim will wear out, so it does have an effect on the lifetime of your rim too. This is a problem that can easily happen if you do a lot of mountain rides or heavy off road cycling where you use your brakes extensively.

Cables need lubrication regularly and need regular replacement (bring some). I have had the trouble that cables break. Yes, it does occasionally happen.

Your rim needs to be as straight as possible. If not, using the brake causes wobbles, very unhandy when you come down a mountain.

Because of the friction between the rim pad and the rim, heat is produced. When using the brakes, make it a habit not to use them constant but in phases, ie pumping.

You won't set fire on the rim, but it might wear both the brake pad and the rim faster out than necessary. So use your brakes carefully.

Disc brakes


Disc brakes consist of a metal disc which is attached to the wheel hub. The technique is used for a long time in motorcycles.

The last few years disc brakes became cheaper and lighter and became standard on many bicycle types. Still, they are heavier then rim brakes and require more maintenance.

Disc brakes are in general better in use the rim brakes, especially in wet weather/road conditions. However, using a disc brake requires stronger spokes as the force of using the brake is partly put on the spokes.

Not many touring bikes have yet such a brake system but should you decide to use disc brakes, you will need also specialized pannier racks.

The problem goes further, repairing a disc brake in rural areas might be a big problem, golden rule for touring, make sure you use materials you can replace on the road. Disc brakes might bring you in trouble that way. And they're more expensive.

Bicycle brakes auction

Bicycle brakes can be as cheap and expensive as you wish, depending on what type of brake you are using.

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