Go to content
Hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes: What are different?

Hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes: What are different?

When buying a new or second -hand bicycle with disc brakes sometimes we do not pay attention to their drive system. Are they mechanical brakes or are hydraulic brakes? However, this aspect is of great importance in braking behavior. The disc brakes have already become the reference standard of all types of bicycles, regardless of the mode practiced: Mountain Bike, road, cyclocross or serious). Therefore, in your future purchase, it is important to know the differences between a mounting with hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes, since each of them has its own characteristics that end up affecting issues such as performance or maintenance. [IRP Posts = "3317" Name = "Advantages and disadvantages of wearing road disc brakes"]

6 key differences between hydraulic and mechanical brakes

There are numerous differences between hydraulic disc brakes and bicycle mechanics. Below we show what we consider to have a greater relevance when it comes to opting for one system or another.


Both systems have the same essential pieces: handle, hose or cable cover, clamp, pills and disc. But they differ in the technology used to function. In the mechanical brake the printed force on the handle is transferred to one of the pills (not both) through a brake cable in voltage. In the hydraulic brake the force that the cyclist prints in the handle is transferred to the pistons of the clamp - and from there to the two pills - by means of a liquid (mineral or synthetic oil, depending on the brand of the brakes). Due to the pressure exerted by the fluid, the pills will end up moving to press the disc and thus stop the wheel movement.

Braking behavior

Bicycle disc brakes The use of a cable or a liquid for energy transfer by the braking circuit makes the type of braking substantially change. A hydraulic disc brake will offer a more linear and progressive stop (from less to more). The wheels will not suddenly block, reducing the risk of mishap or falling and favoring better control and bicycle handling. Instead, a mechanical disc brake provides a more abrupt type of braking, less linear. The braking power can be greater in the first moment of braking, but the cyclist has less margin to modulate braking energy according to their needs. In declines of large earrings, for example, the mechanical brake is less effective than the hydraulic.

Wet yield

Related to behavior, another of the big differences between hydraulic and mechanical brakes is its level of effectiveness with rain. A situation in which good brakes are essential. With the wet or slippery terrain it is better to have hydraulic disc brakes, and not only because it has greater braking progressivity. The circuit of a hydraulic disc brake is completely closed and is more stagnant to the entrance of water. In mechanical disc brakes the cable is exposed in its connection with the clamp. Thus, it is more likely that the water enters into contact is introduced into the circuit and modifies its operation, diminishing the power and modulation of the braking.

Brake adjustment

Hydraulic disc brakes are self -adjusting in potential, modulation, etc., thanks to the properties of brake fluid, responsible for its operation. On the other hand, a mechanical disc brake will need periodic settings to calibrate its power and modulation, through tensing or weaning of the cable, as shown in this School of School of Bicycle Mechanics EMEB: EMEB: https://youtu.be/u_r0HVQA9Bk Remember that the mechanical disc brake setting is done in the two pills, but separately. Only one of them receives the strength of the handle through the cable, while the other is fixed and will require its own adjustment so that it is well aligned with respect to the other.

Maintenance of disc brakes

Hydraulic brakes are much easier to maintain and are more durable than mechanics. It will be enough to make an annual system review and purged the circuit, changing the brake fluid for a new one. It is a somewhat more thorough, but rare operation that will increase brake durability. You can see how it is done in this video: https://youtu.be/BHF_C8PIvWE Mechanical disc brakes, on the contrary, are more easily disagree. They require more constant maintenance, although simple, very similar to the classic shoes. In addition, its durability is more limited than hydraulics and pills usually wear faster.


Finally, one of the aspects in which both braking systems differ most is in the price. A Shimano hydraulic disc brake kit (Deore Group) is around € 60, while there are mechanical alternatives at half price, for € 30. Therefore, hydraulic disc brakes, although currently widespread in all assemblies, are more typical of medium and high ranges. While the mechanics, which were the first types of disc brake for bicycles that appeared in the market, are limited to low ranges. However, it is not difficult to find economic bicycles that include hydraulic disc brakes, especially in Mountain Bike.

Hydraulic or mechanical: What brakes should I choose?

Once we know all the characteristics and differences between the hydraulic and mechanical brakes for cycling, it is time to choose the most appropriate, attending to your needs, level, use that you give to the bike and available budget. Mechanical disc brakes are indicated for novel cyclists, which make short and simple exits, without too many technical sections. On the other hand, for someone who usually comes out and has a certain level, it is more advisable Mountain Bike or cyclocross, or descents of mountain ports in the case of road cycling.
Cart 0

Your cart is empty.

Start buying