Entry level disc brakes, mechanical or hydraulic, what to choose?


What are your expectations from an entry-level set of brakes? To be as lightweight as possible, stop the bike safely and have a good modulation. Other things on the list might be brake lever design or brake pads life expectancy, and the latter depends on the way brakes are being used and this varies from rider to rider. Therefore, our comparison will ignore these issues. Last but not least we also have the price.

The next article presents you several sets of mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes, with brake fluid and with mineral oil. You can read here about the differences between brake fluid and mineral oil, each coming with its advantages and disadvantages.

This season we had the opportunity to test most entry-level brakes available on the market, so we present you with the most relevant / common. Let’s start!

Mechanical disc brakes

3rd place: Promax DSK-320

They can be purchased separately, but even after the most compelling adjustments, Promax brakes prove that they cannot satisfy even the minimum expectations you have from a set of brakes. Braking force is weak and adjustment is difficult. To be avoided as much as possible. Promax promises that the new generation of mechanical disc brakes (2013) will be more efficient.

The test can be read here: Promax DSK-320

2nd place: Hayes MX5

Not the best performing brakes set, at least not in the standard configuration. However, a brake pads upgrade –   Kool Stop or Swissstop are good examples – will enhance their performance. Also, a thorough adjustment will highlight qualities that normally are hidden.  Not recommended for difficult trails with steep descents. The price is acceptable.

Read here the full test.

1st place: Avid BB7

The best mechanical disc brakes created so far. In fact, they’re so good that braking power can rival that of some hydraulic disc brakes. Lighter than most what competition has to offer, they come with a price that matches their performance:  around 110 euro per set. As they are delivered without brake lever, we recommend a set of Avid levers for increased functionality.

Read here the full test.

Hydraulic disc brakes

4th place: Hayes Dyno

Probably the worst hydraulic brakes ever made. They are ranked better than Stroker, so this is a sign that Hayes needs some reorganizing and it needs it right now. The generous amount of fading on descents, the lever travel adjustment or weight do not recommend these brakes for any activity.

The test can be read here: Hayes Dyno

3rd place: Tektro Draco 2

A well – known name on the market, Tektro Draco 2 brakes can be found on many bicycles. Some may praise them, other may criticize them, but basically these brakes have more power than Hayes Dyno, yet they prove to be less capable on medium and long descents, especially if these are steep. Lever feel is bland, not very ergonomic and weight is relatively high. Quality of materials could also be improved. They are suitable for light mountain tours, but riders with higher ambitions, will have other alternatives to consider.

The test can be read here: Tektro Draco 2

2nd place: Shimano M445

Shimano entry level hydraulic brakes are capable, even on difficult trails. The reservoir is not as big as the other models from Shimano, but the lever has a lean and elegant design. Materials are all right, they function with mineral oil and grip at lever’s end is among the best. However, the M445 are not ready to meet the toughest demands, and this is why they need to make way for Avid Elixir 1 on the first step of the podium.

Read here the full test: Shimano M445

1st place: Avid Elixir 1

In spite of rather poor materials – Shimano M445 being slightly better finished – Elixir 1 makes it on top thanks to its excellent performance. And this is what we all are searching for. Avid Elixir 1 brakes can be found as standard even on some Freeride bikes (such as SCOTT Voltage FR 30 for example) with a  200-mm disc. And this tells us a lot about their ability to stop  a bicycle when it’s needed. Lever is wider than the one found on the Shimano M445, but it still does not offer at its end, as the Japanese competitor does. Compared to higher specification brakes (mid-level), modulation is not impressive, neither is weight, in terms of selling price they are category’s best buy! Some sites will sell them at discount, for approximately 80 euro per set.

Read the full test here.