Mechanical vs. Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Mechanical vs. Hydraulic Disc Brakes

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Once a reserve of the professional bicycles, the disc brakes have been increasingly rising in numbers with the modern-day road cycling bikes, e-bikes, mtb bicycles and other bikes.

Though disc brakes are not an entirely new feature in the cycling community at the same time they`ve not been in existence for long.

The advanced disc brake is seen as a way to accommodate the more aggressive riding style and trails that people are taking advantage of.

And as you`ve probably gathered by now, there are two types of disc brake: mechanical and the hydraulic disc brakes.

What`s the difference and which is better between the two?

Mechanical Disc Brakes

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Brake Medium






Brake Performance

Less sensitive, Requires more force to come to a stop

More sensitive, efficient










Mechanical Disc Brakes

Mechanical brakes, also known as cable actuated brakes function in a similar fashion to the rim brakes.

The mechanical brakes rely on a braided steel cable to activate the piston that causes the compression of brake pads against the rotor when the brake lever is pulled.

The upside of the mechanical disc brake design is that it works alongside with your normal, rim brake compatible shifters.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Aptly named the hydraulic disc brakes, these type of brakes use hydro or rather fluid.

The hydraulic brake uses a sealed; fluid-filled system as a means of actuation.

Similarities between Mechanical and Hydraulic Brakes

Though not all disc brakes perform similarly, at the basic level, the disc brakes sport pistons that usually push either one or both brake pads onto the rotor.

Differences between Mechanical and Hydraulic Brakes

Brake Medium

As we`ve mentioned above, hydraulic disc brakes use fluid, while the mechanical disc brakes use tensioned cables.


While mechanical disc brakes will generally outperform the rim brakes, especially when wet, they cannot match the efficiency of the hydraulic brakes.

Like the rim brakes, mechanical disc brakes have issues with cable friction or compression in the housing, meaning that you`ll have to apply more force than the resulting force at the caliper.

On the other end, hydraulic brakes eliminate the friction issues, thanks to the fluid contained in the master cylinder. Unlike cables, it`s easier to modulate the fluid (incompressible), and it allows you to deliver more braking power for equal input.

The hydraulic brakes will, therefore, a reliable and faster braking.


The hydraulic system is sealed. This means that grit and grime cannot find their way into the system, and this makes the hydraulic disc brakes virtually maintenance free.

Conversely, the mechanical brakes may get stretched out when riding, and it`s easier for dirt to get in the system, and this will ultimately affect the brake performance.

However, it should be noted that though the hydraulic disc brakes are maintenance free, if a problem such as a leak or the fluid boils, it`s more complex to maintain.

 Which is Better?

All things considered, if you`re looking to go for the disc brakes, I would strongly recommend the hydraulics.

Though they`re a tad cumbersome to maintain, the benefits of this disc brakes system outweigh the flaws by far.

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