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  1. #1
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    Hydraulic disc brakes Vs mechanical.

    Hey there I was wondering what the difference is between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, as the different bikes that I am look at buying have both. Im assuming that hydraulic brakes are better, but i am not sure. Can someone please tell me the pros and cons of each? The specialized rockhopper pro had juicy 3 hyraulics, where as the cannondale caffiene (f3 or f4) have avid bb5 mechanical brakes.

  2. #2
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    We the people ... Simple...

    The main difference of:
    Mechanical Disc Brakes --> Cable
    Hydraulics Disc Brakes --> Fluid

    Pro-riders usually use the hydraulics. Bikes over AUS$ 1000 here usually have hydraulics discs.

    Mechanicals:
    Advantage:
    - Easy to adjust
    - Fair price
    Disadvantage:
    - Dirt can clog up the cable
    - If dirt did clog up, it won't brake as smooth

    Hydraulics:
    Advantage:
    - Powerful braking
    - Use fluid cable
    Disadvantage:
    - Difficult to adjust
    - If not fix properly (bleeding), braking power greatly reduce and would be very dangerous.
    - Expensive
    - Need regular maintanance

    That is from my point of view... But, for the Avid BB5 are quite good! The best on the market are the BB7.

    Hope this help... People might have a better opinion on this topic then me. Try posting your question on the Brake Time forum.
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  3. #3
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    Idea! A few more pros and cons

    I've owned both over the years.

    Mechanical:
    Good-
    Maintenance is simple
    Good power if they're Avids (otherwise just go Hydros)
    Choice of brake levers
    Simple maintenance
    Bad-
    Tend to be On/Off, a little lack of modulation compared to Hydros
    Very dependent on the quality of the cables and the housing
    Bad weather can foul cables (though the use of high quality sealed cables will limit this)

    Hydros:
    Good-
    Modulation is usually much better
    Sealed system is generally unaffected by weather
    Usually less fatigue of hands on long descents
    Bad-
    Require bleeding about once a year (easy for some, not so for others)
    Limited brake lever options (though getting better w/ aftermarket levers)
    Can be finicky

    Personally, I like Hydros better but I'm a former mechanic so working on them is not a big deal. If the thought of working on hydros (or paying someone else to) pains you, then the Avid mechanicals are a good choice.

  4. #4
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    For the cable in Mechanics I mean the housing...
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sky1ne
    Hey there I was wondering what the difference is between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, as the different bikes that I am look at buying have both. Im assuming that hydraulic brakes are better, but i am not sure. Can someone please tell me the pros and cons of each? The specialized rockhopper pro had juicy 3 hyraulics, where as the cannondale caffiene (f3 or f4) have avid bb5 mechanical brakes.
    Go to the Brakes page and read the FAQ! FAQ!
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  6. #6
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    Mechanical disc brakes are definitely better.
    Hydraulic disc brakes are definitely better.


    (Cheers to unknown Mod)
    Last edited by SteveUK; 02-01-2007 at 02:22 PM.

  7. #7
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    Probably. I think?

  8. #8
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    Learn to edit your posts Steve.

    I like hydro's better for the modulation. I believe the fluid and hose may be a bit lighter than the cable version as well.

    As far as disc brakes go, it's all about preference. I'd take a good set of mechanicals(BB5, BB7) over a crappy set of hyrdos any day.

  9. #9
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    it all comes down to this:

    BB5s are in line with Tektro and Promax low-end mechanical disc brakes. don't even consider them. but that's just my opinion.

  10. #10
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    From the basic first time user level....

    mechanicals are usually the better choice. Generally mechanical disc brakes, esspecially Avids, are easier to set up and maintain than hydrolic disc brakes. This is mostly due to the fact that most riders understand cable brakes to begin with and, unless they are totaly mechanically inept, can unerstand the basic concept more easily. The learning curve with mech discs is realatively low.

    With hydros you're talking about a system that is still realatively new as a bike braking system in most peoples minds. For the entry level user they can be quite daunting if they don't "do their home work" and get as much information about them as possible before jumping into them. The learning curve is quite high for a period of time until they gain a good understanding of the system. They are basically in over their heads for a while. But that doesn't last too long if they are willing to learn. And most people discover that while different, the hydro system isn't that much more complicated than a cable system.

    Anyway, as for which system is better, it's a matter of preference. As snaky69 put it, I'd take a set of BB5's or BB7's over a low end, low quality set of hydros any day. I've owned both types of brakes and for ease of maintenance I'd have to go with mechanical discs. They are a breeze (usually) to set up and maintain. For power I'd have to go with hydros. But that has more to do with the design of the calipers and the hydrolic advantage. They do require more maintenance, and a rebuild of the system is more involved. For the level of bike and the brakes that you are looking at, BB5's and Juciy 3's the performance will be about the same. The 3's will require annual bleeding, the BB5's will require annual cable and housing replacement. So between them, let the rest of bike specs make up your mind for you. You can't go wrong with either the BB's or the Jucies. They're both good entry level disc brakes and perform well and are realatively easy to maintain.

    Bottom line, both sets you are looking at are Avid, so low quality isn't going to be a problem, either style of brake performs well. For the "disc brake newb" I'd recommend a good set of mechanicals. They perform as well as many hydro brakes for most types of riding, XC, Trail, All Mountain. But if you want to go hydros (as long as they're GOOD hydros), it's not that big of a deal and they work great as well. For you the choice is MAINTENANCE! Do you want drop dead simple cable disc maintenance, or are you willing to put forth a little more effort in learning to maintain the hydros. Your choice.

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  11. #11
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    Thanks for your help guys. Im sorry I posted it in the wrong place, never saw the forum before I posted this
    I think mechanical disc brake will be better for me and the avids are already on the bike that I like.
    Last edited by Sky1ne; 02-01-2007 at 10:18 PM.

  12. #12
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    I really hate hydraulic brakes. They require more maintenance that a cheap motorcycle which defeats the purpose of having a bike.

  13. #13
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    Nice thread mining. 2007
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    I really hate hydraulic brakes. They require more maintenance that a cheap motorcycle which defeats the purpose of having a bike.
    Horsefeathers. That's one heck of a generalization. I've had 'em on my MTB for twelve years with zero issues and maintenance.
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  15. #15
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    My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
    Last edited by chunky1x; 01-26-2012 at 09:04 PM.

  16. #16
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    And further to the original point stated in 2007 that mechanicals are easier for the newer person to this sport/hobby.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
    Sorry but - What?

    "You have the complete tools" - two syringes, a $2 bleed adapter and 6 inches of clear plastic hose? The "complete tools" cost about $5, and are needed only if you have to bleed them, which you normally don't.

    "You need a technician to bleed it" - How about, you need to watch a 3 minute youtube video to learn how to do it yourself, with the above $5 tool kit?

    "You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself" - Last time I installed and adjusted hydraulics, I only used a single, slightly rusty 5mm allen key. I don't remember how much it cost, but I doubt it was very expensive.

    "It is hard to replace disc pads" - Err.... you mean hard, as in: Undo one screw, remove pads, insert new pads, reinstall one screw? Actually, on my current shimanos, it's not even a screw, just a safety clip.
    The most complicated part is that you may have to push back the old pads a bit with a flat head screw driver to make room for the new ones. Wow.
    Don't even have to remove the wheel on most brakes these days, this is easier than changing the pads on any V-brake.

    I don't care what brakes you ride, but I think you have been severely mis-informed. Don't bash something until you have tried it.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelebebbel View Post
    Sorry but - What?
    "You have the complete tools" - two syringes, a $2 bleed adapter and 6 inches of clear plastic hose? The "complete tools" cost about $5, and are needed only if you have to bleed them, which you normally don't.
    "You need a technician to bleed it" - How about, you need to watch a 3 minute youtube video to learn how to do it yourself, with the above $5 tool kit?
    "You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself" - Last time I installed and adjusted hydraulics, I only used a single, slightly rusty 5mm allen key. I don't remember how much it cost, but I doubt it was very expensive.
    "It is hard to replace disc pads" - Err.... you mean hard, as in: Undo one screw, remove pads, insert new pads, reinstall one screw? Actually, on my current shimanos, it's not even a screw, just a safety clip.
    The most complicated part is that you may have to push back the old pads a bit with a flat head screw driver to make room for the new ones. Wow.
    Don't even have to remove the wheel on most brakes these days, this is easier than changing the pads on any V-brake.
    I don't care what brakes you ride, but I think you have been severely mis-informed. Don't bash something until you have tried it.
    ^^^^ What you said x eleventy billion. Poster Chunky doesn't have a clue about hydraulics and therefore is scared of them. But what's worse is he throws up this generalization that they're no good for the rest of the world just because he's scared of them. How sad.

    Changing pads on any of the ones I've worked on is easier than any rim brake. Bleeding, as you say, is just about getting minor equipment and reading or viewing instructions. And it's not as though you have to do it every day - the brakes on my bike haven't been bled since they were installed - probably eight years ago at least.

    But then many bikes (with disc brakes) come equipped with Avid cable discs so clicking a pad adjuster once in a while, lubing a cable or swapping pads is all that's needed. And what could be simpler? Even adjusting the caliper alignment with their CPS system is a yawn. Plus brake pads on hydraulic systems are self-adjusting . Try to get that feature on any rim brake.
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  19. #19
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    $5.00 is the exactly same money for my new Shimano Tourney(2010) crank set I just bought this year. I saw the video last June 2011 and made a carefully inquiry and ask the owners of Deore and XT brakes about cost, maintenance and field repair. They said they have a lot of problems if they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They even let me ride one and taught how to bleed and dismantle it but it was too much for me. I use my bike in the middle of nowhere(some areas neighbors are 5 km apart and no bike mechanic for 60 km) where nobody can help me if my brakes are out. They don't even sell mineral oil and nobody knows how to take a part a modern MTB. The worst part the entire Hydraulic set Deore 2010 cost more than half than what I paid for my nearly new and assembled bike($290.00 with old stock, brand new Tourney and Alivio parts). The brake pads alone cost more than what I paid for my rear derailluer and 8 speed sprocket. I can even buy a new Honda Dream motorcycle disk pads with more than enough money for installation and brake fluid.

    I like XT since it is a little easy to use and last long but come on, with a budget like mine can you really blame me. I'm not a stooge who jump in without looking. It took me half a year to build my bike and just finished it January 15, 2012 due to research and budget constrains. Maybe in 7-10 years I will buy one but now is a big no no. No one can help me here and no parts in my area. Alivio Disc brakes serve me for the time being and planing to upgrade for disc with metal pads. The best part is I can immediately repair it with two instruments and less than 3 minutes.
    Last edited by chunky1x; 01-27-2012 at 06:08 AM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    $5.00 is the exactly same money for my new Shimano Tourney(2010) crank set I just bought this year. I saw the video last June 2011 and made a carefully inquiry and ask the owners of Deore and XT brakes about cost, maintenance and field repair. They said they have a lot of problems if they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They even let me ride one and taught how to bleed and dismantle it but it was too much for me. I use my bike in the middle of nowhere(some areas neighbors are 5 km apart and no bike mechanic for 60 km) where nobody can help me if my brakes are out. They don't even sell mineral oil and nobody knows how to take a part a modern MTB. The worst part the entire Hydraulic set Deore 2010 cost more than half than what I paid for my nearly new and assembled bike($290.00 with old stock, brand new Tourney and Alivio parts). The brake pads alone cost more than what I paid for my rear derailluer and 8 speed sprocket. I can even buy a new Honda Dream motorcycle disk pads with more than enough money for installation and brake fluid.

    I like XT since it is a little easy to use and last long but come on, with a budget like mine can you really blame me. I'm not a stooge who jump in without looking. It took me half a year to build my bike and just finished it January 15, 2012 due to research and budget constrains. Maybe in 7-10 years I will buy one but now is a big no no. No one can help me here and no parts in my area.
    hello chunky1x,

    mechanical discs are probably a good option for you.

    If you had made a post about your bike build and a picture you probably would have got some good feedback about it.

    No need to get on here and make naff comments about hydraulic brakes.
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  21. #21
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    This pertains to you, in your location and with your amount of mechanical skills and frugality. All this means nothing to some (most?) of us? Mineral oil? I know I'm a wee bit out of touch with all types of disc brakes at the moment but aren't Magura the only ones who use mineral oil? Don't all the rest use (readily available anywhere) DOT automotive brake fluid? I could be corrected on this if some companies have switched over in the past few years.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    This pertains to you, in your location and with your amount of mechanical skills and frugality. All this means nothing to some (most?) of us? Mineral oil? I know I'm a wee bit out of touch with all types of disc brakes at the moment but aren't Magura the only ones who use mineral oil? Don't all the rest use (readily available anywhere) DOT automotive brake fluid? I could be corrected on this if some companies have switched over in the past few years.
    Shimano and Tektro are oil too.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitzikatzi View Post
    mechanical discs are probably a good option for you.
    No need to get on here and make naff comments about hydraulic brakes.
    Yes - Avid BB7 - the ideal disc brake for disc brake haters. They will make a believer out of most of them.
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  24. #24
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    Shimano XT and XTR is already mineral oil ready. DOT 4 is nasty. I once assist my friend in bleeding brakes. Man, he almost cried when the spilled a lot of it on his Brand new $ 1200 Giant bike and strip about a palm size patch of paint. Ouch!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitzikatzi View Post
    Shimano and Tektro are oil too.
    Mineral oil or DOT brake fluid? And if someone does have mineral oil brakes (including Magura rim brakes) I don't understand why they don't try to help themselves by having their own supply on hand for any emergency.
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  26. #26
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    So rumors are true. Avid BB7 are good.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Mineral oil or DOT brake fluid? And if someone does have mineral oil brakes (including Magura rim brakes) I don't understand why they don't try to help themselves by having their own supply on hand for any emergency.
    Shimano are oil, google tells me Tektro are oil too.

    Posts on here lead me to believe in an emergency a variety of oils will work (to get you home).
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    So rumors are true. Avid BB7 are good.

    Are you a Troll?
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  29. #29
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    How about Tektro or Avid BB5 are they good mechanical disc(metal pads)?

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    No, I am not familiar of any product outside of Shimano. I've heard of SRAM but nobody I know uses them but very big in Manila. Tektro definitely unfamiliar with this product feedback here is good. SR Suntour is a big no. This product's crank set was responsible for destroying my old down hill bike to the point of no return and force me to buy a new one. I'm not gonna buy its disk.

    Shimano is very big in my place(Cebu) so SRAM is not popular but available in bike shops. Tektro scare me off because they installed them in many china knock of bikes without realizing that they are good. I should gone with Tektro in the first place it cost about $25 and accepts metal pads instead of Alivio.
    Last edited by chunky1x; 01-27-2012 at 07:06 AM.

  31. #31
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    5 Year update from the OP?

    Like to hear back from the OP...
    Wonder if he stuck with his choice all this time.

    10 years on hydros and never a problem on the trail. Never a failed hose. Never a leak.
    (not that it can't happen...it does....)

    Hoses about worn through at 7 years....replaced when transfered to new frame.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Mineral oil or DOT brake fluid? And if someone does have mineral oil brakes (including Magura rim brakes) I don't understand why they don't try to help themselves by having their own supply on hand for any emergency.
    Shimano also uses mineral oil. I don't know if you could use Magura oil in Shimano or viceversa.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
    The thing is, hydros are not really that hard. At least, not good ones, and by good I mean from good brands, even if they are entry level. I've had several sets (Hayes HFX-9, Shimano XT from 2005, Magura Louises BAT and Avid Elixirs). Not all are very good (I didn't like the Elixirs at all), and some had issues (HFX-9 retracted the lever until I used locktite), but the good ones you don't need to bleed or do much.

    However, I don't think that there is a perfect system for all, if for you it's easier to use mechanical disc brakes, then they're very good as well (I have BB7 without any issues).

  34. #34
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    I use hydro brakes for everything but my commuter. Better stopping power, better modulation. Only downside I can speak to is that they're more complicated to maintain if something goes wrong. That said, they're designed to require less maintenance, so that's a plus.
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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    How about Tektro or Avid BB5 are they good mechanical disc(metal pads)?
    The BB5s are decent. Pretty solid stopping power for a mechanical brake, but they lack the dual-pad adjustment knobs of the BB7s. You can still adjust the pads, but it's not as "trail-side maintenance" friendly.
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by chunky1x View Post
    My point is that hydraulic brakes are hard to maintain. Ok for you since you have the complete tools not for me. I'm new to disc brakes but the feed back I got is not pretty. You need a technician to bleed it. It hard to replace disc pads. You need to buy expensive tools to adjust it yourself. Even motorcycle disc are far less demanding than MTB hydraulics. I have a cable disc brakes for the first time and I figure it out how to fixed with allen wrench and screw driver just by looking at it. Yes it is inferior brakes than hydraulics but still far reliable than V-brakes. I understand that hydraulic can go harder but with a budget like mine, you can't blame me for hating hydraulics.
    ???? I bleed my Magura martas in like 15 minutes and feel way better than my BB7's. I dont think it takes much you are making it seem its harder than it is. But everyone does have their preference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fermenter View Post
    Like to hear back from the OP...
    Wonder if he stuck with his choice all this time.

    10 years on hydros and never a problem on the trail. Never a failed hose. Never a leak.
    (not that it can't happen...it does....)

    Hoses about worn through at 7 years....replaced when transfered to new frame.
    I'm new to disks myself, just got a new bike and my previous bike had cantilever (1994 Cannondale, V's were just getting popular) and I know I have a lot to learn, but I suspect a lot of the concerns in 2007 are not as big a deal today. I'd hope so anyway, maybe I have more to learn than I thought.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by rzozaya1969 View Post
    Shimano also uses mineral oil. I don't know if you could use Magura oil in Shimano or viceversa.
    I use Magura Blood in my Shimano hydros

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    Quote Originally Posted by rzozaya1969 View Post
    The thing is, hydros are not really that hard. At least, not good ones, and by good I mean from good brands, even if they are entry level. I've had several sets (Hayes HFX-9, Shimano XT from 2005, Magura Louises BAT and Avid Elixirs). Not all are very good (I didn't like the Elixirs at all), and some had issues (HFX-9 retracted the lever until I used locktite), but the good ones you don't need to bleed or do much.

    However, I don't think that there is a perfect system for all, if for you it's easier to use mechanical disc brakes, then they're very good as well (I have BB7 without any issues).
    The thing is that, first, it is down right expensive to purchase. Second, if I manage to know how to bleed it, how on Earth I can repair it in the middle of nowhere. I use my bike daily in a farming community where the most expensive bike they'd repaired is a bmx. I believe that some day hydraulic disc brakes are as cheap to maintain, easy to fixed and longer service cycles but current technology is not there yet and 2012 XT and XTR are close but they're too damned expensive. If it will go down to $25 and 2 or 3 year service cycle like the drive components, now we're talking serious business. Every six months is okay for a service cycle(hydraulic) but 80 km to the nearest expert is not ideal especially when you rely heavily on crappy public transportation for transport. Some of my friends in my place have cable brakes that are running long 3 years service cycles and they only replace their pads twice in this period. Their brakes withstand daily abuse and almost weekly submersion to dirty water, mud and occasional floods in monsoon seasons. Our bikes here are mules not week end warrior or recreation. We use it as a primary transportation.

  40. #40
    Huckin' trails
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    Quote Originally Posted by cman8 View Post
    ???? I bleed my Magura martas in like 15 minutes and feel way better than my BB7's. I dont think it takes much you are making it seem its harder than it is. But everyone does have their preference.
    You gotta remember that there's people here who don't even know how to adjust a rd... Or how to tighten a headset. So an "easy" thing for you can looks like the pro job to others.
    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleB28 View Post
    topless. that's what all mtb girls do. we go ride, get topless, have pillow fights in the woods, scissor, then ride home!

  41. #41
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    I use both, but not really: I use hydraulic on my motorcycle, because it weighs over five hundred pounds, and actually makes use of much larger pistons and needs MUCH more power.

    I use mechanicals (Avid BB7's) on my bicycles, because my hands are more than capable of producing more than enough power to lock 'em up, and modulation (on BB7's) is wonderful.

    I take MUCH more chances on a bicycle, especially while off road, which could damage a brake cable. My hydraulic motorcycle brake lines are steel braided and about a half inch in diameter. The TINY hydraulic lines on most bicycle disc set-ups are much more easily damaged - and I wouldn't want steel braided, because they'd file my frame and head tube down and scratch things, they're heavier - I guess they make plastic coated steel braided...

    Anyway - Field repairs are so much easier on a cable - you could tie a knot, or use a bolt - than on hydros. Bicycle hydraulic hoses are less durable than motorcycle lines.

    Hydraulics are messier - well, CAN be messier - and for me, bicycles are all about simplicity, so I don't like to add more complication.

    Mechanicals can have a "spit" cable, for frames that do that, though I prefer to run full housing all the way, but it's an option (that could invite more grime and dirt or contaminates).

    More options for brake levers with mechanicals. I am all for mechanicals for bicycles and I leave the hydros for motorcycles, and I'm very happy with my braking systems on both.

    I should also add that I rode XTR hydraulics for a couple years and Hayes as well. That being said, I prefer the Avid mechanical BB7's. I'm sure some Hope (they sure do look good!) or Avid hydros are great, but with the cost involved, I'm more than happy with my mechanicals. I'd rather invest those hundreds of more dollars in some Phil Wood hubs, or fancy components or accessories. I stop fine, although the BB7's are kind of heavy.
    Soma, Surly, Salsa, Schwalbe, SRAM, Sun-Ringlé

  42. #42
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    I just switched my mechanical Hayes over to the Stroker trail hydros and wont look back, i wasn't impressed with the MX-5 that came on my bike, although i have heard Avid mechanicals are good i have never used them. Ive been pretty happy with Hayes I still have the old Purple Hayes on my Armageddon, 8 years with no failures yet.

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