The Short Answer is:
BMX brakes work by using a cable system that contracts when the brake lever is pulled, which pulls the brake plates together and slows down or stops the bike. There are seven main types of BMX brakes, including Cantilever, V-Bike Brakes, U-Brakes, Gyro Brakes, Coaster Brakes, Caliper Brakes, and Mechanical Disc Brakes. The Gyro or rotor is an invention for the freestyle BMX bicycle, allowing the handlebars to turn a complete 360° rotation without the brake cables getting tangled up.
BMX bikes are known for their versatility and durability, making them a popular choice for riders who enjoy off-road racing, freestyle riding, and performing stunts. While BMX bikes come in many different shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common: the need for reliable brakes.
In this article, we will explore: How Do BMX Brakes Work? and the seven main types of BMX brakes, including Cantilever, V-Bike Brakes, U-Brakes, Gyro Brakes, Coaster Brakes, Caliper Brakes, and Mechanical Disc Brakes.
We will also discuss which type of brake is best for different riding styles and purposes. Whether you’re a seasoned BMX rider or just starting out, understanding how your brakes work is essential for staying safe and getting the most out of your bike.
Table of Contents
Types of BMX Brakes
BMX bikes come with different types of brakes, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the main types of BMX brakes:
- U-brakes: These are the most common type of BMX bike brake system. They are durable, have a simple design, and their cable routing is straightforward.
- V-brakes: These are lighter than U-brakes and more powerful. They are commonly used on BMX racing bikes and provide better modulation of the brake’s force.
- Caliper brakes: These are the predecessors of V and U-brakes and are not commonly used on BMX bikes.
- Cantilever brakes: These are powerful brakes that provide plenty of clearance. They are commonly used by cyclocross riders and touring bikes.
- Mechanical disc brakes: These are powerful and provide consistent stopping power in all weather conditions. They are commonly used on mountain bikes but can also be used on BMX bikes.
- Coaster brakes: These are fitted as standard on mini-micro and micro-sized BMX bikes for riders 7 years old and younger.
- Gyro brakes: These are used on freestyle BMX bikes and allow the handlebars to spin 360 degrees without tangling the brake cables.
When choosing a brake system for your BMX bike, consider your riding style and needs. U-brakes are best for freestyle riders, V-brakes for racing, and disc brakes for dirt jumps. Coaster brakes are suitable for young riders, and gyro brakes are ideal for freestyle BMX riders.
Brake Components and Their Functions
BMX bikes are known for their agility and speed, and their brake components play a crucial role in their performance. There are different types of brakes available for BMX bikes, including rim brakes, disc brakes, and drum brakes. Here are the main components of BMX bike brakes and their functions:
- Brake lever: The brake lever is the component that the rider uses to activate the brake system. It is usually located on the handlebars and can be pulled to engage the brakes.
- Brake cable: The brake cable is a wire that connects the brake lever to the brake mechanism. When the brake lever is pulled, the cable tightens, which causes the brake mechanism to engage.
- Brake mechanism: The brake mechanism is the component that applies pressure to the wheel to slow down or stop the bike. There are different types of brake mechanisms, including V-brakes, caliper brakes, and disc brakes.
- Brake pads: The brake pads are the rubber or metal components that come into contact with the wheel to create friction and slow down the bike. They are replaceable and need to be checked regularly for wear and tear.
- Rotor: The rotor is a metal disc that is part of the disc brake system. When the brake lever is pulled, the brake pads squeeze the rotor, which slows down or stops the bike.
- Hydraulic fluid: Hydraulic brakes use fluid to transmit the force from the brake lever to the brake mechanism. When the brake lever is pulled, it compresses the fluid, which causes the brake mechanism to engage.
In summary, the brake components of a BMX bike work together to slow down or stop the bike when needed. Regular maintenance and inspection of these components are essential to ensure the safety and optimal performance of the bike.
Brake Cable and Lever Mechanism
BMX bikes have a unique brake cable and lever mechanism that allows the handlebars to turn a complete 360° rotation without the brake cables getting tangled up. The detangler, also known as a Gyro or rotor, is an invention for the freestyle BMX bicycle.
A Detangler is usually only used for the rear brake cable. The front brake cable can be routed through the stem, via a hollow stem bolt known as a Pott’s mod bolt, and fork steer tube to avoid the tangling problem.
The single cable from the handlebar’s rear brake lever divides into two cables which are routed to opposite sides of the stem or fork steer tube and into cable stops. The inner cables connect to metal tabs on a disc attached to the upper side of a thrust bearing placed around the stem or steer tube.
The cables are attached to tabs on this lower disc and pass through cable stops mounted on either side of the head tube. The two lower cables merge back into one and then are routed to the rear brake. The cables are split in this way to ensure that the detangler mechanism moves.
To install brake cables and housing, you need to snip the crimped end off of the inner cable and loosen the pinch bolt with a 5-millimeter Allen key. Then, rotate the barrel adjuster on the handlebar counterclockwise, and slide the brake cable out of the housing. After securing the inner cable and outer housing, engage the brake lever to check your work.
There are seven main types of BMX brakes: Cantilever, V-Bike Brakes, U-Brakes, Gyro Brakes, Coaster Brakes, Caliper Brakes, and Mechanical Disc Brakes. V-brakes are the brakes of choice for the majority of BMX riders. They provide excellent braking power and are lightweight.
Compared to any other brake on a BMX bike, they provide better stopping control. Bar spins are possible with any brake setup, even a straight cable brake system. Many BMX bikes incorporate a Detangler or Gyro braking mechanism.
Brake Pads and their Importance
BMX bike brake pads are an essential component of the braking system of a BMX bike. BMX bikes come with different types of brakes, including Cantilever, V-Bike Brakes, U-Brakes, Gyro Brakes, Coaster Brakes, Caliper Brakes, and Mechanical Disc Brakes.
Brake pads provide excellent stopping power, and they are manufactured from different rubber compounds, for enhanced performance and lighter weight, to be more durable, or offer improved wet-weather power.
The life of a BMX brake pad is determined by the rubber compound, and options include soft compounds for greater stopping power, dual compound rubber pads for consistent braking performance and feel for both wet and dry weather riding, and hard compounds that offer extended brake pad life but suffer in brake pad performance.
Brake pads also feature grooves to better dispel water from the rim and improve the performance and longevity of BMX bike brake pads. In conclusion, BMX bike brake pads are crucial for the safety of the rider, and they come in different types and materials to suit different riding conditions and preferences.
How BMX Brakes Generate Friction
BMX bikes use different types of brakes to generate friction and stop the bike. The most common types of brakes used in BMX bikes are coaster brakes, V-brakes, and U-brakes. Coaster brakes are found on the rear wheel and work by pedaling backward to engage the brake.
V-brakes and U-brakes are rim brakes that use brake pads to grip the rim of the wheel and create friction to stop the bike. These brakes are mounted on the frame of the bike and use a cable to pull the brake pads toward the rim. Disc brakes are another type of brake that is becoming more popular in BMX bikes.
Disc brakes use a rotor attached to the rear wheel and brake pads that clamp down on the rotor to create friction and stop the bike. To make BMX brakes work better, it is important to keep them clean and lubricated. Lubricating the brake cables can reduce friction and improve brake performance.
Adjusting the brakes and brake pads can also improve their performance. In summary, BMX brakes generate friction by using brake pads to grip the rim of the wheel or a rotor attached to the rear wheel. Keeping the brakes clean and lubricated, and adjusting the brakes and brake pads can improve their performance.
Adjusting and Maintaining BMX Brakes
BMX brakes are an essential component of your bike that needs to be adjusted and maintained regularly to ensure your safety while riding. Here are some steps to follow to adjust and maintain your BMX brakes:
- Adjust the brake pads: Worn-out brake pads that are too low or high on the rim can be a safety hazard. Squeeze the brake lever to see where the pads hit the rim. Use an Allen wrench to loosen the bolts holding the brake pads in place and adjust the pads so that they hit the rim evenly. Tighten the bolts back up.
- Adjust the brake cables: If your brake cables are too loose or too tight, they can affect the performance of your brakes. Use a barrel adjuster to adjust the tension of the brake cables. Turn the barrel adjuster counterclockwise to loosen the cable and clockwise to tighten it.
- Check the brake calipers: The brake calipers are part of the brake system that squeezes the brake pads onto the rim. Make sure they are properly aligned and centered. Use a wrench to loosen the bolts holding the calipers in place and adjust them so that they are centered over the rim. Tighten the bolts back up.
- Check the brake lever: The brake lever is the part of the brake system that you squeeze to activate the brakes. Make sure it is properly adjusted and tightened. Use a wrench to adjust the position of the brake lever so that it is comfortable for you to use.
- Test your brakes: After adjusting your brakes, test them to make sure they are working properly. Squeeze the brake lever and make sure the brake pads hit the rim evenly and stop the bike smoothly.
By following these steps, you can adjust and maintain your BMX brakes and ensure that they are working properly. Regular maintenance of your brakes will not only keep you safe but also increase the lifespan of your bike.
Safety Considerations While Using BMX Brakes
BMX riding can be a thrilling experience, but it is important to prioritize safety while doing so. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind while using BMX brakes:
- Always inspect and test your BMX bike: Before riding, it is important to ensure that your bike is in good working condition. Check the brakes to make sure they are functioning properly and adjust them if necessary.
- Wear safety gear: Always wear a helmet and other protective gear such as knee and elbow pads to prevent injuries in case of an accident.
- Know and abide by traffic rules: In many parts of the world, including the USA and the United Kingdom, BMX riders found on public roadways without brakes can be issued a fine. Traffic rules require cyclists to stop in emergencies, and having brakes on your BMX bike can help you do so swiftly and prevent accidents.
- Consider your riding style: Riding at higher speeds is likely to require brakes for safety. In general, most BMX riders prefer to ride without brakes, but if you are a beginner or if you are riding in a crowded area, it is recommended to use brakes.
- Practice and learn new tricks with brakes: While some riders prefer to remove brakes to learn new tricks, it is important to practice with brakes until you are fully informed about what you are doing. Riding without brakes can increase your chance of getting injured if you encounter unexpected circumstances.
- Maintain your brakes: Regular maintenance of your BMX brakes is important to ensure they are functioning properly. Check the brake pads for wear and replace them if necessary. Also, make sure the brake cables are not frayed or damaged.
- Get tips for better brakes: If you are having trouble with your BMX brakes, there are many resources available online to help you improve them.
In conclusion, while some BMX riders prefer to ride without brakes, it is important to prioritize safety and consider your riding style and environment. Always inspect and test your bike, wear safety gear, know and abide by traffic rules, and maintain your brakes regularly to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience.
Frequently Asked Questions Related to BMX Brakes:
How do I choose the right type of brakes for my BMX bike?
To choose the right type of brakes for your BMX bike, you should consider what you intend to do on your bike. The seven main types of BMX brakes are Cantilever, V-Bike Brakes, U-Brakes, Gyro Brakes, Coaster Brakes, Caliper Brakes, and Mechanical Disc Brakes.
Each type of brake has its own advantages and disadvantages, and some are better for certain purposes than others. For example, V-Bike Brakes are best if you don’t intend to do any tricks or freestyling on your bike.
How often should I replace my brake pads on a BMX bike?
It is recommended to replace BMX bike brake pads every few weeks or when they show signs of wear.
Are there any special techniques for performing tricks or stunts with BMX brakes?
Yes, there are special techniques for performing tricks or stunts with BMX brakes. Here are some tips;
- Use stunt pegs: Stunt pegs can be attached to the axles of the wheels, allowing the rider to perform tricks such as grinds and stalls.
- Master the bunnyhop: The bunnyhop is a fundamental trick that involves lifting both wheels off the ground at the same time. It is the foundation for many other tricks.
- Learn to brake effectively: Effective braking is essential for performing tricks safely. Practice using both the front and rear brakes to control your speed and stop quickly.
- Practice balance and control: Many BMX tricks require good balance and control. Practice riding slowly and maintaining your balance, and work on controlling your bike in the air.
- Start with basic tricks: It’s important to start with basic tricks and gradually work your way up to more advanced stunts. Some good beginner tricks include the bunnyhop, wheelie, and manual.
- Eject yourself from the bike: To perform more advanced stunts, such as the Superman, the rider must eject themselves from the bike while only holding onto the bike from the handlebars.
Conclusion: How Do BMX Brakes Work?
In conclusion, BMX brakes are an essential safety feature that allows riders to control their speed and stop quickly in case of an emergency. There are seven main types of BMX brakes, each with its own unique way of stopping the bike.
Some BMX riders choose to remove their brakes for stunts and tricks, but this decision should be based on the rider’s skill level, riding style, and personal preference. While there are benefits to riding a BMX without brakes, doing so is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
Most BMX bikes come with at least one brake, and it is illegal to sell bikes without at least one brake in most countries. Overall, it is important to prioritize safety and choose the type of brake that works best for your riding style and needs.