Good e-bike brakes can make or break a riding experience. You might just be starting out or you could be an experienced trail shredder – no matter who you are, you need to have full confidence in your electric bike brakes.
They’re your safety net when things get a little sketchy, they’re your best pal when you’re pushing the bike to its limit and they’re ultimately the piece of equipment which keeps you safe. Without a trustworthy brake setup on your e-MTB it can spell real problems.
In this guide, we’ll lay out all you need to know to make sure you have the right brakes to keep you safe out on the trails and also highlight what you need to watch out for. Now, let’s get at it….
What Type of Brakes are Best on an e-Bike?
Disc brakes are the most common form of brakes on both e-MTBs and e-bikes. A disc brake is made up of a rotor placed next to the wheel and then calipers, which link it to the frame or front forks on the bike.
There are two different types of disc brakes; e-bike hydraulic brakes and mechanical disc brakes. Hydraulic brakes use fluid to make sure the brake force is transferred from your brake levers on your handlebar, to the brakes themselves.
Mechanical brakes are an older form of disc brakes, which transfer the braking power through cables. Hydraulic disc brakes are more common on modern bikes, due to their superior stopping power and responsiveness.
Traditional rim brakes are very uncommon on e-MTBs in this day and age – these have two pads on either side of a wheel, which clamp together to bring the bike to a halt. Due to the speeds and power involved in e-MTBing, mountain bike disc brakes are the most common for most manufacturers.
What Factors Make Up Good e-Bike Brakes?
Key to a good e-bike brake setup is having enough stopping power to safely bring your fast-moving e-MTB to a halt.
Manufacturers invest a lot of money and spend a lot of time getting this balance right and many factors have to be taken into account – including the speed the bike is moving, the power the motor can generate, the weight of a potential rider and the varying conditions you might be riding in.
If the stopping power isn’t strong enough for the bike, then you will have real issues. E-bike hydraulic brakes bring the strongest amount of stopping power.
Modulation is the technology that allows an e-MTB rider to apply different amounts of force to the brakes to bring different levels of braking power – rather than just one dead stop force, which would potentially cause an accident, create a poor riding experience and ultimately not operate in the way the rider wants.
E-bikes move at a serious pace and some motors kick out a truly ferocious amount of power. Bringing all that to a halt puts a lot of pressure on your MTB disc brake set and creates a lot of heat in the process.
Having good heat management is very important, this ensures the brakes don’t wear away quickly. Bad brakes have poor heat dissipation, which leads to them not being effective and needing replacement earlier.
Manufacturers include larger brake rotors and use durable materials to try and improve heat dissipation.
You may not notice this on the face of it, but a lot of attention is put into the position of the e-bike brake levers on your handlebars.
Ensuring you can reach them easily is an important factor, which can completely change your riding experience if they’re not positioned well. You need to be able to squeeze them both strongly and quickly.
The best e-MTBs have adjustable brake levers, so you can change their positioning depending on your hand size or the demands of the day’s riding.
Connectivity is the newest feature involved in some of the most modern e-bikes and e-MTBs. This is where the braking system essentially becomes intelligent, sending wireless signals to the bike’s motor and battery.
This can help to create intelligent braking and in some cases the force created in braking can be converted into energy and fed back into the battery. This extends the lifespan of your e-bike battery, allowing you to cycle on for longer.
Do You Need Specific Brakes for Different Types of e-MTBing?
Different types of e-MTBing put different sorts of pressure on e-bike brakes. There are different factors to take into account and some styles of e-mountain biking require less complex features than others.
Downhill e-MTB Riding
Downhill mountain biking is the most aggressive and gnarly riding you can do. This gravity-focused style of mountain biking involves high speeds, steep descents, lots of sharp turns and there are lots of obstacles to hop over and get around.
The importance of having a reliable and strong braking system is very high in downhill riding and the pressure put on the braking system is enormous. Downhill bikes often have specialist brakes as a result, which have immense stopping power, very good heat management, large rotors and are made of incredibly durable materials.
Top Pick | Magura MT7 | $215.20
It’s no surprise the current downhill world champion, Loic Bruni, rides with the Magura M7s. They’re a beastly e-bike brake setup, offering immense stopping power and durability.
They’re incredibly adjustable, which means you can create a bespoke braking experience, and they’re absolutely made for punishment, with advanced heat management.
Enduro riding is also very frenetic, with lots of fast-moving sections, steep descents and a variety of obstacles.
Enduro riding often has a lot of tricky cornering too and lots of quick direction changes, so a very versatile pair of brakes with good stopping power and modulation is important.
It isn’t quite as fierce a riding experience as downhill riding, but it isn’t far off.
Top Pick | SRAM Code RSC | $264.00
The SRAM Code RSCs are among the most responsive brakes out there. They’re cut out for the most aggressive styles of riding and have been designed to take a lot of punishment.
It’s no surprise you find them on some of the best enduro bikes available. They’re very adjustable, too, so you can tweak them to your preferences and for the demands of the day’s trails.
Trail riding is an all-rounder style of mountain biking. It’s a more moderate level of enduro style riding, over varied terrain and with ups and downs – but by no means as aggressive.
You still need a good pair of brakes to cope with the switching of direction and on the descents, but the gradients aren’t as fierce and the pace of riding isn’t as frenetic.
As a result, you don’t really need to pay the expensive prices that come with Magura MT7s of SRAM Codes – you can go for something a little less complex.
Top Pick | Shimano Deore BR-M6100 | $85.00
Simplicity is key with these brakes. They’re very reliable and offer decent stopping power, but are around half the price of the other brakes we’ve mentioned.
They wouldn’t offer enough bite for downhill or enduro, but at the slightly reduced aggressiveness of general trail riding, they absolutely do the trick.
Cross Country (XC) Riding
Cross country riding is over longer distances, doesn’t involve the gnarly steep descents and tends to be a flatter and smoother riding experience – often point to point riding, long days out and adventure style excursions.
As a result, you don’t need the very expensive style of brakes with crazy levels of stopping power, because realistically, you’re unlikely to need that much stopping power. Saving weight on a long day’s ride is far more important, so going for a lightweight brake setup is a more important consideration.
Top Pick | Shimano MT500 | $65.56
A very reliable and lightweight hydraulic disc brake. Reliable and pitched at a fair price, they’re often found on some of the best XC bikes as a result. Heat management is less of an issue because they’re likely to be under a lot less stress.
Best Overall e-MTB Brakes – Trickstuff Direttissima - $600-$1,000 (Depending on Availability and Website)
We tested all the best brakes out there and the best overall e-bike brakes in terms of performance were – Trickstuff Direttissima hydraulic disc brakes.
They provide the quickest stopping time out of all the brakes we tested, have the best stopping power figure and are the lightest.
However, they come at an enormous cost compared to some of the other top ones out there and are some of the priciest around.
ℹ️ If you aren’t an elite level rider or seriously experienced rider we recommend the Magura MT7s or SRAM Codes.
A good pair of e-bike brakes is vital to ensure a safe riding experience and without them (or without brakes that work properly) you can come seriously unstuck. Each discipline in the e-mountain biking world requires different sorts of qualities from a brake setup and we’ve highlighted the best hydraulic brakes for mountain bikes out right now.
The technology going into an electric bike brake is constantly evolving as bikes become faster, more powerful and the trails become more complex. You’re now armed with all the details of what to look out for and which brands are smashing it out the park at the moment.
So, get out there, hit the trails and see for yourselves.