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How Do Fluid Bike Brakes Work? Benefits?

A brake fluid bleeding for hydraulic brake.

There is so much to enjoy about biking, and I try to do it as often as I can. It is helpful to understand how the different components of the bike work before you go out on the road. Disc brakes have become the standard for bikes since the early 2000s. There are many reasons why they became the standard, but before I dig into the benefits, I would like to explain how fluid brakes work. 

How Do Fluid Bike Brakes Work?

A mountain bike with hydraulic brake.

Disc brakes work because the brake pads apply pressure or force to a metal rotor that is attached to the wheel hub. Hydraulic brakes use a brake line that is full of fluid. As the bike rider pulls the brake lever in the hydraulic system, it moves the piston in the master cylinder. This process uses a plunger to force the brake fluid from the master cylinder into the brake caliper.

The master cylinder sits in the level body. This force pushes the piston in the brake caliper to push the brake pads against the rotor. The fluid in the brakes does not compress, which allows this process to happen. This friction between the rotors and pads is what slows down the bike and brings it to a stop. 

What Are the Benefits of Fluid Bike Brakes?

Rear wheel of a bicycle injecting fluid brakes.

There are a number of benefits to using fluid bike brakes over mechanical disc brakes. Some of the benefits that immediately stand out include the fact that a hydraulic system is an efficient power transmitter. In addition, it has easy to use push buttons and simple levers that make it easy to start, accelerate, stop, and decelerate.

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A hydraulic braking system gives the rider more control and accuracy. This system provides better modulation of the brakes. It is a fluid system that handles a wide range of weights. The ability to handle various weights also allows it to provide a consistent amount of force, no matter how the speed changes.

This system has more stopping power. It will enable the bike rider to bike faster because the brakes will stop faster. The discs for the brakes come in different sizes. The larger the disc means, the quicker it slows down the rider. 

A hydraulic braking system requires less maintenance and less frequency. These systems have fewer moving parts, which makes it easier to care for the system. The brakes do not need to be adjusted because they are a self-adjusting brake system.

Fluid brakes have a system that is completely contained, which keeps out contaminants. This also means that the system requires less cleaning. A hydraulic system is safe because there are no sparks created when using fluid brakes. 

A hydraulic braking system has less friction in the entire system, which allows for smoother operation of the bike. These braking systems are lighter, which makes the entire bike much more lightweight. Bikes with a hydraulic system do not need as much force to operate, which makes it easier on the rider’s hands.

These systems are also higher end and more advanced, which means bikes with these braking systems are going to be more expensive than other variations. 

Do These Brakes Need Maintenance?

A person trying to do maintenance on his brake.

In general, disc brakes require less maintenance than other brakes. This is because they are under pressure and will not allow water or air to get into them. This will not corrode or rust. Despite the fact that they are self-adjusting, the brakes lines must be bled on a regular basis.

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When the brakes are bled, it means the brake fluid must be replaced. For the average ride, this should happen every two to three years. However, some other riders can go as much as five years before they are bled. For racers, the lines need to be bled once a year for optimal performance. 

What Else To Know About Hydraulic Brakes?

A mountain bike with hydraulic brake.

It is critical to know that the fluids associated with hydraulic brakes can be messy. It is challenging to get rid of leaks within the braking system completely. If this fluid leaks in an area that is hot, it might possibly catch fire. When these lines burst, they may cause severe injuries.

Care must be taken when handling these fluids as too much exposure can create health concerns. These fluids are corrosive, but depending on the type you use, some are more corrosive than others. These systems must be inspected regularly for leaks. It should be lubricated when needed, filters and seals should also be changed.