BMX Brake Types

Written by jonathan d. septer
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BMX Brake Types
Cantilever brakes commonly appear on BMX bicycles. (brakes image by Tomasz Plawski from

Many pros, such as Ryan Winterbotham in a Ride BMX Magazine video, now ride brakeless BMX frames. For the amateur safe rider though, bicycles need appropriate brakes. BMX bikes typically use cantilever, direct-pull or side-pull brakes. Most quality BMX bicycles do not use side-pull brakes, though recent brakeless frame designs typically include side-pull brakes to skirt US Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations requiring installed brakes with every bicycle sold. Bicycles should include safe rear brakes.

Cantilever BMX Brakes

Cantilever brakes include two separate arms mounted to either side of a bicycle rim, according to the late Sheldon Brown, noted expert bicycle mechanic. These arms attach to special brake mounts called cantilever bosses. Cantilever brakes cannot mount to frames lacking cantilever bosses. A variation on the cantilever brake is the U-brake design. U-brakes use cantilever bosses mounted roughly one inch lower than traditional cantilever bosses. Both traditional cantilever and U-brakes use centre-pull cables.

Direct-Pull BMX Brakes

Direct-pull brakes utilise traditionally placed cantilever bosses. Direct-pull BMX brakes use a cable system attached from the side of one arm that passes over the tire and attaches to the second arm, unlike the centre-pull design other cantilever boss brakes utilise. The stopping power of direct-pull brakes outstrips the power of cantilever or U-brake designs. Direct-pull brakes use specially designed proprietary direct-pull hand-operated brake levers. Most BMX racing bicycles use direct-pull brakes.

Side-Pull BMX Brakes

Side-pull BMX brakes, commonly referred to as caliper brakes, surround BMX tires with a U shape terminating in brake pads. Inexpensive BMX bikes typically use side-pull brakes for front wheel stopping. Brakeless bicycles use caliper brakes for rear wheel stopping. The U-shape arms extend cable stop and cable attachment pieces to one side of the brake. Other variations of side-pull brakes exist. Road bicycles utilise these side-pull designs, but BMX bicycles do not.

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