Hydraulic Mechanical

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what is the best braking system for a mountain bike? V brakes or disc?

are discs brakes better than V brakes for all weather, cross country riding taking into account time taken to change or repair whilst in the middle of nowhere

Depends on the application.

For all-around use, V brakes are by far the easier of the 2 types to use and maintain... they are even lighter. If you are in relatively flat but heavily wooded terrain V brakes would be my choice.

For discs, I have to break this into 2 categories... mechanical and hydraulic...

Mechanical discs, if they are good ones (from Shimano, Avid, or Hayes) are relatively troublefree, but they really aren't any better than a top-of-the-line v brake. When you get into Promax and some of the "budget" discs it is usually a better idea to go with V brakes unless you like the look and are willing to tinker with them pretty frequently.

Hydraulics are about the same story. The cheaper hydraulics (Avid Juicy 3, etc) are about as good as higher end mechanicals, but tend to have a shorter maintenance cycle which means brake tuneups will likely be more frequent. They do allow much better brake feel than mechanicals though. As you get into the upper range of hydraulics it becomes a preference thing... right now the poison of choice- when you can find them- is Shimano XT. The real bad thing about hydraulics is that they are practically impossible to service on the trail so if you tear a line, you have no brakes.

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