This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of dual-pivot brakes and V-brakes in relation to one another.
Before comparing the two types of brakes, it’s necessary to describe them.
Dual-pivot calipers are rim brakes attaching to the fork or frame via a single bolt. They’re called dual-pivot because each brake arm is pivoting around an independent fulcrum.
There are symmetrical and asymmetrical dual-pivot brakes. Symmetrical dual-pivot brakes have two distinct pivot points located to the sides of the brake.
Asymmetrical dual-pivot brakes have two pivot points too, but one of them is positioned at the center.
Normally, dual-pivot brakes are found on road bikes.
V-brakes are a successor of the cantilever brakes. They were built with simplicity and MTBs in mind. Just like dual-pivot brakes, they are also rim brakes with brake arms grabbing the wheel.
However, V-brakes have a greater mechanical advantage and require two brakes bosses to mount them on a frame or fork.
The Advantages of Dual-Pivot Calipers
- Elegant Look
Caliper brakes have a slim profile that blends nicely when installed on a road frame or fork.
Conversely, V-brakes are a bit more “utilitarian” and could look out of place on a skinny bike.
- No Mounts Needed
Caliper brakes are mounted to the frame or fork via a single bolt that goes through the seatstay bridge or the fork’s crown. This property has the following benefits:
- The production process is streamlined because there is no need to weld or braze brake mounts on the frame and fork.
2. The brakes can be installed on a greater variety of frames and forks.
- Compatibility with Road Levers
Caliper brakes have a smaller mechanical advantage than V-brakes due to the shorter arms and the less advantageous pulling angle.
Brakes with a lower mechanical advantage need brake levers that pull less cable. If short-pull brakes such as calipers are combined with long-pull brake levers, the brake will lock the wheel before the brake lever has reached its full travel. Thus, the brake will offer poor modulation (control over the braking force.)
Note: To learn how the mechanical advantage of a brake affects the amount of cable that the lever has to pull, consider reading this post.
The Disadvantages of Dual-Pivot Calipers
- Limited Tire Clearance
One of the reasons why dual-pivot brakes are seen primarily on road bikes is the limited tire clearance.
The arms of standard caliper brakes form an arch above the wheel which prevents the use of wider tires, especially if the rider wants to install full fenders too.
Since road bikes are rarely equipped with mudguards and rely on fairly slim tires (23-28mm), this clearance isn’t an issue for that bike type.
However, if you want to install calipers on a commuter bike with wider tires, the brake arms will prevent the use of a balloon tire. One option would be to go for a BMX caliper brake, but those models are scarce in comparison to road calipers.
- Mud Accumulation
Another problem that caliper brakes create is mud accumulation. If the bike is ridden off-road, the tire would throw mud against the brake arch. In extreme cases, the mud may accumulate to the point where the wheel jams.
Since caliper brakes are a road component, some models tend to be pricy.
The Advantages of V-Brakes
- Solid Braking Power
High-quality V-brakes with decent pads offer braking power comparable to that of disc brakes in dry conditions. In fact, some V-brakes will outperform entry-level disc brakes. The “secret” is the high leverage that a V-brake has.
Dual-pivot brakes offer solid performance too, but they tend to cost more.
- Tire Clearance
V-brakes are an MTB invention. As such, they allow the use of very wide tires and full fenders. This makes them better not only for mountain bikes but for all kinds of bikes that benefit from big balloon tires.
A decent set of V-brakes (e.g., Shimano Deore) can be had for a reasonable sum.
The Disadvantages of V-Brakes
V-brakes are effective, but many wouldn’t call them pretty. Also, they’re bulkier and do not blend nicely when installed on a skinny bike. People who want their bicycle to look like a gracious gazelle would often opt for calipers.
- Mounting Points Needed
V-brakes cannot be installed on a frame or fork that doesn’t have mounts. This makes the production process longer and more expensive.
There are aftermarket solutions such as clamp-on V-brake bosses, but they’re expensive.
The table below compares the weight of dual-pivot brakes and V-brakes:
|Dia Compe MX806||210g||Tektro C310||165g|
|XLC BR-R03||155g||Tektro M530||168g|
|Campagnolo Record Dual Pivot Skeleton||158g||Tektro 857AL||161g|
|FSA K-Force WE||150g||Shimano Deore BR-T610||168g|
|Dia Compe BRS202||200g||Shimano Alivio BR-T4000||172g|
|Shimano Dura Ace BR-R9200||163.5g||Shimano BR-R353||195g|
Conclusion: The weight of dual-pivot caliper brakes and V-brakes is similar and dependent on the model rather than the type.
However, V-brakes tend to be cheaper on average since they’re seen on more bike types. The demand results in greater supply and lower prices. Thus, it’s possible to get a fairly light V-brake for cheap. A caliper that has the same weight may cost 2 times more.
Who Are Dual-pivots For?
Dual-pivot brakes offer the greatest benefits with minimal downsides when installed on road bikes running slim tires.
In all other situations, the shortcomings of caliper brakes become too much of an annoyance.
Note: Even though some caliper brakes can also be used on BMXs, this practice isn’t as common because U-brakes work better for freestyle BMX models.
Who Are Dual-pivots For?
V-brakes shine when installed on bikes with large tires designed for diverse terrain.