With this post I’m going to share my top picks for the best hydraulic disc brakes under 100 dollars. I’m only going to cover mountain bike disc brakes, not brakes meant for road bikes.
When your budget tops at 100 dollars, naturally your amount of options available are trimmed down as well. The average amount you need to spend to obtain just a single hydraulic disc brake is about twice that amount.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of great options out there, from all major brake manufacturers including Shimano, SRAM, and Magura.
And if you take a good look at the specifications of all hydraulic disc brakes out there, and compare them side by side, it’s clear that you need to pay a lot of extra to obtain arguably marginal gains. Which, by the way, is a pervasive thing across the entire landscape of both bikes and bicycle components.
With a hundred dollars, you do have to contend with brakes using 2-piston calipers. I would argue they will prove to have enough stopping power for a wide variety of riding styles up to (light) trail riding.
So with that out of the way, let’s head over to my list of the best hydraulic disc brakes under 100.
Magura MT Sport
The Magura MT Sport is the cheapest hydraulic disc brake in their lineup, and probably one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest big brand hydraulic disc brakes on the market.
The best thing I could possibly say about these brakes is that I actually bought them as a temporary replacement for my SRAM Level Ultimate brakes, because one of them was broken. It’s been a year and I’m still riding with these brakes.
So I have this extremely high-end XC bike rocking the cheapest disc brakes you can find, and I’m totally ok with that, because these brakes work fantastic for the type of riding I do with that bike.
I believe I paid 100 euros for a set, which included the levers, calipers and hoses. The main reason why Magura has been able to create such a high-quality product for such a low price is because of the material.
The brakes and levers are almost made entirely from carbotecture, which is a name Magura coined themselves for a fiberglass-reinforced polymer. They borrowed the technology from their own work in the automotive industry and applied it to their brakes.
It shares some similarities to carbon fiber with respect to its low weight and that fiber alignment allows for additional strength in places where that will be under a lot of stress. The most important aspects for us is that it’s very strong, very light, very durable, and best of all, very cheap.
And if that isn’t enough, the Magura 7.S brake pads are outstanding as well, offering long-lasting life, little squeal, and an allround great performance in varied conditions, from dry to wet.
The overall shape of the 2-finger lever is solid, with a modulation sitting somewhere between SRAM and Shimano. The brake lever is made from the same carbotecture material and offer markedly more flex than the aluminium levers (or carbon) used in the rest of Magura’s lineup.
It doesn’t mean the MT Sport offer less braking power because of it, and you probably won’t notice it because it sits at the end of the lever pull, when you’ll be braking hard on a trail section that demands your attention, not a bit of flex in a brake lever.
The SRAM Level Ultimates are all carbon fiber levers, red anodized pistons, and titanium bolts. In other words, they look as premium as can be. The same cannot be said for the carbotecture finish, which looks decidedly plastic and have a dull sheen.
But anyone who knows anything about brakes, will not be able to deny the single most important thing these brakes do very well. Which is stopping your bike when you want to. And you can spice up the piston with a custom-colored ring kit if you want to.
One step up from the entry-level MT Sport sits the Magura MT4. In terms of braking power, they are the same, and I would argue that one is as good as the other. There are a number of slight differences though, which might see you buying these instead of the cheaper MT Sport version.
In terms of overall looks, they are almost indistinguishable. The MT4 are slightly lighter at 230 grams versus the 241 for the MT Sport.
Should you need it the MT4 offers a rotatable tube connection, which makes cable management a bit easier.
In terms of braking performance, expect nothing different from the same carbotecture body operating a 2-piston setup. The brake master is made from the same stuff, with an aluminum lever operating the cylinder. The aluminum lever does away with the mushy feel of the carbotecture lever fromt the MT Sport, which might justify the price for some.
The brake pads are the Performance version instead of the Sport version, offering an ever so slight edge in braking power and wet condition riding.
Unless you need an alternative cable routing, there’s little if nothing to buy these brakes over the already fantastic MT Sport. But they do offer a more distinct brake feel courtesty of the aluminum lever.
Shimano Deore BR-M6100
Significantly cheaper than the SLX are the Shimano Deore BR-M6100 brakes (not to be mistaken with the Deore XT brakes). Ditching a number of features, they can be considered Shimano’s budget 2-pod option. So what exactly is different and why would you consider these brakes instead of the SLX ones.
Besides price (these are almost half the amount you need to pay for the SLX), the tool-less reach adjust now uses an allen key, but otherwise the brake levers are similar. That does not extend to the calipers however.
Clearly made from a different mold, the Deore calipers have resin pistons instead of ceramic ones, sitting in a different caliper body with fixed hosed connection instead of a banjo. Similar to Magura’s entry-level 2-piston MT Sport. And it’s probably these resin pistons that give the Deore brakes a somewhat less direct feel than the ceramic pistons used in the mold for the SLX, XT, and XTR brakes.
As can be expected they are about 20 grams heavier than the SLX, and 30 grams heavier than the XT, including everything except rotors.
The entire brake lineup of Shimano can handle their brake pads, and if you want to you can use the newer finned brake pads as well. The are fixed into place using a cotter pin, where you’ll get an allen bolt for the SLX ones. This is kind of an outdated way of keeping brake pads into place, especially since they can rattle, and are generally more of a hassle to work with.
If you like the dependability of Shimano and want the easiest bleeding process available, the Deore BR-M6100 are fine brakes, but they lack the braking refinement of SLX ones, and don’t offer a number of user-friendly features that you do find on the more expensive brakes. And the Magura MT Sport are the better option in the budget category as well.
SRAM Level T
The SRAM Level T is a 2-pod XC-oriented brake which has the distinction of being one of the most affordable ones in their lineup.
The Level family is SRAM’s XC lineup, which favors lightweight, 2-piston brakes over 4-pod ones. A decade ago SRAM brakes (or rather Avid) were known to have crappy pistons that had a tendency to get stuck, but that’s no longer the case at all.
Today’s SRAM brakes, including the Level T ones, are reliable brakes, offering consistent performance within said XC range, and long-lasting life without the need to prematurely bleed them.
They are comparable to Shimano Deore or Magura MT Sport brakes. Not in terms of functionality, but in terms of where they sit in relation to other brakes in their respective series.
If used within the proper XC discipline they are fine. When used for trail, enduro, or even downhill, the lack of braking power and brake fade will rear its ugly head, more so than with other brands. That’s because SRAM uses 21mm pistons, instead of larger 25mm ones. And also because the brake lever rotation points are set differently, offering a longer, more linear brake feel.
It downgrades the otherwise smooth brake feel to a much more on-off system. That’s not really a brake issue, because the Levels aren’t meant to be used as such, but it’s good to know nonetheless if you want to strap these brakes onto a hardcore trail and/or enduro rig (which you shouldn’t).
The brake levers do offer reach adjustment, but the tiny allen bolt can only be operated with the brakes not mounted. That’s a nuisance which has been handled in more expensive models, but also something not present in both Magura and Shimano models.
They are specced to go with DOT 4 fluid. But since DOT 4 and DOT 5.1 (not to be confused with DOT 5) can be used interchangeably, you can make use of the more heat resistant fluid to increase braking performance should you want to.
The main disadvantages of DOT fluid is that it has a shelf life and is toxic. This means you need to take more care bleeding the brakes, and the process is more involved because of it. The other argument against DOT fluid used to be that the shelf life meant braking power deteriorated over time.
I would argue that with a properly bled system that’s no longer the case, unless you plan to literally never bleed your brakes, which I realize is a common practice among a great portion of people.
As all budget brakes, they offer a fixed housing port, so be sure that they match your particular frame. They are also one of the heaviest budget XC brakes, nearing 300 grams (without rotors).
The entire design of the Level T still offers typical SRAM brake feel for 2-pod brakes, so that’s a plus. On the other hand, their usage feels more narrow since all Magura brakes are more powerful (and some much cheaper), including Shimano SLX brakes. I can recommend these for SRAM aficionados explicitly using them for XC (or lighter usage) on a somewhat tight budget.
Specifications disc brakes for trail bikes
buy at Amazon
Magura MT Sport
forged aluminum unibody
Shimano Deore BR-M6100
SRAM Level T
Johan van Seijen
Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His passion for cycling in general, and restoring older bikes turned into a website to share his knowledge with a broader audience. Starting out on his father’s road bike and riding classics as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege he has shifted his attention to trail, XC, and gravel riding since. No matter how much he loves writing about everything related to cycling, nothing beats actually using his ever-expanding bicycle collection.
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