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The top 4 best budget mechanical disc brakes in 2023

With this article I’m going to cover the best budget mechanical disc brakes.

One of the main reasons to pick mechanical disc brakes over hydraulic ones is the fact that they are not only easier to set up and maintain, but also are cheaper. Especially if you have a set of mechanical brake levers lying around, mechanical disc brakes are about twice as cheap as their hydraulic counterparts.

That’s of course a very broad measure and in the end totally depends on the type of mechanical disc brakes you actually buy.

As a baseline for the price I researched everything below 100 USD. And although there aren’t many mechanical disc brakes on the market, and even fewer below this price, this list features a number of excellent examples from this product category.

Among mechanical disc brakes, the cheapest ones are single-piston brakes, which are less complex than their dual or even quadruple cousins. A single piston disc brake means only one side of the brake pad is pushed in when you pull the brake lever.

Adjusting the fixed pad when installing the brake or when the pad wears is done either with the help of a large dial or an allen key. The benefit of such a brake design is the aforementioned price, which can be kept lower, and the simplicity of the mechanism.

You can pull the entire brake caliper apart to clean it should the occasion asks for it, because there aren’t’ that many parts to deal with. From a durability and longevity perspective I give those type of products a big thumbs up.

Before I leave you with my list of the best budget mechanical disc brakes, please make sure you know which one is compatible with your brake lever. You’ve got short-pull and long-pull versions. As a quick rule of thumb, short-pull levers are road bike levers, and long-pull levers are mountain bike levers or v-brake levers.

And make sure you use compressionless housing. Compressionless housing transfers all braking actuation to the lever on the brake body instead, preventing a mushy brake feel and an underperforming brake.

Shimano Altus BR-M375

Shimano Altus BR-M375 black
Shimano Altus BR-M375 silver

The Shimano Altus BR-M375 is perfect for people who want to upgrade to disc brakes in general or mechanical disc brakes specifically. They offer remarkable stopping power in the cheapest package available from the Japanese giant component manufacturer.

The disc brake is compatible with your standard long-pull v-brake lever, which is already on your bike or can be had for basically nothing in your local parts bin.

The aluminum body offers a single spring-loaded piston to move the rotor against the standard Shimano brake pads. The fixed side can be adjusted using a standard 3.5mm allen key, and putting in a new pair of pads is as easy as removing the retaining pin, pushing the old pads out, and doing a bit of cleaning before you insert the new ones.

The omnipresence of Shimano and their design philosophy may be a bit bland at times if you want to really spruce up your bike. But aesthetics aside, the value-for-money when looking at a pair of mechanical disc brakes is undeniable.

It can be considered a joke that the compressionless housing needed to get the most out of these brakes is more expensive than the brakes themselves.

The Shimano Altus BR-M375 is the entry-level disc brake that still beats the far majority of other mechanically operated non-disc brakes, while still leaving more than enough money on the table to buy yourself a cup of coffee on your next round.

Shimano Ultegra BR-CX77

Shimano Ultegra BR-CX77

The Shimano Ultegra BR-CX77 is the top choice for mechanical disc brakes from the Japanese giant, since I don’t know of the existence of any Dura-Ace mechanical disc brakes.

Shimano dubs these breaks as being meant for “cyclocross usage”, but I can’t think of any cyclocross-specific riding characteristic that has moved into the design of this brake. And the acceptance of disc brakes in general in the cyclocross community, where cantilever brakes still reign supreme, is disputed.

Wide-profile cantilever brakes are used in cyclocross for their exceptional mud-clearance, and obviously any disc brake, including the BR-XC77, will perform just as admirably in this respect if not better.

They’ve been on the market for ages and follow the traditional design of a fixed inboard pad and a single piston for breaking power, offering a sturdy and bulky look in a very nice-looking shiny gray finish.

At 159 grams for just the caliper, they are among the lightest mechanical disc brakes you can find. A comparatively priced Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever brake, which doesn’t need a rotor and bolts, weighs 129 grams.

Both pads can be adjusted to even out wear, which is traditionally a bigger issue with single-piston mechanical disc brakes. And this can be done easily enough with 2.5 and 3mm allen keys. The fixed inboard pad is detented, which is a nice touch as well.

I would say that setting up these types of brakes correctly isn’t more involved than setting up your average cantilever brake. And even though mechanical disc brakes are still a very rare occurrence, both Shimano’s guidelines and online tutorials can show you a first-time user the way.

The brakes perform exceptionally well, both in terms of modulation and stopping power. Since you can lock up your wheel when mounted on a gravel bike, there really isn’t much more you could ask for.

The price can be a little deceptive, since it does not include brake rotors. Should you decide to fit a matching Ultegra 160mm, you’re looking at adding around another 100 USD.


SRAM BB7 Road S front view
SRAM BB7 Road S rear view

The SRAM BB7 Road S are probably just as long on the market as the Shimano BR-CX77. Since SRAM is the biggest competitor of Shimano, a good question is how these brakes stack up to its main competitor.

Although they don’t look the same, in terms of design, they are very similar. The BB7 Road S is also a single-piston mechanical disc brake, featuring a fixed inboard pad and actuated outboard one.

They are also pretty similar in price and weight, with the SRAM one only a couple of grams heavier than its Shimano counterpart. You could argue over which one has the better looks, with the BB7 looking less bulky, and having a sleek black anodized finish with large red dials.

In terms of functionality the BB7 Road S is similar to the non-S version, with the exception of all its hardware being stainless steel. While I have seen people arguing this doesn’t matter, I feel it does for obvious reasons. Bolts will corrode in the long-run, although that long-run might be a decade from now. And I for one would choose this version over the non-stainless steel version all day long.

Although maybe not as snappy as the Shimano ones, the BB7 brakes offer considerable braking power with smooth modulation. And considering the fact you can always team them up with 203mm rotors (if your frame allows it) and sintered brake pads, you will have all the stopping power you need for your average trail and/or road trip.

Apart from pad adjustment, which can be done for both sides, the braking power is up to par with your average hydro running 160mm rotors. With the included installation instructions, setting these brakes up is just as easy as any other mechanical brake, and far more easy than hydraulic disc brakes.

This is one of the key benefits of these types of brakes, since nobody has a bleed kit lying around for anything other than hydraulic brakes, but everybody knows how to use an allen key and a pair of pliers.

SRAM BB7 Mountain S

SRAM BB7 Mountain S front view
SRAM BB7 Mountain S rear view

The SRAM BB7 Mountain S is the long-pull version of the SRAM BB7 Road S. Except for the brake arm they are similar.

Specifications budget mechanical disc brakes

brake type
mount type
caliper weight
buy at Amazon
Shimano Altus BR-M375
25.98 USD
mechanical disc brake
post mount
Shimano Ultegra BR-CX77
79.995 USD
mechanical disc brake
78.71 USD
mechanical disc brake
post mount
SRAM BB7 Mountain S
67.39 USD
mechanical disc brake
post mount
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

FoundeR Restoration.bike

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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