While I prefer the aesthetics of a delicate, high profile cantilever or a classic, dual-pivot caliper, I have to admit that nothing quite beats the overall performance of a high-quality, cable-actuated disc brake (also known as “mechanical” disc brakes). Drum/roller brakes are heavy and generally provide only mediocre braking performance, and most every other type of performance brake uses the rim wall for a braking surface, a fact that guarantees your rims will be toast long before your hubs go. Rim brakes can sometimes be poor performers in wet conditions, they make an awful mess in the rain, and the caliper variety rarely provide sufficient clearance for robust tires and fenders. Hydraulic discs are typically more powerful than mechanical discs, but the difficulties associated with cutting fluid lines and bleeding brake systems are not a fair trade for their slightly better performance over their easier to set-up and maintain cousins. A high-quality mechanical disc brake such as the Avid BB7 combines the simplicity and user-friendliness of cable actuation, with excellent all weather performance and long-term, wheel-friendly reliability. Setting aside aesthetic considerations and tradition, cable-actuated discs are hard to beat from the standpoint of pure functionality.
Avid BB5 Cable-Actuated Disc Brake