As a cyclist, you’ve likely faced this scenario: an obstacle suddenly appears while you’re riding your bike. You brake too hard and abruptly, causing your front wheel to lock up or even skid.
Such situations can lead to falls and injuries, not just for beginners but also for seasoned cyclists. To enhance safety during braking, one manufacturer has developed a solution: the roller brake. Let’s dive into the details of this type of bicycle brake.
What is a Roller Brake on a Bicycle?
A roller brake is a type of hub brake. At first glance, it might be mistaken for a disc brake due to its appearance.
Evolving from the classic coaster brake, roller brakes are available for both the front and rear axles of a bike.
Shimano, a traditional brand, is the first and sole manufacturer and supplier of roller brakes, also known as Rollerbrakes in English.
Structure of a Roller Brake
The Shimano roller brake consists of a ring with metal rollers attached to a cam disc. These rollers give the brake its name.
To prevent overheating during rides, an integrated cooling disc with fins helps cool the interior of the brake and the brake grease through the wind generated while riding.
How Does the Shimano Roller Brake Work?
Activating the brake causes the cam disc and rollers to rotate. This movement presses the brake lining against the brake drum from the inside.
The contact between the brake lining and the brake drum creates friction, leading to the desired braking effect.
Also read: The 5 Best Bike Racks for Space-Saving and Style.
Best Grease for Roller Brakes
Like other systems, roller brakes require regular greasing. Shimano offers a special roller brake grease for this purpose.
Greasing the roller brake is straightforward. No technical skills or tools are needed.
Simply open the usually black plastic cap on the brake and squeeze the grease directly from the tube into the opening. Rotating the wheel slightly helps distribute the grease more evenly.
Around five grams of grease should suffice for one application. Then, replace the cap, and you’re done.
Advantages of the Shimano Roller Brake
The primary benefit of the roller brake, besides its reliable and gentle braking effect, is its low maintenance and wear. This makes it particularly appealing for cyclists who are less technically inclined or casual riders.
Additionally, the roller brake is completely weatherproof, and the front roller brake functions independently of the drivetrain, meaning it still works even if the chain comes off, for example.
The required roller brake grease can also be easily refilled without any prior knowledge or tools, thanks to the simple cap design.
Drawbacks of the Shimano Roller Brake
On extreme terrains, the roller brake may underperform due to high friction and heat development, especially during downhill rides at high speeds. This can lead to reduced braking power.
This limitation makes the roller brake less suitable for such tours and particularly for mountain bikes. However, for city rides or on flatter terrains, this is less of a concern, making the roller brake very popular among city bike riders.
Anti-Lock System: Advantage or Disadvantage?
The Power Modulator, an anti-lock system on the Shimano roller brake, is designed to prevent falls due to front wheel lockup. However, this comes at the expense of braking power.
Consequently, both experts and cyclists are divided on whether the brake power limitation by this system is a pro or a con of the roller brake.
Troubleshooting the Shimano Roller Brake
The Shimano roller brake is known for its robustness and low maintenance. If the brake squeaks, jams, or the braking effect diminishes, insufficient brake grease is usually the cause.
In case of issues, first refill the roller brake grease as described above. Then check if the roller brake operates smoothly again.
Retrofitting a Roller Brake
To install a roller brake, specific hubs are required. If these are not present, retrofitting this type of brake is not straightforward and would require switching to wheelsets with hubs designed for roller brakes.
Finally, the roller brake is a robust and low-maintenance braking solution for your bicycle, suitable depending on your personal preferences and favorite routes. If you’re uncertain whether a roller brake is right for you, a test ride on a bike equipped with this type of brake can be helpful.