Centerlock vs 6 Bolt 2021: Which Disc Brake Is Better For MTBs and Why

New bike owners often ask, when buying bikes, should they go with Centerlock or 6 bolt? Well, both centerlock and 6 bolt rotors offer great stopping power.

However, the centerlock, which is Shimano owned, is heavier and more expensive, but with added advantages. 6 bolt ones are more affordable and lighter. We cover this topic in more detail below.

Centerlock vs 6 bolt: Which is the Better Disc Brake

What You Need to Know About the Centerlock System

Centerlock rotors are easier to install than the 6 bolt rotors and take less time. It would take you a minute or so to lock the rotor in the middle and over five minutes to torque 6 bolts of the alternative rotor system.

Besides, centerlock rotors are just a few ounces heavier than the 6 bolts, and any professional cyclist would overlook the weight issue for the convenience of the centerlock rotor system.

However, the centerlock rotors are expensive because of the more complicated process of making them. They have a steel outer center that is responsible for breaking, just like the 6 bolt rotors. Centerlock rotors also has an inner aluminum or steel fitting system with splines and link up.

These rotors are placed on the Shimano hub and locked with a special key, in most cases the Shimano TL-LR10, which also comes in handy when tightening the cassette. The lock that holds the rotor in place is Shimano branded and only compatible with its respective hub.

One great thing about centerlocks is that there will never be any skiffing issues once you tighten them. Moreover, they are easy to remove in case you need to replace or upgrade them.

There are more expensive options that come with an alloy center to cut on weight. Also, you may want to change the size of your rotor, but you’ll need the caliper adaptor as well.

Available for Both MTBs and Road Bikes

Road bikes are shifting from rim brakes to disc brakes quite fast, and the rim brakes battalion has no option but to move with the trend. MTBs embraced the benefits of disc brakes many years ago, and now it’s not all about whether your MTB is using centerlock or 6 bolts.

Centerlock disc rotors and pads have been getting technological boosts here and there. The Ice-Tech rotors, for instance, reduce the rotor’s temperature by 50 degrees. The pads also aid in reducing heat further. With that system, you will enjoy consistent braking power downhill, whether using a road bike or MTB.

Some discs lose power when you brake for a long downhill. A hot rotor and pads reduce their braking effectiveness. Centerlock systems are known to perform well even under pressure. You can count on their sustained braking power and ride faster and with lots of confidence.

Pros of the Centerlock

  • You can have a center hub replacement
  • Rotors can be easily removed for easier transportation of the wheels.
  • Some centerlock rotors are lighter than 6 bolt rotors.
  • Rotors are harder to bend because of their inner ring.
  • Easy to center the centre lock rotors.
  • The hub is lightweight.

Cons of the Centerlock

  • Cheaper rotors are heavier than 6 bolt rotors.
  • You must purchase a unique key or wrench for installing and uninstalling the rotors.
  • Compatibility issues arise.

What You Need to Know about 6 Bolt System

The 6 bolt rotors have been around since the 90s when having such for your mountain bike was considered a luxury. Now every MTB has disc brakes, and over 90 percent of them have the 6 bolt rotor system. It’s a patented option so many hubs come with this feature, and so they are cheaper. The 6 bolt rotors are mostly used in budget bikes.

The rotors are tightly held to the hub by tightening six hex or Allen Torx head bolts using a torque wrench. It would be best if you tightened all the bolts tightly and evenly.

Otherwise, your brakes will be less effective and uneven. In some cases, the rotor might bend if not well tightened. The Torx driver used to tighten the screws is available in most toolkits.

Fixing or replacing the 6 bolt rotors can be time-consuming, but the five or so minutes you’ll spend there are not much. Centerlock rotors take a fraction of that time, though!  When tightening the bolts, don’t follow a continuous order.

First, place the rotor on the hub, drive the bolts into the hub, and don’t tighten them. Follow the star order when tightening the bolts. In other words, tighten the first bolt slightly, and the next one should be the bolt across on the other side of the hub axle.

Failure to do so will align the rotor off the center, and your brakes will start providing annoying noises while rubbing on the contact surfaces.

They are suitable for SRAM

One of the advantages of using these rotors is that they are readily available on the market. Provided you get the right size, a 6 bolt rotor will serve you for a long time.

However, you should check the bolts and tighten them frequently as they tend to go loose with time. You don’t need a special tool to tighten the bolts. A Torx screwdriver is the correct tool for the job.

Shimano patented the centerlock system. All hubs are that take centerlock rotors are either Shimano or supplied by the brand and use Shimano rotors only. That leaves SRAM with the 6 bolt option. If you are running an SRAM brake set, the 6 bolt will come in handy for you.

Pros of 6 Bolt

  • Rotors are readily available
  • Inexpensive
  • Comes with unlimited rotor options.
  • Unlimited bolt hub options.
  • Multiple brake options
  • Compatible across different hubs and brake systems.

Cons

  • Rotors accidentally come off the center.
  • Higher risk of failure.
  • The rotor bolts break sometimes.
  • Easier to warp.

Wrapping Up

We can both agree that the Centerlock rotor system is better than the 6 bolt option. However, your budget will determine what’s more convenient for you.

However, if you will buy a bike, and you sight one with Centerlock that is within your budget, pick it! If you have any questions, let us know.

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 10+ trails across the globe, for Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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