There are four main types of brakes on the market, and they all offer great stopping power for different types of riding: V-Brakes, Disc Brakes, Caliper Brakes and Cantilever Brakes.
V-Brakes are often found on older mountain and road bikes, but many newer bikes still use them as they are inexpensive compared to some other types of brakes but still offer excellent stopping power. V-Brakes are characterized by their long arms that bolt to the fork and use cable leverage between them. They perform very well in wet, muddy conditions and are easy to install and set up. Many are also designed so that you can remove a small pin and slide out the old pads for replacement.
Disc Brakes are excellent because of their unparalleled stopping power in all weather and terrain. They are usually found on mountain bikes for this reason, but increasingly cyclocross bikes as well as some road bikes have begun to be produced with disc brakes. Disc brakes must be used with special wheels as they rely on a rotor that is bolted onto the wheel as their braking surface. Disc brakes come in two main types, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical discs use a cable to stop, and hydraulic use fluid. Hydraulic disc brakes have incredible control and stopping abilities, but mechanical are less expensive and easier to maintain yourself.
Caliper Brakes are most often found on road bikes. They are lightweight and use a single bolt on the fork for installation. Caliper brakes use the rim as the contact point for the brake pads, and the pads are easy to install and remove. When removing wheels from Caliper brakes many Calipers have a small switch you can flip up to widen the space between the pads making it easier to take the wheel off. They you just flip it back down again when the wheel is back on.Cantilever Brakes are similar to V-Brakes but share the force of the cable between them. They are most popular with cyclocross riders because due to the design of the arms and cable system, they don’t get as much mud build up as some other types of brakes and still have excellent stopping power. The pads are usually cartridge style making them easy to remove and replace.