Working on bikes can be just as satisfying as riding them, and one of the best things about bikes is they can all be equipped with a huge variety of different components to suit your style or riding needs.
As a bike mechanic, I get asked many questions about cycling components, but one that comes up often when it comes to modern disc brakes is centerlock vs 6 bolt rotors.
These disc brake setups both work excellently but are very different.
Disc brake rotors are very important and not something you are going to want to get wrong. This article will tell you everything you need to know about centerlock and 6 bolt rotors.
We are going to be discussing the following:
- What Are Disc Brakes?
- Centerlock Vs 6 Bolt Rotors
- Identifying Centerlock Vs 6 Bolt?
- Are Centerlock And 6 Bolt Rotors Interchangeable?
- Which is better? Centerlock Or 6 Bolt Rotors?
Let’s jump into it!
What Are Disc Brakes?
In the past decade, bike brakes have come a long way.
Years ago, calipers and V brakes were the most popular bike braking systems. This is where you have two pads that grip the rim to create friction and, in turn, slow you down.
In modern times, we generally see more bikes with disc brakes instead. This is where we have two pads that grip a disc rotor.
Disc brakes can be either mechanical or hydraulic. Mechanical is cable-operated, and hydraulic is fluid-operated.
Disc brakes come with many advantages. They are incredibly powerful, work much better in poor weather conditions, don’t wear down the surface of the rim, and are less strenuous on the rider’s hands on long rides.
Another great advantage when it comes to disc brakes is the different amount of sizes they come in. You can get disc brake calipers in 2 or 4-piston options, and rotors range from 140 mm all the way up to 180 mm.
Centerlock Vs 6 Bolt Rotors
Disc brakes are located on the bike’s wheel hub.
The friction is created when the brake pads press against a metal disc known as the rotor.
The rotors are attached to the wheel hub in two different ways: either a centerlock or a 6 bolt system.
Here’s what you need to know about centerlock vs 6 bolt rotors:
A centerlock disc brake rotor is generally seen on high-end bikes – particularly more modern ones.
What mainly makes a centerlock rotor different from a 6 bolt is the way it attaches to the bike’s hub. On the inside of the rotor, you will find a circular section surrounded by small teeth.
These teeth on the rotor will pair up perfectly with the teeth on the bike’s hub. To ensure they stay together, they use a single lockring, which is tightened to around 40 nm using a special tool.
Centerlock disc brake rotors are becoming more and more popular and come with some great advantages, but also a few disadvantages:
Advantages of Centerlock Rotors
- Easy to take on and off with one single lockring
- Quick installation and removal
- Centerlock wheel hubs are lighter than 6 bolt hubs (though the rotors are heavier)
- They always go on straight
Disadvantages of Centerlock Rotors
- Larger tools are required for installation and removal
- Generally more expensive than a 6 bolt rotor
- The rotor weight is slightly heavier
6 Bolt Rotors
A 6 bolt rotor is commonly seen on budget bikes and older disc brake bikes.
What makes a 6 bolt system unique is that it attaches to the bike hub with 6 Torx bolts in a hexagonal pattern.
These bolts ensure the disc goes on in the correct position. They may take longer to do up compared to a centerlock lockring, but they can be done with a multi-tool. You also have the security of more than one bolt to hold it on tight.
6 bolt is a great way to go as far as disc brake rotors go, but it does come with its own challenges.
- Cheap to buy
- It can be attached and removed with a multi-tool
- Rotors are generally lighter than centerlock (though the hubs are heavier)
- Torq bolts are easy to round
- It’s easy to cross-thread the hub
- Takes longer to take on and off
- 6 bolt rotors can be uneven if not correctly torqued
Identifying Centerlock And 6 Bolt?
Identifying whether you have a centerlock or 6 bolt system is easy. All you need to do is remove the wheel and see how the disc rotor attaches to the hub.
If you have 6 bolts fixing the rotor to the hub, then it’s a 6 bolt system. If you have a lockring, it’s a centerlock system.
Are Centerlock And 6 Bolt Rotors Interchangeable?
There are many products online to order which will give you the ability to use 6 bolt rotors on centerlock hubs and vice versa.
Although they might seem like the perfect solution, in my experience, they don’t always work very well.
Many of these adaptors slightly change the position where the disc brake rotor sits, and it can put the disc too close to the fork or even out of caliper adjustment. If they work for you, then great, but I wouldn’t count on them as a perfect solution.
Which is better: Centerlock Vs 6 Bolt Rotors?
When it comes to 6 bolt vs centerlock rotor, there’s very little in it, but most experienced cyclists would opt for centerlock if given the choice.
However, they are both able to perform well and are going to give you an excellent cycling experience.
After many years of using both systems personally, here are four things I would suggest considering when comparing centerlock vs 6 bolt rotors.
Many brands are starting to stop making 6 bolt products and purely focusing on centerlock. This is how the industry is going, and we are seeing this from brake, wheel, and groupset manufacturers.
If you want to ensure that you’ll have options for upgrades in the future, being on centerlock is important.
The last thing you want to do is upgrade to a high-end set of wheels only to find yourself investing in new rotors or adaptors.
Regarding 6 bolt vs centerlock rotors, as far as performance goes, you have a lot more options when it comes to centerlock.
Although many 6 bolt rotors do come in performance options, the high-end stuff is mainly centerlock.
If you are looking for maximum performance and want to use products such as Shimano’s Dura-Ace disc brake rotors, the best option is going to be a centerlock rotor.
When it comes to cost, you will find 6 bolt rotors to be much cheaper, and you get way more budget options. You can find 6 bolt rotors as cheap as $12, and that’s sometimes for two, including bolts.
When it comes to centerlock rotors, you can be looking at as much as $50 for a single budget pair.
A set of high-performance rotors can be as much as $170, which is more than multiple brake sets altogether.
#4: Ease Of Use
Regarding ease of use, both systems have advantages and disadvantages.
The 6 bolt rotor can be removed and attached with something as simple as a basic multi-tool. So, if you’re traveling, you could swap a disc rotor out if required.
Centerlock would be another story. You would need a lockring removal tool and wrench, which can take you up to roughly 40 nm. This is not something you’ll find on a multi-tool.
Now you know about centerlock vs 6 bolt rotors…
An increasing number of cyclists are finding that disc brakes are the best way to go when it comes to cycling. As far as rotors, both 6 bolt and centerlock will give you a good experience.
Although there’s very little in it, we feel that centerlock is better because it’s how the industry is going, and it makes finding compatible products will be much easier.