Our "Rider Review" article series features the honest reviews from verified purchasers of Worldwide Cyclery. They contain the photos, thoughts, feedback & overall review you are looking for.
Looking for a good compromise between weight and power for hydraulic disc brakes for your bike? Put the Shimano XT brakes on your list. Our friend, Michael, has been running the XT brakes. See what they think!
Tried and true, how can you beat Shimano XT brakes? I’ve been a long-time fan and when it was time to build my new Why El Jefe single speed, I naturally went for what has never let me down.
Last year I also purchased Shimano XT brakes for my Revel Ranger. For both my El Jefe and Ranger builds, I opted for single-piston calipers and 180/160 rotors. The stopping power and modulation have never let me down! I’ve run both resin and metallic pads and they each have their benefits, but the stopping power of both is more than adequate. The lever length is perfect for single or dual-finger braking. Compared to SLX brakes, the XT levers have a texture that makes for improved grip. XT brakes also have free stroke adjustment which allows you to dial in lever travel. This overlooked feature is awesome to optimize your preferred lever travel and matching lever travel for front and rear brakes.
Visually the XT brakes are stealthy and smooth. The glossy gun metal black finish looks great and is a huge improvement over the chrome that XT brakes used to rock back in the day. SLX brakes have a more matte finish that tends to retain and show dirt/brake dust a bit more. The smooth finish on the XT brakes makes for easy wipe-down.
Out of the box, Shimano makes DIY assembly easy by delivering the calipers with the brake line installed, filled with brake fluid, and capped, with the levers separate in the box. This allows easy routing and plenty of lengths to work with. The trimming process is easy with a razor blade. Don’t forget to check for full turning range of motion before trimming down your hoses. Be sure that the rubber boot that covers the lever nut is placed over the brake hose before installing the hose into the lever! One last tip - rotate your lever into the final position before fully tightening down the hose clamping nut on the brake levers – this will prevent your brake lines from twisting when you rotate them into position. Check out YouTube for step-by-step instructions. If you follow the instructions carefully, you won’t have to bleed the brakes after installation!
Compared to other brakes I have run, Shimano brakes have always been low maintenance. The ease and consistency of bleeding are one of the reasons I opted again for these brakes. Following both Shimano’s recommended bleed procedure and the gravity bleed procedure, I have never had issues bringing my brake performance back to new (even on my 7-year-old chrome XT levers on my old single-speed build).
My style of riding is fast and furious, racing central NC XC and descending some of the gnarliest of Pisgah’s finest. I will say that I continue to be impressed by the quality and stopping power of Shimano brakes. As a cycling enthusiast and engineer, whenever my friends ask for recommendations on what brakes to buy, I will always recommend Shimano XT!