Shimano SLX 4 Piston Brakes [Rider Review]

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. 

When it comes to gravity orientated mountain biking, the trust relationship between the rider and their brake is very important. Good, powerful brakes gives riders confidence they need to ride the terrain they want. Our friend, TJ, started running the Shimano SLX brakes. See what they think! 

Shimano SLX 4 Piston Brakes


I have been using old Shimano 2 piston brakes my entire time riding mountain bikes which have treated me well. Now that I have started riding more steep, gnarlier terrain, I decided it's time for a brake upgrade. I already knew that I would want Shimano brakes because I like the way they feel. So my decision was split between Shimano SLX 4 piston brakes or Shimano XT 4 piston brakes.

Shimano SLX 4 Piston Brakes

After researching both, I found the difference to be that the Shimano XT brakes have a free stroke adjust screw while the Shimano SLX brakes do not. This adjustment screw isn’t something I would use because my previous Shimano 2 piston brakes had a free stroke adjustment screw and I always kept it in all the way tight but this is how the new Shimano SLXbrakes are set up, along with the fact Shimano SLX brakes are cheaper but have the same amount of braking power.

Now that I have used these brakes for a month riding all over the Colorado front range, I can say that the Shimano SLX 4 piston brakes are a great budget friendly option while providing exceptional braking power. The brakes come to you “Pre Bleed” but if you're planning on cutting the hose down, you’re going to need to do a lever bleed to get the brakes feeling firm.

Shimano SLX 4 Piston Brakes

Bleeding Shimano brakes is pretty easy as long as you have the right bleed kit. I have been riding these 4 piston brakes for a month now and I’m blown away by how much power is at your fingertips. With this being my first time experiencing 4 piston brakes, I wasn't sure what to expect but I am very happy with my decision.

I have experienced hand fatigue on long descents before but after installing my new brake setup, I haven't experienced any arm pump because of how effortless it is to break now. My new setup hasn't had any brake fade either on long descents. I actually have noticed on long descents that my brakes have more power once they heat up but I assume that mainly has to do with the metallic brake pads.

One factor to consider is that I weigh 140 pounds with two 180mm rotors so the brakes aren't having to stop a heavy load. However, considering these brakes also come on high end E-mountain bikes which require more stopping force, I would recommend these brakes for riders of all weights.

I also have felt way more confident on steep sections of trail and corners, which allows me to ride faster and ride with more confidence.

Final Thoughts

The brake lever has a very precise on/off feel, which I prefer, but if you are looking for a setup with more modulation I would consider other options. When the rear tire breaks loose under heavy braking my bike behaves very predictably due to my new brake setup. This allows me to swing the rear end around tight switchback turns with ease. Good, powerful brakes really do let you ride faster. The Shimano SLX 4 piston brakes are definitely a quality bike part.

 Shimano SLX 4 Piston Brakes

January 30, 2023

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