Lighter, improved ergonomically and aesthetically, and the lower price makes it decent value too
Sporting some pretty significant changes under the hood, the latest evolution in Shimano’s braking rolled out last year alongside XT’s 11-speed drivetrain.
Firstly, the redesigned one-piece master cylinder and new dimpled lever blade looks slicker and weighs less than the previous M785 generation. Lever action is very smooth, and it’s easy to tune reach and position to suit most hand and finger sizes.
A slimmer (XTR-style) hinged clamp takes up less handlebar space and integrates better with shifters and remotes from rival brands, but does mean the lever body flexes slightly more when really yanked.
At the wheel end, the tidy, forged caliper still uses one pair of oversized 22mm phenolic (a kind of resin) pistons, and organic pads — one of four different types of pad available.
To increase lever feel and modulation, M8000 uses a revised Servo Wave design (to manipulate the brake’s mechanical leverage curve). The new XT brake is less like an on-off switch, is easier to modulate and works better if you run your levers right up to the grip.
There’s a subtle gain in the width of the power band, and braking is delivered in a more uniform, progressive way. This means it’s easier to control the bike in technical terrain without accidentally locking the wheels.
Shimano’s XT brakes have long held a reputation as being ultra-reliable. Unfortunately, on prolonged descents, issues ranging from wild shifts in bite point, to inconsistent power, frequently spoiled oir ride with the new M8000 model.
Bad brakes are bad news, and since bleeding the system didn’t cure the problems, UK distributor, Madison, sent out a new replacement lever. This has (so far) proven rock-solid, and even with power rated at ‘Trail’ levels by Shimano, the brake has sufficient capacity to handle massive descents and everything right up to pure DH riding.
The latest XT brake has been refined very effectively — it’s lighter as well as being improved ergonomically and aesthetically, and the lower price makes it decent value too.
In a nutshell, if we hadn’t had the significant teething issues with the M8000, you’d be reading a rating much closer to top marks here.
Priced per end, without rotor.