Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM.JPG
REVIEW | EDITORIAL

Shimano Deore M6120 Four-Piston Brakes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Sep 28, 2020
Reading time

Like A Boss

Shimano’s four-piston Deore brake isn’t 30-seconds into its first interview and it’s already telling you how to reorganize your company. To say they come on strong, well, that's an understatement. These brakes put pads to the rotor as firmly as anything in Shimano's lineup and come equipped with Shimano's universal, and quiet, 4-piston sintered brake pads - no fins for the win.

For folks that love Shimano brakes, you can certainly spend more, but if you didn't already throw down for a pair of XTR 4-piston brakes then Deore M6120 wants to have a word with you. What about SLX and XT? They seem nice. Nice?! Why because they spent more on getting dressed up and their resumes come on nicer card stock? Deore's not hearing it.

These brakes want you to know that they'll reliably hold their own against anything on the market for 150 USD | 200 CAD a wheel* while giving the Shimano brake lover everything they expect, just at a lower price. It's almost poetic.

*Does not include rotors

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

These last warm summer evenings felt such a luxury this year after rainy Junuary rides.

It's not a question of modulating power, (it's fully possible to crawl down steeps with these brakes) but rather the way the power turns on. Their main competitor for the job of your next brake system, SRAM's Code series, is more of a soft-power player. They can equally stop a rotor dead on the steepest terrain, but only with some direction from management.

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM (7).JPG

An aficionado will notice the lever action is heavier than XTR. Otherwise, in a blind test Deore is measuring up to any Shimano brake system.

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM (6).JPG

Shimano's sintered brake pads for excellent performance in wet or dry. Be aware that some M6120 brakes may come with Shimano's sub-par resin pads.

Does Wandering Bite Point Matter?

If it bothers you it bothers you. If you, like many people I know, hear the term for the first time and ask, "what is wandering bike point?" and you've been riding Shimano hydraulic disc brakes for years, clearly you are not bothered.

The phenomenon of having the lever blade pull variable distances, sometimes in the cold but sometimes not. Sometimes made better by a bleed but sometimes not. Sometimes very noticeable and other times not, on the same bike, on the same day, with two different riders back-to-back is not totally unique to Shimano but certainly they get called on it the most often.

I find that Shimano's four-piston brakes are generally much more consistent than their two-piston brakes and these M6120 brakes specifically were the most consistent Shimano brakes I've ridden in the last few years. Did I notice some variation in lever position versus pressure? Yes. Was it ever an issue for me on the trail? It was not but it's worth mentioning.

SRAM v Shimano

There are plenty of brake systems on the market and it’s no secret my rotating top three are the Hayes Dominion (DOT), Formula Cura4 (mineral oil), and any Magura 4-piston system (mineral oil). But, the reality is that 95%+ of riders going in to buy a bike or brake system are running Shimano or SRAM and that’s born out in the woods as well.

Some riders choose Shimano, or another system, out of a preference for mineral oil brake fluid over DOT fluid. For most, it will come down to either learning to like what came with their bike or a predilection for the distinct feel that SRAM and Shimano each produce. Personally, I'm not a fan of Guide/G2 and every pair of Levels I’ve tried to ride on the Shore has been a bad joke, but if every bike came with SRAM Codes, even the basic Code R, that would work just fine for me.

The harder I pull, the harder they bite. It’s great. The pads are relatively cheap, though best results come from replacing them around the half-life. And while I personally prefer to handle mineral oil around the house, they’re simple to work on and fully rebuildable with readily available parts. And kudos to SRAM; in Canada at least they've been doing a great job of having parts in stock.

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

If my brake position relative to my grips looks very close it's because these Sensus Swayze push-on grips are quite long.

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

I find the little handlebar feet at the outside of each master cylinder look at bit atavistic, but I'll take support over a bunch of lever flex.

If you don't care, or even prefer the simplicity of swapping components, then absolutely; you-do-you. I like to be able to service components instead of replacing them and I'm not surprised that it's been coming up more and more as a selling feature of some brake systems.

It's one of the reasons I really like Formula's CURA4. It bleeds up exactly like a SRAM brake using two syringes, it's equally easy to rebuild, and it uses mineral oil. The small parts support, again in Canada, is also quite good although obviously, they're nowhere as ubiquitous as the various SRAM options.

Shimano doesn't design serviceability into their brake systems' individual components. This is nothing new. We're talking a couple of decades of making hydraulic disk brakes. There's a lever assembly, a caliper assembly, and a brake line assembly. In theory that should let them offer a better system for less money, especially with their economies of scale, and less expensive replacement parts since they are also not serviceable and there are significantly fewer SKUs for employees to babysit.

Deore M6120 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

I think I-Spec EV is the 4th generation of I-Spec? It has side-to-side and angle adjustments and is universal through Shimano's performance braking products. It's really nice.

Deore M6120 NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Give me tooled adjustments over twiddly knobs every day of the week on brakes, forks, and shocks. I think this detail makes the Deore levers look higher-end than SLX or XT.

Anytime I bring up some of the things I don't love about SRAM's MatchMaker cockpit de-cluttering system, my SRAMite friends can be counted on to innocently query what series of Shimano I-Spec we're on at this point. A, B, II, Deep Space Nine. Who can keep track right?

M6120, and all Shimano's performance braking products, features the newest I-Spec EV which is so much more awesome than all the past versions that I can't even be mad that it took them this long to get here. The side to side adjustment for the shifter is 14mm which is quite reasonable. For some reason Deore gives up a lot of the angle adjustment of the higher end models (10° versus 20° for XT & SLX and 60° for XTR) but I found it more than suitable to get my shifter into an ideal position.

I'm not saying you can't continue to flippantly throw an "I-Spec" every time your Shimanophile friends start spitting some bullshit about how Shimano is better than SRAM because they take their time and fully perfect a product before releasing it, but this is genuinely a step up from MatchMaker if only because the system doesn't eat handlebars.

Note to Shimano, I-Spec EV is good. It's very good. Please stick with this one for a while.

Great News & Bad News

On appearance alone, the Deore M6120 four-piston brakes are winners. With their tooled lever reach adjustment, I'll go as far as to say the master cylinders look better than SLX or XT. Better than XTR? Not compared to the magnesium M9100 model, but compared to the M9120 four-piston version? I think yes. The four-piston calipers look clean as well, though none of Shimano's latest options measure up to the Saint M820 calipers when it comes to looks.

Performance? I've actively wondered multiple times during this test why Shimano doesn't only offer two 4-piston brake systems for performance mountain bikes. Between XTR and Deore there's a void where more money doesn't get you any improvement beyond the aforementioned tool-free reach adjust. Given the number of SLX bikes with Deore brakes this year, I think more than a few bike manufacturers have caught on too. Don't worry, I'll revisit this when I come back to review the M6100 drivetrain as well.

Deore M6120 Brakes NSMB AndrewM.JPG

No fins for the quiet win. These are the same D02S pads that came on Shimano's Saint M810 brakes in 2008. Have to love that.

The bad news is that Deore M6120 brings nothing to the table for riders who don't already appreciate the on-trail feel and performance of a Shimano ServoWave system. I for one keep hoping for the feel of their budget systems equipped with four-inch-long lever blades combined with wet weather performance of their sintered brake pads and the higher production quality of their top-end products. Sadly for me, ServoWave like Trunnion Mount doesn't look to be going anywhere.

There is, on the other hand, some great news for the Shimanophile who is targeting performance over owning a certain 'level' of groupset. These brakes represent a savings of 60 USD per brake compared to XT M8120. That's 120 USD that can be pumped into other upgrades with zero loss in performance on the trail. They're as good as XT brakes, for a stack less money, and I think they look better doing it. Watch for the Deore M6120 brake to cannibalize the rest of their line on the shop floor and on the trails.

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Comments

Shortyesquire
+2 Andrew Major Nologo
Andrew Collins  - Sept. 28, 2020, 4:17 a.m.

After running m785, m810, m820, m8000, m8020 and m7120 brakes I'm almost certain the wandering bite point is down to a combination of tiny air bubbles in the lever reservoir and the placement of the port to the master cylinder. 

If you get a really good bleed by either flicking the lever a billion times or using a syringe to pump oil in and out of the reservoir, and chase out all the tiny bubbles in the reservoir. There is no wandering bite point. 

Even if I don't get a perfect bleed I sometimes find the wandering bite point disappears as the bubbles migrate to the top of the reservoir over time. 

As for the Cura4s, holy shit they are good with sintered pads! I can almost hear individual bits of sinter gouging my Hope floating rotors.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Rob Gretchen Christopher Daniel
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 7:02 a.m.

I’m not saying you’re wrong - I honestly have no idea what causes the issue to be worse in Shimano ServoWave brakes than other systems (ServoWave itself?) - but, I’ve read lots of theories, infinite silver bullet solutions, ridden a lot of Shimano brakes, and worked on more, and... well, wandering bite point.

It’s particularly there-there in the heat of battle on janky descents. Or maybe just more noticeable- if I think about it.

These Deore 4-piston brakes are great and it was never an issue. It just felt necessary to mention it.

Cura4. I’m running sintered pads at the moment, but unlike ShiRAMano I really like their resin pads much of the year. It’s a great system.

Reply

GladePlayboy
+1 Christopher Daniel
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 28, 2020, 7:20 a.m.

Yeah for Cura4s.... I ran the resin pads for most of the year and switched to sintered for the bike park to prolong life... but I think I like the resin better overall...

Oh and definitely impressed with the latest crop of Shimano 4 piston brakes...

Reply

slimshady76
+3 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian Dan
Luix  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:31 a.m.

The Shimano master cylinder bore tends to ovalize, thanks to the lack of surface treatment and the off-center push on the piston by the ServoWave mechanism. Sometimes you would also find deep scratches in the MC wall after just a few months, because the piston gets so mangled by the SW link it scores the inner bore. Then the seals aren't able to hold the oil anymore, and the dreaded wandering bite point appears. 

If Shimano would start anodizing the MC after machining it, as SRAM/Formula/Hope/etc do, their brake levers would be much more longevous.

Reply

ohio
+1 Andrew Major
Marc Fenigstein  - Sept. 28, 2020, 10:46 a.m.

I know this Is a bottomless abyss of speculation and opinion, but I think the Shimano design has two issues, both addressable: 1) placement of the port and It's ability to collect/hold microbubbles (addressed by a two way bleed and lots of vibration like you describe), 2) rattling of finned pads. On the latter, It takes surprisingly little vibration to have the Inertia of the brake pads push the pistons back Into the caliper/slave cyilnder. This happens on motorcycles just from head shake (which adds the terror of no brakes on top of the terror of surviving a tank-slapper) - I'm fairly certain It can happen from lateral forces on a bike combined with the relative weight of finned pads.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3 Mammal danimaniac Dan
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 1:17 p.m.

That’s a unique take on finned pads! I thought I’d heard it all!

I’m not a big fan of the fin firstly because of the comparative cost, and secondly in my experience - and much of the year here our brakes are water cooled - and I do tend to run big rotors - they don’t add anything to performance. 

Chasing noises around my bikes is enough work without adding pad rattle too.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+1 Mbcracken
AndrewR  - Sept. 29, 2020, 7:21 a.m.

The Wandering bite point can be fixed by a good gravity bleed and a thorough tap the entire length of the hose starting at the calliper or a pressure bleed using modified SRAM Pro bleed kit syringes. Also a hybrid system of XTR Race (non servo-wave) lever units attached to your favourite callipers (or the one that suits your budget) and a proper bleed means farewell to wandering bite point and servo-wave (yaah - Shimano brakes that do exactly what I intended with my finger pull) forever.

Regarding pad noise, a small piece of 3M 2228 tape (which has a high heat tolerance) or the furry side of the velco tape on both sides of the calliper, running under where the fins sit, means no rattle and no engagement noise.

The final brake upgrade that everyone on a 140 mm + bike (or large riders) should try is to get rid of their 1.6-1.8 mm 'XC race weight weenie inspired' brake rotors and install some 2.1 - 2.3 mm 'suitable for real riding' brake rotors (I like the new TRP R1 rotors which are well priced and quiet in use) and run the same size rotor on the rear as the front (see recent enduro-mtb article regarding rear brake heat due to drag, low constant use versus less frequent hard use of the front). As a 98 kg rider it is now 200/ 203 mm for life front and rear.

Happy trails

Reply

Lynx
+1 Andrew Major
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 28, 2020, 5:09 a.m.

Good insight and mini review Andrew, would have to concur with your once again cost vs performance metric, I have found this too in the 2 piston varients as well. Although all my personal bikes do use XTs, but all my other use SLX or Deore and have never had anyone complain about them, if anything they comment how good they are or how powerful.

While I guess I am a Shimano-phile because they just seem to work, especially down in the tropics, even if with some having the wondering bite point, most don't notice and the ease of bleeding or a quick lever bleed and they use mineral oil. All that being said, with the now current price of the 4 piston offerings, even this chepeast option, they're now not much more than brakes from other manufacturers, who like you said, can be serviced instead of just chucked if something happens.

Honestly, if I'm looking to drop $150+US per wheel for brakes, I'm going to be looking at a set of Hopes, despite the whole DOT fluid thing, because of all the DOT brakes I've experienced, they are the easiest to bleed and IMHO, one of the best looking, plus you have colours to choose from if you want, PLUS Hope has a reputation for supporting products 10+ years down the road.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Rob Gretchen Paul Lindsay
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 7:08 a.m.

My Hope experience (E4) was a massive disappointment in the power department. I convinced myself it was fine (because everything else about the brakes is beautiful) but then spent some time on basic Guide brakes with more bite and they had to go. I would love to try the V4. 

I know some folks prefer Shimano’s bleed methods. Personally I love having a syringe at both ends to really communicate with the bubbles. 

I hope Shimano kills their 2-piston brakes except for budget options and an XTR all-in-on-racing-XC option. It’s not just power (although it’s a huge difference, especially with 29” wheels) but the 4-piston stuff feels better too.

Reply

GladePlayboy
+3 Andrew Major Sean Chee Paul Lindsay
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 28, 2020, 7:19 a.m.

Hope mystifies me... how can they sit on the same design ethos for going on what seems like a decade when the feedback on their brakes is pretty much universally not enough power?   I used to be a fanboi but there are too many other good options that the holy grail of modulation offered by Hope is still inadequate.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Rob Gretchen
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 8:55 a.m.

Have you ridden the V4 too Rob? Was holding out hope (pun intended) that they were a significant step up from the E4.

I wonder if it’s the brakes or maybe also a combination of pad compound? The feel was excellent, just gutless.

Reply

slimshady76
+2 Rob Gretchen Andrew Major
Luix  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:34 a.m.

The problem isn't with the E4s vs the V4s, it's when you are used to Shimano's brute power or some other contenders' manners. The Hopes become disappointing when you see by yourself how much finger muscle you need to develop to simply get closer to the performance of the SRAM, Formula, Hayes, Shimano and TRP units.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Luix
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:11 p.m.

HAHAHA.

Luix, isn't that like saying "these brakes only suck compared to all the other brakes" or am I reading your comment wrong?

slimshady76
+1 Andrew Major
Luix  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:54 p.m.

Well, I can't reply to you directly for some reason Drew. I'm not stating they "suck when compared to all of the other brands/models". I guess I'd like them to be updated... A bigger diameter master cylinder for instance, or some leverage magic... I don't know. Their quality is superb, as you know. They just got a little underpowered for the big wheels and fast speeds this new century has brought upon us.

AndrewMajor
+1 Luix
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 1:20 p.m.

Yes, after a certain number of comments you have to scroll up to the nearest ‘reply’ button to add.

I was being cheeky, I knew what you meant. Take everything about the Hopes except comparative performance and make them work like a top end brake and they’d have a best in class system.

Performance of Hayes Dominion, aesthetics and manufacturing of an E4? Take my money!!!

danimaniac
+1 Luix
danimaniac  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:29 p.m.

Luix,... they need to shrink the Master Cylinder...  I've spent the better part of the last year accumulating all data that's "gatherable" about mtb brakes. The Tech3 lever is flawed just by haveing a 10mm diameter master cylinder. And that is paired with a relatively low mechanical leverage from the still super long lever.

If they'd cut that down to 9,5 mm diameter they'd immediately have power like a Cura 4/ Hayes A4 or Trickstuff Diettissima

That's why some guys around here have paired the V4 Caliper with different levers. Frankenstein Braking to the max... :D  Code RS works really well. Only downside is you loose the laser engraving orgy that hurts the eyes anyway :D But you'd keep the most beautiful caliper (so lucky the white engraving is facing the hubs)

GladePlayboy
+1 Andrew Major
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:42 a.m.

Yes, no major difference (see what I did there ;-)    ha ha...  I think they need to go back to the drawing board.. I have a gut feeling they have some new products in development... its time.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Rob Gretchen Luix
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:10 p.m.

The same aesthetics and tactile feel with the performance and trail feel of the Hayes Dominion and Hope would have a killer DOT fluid brake.

danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:32 p.m.

and it's easy to do. they only need to change small things. haave a bit smaller master cylinder to increase force aplied by the calipers and maybe rethink the actual lever geometry. I think I will apply for a part time HO job at Hope :-D

They should do like the company BRAKING from Italy where you can choose between MasterCylinder sizes 9 and 10 for either brute force OR best modulation

Lynx
0
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 29, 2020, 6:19 p.m.

Well, as far as I recall/know, the ones I tested were the V4s and I was coming/going by my past experience with personal Mono Minis I had and ran back in 2005/6 - never did seem to be able to get any real power out of them. So going by that  and my Deore/SLX/XT experience, I was quite impressed with what I felt. Was on someone elses bikes, a lot shorter, so only rode/tooled around on it, up a bit of inclined and down, but really seemed to have a good feel to me, somewhere between SRAM and Shimano in terms of modulation and at least Shimano 2 piston type power.

Reply

Bad-Sean
+1 Andrew Major
Sean Chee  - Sept. 28, 2020, 5:30 a.m.

It would be surprising if deore brakes weren't as good as they seem to be. Kicking goals in the low end is the best way to do business.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 AJ Barlas Sean Chee
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 7:12 a.m.

At this price it’s more like walking the ball past the goaltender and into the net. I do foresee a lot of riders - who can get over having a ‘certain level’ of component - running these on higher level builds and M6120 cannibalizing their ‘higher end’ systems. 

To be fair, I also see it a bit with Code R brakes paired with high end suspension products. Min-max!

Reply

Bad-Sean
0
Sean Chee  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:15 a.m.

What are the guide t like? They seem to be popping up all over the place.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+5 Mammal Sean Chee danimaniac cxfahrer Cooper Quinn
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:08 p.m.

There is no version of Guide or G2 brake I'd choose to run. It's CODE or nothing from SRAM.

Code R is a great brake on a budget.

Reply

mammal
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Mammal  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:18 p.m.

Guide T's are a complete joke of a brake. 4 pistons, and perhaps 50% of the braking power that my SLX 2 piston brakes have (no hyperbole whatsoever here). They came on my Ripmo AF NX build, and I REALLY wanted them to work for me, at least temporarily, while I saved up for something else. No way are they appropriate for anything except low-moderate speeds on fairly flat terrain. I replaced organic pads for full metallic, and tried bleeding them, maybe a 5% increase in performance. 

Fortunately for me, the bike was received JUST before the Covid madness, and in hindsight I wouldn't have traded that for anything. Unfortunately for me (sort of, not really), Covid shortages turned the stock NX/Guide-T spec into the new Deore 12spd drive train and brake combo that wasn't yet released when I purchased the bike and began upgrading the pathetic couple of components that came stock (Guide T's and GX derailleur). I would have been SUPER happy to ride my full Deore spec off into the sunset, but at least I'm in a position to afford upgrades.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Sean Chee
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 1:25 p.m.

Levels are a complete joke. The Guide T is more like a really, really bad dad joke about four piston brakes that can’t stop you.

It’s shocking Ibis didn’t put Code R’s on that bike. Ripmo AF owners should be pissed and Ibis should be embarrassed. Obviously their product manager doesn’t ride the low end spec of their bikes or is making assumptions about the abilities of customers looking for capable rigs at lower entry costs.

Deore M6120/M6100 builds are going to make a lot of product managers look good with limited effort.

There’s still room to boost the min-maxing with Deore M5100, M420 brakes, etc though for a thoughtful bike spec’er on a budget.

Reply

mammal
+1 Andrew Major
Mammal  - Sept. 28, 2020, 3:19 p.m.

"Ripmo AF owners should be pissed and Ibis should be embarrassed." 

I mostly agree, but I don't quite feel as strongly as that. I'm not aware of the relative OEM price difference between the two brake sets, and I know they were super hard pressed to come under the 3K USD price point, with a good suspension spec. Not many companies could offer that at the time, and that was clearly their goal. Perhaps that adds a fairly insignificant amount to the sticker price, but without knowing the behind-the-scenes goings-on, I don't know what the factors in that decision might have been (but I doubt it was assumptions about abilities). Perhaps Sram, after finding out that their production Guide-T came in well below expected performance, was basically giving away that component. Who really knows?

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 6:12 p.m.

Relative OEM cost is a thing for sure, but the thing is that value for dollar is a two headed viper. If you can’t hit your target SRP with a product you’re proud to put on the market then take another look at your target don’t just toss on some throw away parts that the customers going to have to replace next week.

For the record, that’s not saying don’t spec the Guide T. It’s saying don’t spec the Guide T on a bike like the Ripmo AF where it simple doesn’t measure up. If $2999.99 was there end game they could have gotten creative with the drivetrain - Deore 10spd clutch der, SunRace cassette, and Code R would have been a way better package.

It’s moot now I guess... Deore 12spd makes it so easy to spec a bike, but I still find their lack of imagination - given the intended use case for that particular bike kind of pathetic.

Bad-Sean
0
Sean Chee  - Sept. 28, 2020, 8:50 p.m.

That's great to know guys. Thanks. 

I was simply curious about the T due to their prevalence on commodity bikes. Some publications praise their speccing of any mid level sram kit with e bike extras. 

I've only ever used shimano brakes and drivetrain. Not intentionally until recently as I've only bought recent second hand bikes, usually ex store employees. Never a complaint to be had about shimano. I know they're always going to work and have been systematically developed in a typically dogmatic Japanese process that simply cannot be matched by others. Not to mention the patents they can use.

I can't bring myself to consider sram equipped bikes. It's just not worth the risk as if the brakes suck, the drivetrain probably does too and vice versa. Which is a bit of a shame as I would prefer rock shox suspension on my bike too. Although that's not as big a deal as the other stuff.

The cost of replacing brakes and drivetrain far exceeds any cost delta to the next equivalent shimano model.

prairiedirt
0
prairiedirt  - Sept. 28, 2020, 8:53 p.m.

Guide T's confuse me.  I have old 2016 Guide R's on one bike which are a perfectly fine for a trail bike.  Guide T's look like a cosmetically cheaper version of the R levers (same calipers I think), but the T's just suck, even with 180mm rotors.  

I'm swapping them out and putting them on my kid's bike.   They might do ok for 90lbs rider.

mammal
+1 prairiedirt
Mammal  - Sept. 29, 2020, 9:30 a.m.

@prairiedirt: Apparently all the difference is in the levers. I've had people tell me that swapping the levers with a better Guides will bring them back to life, as the calipers are the same as the better Guides. Screw that though, it's not like new levers are easy/cheap to come by.

Jotegir
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Lu Kz  - Sept. 28, 2020, 2:05 p.m.

Code R's are pretty pricy at the Canadian retail though! I don't think they're too out of place on a nice build. I mean they're not elixir r's!

Reply

rigidjunkie
+2 danimaniac Paul Lindsay
Allen Lloyd  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:19 a.m.

I always thought the SRAM vs Shimano thing was interesting.  Having ridden both:

SRAM very beginner friendly and great if you do light / progressive braking.

Shimano great if you are an abrupt braker, but not beginner friendly.  

I race cars and the fastest way is to brake once late and hard.  The problem is this is also the riskiest way to brake.  Add to this the "wandering" bite point and Shimano becomes a very scary option.  I prefer Shimano, but completely understand why others hate them.  I find mine wander ride to ride, but stay consistent through a ride so the first part of the ride I am adapting to where it bites then I am good to go.  Riding SRAM I always want more power earlier in the throw.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:07 p.m.

In my experience whether someone prefers SRAM or Shimano doesn't have anything to do with their riding ability/experience. 

It's easy enough to cheat the pads forward a bit on SRAM brakes to get the pads to hit sooner. A big thing most people don't do is replace their pads often enough with SRAM. I don't go down past 40% pad life as the brakes feel much better at 40%+.

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Brumos73
0
Brumos73  - Sept. 28, 2020, 10:47 a.m.

XT 4-piston brakes can be had for the same price as these ($200) if you know where to look. I know, cause i just put a new set on my bike. So, the question is for $200 would you choose Deore or XT?

Reply

mammal
+2 Andrew Major danimaniac
Mammal  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:20 p.m.

If that's the case, you'll also be able to find Deore brakes for cheaper than $200. Andrew uses MSRP, and of course you can usually find stuff cheaper somewhere.

Reply

HollyBoni
0
HollyBoni  - Sept. 30, 2020, 9:32 a.m.

Where do you have to look, and is that price for M8120 4 pistons?

Reply

Wile_E.
+1 Andrew Major
Wile_E.  - Sept. 28, 2020, 11:51 a.m.

Another great review Andrew.  My bike came with the Shimano 420 4 piston brakes.  They seem to have plenty of power, but I've been wanting to put SLX brakes on because... I don't know... they'd just be better?  I'm a heavy rider and so I need higher end components?

Any idea what is gained moving from the 420 series to Deore?  More power, lighter system, magical forces that will prevent me from going over cliffs? 

And I'm wondering from a min-max perspective, what does one get moving from an RT66 rotor, to the XT level RT86 Icetech rotor?  The XT rotors are well over double, and I'm wondering how often or what kind of riding would lead me to think "I wish I had a higher series brake and/or an icetech rotor?

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:03 p.m.

If you're on the stock M420 pads they're most likely resin. Some companies have awesome resin pads (Magura for example) but the Shimano ones are not that. As long as your rotors aren't stamped "resin only" then the most cost-effective upgrade you can do is new pads. 

If the stock rotors are stamped "resin only" they're a huge part of the problem. Bin those ASAP.

If you're a heavy person, doing big sustained descents, riding somewhere really dry or a combo of the three then the RT86 rotors will manage heat better than the RT66 (which is also the idea behind the finned pads). For most riders the RT66 is the better buy money wise. 

I really like the M420 brakes and the long - non-ServoWave - lever blade / master cylinder assembly. If they came on my bike pads/rotors are the only things I'd potentially be changing.

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Wile_E.
+1 Andrew Major
Wile_E.  - Sept. 30, 2020, 10:18 a.m.

Thanks for the advice.  I really do like the brakes, not sure why I wanted to upgrade other than the non-descript brakes that came stock must be lacking.  Norco put RT64 rotors on the bike, but I upgraded to Freezia rotors anyway and they did make a difference.  Have a new set of wheels on the way (Hunt in keeping with the min-max theme) and need to sell my fancy new centrelock rotors and think I will go Icetech (unless there's a hack to put centrelock rotors on a 6 bolt hub I should know about). 

Didn't think to check the pads that came stock, but I'm sure they are resin, so they will go soon.  Having trouble finding stock on Shimano D02S pads.  Any recommendations for other brand of pads that again max value at min price?

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 30, 2020, 9:37 p.m.

Shocked you're having problems tracking down D02S pads. Every shop usually has them in stock. 

I've had my best experiences with the standard Shimano sintered pads but in a pinch (with any brake system) I've actually had good results with KoolStop sintered pads with various different systems including Shimano, Magura, and Formula. They are LOUD compared to most companies stock pad material (not talking about squealing when wet but just pads-on-rotor) but the friction has been totally acceptable if not pretty good.

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UFO
+1 Andrew Major
UFO  - Sept. 28, 2020, 3:05 p.m.

I think the 420 has the cheaper looking non servo long lever, resin pads, and im guessing the same caliper as the 520. The 520 shares the same short hook style servo wave lever as the higher end brakes, and came with metallic pads (at least last year they did)

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 6:14 p.m.

M420 is cheaper looking, cheaper feeling, just cheaper in general when it comes to the master cylinder, but they feel awesome on the trail. I much prefer the feel of Shimano’s lusty long levers compared to ServoWave.

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irck
+1 Andrew Major
irck  - Oct. 11, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

Can the M420 lever be used with Deore/SLX/XT calipers?

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AndrewMajor
+1 irck
Andrew Major  - Oct. 11, 2020, 9:03 a.m.

Absolutely

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irck
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irck  - Oct. 12, 2020, 3:49 a.m.

Awesome! Thanks for the confirmation :)

truckymctruckerton
+2 Andrew Major JVP
truckymctruckerton  - Sept. 28, 2020, 12:33 p.m.

Really good to hear that you like the hayes brakes especially since I recently decided to order a set to replace my saint 820's. 

The saints are great, don't get me wrong, but between the whole mineral oil freezing thing (I ride all winter in  Northern ontario) and the master cylinders taking a shit more often than not and shimano refusing to warranty them i figured it was time for a change.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 28, 2020, 1:29 p.m.

The Dominion is an awesome brake system. My review is here if you didn’t see it and that links back to the teardown I did with Bikeroom Jeff.

The master cylinder could be prettier but otherwise I think it’s an easy contender for best brake system on the market.

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danimaniac
+1 Andrew Major
danimaniac  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:48 p.m.

that is the best decision! I've upgraded from Guide R's, and they are the BEST. Just burn through the semi-metallic pads on the rear and after that only use the sintered ones. Less noise than expected and great braking! Not a bleed necessery through three sets of brake pads. No fading on long descends (about 800m altitude change) where controlling speed was a must (little one on the macride in the front). 

The Master Cylinder ain't pretty... liek Andrew said, But it's also not insulting the eyes... :D Coming from SRAM it's actually almost the same form-factor and size. Just somehow looks a bit bulkier.

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UFO
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UFO  - Sept. 28, 2020, 3:01 p.m.

I've always found the big gains in Shimano 4 piston brakes isnt a huge increase in power -- we know the 2 pots have a reputation for an on/off feel -- but better control in how to use that power IMO. 

My first experience with Zee's I was a bit disappointed because the interweb had played up their huge power. But once things got steep and more finesse was necessary, this is where they showed their worth to me.

I've been happily riding M520 (non-series Deore equivalent) 4 pot calipers since they came out, mated to some old M985 XTR levers and don't desire for more power or control.

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Lynx
+1 Sean Chee
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 28, 2020, 4:53 p.m.

I've not personally ridden a set of the original Zee/Saint 4 pistons, but I did spec a set for a big guy 6'5", 250lbs and when I installed them I was actually very under whelmed by their power when just doing an initial quick pedal outside to lightly bed/test the. Fast forward nearly a year later when the guy brought the bike back for a service and Holy Hell, I could not believe the power compared to my XT 2 pistons, nearly went OTB when I test rode it and grabbed a handful of front brake expecting the same results after initial setup - guess they need proper bedding in compared to regular XTs with resin pads.

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Bad-Sean
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Sean Chee  - Sept. 28, 2020, 9:09 p.m.

Sounds just like my situ. I'm 6'5" and 250lbs. My bike was used for a season by a sponsored rider, then sold to me cheaply. It's got full saint and xtr on it. The saint brakes are absolute monsters with the metal pads. I replace the pads and do a bleed every 18 months. 

I've never noticed this wandering bite point issue. Maybe my size makes it less obvious.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 29, 2020, 6:53 a.m.

It seems so strange that with Shimano's engineering firepower they can't eliminate the wandering bite point issue. It's nice that these brakes had a low level of the issue during the test period, but it's years later and several generation of brakes since the wandering bite point was identified. You'd think they'd have solved it by now.

It would be great to hear how these brakes are working for you over the long haul if a multi-season review was possible.

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Shortyesquire
+1 Michael
Andrew Collins  - Sept. 29, 2020, 1:52 p.m.

But that's the thing, servo-wave has been with us since the 9 speed era with the m770 and m810 brakes. But wandering bite point only really became an issue when the m7000/m8000 brakes were introduced.

Also for master cylinder wear, I've got lots of m810 and m785 levers that are still going strong over 10 years later.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 29, 2020, 2:06 p.m.

I think you sum it up beautifully: "wandering bite point only really became an issue"

I know lots of people for whom it still isn't an issue, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I've ridden more than a few M785 brakes that do the same thing - which is what I eluded to in this piece. I know lots of folks (lots) who loved Shimano brakes and had zero complaints until they read about wandering bite point on the internet and suddenly the same said brakes were problematic.

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geraldooka
+1 Andrew Major
Michael  - Oct. 2, 2020, 4:43 p.m.

Same, my fav brake in my fleet is the pre 000 series Deore, simple, dirt cheap (when it was around) and worked forever, ya its a light switch but I dig that tap tap go... I still have a set that I've not done one damn thing to except change pads for 6 bloody years, still works perfectly! I can't say the same for any other brake system I've used including latter versions of the Shimano products sadly...

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WalrusRider
+1 Andrew Major
WalrusRider  - Sept. 29, 2020, 9:43 a.m.

Dang, I'm looking at the Ibis Rimpo builds and is it even worth going for the SLX build over Deore? It sounds like Deore is excellent overall and based on the reviews I'd rather go with the Deore build and upgrade to carbon Ibis rims/Hydra hubs.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Sept. 29, 2020, 2:09 p.m.

Given the choice I would run Deore M6100 (with M6120 brakes) and Hydra hubs (whatever rims you like) over SLX and some totally meh wheels. Every day. 

If you want a serious shifting-feel upgrade from there then ask Santa for an XT or XTR shifter and you'll forget you don't have a full top-end drivetrain.

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dirtreynolds
+1 Andrew Major
dirtreynolds  - Oct. 1, 2020, 6:54 a.m.

Thanks for the review, Andrew.

I'm in the process of putting together an all-season hardtail and I picked up a set of these brakes for ~200 CAD from an online retailer. Not to be 'that guy', but I couldn't even get them locally. Still, that's a full set of brakes for about $150 less than I paid for a single Saint. That's an absolutely incredible value.

I'm excited to finally test them out. And their pad-compatibility with the M820 brakes on my trail bike means I only have to keep one type of spare brake pad on hand. Time to buy shares in D02S pads.

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