Shimano has revamped the Race brake to pack proven XTR performance into a lighter package to create an extremely competitive cross-country brake.
The top tier XTR groupset has long been the choice for XC riders with deep pockets, and with good reason. These slimmed-down versions of its hugely successful brakes prove true to form, with magnesium castings, titanium hardware and a carbon lever blade used instead of aluminium to drop around 20g per brake over the beefier M988 Trail.
The M987s' lever shape and feel is up there with the best on the market, with the subtly dimpled face and hooked shape making them easy to reach and control
You do get fewer knobs to twiddle, with only Allen key reach adjustment over the tool-free reach and Free Stroke adjust found on the latter. You also lose out on the finned IceTech pads as standard, with sintered, aluminium-backed items fitted to keep weight right down.
The 192g mass for a front brake without mount or rotor may well be 10g more than Magura’s all-carbon lever MT8 offering but the Shimano units offer substantially better power and feel in addition to being substantially cheaper.
Like their heavier duty siblings, the M987s deliver a reassuringly strong effect from even a small amount of lever effort thanks to ServoWave – a leverage-altering cam. Once you're used to the change in piston speed during the stroke it's a well-controlled brake for tip-toeing down sketchy slopes. We did manage to make the levers get a bit soft on extremely steep and fast trails, they recovered very quickly.
The heat-eating steel/alloy/steel sandwich RT98 Ice Tech rotor is the default option (brake-only is £170 / AU$324.45), but there's an RT99 Freeza option with further cooling fins too. For more hardcore use, the 50g heavier XTR Trail gets finned pads, but has a lower-tech aluminium lever and body.
Magnesium castings, titanium hardware and a carbon lever blade make the M987 brakes reliable and relatively lightweight
The double-barrelled piston and reservoir layout are easy to bleed, and Shimano brake reliability was unanimously rated the best by our shop mechanics. Spare sintered pads are included with the brake.