Shimano’s XT groupset has been a benchmark for high performance across the board but its latest brake refresh is marred by uncharacteristic glitches.
The lever end is classic Shimano with a deeply hooked, broad and dimpled lever that you can just about squeeze two fingers on. But once you’ve got used to its feel the variable leverage ‘ServoWave’ cam means there’s plenty of power for most situations just with one finger. The same mechanism also gives extra pad retraction so calliper set up accuracy is less vital and/or there’s less scuff in wet and dirty conditions.
The sintered pads last well in grimy conditions and the heat-radiating fins on the top of the pads combine with Ice-Tech steel and alloy sandwich rotors to control heat on epic mountain descents.
Bite point adjustment isn’t obvious enough to be much use, but the reach adjust dial on the knuckle copes with all hand sizes. The safety catch-equipped single bolt ‘I-Spec’ clamp can be combined with Shimano shifters and it syncs okay with SRAM separates.
Bleeding is easy using Shimano’s funnel kit, you get spare fixtures for hose shortening and unlike DOT fluid brakes the mineral oil won’t potentially cause paint or pet death if you spill it. However thoroughly we’ve bled them we’ve had several sets with worryingly variable bite points (particularly on the first lever pull) though, which dramatically undermines control and confidence.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.