Best Shimano Disc Brakes For Mountain Bikes

Shimano disc brakes are seen as essential by many mountain bikers. They are believed to be synonymous with high-quality, reliability and durability. But with so many manufacturers out there, why choose Shimano? And do you really need disc brakes on your MTB?

Find out the answers in this guide or, if you don’t feel like reading, click on the links in the table below to check out the best Shimano disc brakes on the market.

Nowadays, disc brakes have become a standard for the mountain bikes. They have many advantages. For instance, they perform well in all atmospheric conditions and are rarely affected by environmental elements. And they provide a high braking force without adding useless weight to the bike.

But do disc brakes bring real benefits? Read on to find out why you should consider them and which are the best options.

Why Does Your Mountain Bike Need Disc Brakes?

Traditional brakes are no longer considered an option by most bicycle manufacturers, at least as far as mountain bikes are concerned. Although cheaper and easier to maintain, traditional brakes fail in providing sufficient braking power when they are wet, too cold, too hot, or dirty.

On the contrary, disc brakes are rarely affected by these elements. They might lose some of their braking force but will still effectively stop your bike, even when riding downhill on a muddy slope.

In other words, disc brakes are reliable and they might just save your life when riding on dangerous trails.

Essentially, there are two types of disc brakes to choose from, mechanical and hydraulic. The first type combines the typical structure of the disc brake with the working philosophy of traditional brakes. They are easy to install and typically easy to use. The pads are operated by a metal wire which triggers the levers, bringing them closer to the rotor.

The hydraulic brakes borrow the working philosophy of the motorcycle brakes. They consist of a tube filled with hydraulic oil and a lever system that, when activated, pushes two hydraulic pistons hooked to the brake pads, bringing them closer to the rotor and allowing braking.

Of the two types, the most performing are the hydraulic ones. These brakes stop the spinning wheel even at low pressures, meaning that you’ll only have to “pinch” the brake lever to stop. On the contrary, mechanical brakes require you to pull the lever completely to stop.

On the downside, hydraulic brakes require more maintenance. If air enters the pistons they might lose their effectiveness and oil might also contaminate the brake pads easily.

Why Choose Shimano Disc Brakes?

There are dozens of manufacturers out there, so why choose Shimano? For us, the reason resumes to one word. Reliability.

Shimano has been manufacturing bicycle components since 1921 and is renowned for the reliability of its products. The brand has only two competitors in the world, the Italian brand Campagnolo, and the US-based SRAM. Nevertheless, the company outstands its competition thanks to the technological innovation and competitive prices.

In terms of braking components, Shimano is renowned for its dual-pivot brakes and also for introducing the Dual Control system for the mountain bikes that integrates shifting with hydraulic disc brakes.

How To Choose Shimano Disc Brakes?

The first thing to consider is the type of brakes you want. Like we mentioned above, it’s possible to choose between mechanical and hydraulic.

Mechanical might be great if you want to reduce maintenance work. In fact, they are long-lasting, need little maintenance work and your brake pads will last for a long time. Moreover, mechanical brakes come at affordable prices.

In our opinion, they are great for hobbyist cyclists who ride for leisure purposes every now and then.

However, if you have professional aspirations or practice a freestyle discipline, consider investing in hydraulic brakes. They might cost more and need more maintenance, but they offer a superior braking power and have a quicker response.

Another thing to consider is whether you need the whole Shimano disc brakes system or only part of it. The manufacturer sells both complete sets and separate components, allowing users to choose based on their needs.

If you want to use some components manufactured by different brands, check the compatibility of the products. Shimano’s components are usually compatible with those of other manufacturers, allowing riders to fully customize their bikes.

The disc brake’s material is another thing to consider. These components are usually made of steel, carbon fiber or titanium. The first is the cheapest but also the heaviest. Nonetheless, steel is a strong and durable material, ideal for those who don’t care much about their athletic performance.

Titanium is strong and lightweight. Ideal for both occasional and professional cyclists is less performing than carbon fiber because it needs a special treatment to brake effectively.

Lastly, carbon fiber is strong, lightweight and highly performing even at high temperatures. Yet, it is expensive and hardly an option unless you want to make this sport a profession.

Best Shimano Disc Brakes For Mountain Bikes

1. Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake

Stylish and reliable, Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake is lightweight, refined and boasts a sleek look. This disc brake is made of aluminum and delivers hydraulic reliability combined with easy-to-use convenience. The system is compact and takes up a little space on the handlebar. Moreover, the brake is available for both front and rear wheel.

The XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake delivers excellent power modulation and provides an easy adjustment along with a free stroke. The improved pivot location increases the usability of the lever, designed to mimic the natural movement of the fingers for enhanced power.

Shimano XT BL M8000 Disc

Moreover, the Servo Wave technology allows you to squeeze the slightly to achieve an instant powerful brake. This allows you to position the brake pads further from the rotor and increase their lifespan by reducing friction.

These Shimano disc brakes are backed up by two years of manufacturer warranty and the separate components of the system are compatible with those manufactured by other brands.

Things We Liked
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    Adjustability: these disc brakes are easy to adjust with minimal effort, and you’ll be able to personalize your ride to your needs.
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    Material: aluminum is a lightweight yet durable material. Lighter than steel and strong enough to last for a long time.
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    Reliablity: these hydraulic brakes are designed to provide an incredible braking force at the slightest touch of the lever.
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    Warranty: the manufacturer offers two years of limited warranty, which is more than enough to check their performance.
Things We Didn't Like
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    On prolonged descents, these brakes might lose a bit of their power.

2. Shimano M375 Bicycle Mechanical Disc Brake Caliper

Shimano M375 Bicycle Mechan

Shimano M375 Bicycle Mechanical Disc Brake Caliper is ideal for those who are fond of mechanical simplicity and don’t want to replace the whole braking system of their bike. The caliper comes at an affordable price, is compatible with other brands and easy to install on your bike.

This Shimano disc brakes caliper is engineered to provide an increased pad clearance. This prolongs the lifespan of your brake pads, reducing required maintenance work even further.

Although mechanical, Shimano’s quality is quickly visible in this component. When adjusted according to the manufacturer’s instructions, this caliper is able to provide sufficient braking force to stop the rotor in a breeze, even on demanding descents.

And if you need a full Shimano braking system, the manufacturer sells the brake lever and the rotor separately. The component is suitable for both front and rear wheel and the assembly requires little time and minimal mechanical knowledge.

Things We Liked
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    Simplicity: this mechanical disc brake caliper is designed to perform its tasks quickly and easily. It needs little maintenance.
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    Easy to assemble: putting the caliper on the bike is a breeze. You’ll only need a 5mm Allen key and a little bit of patience.
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    Pad clearance: designed to increase the brake pad’s life, this caliper boasts an increased pad clearance, reducing friction.
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    Whole system: Shimano sells both the rotor and the brake lever separately, allowing users to create a whole braking system.
Things We Didn't Like
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    This is a great caliper for leisure cyclists but is not suitable for those practicing freestyle disciplines.

3. Shimano Tourney Mountain Bicycle Mechanical Disc Brake BR-TX805

Shimano Tourney Mountain Bicycle Mechanical Disc Brake BR-TX805 is another affordable article to consider if you’re mountain biking occasionally and don’t want to invest in a high-end component.

This caliper and brake pads combo boasts reliability, it is easy to install and equally easy to use. The caliper works effectively with all linear-pull mountain bike levers, although the manufacturer advises to always pair it with Shimano components for increased reliability.

Shimano Tourney Mountain

The frame and fork mount adaptors and the rotor are not included in the purchase package. Nevertheless, it is easy to find these parts on the market.

It is recommended to use the caliper with B01S resin pads, although other types of brake pads might be compatible.

Things We Liked
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    Cable actuated: this is a simple caliper that only requires mechanical force to brake the rotor. It’s actuated by a cable and easy to use.
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    Easy to install: getting the caliper on the wheel is a breeze. You’ll need minimal skills and only an Allen key.
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    Pad clearance: this caliper boasts an increased pad clearance that reduces friction and increases the pad’s life.
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    Compatibility: the caliper is compatible with Shimano and other types of components manufactured by different brands.
Things We Didn't Like
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    The caliper doesn’t have the best performance of prolonged descents.

4. Shimano ZEE BL-M640 Disc Brake

Shimano ZEE BL M640

Shimano ZEE BL-M640 Disc Brake is a high-end hydraulic Shimano disc brakes system designed for professional cyclists and those who look for unmatched reliability. This disc brake set includes the caliper and the lever.

Compatible with multiple brands, Shimano guarantees optimum performance and maximum safety and longevity of this system. Zee includes short-style levers ideal for freestyle disciplines and a powerful 4-piston brake caliper.

The outfitted brakes have proven performances in all weather conditions. The system is safe to use in the most extreme downhill conditions while the Ice Technologies will keep your brakes running cool.

Although expensive, this system is reliable and suitable to install both on the front and on the rear wheel.

Things We Liked
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    Ice Technology: designed to increase grip and provide unmatched braking force, this technology keeps the brake pads cool in all conditions.
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    Set: this brake set includes the disc brake caliper and the lever. It is convenient, easy to use, and simple to install.
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    4-piston brake: the brake is activated by a simple touch and the 4 pistons will stop the rotor instantly even on extreme downhill.
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    Front or rear: the caliper is compatible with both wheels and it is really easy to install.
Things We Didn't Like
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    This Shimano disc brakes system is quite expensive.

5. Shimano M395 Mountain Bicycle Disc Brake Assembled Set

Shimano M395 Mountain Bicycle Disc Brake Assembled Set - BR-M395/BR-M396 is a great alternative for those searching a ready-to-use, reliable, hydraulic brake. The caliper comes assembled with the brake pads and is ready to install.

The set is compatible with a broad range of Shimano disc brake components and also with other parts manufactured by different brands.

Shimano M395 Mountain

The hydraulic system provides impressive braking force and is able to stop the rotor even on the extreme downhill. Nevertheless, the set is ideal for all riders, even for those cycling only occasionally.

Another thing we like is the affordability of this set. Its quality is excellent and it comes at a price affordable to most users.

Things We Liked
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    Assembled set: the Shimano M395 is ready to install and you’ll not have to worry about finding the right brake pads.
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    Hydraulic: reliable and durable, M395 is a hydraulic brake compatible with components manufactured by different brands.
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    Front and rear: you’ll be able to use this brake set on both wheels. It is perfectly compatible with left and right hand levers.
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    Price: the disc brake set is affordable and the price/quality ratio is excellent.
Things We Didn't Like
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    The front brake lever by Shimano is designed to mount on the right side.

Conclusion & Final Pick

In our opinion, the XT BL-M8000 is the best Shimano disc brakes on the market. This system boasts a stylish and reliable look, sleek levers and aluminum durability. The brakes are easy to mount and use. They are virtually indestructible and compatible with brake pads manufactured by other brands.

The XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake delivers excellent power modulation and provides an easy adjustment along with a free stroke. The improved pivot location increases the usability of the lever, designed to mimic the natural movement of the fingers for enhanced power.

These Shimano disc brakes are also backed up by two years of manufacturer warranty.

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