I decided to try out a set of XT brakes on the strength of the XTRs I’d used on a few test bikes, and have been a fan of Shimano disc brakes for years. I’ve always been impressed by their performance, the incremental innovation (all praise top-loading disc pads), the attention to detail, and the use of mineral oil rather than brake fluid. I love the fact that the technology first available in the high-end models is quickly filtered down through the range to more affordable options. On face value the current crop from Shimano seemed to be no different in this respect. I was keen to see whether the XTs would prove to be as impressive as XTRs have.
I haven’t been disappointed. The feel, power, and reliability of the XTs has been outstanding. Shimano has worked hard to minimise the performance degradation associated with the build-up of heat. ‘Ice technology’ may sound like something from a Marvel comic, but is simply a collection of features designed to dissipate heat as efficiently as possible. Ceramic pistons, disc pads with incorporated cooling fins, and a laminated disc with a core of conductive aluminium all work in unison to whip any heat away from the hydraulic system and keep the brakes operating at optimal temperature. I’m running a small 160mm rotor on the back, but have yet to experience any issues with brake fade, even while hammering out gondola-assisted runs in Queenstown.

The other new feature worth noting is the Servo-Wave lever technology. This is effectively a cam-type setup in the lever which results in increased initial pad/disc clearance, and also provides a more progressive application of power as you haul on the lever. The action feels a little odd at first touch, as the movement of the cam is perceivable, but out on the trail it’s not noticeable at all.
I’ve been really impressed with the performance of these brakes. Probably the only thing that has been disappointing is the quality of material and finish. The XTRs are beautifully detailed and in past years this same attention could be found on the XT model. Not so this year. The use of some painted plastic parts and slightly shoddy decals let down what is otherwise a great product. LEIF ROY

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