XTR TRAIL BRAKES
Without wishing to sound harsh I think it’s fair to say that for a while it didn’t really seem like Shimano were pushing technology that hard when it came to bringing out new versions of XTR. Yes it was always a bit lighter and stiffer and there were a few tweaks here and there, but as far as I was concerned it was nothing out of the ordinary compared to previous versions, and other products on the market. That never sat well with me really because I have always imagined that XTR should be the pinnacle of what can be done, a kind of money no object thing. Maybe I was being unrealistic but I expected more from Shimano’s flagship groupset…something that properly pushed things on…
From Dirt Issue 120 – February 2012
Words and photos by Ed Haythornthwaite.
I obviously wasn’t being unrealistic though because that’s exactly what we now have. As you’ll read on the next page I reckon their latest rear mech is one of the best things since sliced bread, a genuine move forward, but it’s not the only truly great product in the latest incarnation of XTR. That title also goes to their ‘Trail’ brakes. We have of course been treated to decent disc brakes for years now, with some being better than others, but I think this must be the first time that I have said ‘wow’ about a set of brakes since I fitted my first set of Hope C2’s over 15 years ago.
First impressions of them were impressive to say the least. As much power as I could ever need through the use of just one finger, coupled with sublime feel and control, and adjusters that let me set up the beautifully diminutive lever just the way I want. With those qualities alone I was already ranking them as my new favourite brake, but it’s the ‘Ice–Tec’ pads and rotors that really mark these as a step forward in disc brake design. Heat has always been the enemy of the disc brake and apart from the introduction of ‘open’ systems not a huge amount has been done to combat it. Shimano have made a big effort to remove as much heat as possible, as quickly as possible, through the use of cooling fins on the pads and a rotor that has an aluminium core. It definitely works. I carried out back to back testing with an Ice–Tec rotor and a standard one and at the bottom of the long descent the former was almost stone cold whilst the later made the water from my Camelbak boil.
Depending on where and how you ride you might be thinking that you rarely have heat problems, and I would say the same, but that’s not to say I never do and for me there’s little worse than losing your brakes mid descent. Even if this technology only helps me out once in a while that’s all the justification I need for its existence. The other good bit of news about Ice–Tec is that it has already trickled down the Shimano ladder and the rotors (which make the biggest difference and are available in a 6–bolt design) can be used with any make of brake. Still, if you take that final option you will be missing out on what I currently reckon are the best feeling and most reliable brakes out there. I love them.Brakes: £199.99 Rotors: £44.99 – £54.99