Best XC Mountain Bike Brakes for Racing Review

When  it comes to landing on the podium of an XC mountain bike race, it isn’t always about how fast you can go.  Selecting the best XC mountain bike brakes to slow you down when it counts, is imperative.

When selecting XC mountain bike brakes for racing, riders often sacrifice some adjustment for weight.  Most XC mountain bike trail braking systems offer a lever adjustment so as the pad wears, you can adjust the lever to your desired position.

It is assumed naturally that before either an XC short track or marathon race you would have your brakes in the proper working condition thus eliminating the need for the extra lever adjustment weight.

If you are on the trail or at a gravity park all day, then the adjustment is golden since most of us are not going to replace pads on the trail when the lever is almost hitting the bar and you want a more pull further away from the handlebar.

XC Mountain Bike Braking Systems are Constructed of:

  1. Aluminum
  2. Titanium
  3. Carbon
  4. Plastic
  5. Steel
  6. Combinations of the Above

The future seems to be heading towards carbon, but currently the most affordable tried and true material is aluminum.  Aluminum is offered in several grades, typicially the 7000 series used in aircraft is the strongest, but also tends to weigh more.  Thus it is not uncommon to see both 2000,6000 and combination of all the above used.  Titanium is generally reserved for the hardware like bolts.  Plastic and steel are used generously on lower end brands / models.

While there are both 2 and 4 piston designs, typically 2 pistons are suitable for cross country mountain biking, while offering an excellent blend of stopping power to overall unit weight ratio, and of course a little less complexity to the system for hopefully better reliability.

XC Mountain Bike Disc Brake Rotors

Rotors are typically made of steel, but carbon rotors can be used with carbon brake pads.  The rotors and the brake pads have to be mated so that the pad wears out faster than the rotor.  I.e. you wouldn’t use a steel brake pad on a carbon rotor.

Steel also takes hits from obstacles on the trail fairly well and can be bent back into place either on the trail or back at the ranch.

There are many rotor designs, some due shed mud better and even cool better,while other are merely ornamental to help brand the manufacturers rotor. 6 bolts or center locking system both work very well.  Remember to use locktite on all the rotor bolts if they aren’t already coated.  Also check them for tightness occasionally.

XC Mountain Bike Disc Brake Pads

Metal pads often have more stopping power than organic / resin pads.  However steel pads tend to make more noise. So each rider has to find the balance between stopping power, noise and longevity of the pads.  XC mountain bike organic disc brake pads wear out much faster than XC mountain bike steel dis brake pads.

Here are our top picks for the best XC mountain bike brakes:

Magura MT8 Next Flip Flop Disc Brake

“Magura really hit the mark in a big way with the Magura MT8 disc brake.  It simply doesn’t get any lighter while still combining crisp, well modulated braking performance in an all carbon package.  It is a staggering 299 grams including the 160 mm rotor.”   xc-mountainbike.com

Magura MT8 Press Release:

“The Magura MT8 is the “Feather” of the Magura performance hydraulic disc brake range. Strutting a full-carbon brake lever, streamlined with Carbonlay, the race-tuned MT8 offers an unrivaled combination of braking power and stability, while weighing in at a mere 299 grams, making it the lightest brake from Magura. This two-finger Carbonlay brake lever is ergonomically designed to reduce strain on the hands, allowing you to easily and accurately apply all the braking power you need on technical terrain and long descents. If something feels off, simply adjust the lever to match your personal reach. The MT8’s 2-piston design generates confidence through its exceptional stopping power and steadiness in ruthless conditions. If you’re the kind of rider that counts grams to count medals, the MT8 earned its degree in Lightweight Performance.

This model of the MT8 features a new flip flop lever design that eliminates left/right specifics. Set-up can’t get any easier.”

Best Pricing on Magura Brakes for XC Mountain Biking

XC-MountainBike.com Magura Brake Deals


Hope EVO X2 Disc Brake

“The HOPE EVO X2 disc brake makes the best use of an aluminum chassis in a two piston design plus combines some titanium hardware.  It delivers remarkable stopping power and great feel in a lightweight package.  The HOPE EVO X2 is by no means hefty and comes in at 198 grams without the rotor.  Bear in mind, this is a serious XC mountain bike disc brake and only supports 140 &160mm rotors” xc-mountainbike.com

HOPE EVO X2 Press Release:

“When you add all of your bike components together, a little weight savings here and there can really make a difference. As Hope’s lightest XC brake system offering, the Race EVO X2 takes the performance of the award winning Hope Mini and sheds a few more precision grams without compromising power and modulation. The rigid CNC’d one piece caliper is as sturdy as they come and paired with a mix of titanium and aluminum hardware, the Evo Race X2 isn’t just light, it’s strong. The core of the Race Evo X2 is its increased piston size design. Oversized pistons in the X2 caliper deliver incredible stopping power that modulates smoothly and responsively. The Race Evo X2’s 2014 T6 machined aluminum lever features a split clamp design for easy installation and removal, eliminating the need to take your whole cockpit apart to swap out your brake lever. Ride fast, stop quicker, and master technical terrain like never before, the Hope Race Evo X2 is your ticket to the next level. ”

Best Pricing on HOPE Brakes for XC Mountain Bike Racing

XC-MountainBike.com HOPE Brake Deals


Shimano XTR BR-M9000 Race Disc Brake

“The Shimano XTR disc brakes have been tested and proven a winner over and over again at the World Cup level.  Factor in an amazing price for all this performance, and it is hard to look in another direction unless you are going all carbon, or the deal is unbelievably screaming.” XC-MountainBike.com

Shimano XTR Brake Press Relesase

“Being able to comfortably descend fast and technical terrain requires complete confidence in your equipment. At high speeds, nothing instills more confidence than knowing your brakes are ready and able to deliver unparalleled control and reliability in any situation. Shimano XTR brakes are arguably the best performing hydraulic disc brakes on the market, offered in two flavors: Race and Trail. The Race model is Shimano’s lightest hydraulic brake ever, a minimalist, lightweight version with a magnesium caliper and master cylinder. The Trail model offers a bit more adjustability with a minor weight penalty.

To provide high-powered braking performance with no compromise, Shimano introduces the new wave of XTR Race M9000 hydraulic disc brakes. The caliper and master cylinder are constructed of magnesium while the lever is made of carbon to provide XTR braking performance in a lightweight, race-ready package.

Shimano was the first in the industry with full ceramic caliper pistons, but that’s not all that set XTR braking performance apart from the rest. The new XTR Race M9000 brakes also feature a newly redesigned carbon lever for improved ergonomics and insulated pistons to shed performance-sapping heat, allowing the XTR M9000 brakes to maintain cool, quiet performance under extreme braking.”

Best Pricing on Shimano Brakes for XC Mountain Bike Racing

XC-MountainBike.com Shimano Brake Deals


Related XC Mountain Bike Articles