Which brakes should I buy?

Which brakes should I buy?

We often get asked "Which brakes should I buy?". The answer isn't easy so we have put together a basic Pros and Cons list which will hopefully help you decide. Let's face it, no one makes a bad brake these days so we suggest you choose the brake that best suits your performance preferences and budget.

Brake Systems

SRAM Brakes

SRAM brakes come in 3 different models:

  • Guide: The all-rounder, this brake is suitable for all kinds of riding, hitting the sweet spot in trail and Enduro disciplines
  • Level: Ideal for XC and trail performance, the Level brake is a lightweight, powerful option for most trails but will perhaps lack the required stopping power for big, heavy descents.
  • Code: These are designed for DH riding. Using the same technology as the SRAM Guide brakes, but with a larger fluid reservoir and beefier pistons, the Code brake can deliver more stopping power and heat management.


  • Good modulation and power
  • Modern versions have proven to be reliable
  • Small parts such as rebuilt kits are available


  • Not the most powerful brakes
  • Contain Dot fluid which is corrosive
  • Bleed process is a little more complicated

Shimano brakes

Shimano Brakes

Shimano offer a range of brakes from entry-level right through to high-end systems. Their brakes come in various different models:

  • XTR: Shimano's top-of-the-line brake system, this brake is extremely lightweight and provides bucketloads of braking power.
  • XT: With plenty of power to take on nearly any trail, and at a very reasonable weight trade-off.
  • SLX: If you're needing stronger, more dependable performance on descents than what the Deore offers, the SLX is the next step up and is the ideal balance between price and performance.
  • Deore: These brakes can handle descent trails quite well, but lack the bells & whistles of the more expensive models. Great price point.
  • Altus: Low-cost disc brake, ideal for touring or basic trail use.


  • Great initial bite with loads of power
  • Well priced
  • Easy to get replacement lever assembly/calipers
  • Mineral oil, ceramic pistons and finned pads handle heat well
  • Simple bleed procedure


  • Some people won't like the initial bite
  • Small parts not available
  • Not as adjustable as some other models

TRP brakes

TRP Brakes

  • TRP Quadiem G-Spec: Designed and used by Aaron Gwin himself to take on the toughest World Cup DH tracks.
  • TRP Quadiem: All the performance of the G-Spec at a more affordable price.
  • TRP Slate T4: The all rounder. Great performance at an even greater price.


  • Great modulation
  • Take Shimano pads so are readily available
  • Have proven to be reliable
  • If they are good enough for Aaron Gwin they can't be bad ;-)


  • Less outright power than some of the other brakes
  • Maybe harder to get parts for if needed
  • Not as much adjustment as some other brakes

Hope Brakes:

  • Hope Tech 3 V4: Best suited to DH and used by many DH world cup riders.
  • Hope Tech 3 E4: Best suited to trail/enduro bikes looking for power at a lighter weight.
  • Hope Tech 3 X2: Best suited to XC/trail looking for lightweight performance.


  • CNC machined bling and available in numerous colours
  • Great power and modulation
  • Small parts are available
  • Tons of adjustability so can be set up for pretty much anyone
  • Super reliable


  • Expensive
  • Use dot fluid which is corrosive if spilt during a bleed

Brake Pads

Brake padsBrake pads are a vital part of your braking system that can often be overlooked. To get the most out of your bike's brakes it is important to choose the right compound brake pads. Rider weight, trail conditions and the style of riding you like to do can all play a part in choosing the right pads. Below we have listed the pros and cons of the two main types of brake pads we stock but remember, this is only a guide as we understand that as mountain bikers we don't always ride in the exact same conditions every ride.

Organic/Resin Pads

Organic/Resin pads are made from an organic material bonded together with a resin.


  • Quick to bed in
  • Great initial bite feel and modulation
  • Less noise
  • Don't heat up as much as metallic pads


  • Wear faster especially in wet/muddy conditions
  • Less power at the higher end (High-speed DH & long braking)
  • Can glaze over
  • Best suited to lighter riders, XC and people who like a brake with plenty of initial bite.

Sintered/Metallic Pads

The sintered/metallic pads are made of hardened metallic ingredients that are heated and pressed together.


  • Will last longer than organic pads
  • Can withstand high temperatures
  • Great power at high-end braking (high-speed DH & long braking)


  • Hold a lot of heat which can overheat mineral oil brakes
  • Take a long time to bed in
  • Lack the initial bite of resin/organic pads
  • Can be noisy

Sintered/metallic pads are great for heavier riders and DH/Enduro racers. They will provide long-lasting braking power and stand up to any conditions.

Disc Rotors - Size and Power

The size of your rotors will directly affect the braking power. It has been estimated that a 20mm larger rotor can give you up to 15% more stopping power. Larger rotors will take longer to heat up and dissipate heat faster.

Disc rotors

Generally, XC bikes run a 140-160mm rotor and Trail/Enduro bikes run 160-180mm rotors although some EWS riders will run 200mm rotors up front, DH bikes will run 200mm rotors for maximum power. Selecting the right sized rotor can make all the difference!

Larger Rotor


  • More power
  • Better heat dissipation


  • Less clearance on rocks, sticks etc.
  • More prone to warping/bending

Smaller Rotor


  • Lightweight
  • Better clearance
  • Less prone to bending/warping


  • Easier to overheat on long descents
  • Less power than larger rotors

If you have any questions, get in touch with us via the comments below or via live chat!

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