|Everyone likes to have top of the line components on their mountain bike assuming they can afford to buy these parts with the way things cost these days. If you can only afford to upgrade one component you may want to consider upgrading your brakes since they are what will slow you down or stop you when things start getting out of hand because if your brakes don't work then it does'nt really matter how good your other components are! Plus nobody likes to hear squealing brakes when they ride letting everyone else know how much they are riding their brakes.||
There are not too many big manufacturers of mountain bike brakes out there but each one has several different models with varying levels of performance and quality. Im sure you have seen Avid brakes since they seem to be dominating the market, at least on new bikes with stock brakes. Other common brands are Hayes and Shimano which both offer quality braking systems.
In this review we will be discussing the Shimano Saint m820 braking system which offers great performance and have been improved over the previous model. If you want to get yourself a set of these brakes it will cost you around $250 for per wheel not including the rotors which you technically don't have to upgrade but may want to consider to get the best performance out of the brakes.
The Saints feature Shimano's ICE Technologies which is designed to keep the brakes cooler to avoid brake fade and glazing. This is done with finned brake pads and rotors and self insulating ceramic pistons. The larger surface area of the rotor and its material also keeps things cooler by 50 degrees according to Shimano. They also claim 20% more stopping power and 20% less brake fade with these brakes that the old version. The Saint brake levers also feature a tool free adjustment and adjustable free stroke to get it in the right position for your fingers. The levers are also shorter and more ergonomic.
Here are the main features taken from the Shimano website:
- New Shorter SERVO WAVE lever pivot
- Improved ergonomic brake lever
- Added dimples on brake lever for ideal ergonomic feel
- One-way bleed for easy and clean servicing
- Tool free lever adjustment
- Free Stroke adjustment for even more fine tuning
- Super stiff 3-layer brake hose for a more consistent feel
We tried out a set on the rear with an ICE Tech rotor that replaced a set of Avid Elixir 5 RSL brakes and noticed quite a difference in performance and feel... as well as reduced brake noise! The Elixir 5 RSL are decent brakes and have some good stopping power but don't offer the same amount of performance under heavy braking that the Saints offer. We put the brakes under several hours of bike park action and didnât experience any fading or noise the whole time. Braking comes on pretty smooth rather than all or nothing like some other brakes do. The stock resin pads showed some wear afterwards though so if you go with the resin you may be replacing them more often than you may like if you put them through some heavy usage. The metallic pads are better for downhill usage or wet conditions and supposedly the Saints work just as good in the wet as they do in the dry.
Overall we were impressed by the new Shimano Saint brakes and would recommend them if you are looking to do a brake upgrade for better performance. If you are just a casual rider then they may be overkill and not worth the $600+ it will cost you to replace the front and rear including rotors. But if you are into some fast paced riding such on downhill trails or at bike parks then you will definitely enjoy what these brakes can offer.