Just as you can get XTR Cranksets in two versions, Race 2x10 and Trail 3x10, the brakes are available to match. And with the wholesale design change from the previous 970 brakes, the performance is more akin to the Shimano brakes we relied on for years, and they weren't recent models either. These XTR Trail Brakes M988 are visually similar to the 985 XTR Race Brakes, though a close inspection will reveal that there are indeed a few differences that make the 988 Trail Brakes more suitable for extreme use. The lever blade itself is one mm wider, at 14mm, to give you a bit more surface area, and it's dimpled for extra gription. Your fingers will appreciate the beefier blades after lengthy, white-knuckle descents. This version also allows you to adjust the free stroke of the lever blade where the XTR Race levers do not. This function lets you determine how far you like the blade to travel before your pads make contact with the rotor, and couple that with a reach adjustment and you can dial them to perfection. In comparison with the previous 970 XTR's radial master cylinder design, this 988 XTR master cylinder is far different. For starters, the integrated barrel reservoir sits along and atop the master cylinder which is positioned at a tangent to the bar rather than straight out from it. Sizewise, these levers are much lower profile, but more importantly, the movement of the lever pivot towards the bar creates a more ergonomic design. In essence, the arc of the lever optimizes your natural finger movement and position of strength with the point in the lever travel where your power is transferred through the system to the caliper. These also feature Shimano's Servo Wave technology where the Race Levers do not. Servo Wave allows the pads to sit further from the rotors at rest (a great feature for trail/all mountain bikes that might see more rotor abuse than a race machine). This is possible as the piston travel changes relative to lever travel as you squeeze on the brakes to close the gap to the rotor quickly, then slowing to allow predictable modulation. The calipers are the same for both the XTR Race and Trail Brakes. They both use a 22mm piston for inspiring stopping power, and Shimano has brought back a banjo fitting for the hose attachment. We're glad because it allows more flexibility with hose routing to keep it safe and looking nice. It should also be noted that these M980 Calipers are lighter than 970calipers, and the polished finish looks great to boot. These 988 XTR Trail Brakes provide 25% more power than 970 levers with no weight increase. They employ Shimano's Radiator Pads. These are specific to the Trail brakes and have integrated fins that rise up out of the caliper to dissipate heat from the pads and caliper body, reducing the temperature by 50? C.The Shimano XTR Trail Brakes 988 are available separately as right or left levers and calipers and have hinged, split clamps for easy mounting. They come as pre-bled lever/caliper/
Strengths: They worked amazingly well on the first ride! I suspect that any racers actually using this brake replace the pads and rotors every race. Read Below...
Weaknesses: Leaking lines. I replaced and solved the issue. Leaking pistons now? I have heard the same story with these over and over. I have heard of XT having the same issues. This is poor quality control. These brakes do not work.
Do not purchase these, and I would be weary of XT too.
Strengths: This is THE all mountain brake I have been looking for! AMAZING power with great modulation. True 1 finger braking. Smooth and quiet with resin on the rear. If your mounting preference allows, the i-spec mounting allows really great decluttering on the bars. Easy bleeding, with adaptor. Lever ergonomics are spectacular. You will only use it once or twice, but mounting / removing is a pleasure with the flip locking bar mechanism. It’s mostly gee whiz. If you are light, you could run these on your DH ride.
Weaknesses: Long hose requires shortening immediately if you don’t want your bike to look like a jungle gym, and if you don’t do that perfectly, you will have to bleed the line. I-spec is great for decluttering the handlebars, but I have the brakes mounted inboard enough for ONLY 1 finger braking and this places my shifter pods out of the preferred zone. Metallic pads howl on the rear in dust (like just about every other brake I’ve had), so I put on resin without fins and solved that problem. Finned metallic pads are $40 at my LBS, but the spare off the rear that I replaced with resin should last me another year easily. I suppose the price could be considered high, but my perspective is, frustration with components I don’t like is REALLY mentally expensive. I really don’t care about price when the performance I’m looking for is delivered. I’m 175 nekkid, so if you are super light, it may be too powerful for you.
These are hands down the best brakes for the job IMHO. Second in power only to my Saints. I mounted these on my SC NomadC with a FOX 180mm on the front so a 203 disc is the only option but with the power, would not be required. 160 rotor rear. This has plenty of stopping power and I’ve never had any problem with overheating. But I wanted the extra power advertised in the trail brake and haven’t been disappointed. My LBS is pretty good about recommending something even if it’s not directly in their financial interest, and they actually liked the XT for bang for buck better. (And there is actually a review here that says the XT has more power than a Saint, that would be amazing, my Saint’s would stop a moto.) I sympathize with the reviewers that have had problems with the banjo fitting, if that happened to me I would throw my bike in the bushes and walk home. My LBS said the only problems they have encountered is glazing of a non-finned pad. They just sand em and throw them back on. I bought 3 pair and have been crushing them for 6 months. I will never buy anything else ever again. Yes they are expensive, yes they are worth it. I have the regular non floating rotors
Other brakes I have ridden extensively listed by increasing power
Hayes HFX 9
Hayes stroker trail
Hayes stroker ace
Avid juicy carbon
Shimano XTR trail 50% more power than Juicy
Shimano Saint 50% more power than XTR
Brakes rated by increasing feel (smoothness)
Avid juicy carbon (worst feeling brake family every produced)
Shimano LX, Hayes HFX 9,Hayes stroker trail, Hayes stroker ace
Shimano XTR trail, Shimano Saint
Bike Setup: Carbon nomad tublees, 180mm coil, air rear, 2.4 tires, dropper post
Date Reviewed: May 6, 2012
Strengths: Light, good feel, nice ergo lever, work good initially.......BUT
Weaknesses: what is the deal with the leaky lines? It really doesn't matter how great they feel when they work if they fail often.
The banjo clamp end (caliper end not the end you cut) seems to be failing and dumping tiny spritzes of oil on your pads and rotor...that's right spraying oil on the pads and rotor. At first you notice they begin to howl and the you see greasy dirt on the caliper.....
Shimano will replace the line (not in a huge hurry) and leave you to shell out money for the new, difficult to find and expensive pads.
Add to the lameness my shifters are attached to the brake levers...slapping some Formulas on ain't a cheap option and I get to factor in some XTR shifters.
IF the new lines fix thing I'll be ok with all this however IF the new lines continue to fail this rider whom has always used Shimano may have to rethink my choice
Strengths: Good power
Doesn't stress the finger
Weaknesses: EXPENSIVE replacement pads
the cable leaks oil and the shop told me the new ones have this problem often.
Satisfied with the brakes, but not amazed (at its price, i expected some surprise)
should have bought a XT brake :/
a All Mountain Rider
from thousand oaks CA
Date Reviewed: March 3, 2012
Strengths: Very powerful, great modulation with resin pads even with 160 rotors
Weaknesses: Leaking brake hoses
These are the best brakes on the market today, but with one major problem: Shimano has a bunch of faulty brake hoses. I've had three hoses leak already in just 3 months and am currently waiting for two new hoses to come from Shimano. They leak at where the hose is crimped to the banjo down by the caliper. I too am a motorcycle roadracer and expect the best from Shimano. I first noticed the leaking hose one day when the front brake went mushy and NO grip and found the oil seeping down onto the pads, not good! I fully expect Shimano to recall/ replace all existing brakes out there with a re-engineered hose that doesn't leak. Their reputation is on the line here. Other than that these brakes are clearly the best with NO fade or mush, just solid feeling. I actually changed to the resin pads because the metal pads had too much grip, especially the initial bite. I'm giving them 5 chili's because I trust Shimano will fix the hose problem.
Despite what everyone has written above, I can't say I had the same experience. The rear worked fine. The front, has been a major disappointment. It feels "mushy" with no bite. I have tried to change things with the free stroke (didn't work), changed the rotor to a 203 to get more bite (no change), and took them back to the dealer to have it bled (LBS) said it didn't need it. Changed pads (there are two types, resin and metal) with no change. As it stands now, I have to get a major handful of lever to get them to slow down on the front. The rear is "touchy" and will lock up, just like I like them! (I come from a motorcycle road racing background). But the action, bite and braking ability from front and back are hugely different, despite being the same brake setup! The Hayes setup on my other bike, works just like it supposed to! Comparing the XTR Trail to the Hayes and the Avid Elixir, I would have to say I am very disappointed (at least in the front brake). At least they don't squeek or make any noise! If anyone has any input, I am all ears! But overall, I am not impressed.
Similar Products Used: Avid Juicy 5. Shimano XT. Avid XX world cup
Bike Setup: Trek Top Fuel
a Weekend Warrior
from Santa Barbara, CA
Date Reviewed: October 22, 2011
Strengths: Bar none the best brakes I've ever ridden. Innovative technology that works. Great one-finger power, awesome modulation, consistent and fade-free on even the longest descents. I'm totally blown away by these things.
Just an amazing job by Shimano on this one. I can't find a thing wrong with these brakes. Powerful, adjustable, consistent, NO FADE.
5 chilis on value because they're expensive but they're worth it. 5 chilis overall.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: October 14, 2011
Strengths: Power and modulation...
-power means one of the most powerfull brake on the market, even more powerfull than my formula ORO puro.
-modulation is unbelievable. to do a test put your bike on a workstand and play with the brake you will be impressed by the level of modulation.
-One finger brake.
-no maintenance required (no sticky piston, no bleed)
-constant brake power and modulation even in long downhills in the Alps.
Weaknesses: none absolutly none!
waouuu this is the best amazing disk brake on the market.
If you are a x country racer you could switch the pads with radiators to the XTR Race pads. Then you just getting a total of 20g of weight penality for the brake set with the big benefit of XTR trail modulation lever.
I have a plan to buy a new Scott Spark in 2012 and the 1st thing that I will change of RC model would the brakes to instal XTR trails
Similar Products Used: others X country brakes are far behind. I owned magura marta, Hope mini, Formula Oro puro...all are old generation brakes.
from San Luis Obispo
Date Reviewed: September 26, 2011
Strengths: *note-the lever wasn't $245, but the caliper and the lever came together with my purchase.
The ergonomics of this lever is incredible. The reach adjustment really did help me dial in the perfect feel. I had Avid Elixir 3s on my bike that came stock with it and they are nothing like the XTR M988 levers. I knew after my first ride that I absolutely love these.
this review is specifically for the lever as that is what the M988 is. M985 is the caliper type.
I would recommend these over the race levers. the feel is better and there is just a 40 gram difference. 40 grams-seriously.
Weaknesses: admittedly, they are expensive-but I don't know if that's a product weakness. seems like a budget weakness.
the sport isn't free
admittedly, they're very expensive. these will break a lot of banks to buy. personally, I feel that they are worth it. plenty of people say XT is the same thing-I don't feel that it is. I absolutely love my XTR brakes. expensive, yes, amazing, yes again.
The first few rides I had made me realize that Avid has absolutely terrible lever blades. The blades on these are tiny but are optimized beautifully for one-finger braking, something I've been a fan of for a while now. Keep in mind, they can accept two fingers. One finger is all you need though. These are such beautiful brakes. You can modulate the power spectacularly and can come so close to locking up without actually doing it and then locking them up is easy to. I've been going faster now that I have these.
although they're incredibly expensive, I truly would put these at the top of the line of brakes in this realm. it costs to play with this sort of thing.
Similar Products Used: Avid Elixir 3 brake levers and calipers are hydraulics but they aren't really similiar. XTR is incredible and on a different level.
Bike Setup: Norco Range 3 with
Chromag Fubar OSX 2012 at 780mm
Sram's full X0 2x10 drivetrain at 26-39t
XTR trail M988 levers with the M985 caliper
Specialized Phenom seat
ODI Rogue lock-on grips
other flashy bits
RockShox Lyrik U-turn 160mm and Monarch R shock
WTB Freerider front wheel
a Cross Country Rider
from Chico, Ca
Date Reviewed: August 20, 2011
Strengths: Beautiful. Tiny. The best lever bend out there. Levers have little grippy holes. Very powerful, even with a 160mm rotor on the front. Split lever clamp. They're little works of Mt Bike art. More features than the Race version, but only a mere 30 gms more. Very well designed. People will stare at them...
Weaknesses: Price, but who cares, it's XTR...
These little things are WAY, WAY more powerful than the previous version. I mean you can't even compare the two.
I was gonna run a 170mm up front, but there's no need to on these. 160's are enough.
It's possible to dial these awesome things in even better by simply experimenting with the various brake pad combinations. I ran my old XTR's with one metal & one resin for the best combo of modulation & power. But those 975's were always overwhelmed by long sections of downhill runs. These aren't. Shimano got it right here. & the XTR lever always has the best bend & feel of any system, hands down...
If anything, these could use a tiny touch of better modulation, but that's really extreme nitpicking, since I haven't experimented with the brake pads yet.
I'm very, very happy with these. Typical XTR quality abounds everywhere, from looks to function & reliability, etc. Trail are only 30 gms more than the Race & well worth it for the extra features they have.
These brakes are one of the two standout parts on my bike, along with the 36 Float. Well worth every penny. These are the best brakes I've ever had, hands down.
Strengths: Power, modulation, ease of bleed, split mount ring, weight, lever size/feel,
Weaknesses: Had an issue w/ a cracked ceramic piston.
I've always wanted to try a brake that is too strong (and still had modulation)... I'm still looking.
The trail edition of this brake is much better than the previous gen XTR brakes. Much much more power, equal weight, better cooling (not that I've ever noticed overheating), better lever feel, and easier set up.
I've always been an easy sell for Shimano's discs. Love the mineral oil. Easy to find pads anywhere (vs say a Formula), and my favorite feel for a lever shape.
The older XTR discs have lacked power. Every bike I'd test ride I'd walk away from impressed w/ whatever brake was on it. Now- I'm happy w/ the power, finally.
Put a set on my SS- loved them.
Bought a set for the gears and promptly cracked a ceramic piston during installation. Shimano had me a new caliper quick like and I've no complaints since.
Perhaps not for the weight weenie- there are lighter brakes out there. But they're great.
I'd say not to get the race edition, why wouldn't you want more power for such a slight weight difference?
Weaknesses: - quite expensive but you will pay even more for similar performance from other brands,
- sometimes they will reflect sunlight too much,
- free stroke adjustment doesn't really do anything
I wanted to buy Avid Elixir CR but nobody would sell a new set without rotors... so I decided to try mineral oil actuated brakes and find out if there's any truth behind the hype from Shimano.
The positive facts:
- it was easy to cut and connect the hose to the levers and calipers,
- the levers didn't have the funnel needed for bleeding but one syringe from the Avid bleed kit did just fine, for the other one you just get rid of the threaded interface and it's all good for injecting oil through the caliper, the bleeding procedure is truly drip free
- sintered pads work with Avid rotors so well that they ejected me from the bike on the very second braking, quiet, seems they will last for the whole season (haven't seen any heavy rain though, only standard mountain mud)
- little to no overheating on long downhill runs even with 160mm rotor in the back
- you can brake harder and later = go faster