Shimano XTR Trail BR-M988 Disc Brake System

4.13/5 (16 Reviews)
MSRP : $289.95

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Product Description

Just as you're able to get Shimano 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 braking quality is more akin to the Shimano brakes that we've relied on for years, and they weren't...

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Reviews 1 - 15 (16 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Zachariah a All Mountain Rider

Date Reviewed: October 10, 2014

Strengths:    ~ Trail/AM braking power, at XC weight
~ Buttery, soft lever pull
~ Non-corrosive, Mineral Oil fluid is not hygroscopic
~ Gravity bleed procedure, is dead simple
~ Bike can be stored upside-down, hang by front/rear wheel...still leaving brakes uncompromised
~ Servo-Wave lever bite adjust works on-the-fly
~ Locking, split bar clamp mechanism prevents sending levers into your spokes...if the securing bolt snaps
~ Decent modulation
~ Forged alloy calipers
~ Pads have meaty brake track
~ Looks expensive as hell/high resale value
~ Takes extended descents to 11
~ Adjustable fluid volume, per pull

Weaknesses:    ~ Caliper banjo bolt comes loose too easily, leaking fluid and/or air in system
~ Expensive, finned pads
~ Tiny brake levers

Bottom Line:   
Shimano XTR BL-M988/BR-M985 Trail brakes provide stellar braking performance, under any riding condition you can throw at it. Modulation may not be quite as good as Avid/SRAM.....but the power does come in spades. I was first taken aback by the miniscule brake levers, but I now realize they are designed solely to be used under one-finger, index braking. The upshot is the short levers induce your elbows to splay out, in the attack riding position, as your forefingers point towards the center of your bars.

I had the XTR BR-M987 Race brakes before, but I like these much better. The lever bite adjust lets you perfectly dial-in your optimal pull ratio, at only a 48g weight penalty. Plus, the expensive finned organic and ceramic pads can be combined, to fine tune modulation even further. The reliability, smooth operation and minimal service all makes the XTR M988/M985 a tremendous value, now prices are starting to go down.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Thomas Mountain

Duration Product Used:   2 Years

Price Paid:    $200.00

Purchased At:   Bro Deal

Similar Products Used:   Avid Elixir R/Code R/Elixir CR/Juicy Ultimate/Elixir 9
Formula R1/Oro Puro
Hope Tech 3 V4
Hygia USAGI Lite
Magura Marta SL/MT8

Bike Setup:   22-pound Trek Superfly 100 Pro

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Dan

Date Reviewed: June 23, 2014

Strengths:    One touch screamin' jaw droppin' cinch down your jock strap, don't get too high or it'll throw you out the front best brakes I've ever owned!! I've been riding these brakes hard for over two years and am still amazed. Had some sram's before and had to use two fingers per brake and always had a little fade with the extended downhills.
These baby's you gotta use one finger or they will kill you. Never had any fade. Love them.

Weaknesses:    Expensive, but what's it worth to you to keep from going over that cliff!!

Bottom Line:   
As you already know, I love these things. People that are complaining about them didn't set them up right. I've never had a leak. Replaced the pads once since I've had them and I go down most anything with them. I had to bleed the fronts once, but that's it. I haven't met one person on the mountain that doesn't love these brakes. Especially it they get a chance to try them.

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:3
Submitted by Endomaniac a All Mountain Rider

Date Reviewed: October 21, 2013

Strengths:    Great brake for the weight. Attractive when new.

Weaknesses:    My first st had piston failure and where replaced under warrantee. I've had the replacements for about 10 months and the silver finish is peeling off the lever bodies.

Bottom Line:   
These brakes have good power but not great. Modulation is moderate, better than some but not as good as a hope.Ive had one set develop piston leeks and my second set is now having finish issues.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Pisgah

Duration Product Used:   1.5 years

Similar Products Used:   Saint, XT, Zee, Hope M4, Hope X2, Code, Juicy 7, Juicy Ultimate, Avid Mech, old hays

Bike Setup:   Bystickel 29er hardtail with AM build and geometry

Overall Rating:1
Value Rating:1
Submitted by BeerBikeBerm a Cross Country Rider

Date Reviewed: December 19, 2012

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.

Bottom Line:   
Do not purchase these, and I would be weary of XT too.

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by inoack a All Mountain Rider

Date Reviewed: September 1, 2012

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.

Bottom Line:   
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
Shimano LX
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

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Price Paid:    $400.00

Similar Products Used:   see above

Bike Setup:   Carbon nomad tublees, 180mm coil, air rear, 2.4 tires, dropper post

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:2
Submitted by matthew melvyn

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.

Bottom Line:   
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

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:1
Submitted by iqbbang

Date Reviewed: April 30, 2012

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.

Bottom Line:   
Satisfied with the brakes, but not amazed (at its price, i expected some surprise)

should have bought a XT brake :/

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jvreeke 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

Bottom Line:   
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.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Downieville

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $250.00

Purchased At:   LBS

Similar Products Used:   a few others

Bike Setup:   Mojo SLR full xtr Easton Carbon

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:2
Submitted by CrzyMD a Cross Country Rider from Bakersfield

Date Reviewed: January 30, 2012

Strengths:    Light weight, nice finish.

Weaknesses:    Price, "free stroke" doesn't work. Expensive replacement pads.

Bottom Line:   
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.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Any one of them!

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $300.00

Similar Products Used:   Avid Elixir, Hayes

Bike Setup:   Gary Fisher Hi Fi Pro 29

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Reelmcoy a Racer from Waxahachie, Texas

Date Reviewed: January 7, 2012

Strengths:    Best brakes I have used. Awesome modulation and stopping power. Excellent one finger use. Smooth and quiet.

Weaknesses:    None

Bottom Line:   
Awesome brakes. Could tell the difference from the XT's in the parking lot. Expensive but you get what you pay for.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Oak Cliff Nature Preserve

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Price Paid:    $230.00

Purchased At:   price point

Similar Products Used:   Avid Juicy 5. Shimano XT. Avid XX world cup

Bike Setup:   Trek Top Fuel

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by NJMTB 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.

Weaknesses:    None.

Bottom Line:   
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.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Romero Canyon

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Similar Products Used:   Avid Elixir, Avid Juicy 3

Bike Setup:   2011 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by babar a Cross Country Rider from France

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.
-mineral oile
-no maintenance required (no sticky piston, no bleed)
-constant brake power and modulation even in long downhills in the Alps.

Weaknesses:    none absolutly none!

Bottom Line:   
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

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   use to be montello trail

Duration Product Used:   1 Year

Price Paid:    $339.00

Purchased At:   alltricks

Similar Products Used:   others X country brakes are far behind. I owned magura marta, Hope mini, Formula Oro puro...all are old generation brakes.

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by ehigh a Downhiller 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

Bottom Line:   
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.

awesome stuff!

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.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Two Sheiks and a Dog

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $245.00

Purchased At:   Art's Cyclery

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
Straitline pedals
ODI Rogue lock-on grips
other flashy bits
RockShox Lyrik U-turn 160mm and Monarch R shock
WTB Freerider front wheel
Loco rear

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:3
Submitted by Shredr 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...

Bottom Line:   
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.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Downieville

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Price Paid:    $225.00

Purchased At:   Shop

Similar Products Used:   XTR 975 & other stuff.

Bike Setup:   Titus El Guapo, 36 Float & RP 23, Full XTR 9spd on XTR 10 spd cranks, 50mm Thomson stem & post, Ti-Fly seat, Crank Bros., King.

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:3
Submitted by Johnny Chicken Bones a Cross Country Rider from CB

Date Reviewed: July 14, 2011

Strengths:    Power, modulation, ease of bleed, split mount ring, weight, lever size/feel,

Weaknesses:    Had an issue w/ a cracked ceramic piston.

Bottom Line:   
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?

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   mostly whatever is under my tires

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $173.00

Similar Products Used:   Each gen of XTR disc brakes, various Avid mech/hydros.

Bike Setup:   Ti Hardtail.

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