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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all!

I am still quite new to mountain biking. I've recently bought an xc bike (Canyon Lux Trail CF 8) and I had a few hundred kms on Epic Evo before that.
Although I like the Canyon more (AXS components and somehow it fits me a bit better) one gripe I have with it are Level TLM brakes.
They are just seem weaker and more spongy to me than what Epic Evo had (G2). Additionally G2s had bite point adjustment and Level ones don't.
With this in mind I have a several questions about how brakes are supposed to work:

1)Should I be able to completely lock the front wheel with one finger with not that much force? By completely locking I mean that I shouldn't be able to rotate it at all while standing next to the bike and pushing it hard on the ground or that I should be able to go over the bars (or do an endo) if I break hard from around 10-15km/h. It seems to me right now I can only lock it if I strongly grab it with two fingers and still it's not instant lock. I mean my impression is that my Shimano Ultegra road brakes lock the front wheel more reliably on my gravel bike.

2)Is there any reason what so over to use Level brakes over G2 breaks (assuming cost is not an issue)? G2s are not heavier if I am reading the docs right and they just seem better in all aspects

3)Is there any reason to use 160 rotors? Somehow xc bikes come with 180 rotor in front and 160 in the back. Is there any reasons not to just run 180s on both wheels?

4)What do competitive xc racers use? I mean, is there any kind of competitive advantage to Level brakes or are thy geared towards beginners who are afraid of breaking too hard and going over the bars?

I can ride with those Level brakes just fine on my local mild trails but I am a bit afraid to go try steeper descents and when trying to have some fun those brakes are limiting.
I tried them the way they came from factory, I tried setting them again and I finally I tried giving them to very qualified mechanics who set them up and confirm that just how they are supposed to be.
Any feedback welcome!
 

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Hello all!

I am still quite new to mountain biking. I've recently bought an xc bike (Canyon Lux Trail CF 8) and I had a few hundred kms on Epic Evo before that.
Although I like the Canyon more (AXS components and somehow it fits me a bit better) one gripe I have with it are Level TLM brakes.
They are just seem weaker and more spongy to me than what Epic Evo had (G2). Additionally G2s had bite point adjustment and Level ones don't.
With this in mind I have a several questions about how brakes are supposed to work:

1)Should I be able to completely lock the front wheel with one finger with not that much force? By completely locking I mean that I shouldn't be able to rotate it at all while standing next to the bike and pushing it hard on the ground or that I should be able to go over the bars (or do an endo) if I break hard from around 10-15km/h. It seems to me right now I can only lock it if I strongly grab it with two fingers and still it's not instant lock. I mean my impression is that my Shimano Ultegra road brakes lock the front wheel more reliably on my gravel bike.

2)Is there any reason what so over to use Level brakes over G2 breaks (assuming cost is not an issue)? G2s are not heavier if I am reading the docs right and they just seem better in all aspects

3)Is there any reason to use 160 rotors? Somehow xc bikes come with 180 rotor in front and 160 in the back. Is there any reasons not to just run 180s on both wheels?

4)What do competitive xc racers use? I mean, is there any kind of competitive advantage to Level brakes or are thy geared towards beginners who are afraid of breaking too hard and going over the bars?

I can ride with those Level brakes just fine on my local mild trails but I am a bit afraid to go try steeper descents and when trying to have some fun those brakes are limiting.
I tried them the way they came from factory, I tried setting them again and I finally I tried giving them to very qualified mechanics who set them up and confirm that just how they are supposed to be.
Any feedback welcome!
I have ridden the Level Ts and now ride the G2 Ultimates. Here are a few thoughts on your questions:

  1. Yes, you should be able to get full stopping power with one finger--even with the level Ts. While the Levels are not as powerful as the G2s, I found them to be adequate for power, but they had terrible modulation. My best guess would be that the pads might be contaminated or that they need a bleed.
  2. There is no reason to use level brakes over G2 other than cost. G2 are better in every way.
  3. I find no reason to use 160 mm rotors; though, I am a bigger guy and need the larger rotors. Some in the lighter range seem to prefer smaller rotors in the back to help prevent skidding while others see the smaller rotors as a weight saving option. IMO, go with the largest rotors you can fit.
  4. Competitive XC racers use a ton of different options, mostly high end from whatever company sponsors them. The levels are really just low-end stock spec used to keep sticker price down. As bikes have gotten more expensive, they have generally been spec'ed with lower end brakes and abysmal wheel sets. John/Jane Q. Public, are more likely to look at drivetrain specs than brakes and wheels. This is why, so many bikes will ship with XO or XT derailleurs while the rest of the drive train might be 1 or 2 levels lower. As for discerning riders, companies know that we are more likely to swap out wheels and brakes to suit our preferences. For instance, no matter what ships on the bike, I'll pull the stock wheels and slap on a set of i9s. Even if the bike came with some nice DT Swiss hubs, I just prefer i9s, so I don't want to pay for the DT Swiss.
Hope this helps. Have fun.
 

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I ride Levels on my stock Lux and have no problems locking them up on steeps and fast descents, with only a finger or two. I can't imagine needing 12-Piston Maguras on 200mm ceramic rotors and unobtanium pads.

They've never felt spongy but wish they would, a little. They could use better modulation.
 

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Levels are on the weak side, G2s stronger, but still not considered powerful (but great modulation). I would suggest going to 200mm rotors front and rear which give a significant increase in power as well as heat capacity for longer descents. If they still feel inadequate, upgrade to the G2s.
 
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Answering as a competitive XC racer who rides my XC bike on every trail including DH parks and mountain downhills…


Im ~85Kgs or 185ish +- usually.


Level brakes are awful. They are there to save weight. And they are still heavy for an XC brake. From a brake, I want something strong enough to hold me while dangling on 45degree drop in. When I first got my bike with Guide Ultimates which are stronger than levels, the bike couldn’t even do that.

Bottom line, Centerline rotors are DOGSHIT. I ran a combo of Ashima Ai2 and Magura Storm SLs. This took care of all of the problems with these brakes. I actually prefer them to my XTs…I’m embarrassed to say. xTs are so so strong, but when you accidentally grab a little brake subconsciously before a corner, the strength and bite of the XTs really slow you down fast.

I’m not sure how much you weight, but I would experiment with the rotors I mentioned above. 180 on front. You want your front. To be able to modulate your speed and set you up with proper cornering speed in conjunction with light drag of the rear. You need your rear to lock up with a quick pop. The 160 is more than cL capable of doing this. Going bigger than a 160 rear would be for 1. Someone who brakes too much on downhills and overheats their brakes. 2. A sustained enough downhill turns to warrant brakes heating up.


There is no reason ever to have 200s on this bike.

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As mentioned with rotor size, 160mm is usually reserved for rear brake application or someone looking to shed weight. A 180F/160R should be sufficient for most riders. You always want the larger rotor on the front due to most of the braking is done with the front.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all for answers.
I think I still need some help with assessing if the front wheel is locked properly. Can you give me some pointes? Some questions I have:

1)Assuming I ride on tarmac with not much speed (maybe 10km/h) and just break rapidly with front brake only should I be able to hear the tire rubbing over tarmac or should it stop smoothly? I am able to hear rear tire but not the front one. I tried my friend's bike and wasn't able to make the front tire rub either (low end Shimano brakes) although they felt kind of stronger. I feel I should be able to either make the front tire rub (if the wheel is truly locked) or my rear wheel should lift. I feel I am far far away from either. Going over the bars from breaking sounds like a complete fantasy with those breaks.

2)If I stand next to the bike and hold the front brake and then push violently over the ground should I be able to rotate the wheel at all or should it be completely locked? Right now I am able to move it a few milimeters every time I push (at least it feels like that, it's difficult to measure)

3)Should there be a lot of travel from the point the brake starts engaging (pads start rubbing the rotor)?

4)Should I be able to lift the rear wheel while standing on the pedals (starting an endo) and just applying front brake or does it require significant weight transfer to the front?

5)Is there any other way to tell if the brakes work correctly? Some kind of test I can perform to be sure I have enough power?

Those are probably very basic questions for experienced MTB riders. I am a noob though. I have just 600-700km total (I have 10k+ kms on a gravel bike). I feel my brakes on Epic Evo were better but I don't remember exactly, I never thought they were too weak. Sadly I can't test anymore as I lost access to that bike unexpectedly. On my gravel bike I am able to make front tire rub over tarmac easily (Shimano Ultegra brakes). This makes me very unsure about the brakes I currently have and make me very hesitant to go faster on descents. I keep trying to search for "how to test your brakes" but all results are about checking stuff like pads without providing a test for how strong the brakes should be.
 

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You should not be skidding or locking your front and you should not be trying to do so. On the front, you are applying enough pressure to bring the bike to a stop. Also pushing down and weight shifted back will weight the rear so it does not skid and slows you down for emergency and high speed braking. This is not a motorcycle.

Yes, weak XC brakes, I can make the wheel move at full lock up. If it moves a tone and easily without a big breakaway with high force required, you may just have glazed pads…they will squeak a lot.


Also. When the brakes are locked if you roll the bike back and forward, there will be slide play as the pads rock.


Again, a better rotor that bits harder will give you a different experience. Try Ashima ai2 or Storm SL.


Also, you should be applying pressure with both your brakes. At higher speeds, grabbing a hand full of front brake will not send you over the bars and lock up the front. At low speeds, yes.


I have no idea what “make the tires rub” means. I am assuming you mean skids, which are much more common in tarmac on road bikes.

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I understand I shouldn't block it routinely when riding and I understand I should be using both brakes. I just need some reference point for how strong brakes should be so I am trying to come up with some tests until I go full speed on a long descent.

Thank you for your answers I think I will try new rotors for now and get some reasonable brakes for the next season.
 

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I understand I shouldn't block it routinely when riding and I understand I should be using both brakes. I just need some reference point for how strong brakes should be so I am trying to come up with some tests until I go full speed on a long descent.

Thank you for your answers I think I will try new rotors for now and get some reasonable brakes for the next season.
Unless you are super heavy, those brakes will be sufficient. Especially with a 180 front. (You need a spacer for your caliper.


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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Unless you are super heavy, those brakes will be sufficient. Especially with a 180 front. (You need a spacer for your caliper.
As long as they work correctly. How do I know if they work correctly? I need some kind of way to tell. Is there any kind of test I can perform to know? Things like "spongy", "locks the wheel" etc. only makes sense if you already know how correctly working brakes feel like.
 
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