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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey All;


My 18’ Santa Cruz Tallboy came with Level TLM brakes and 180mm rotors front and back . The power seems fine for our MI XC trails even though I’m 220lbs. However having a couple issues with noise and the paint on the caliper edges wearing off.


The rear develops a warble noise under heavier braking and the front a squeak on initial braking.


I sand the pads, align the calipers, sand and clean the rotors with brake cleaner and re-bed each. They will be fine for a few rides however the rear requires constant attention mostly sanding the pads to remove a black layer of “stuff”.


I have tried new Sram pads on rear with the same results. The Cool Stop pads in the rear are better.


I’m considering to take into my local shop for them to look into it and the caliper paint wear.


In was going to try some Shimano one piece rotors that have have a different cutout pattern however not sure it’s worth the $$.


However, unfortunately I think some replacements may be in order. I’m thinking some Guide RSC or Ultimates. I get mixed review on the Shimano’s and kinda like the Matchmaker setup for the shifter and dropper. Not sure...


Thoughts and suggestions on keeping the Levels, caliper paint wear, new rotors or just ditching them for something else?

Maybe unreasonable I would like Sram or Santa Cruze to fix, replace or upgrade, as these issues shouldn’t come from brakes 7mo old.
 

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Sorry, this is going to be a lot of questions, as from your description, its not entirely clear whats going on.

You say you're removing a layer of black "stuff" from the pads every time you have issues? Are the pads glazing over? If the pads are glazed, then the brakes are likely overheating. Its especially odd, because the front brakes usually are the ones that do the most of the braking, so I'd expect those to have issues with heat first. Do you use the rear brakes substantially more?

And have you checked to see if the front pads have the same "black coating" on them?

Are these organic, or metalic/sintered pads?

And the paint issues? Where is the paint having issues? Personally, if its around bolt holes/etc from all the tightening/re-tightening you're having to do, I wouldn't worry about that. I really, really doubt that anyone would warranty brakes over anything like that. I also really doubt they'd help pay for an upgrade to better brakes.

But because the problem goes away when you sand the pads, its sounding like its either a temp/overheating issue, or perhaps a contamination thing. But, if the pads were getting contaminated, you'd expect them to be bad right away, not after a few rides.

IF you are having overheating issues, then the first thing to do would be to increase brake rotor size. Its cheaper, and adds power (so you don't have to brake as long, helping reduce heat buildup), and have more surface area to dissipate heat. So its a win all around.

You could also try sintered/metalic pads, if you aren't already. They deal with higher heat better.

Good luck sorting this issue out :).
 

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At 220lbs, you're too heavy for Level's, especially with only a 180 rotor up front. Level's are XC brakes. I'd get some Code's if you really want to stay with SRAM.

If one is trying to avoid "noise" issues, it's best to keep the brand of the rotor the same as the brand of the brake.

Noise is a part of life with disc brakes, it's unlikely that's it's a warranty issue. However, if you are feeling lucky (!), speak to the shop where you purchased the bike.

If you don't want to deal with the possibility of issues with SRAM brakes, try
- Hayes
- Hope
- Formula
- Magura
- TRP
 

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same here, tallboy with level TL's.
basically the same behaviors as yours.

Changes them to guide RSC's i got second hand (but in very good shape) and all issues are gone. Quiet, much more power and more modulation.
I was planning to change the pads to Swisstop but just as i got these in the mail i bought the guide... so no news on these.
i do have the set of swisstop pads if you want to try these...
(Disc 26 Organic | SwissStop)

Good luck
Oren
 

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Oh, for what its worth, I had a pair of Level T's on my Process 153, with 200mm front rotor, and 180mm rear rotor. I'm about 200lbs all geared up for riding.

I never had the sorts of issues that you are describing, even after some all mountain style riding (local trails have a few half mile trails with ~250ft of descending that we lapped a bunch of times).

That said, I did upgrade to TRP Quadiems, as they are on a great sale at WWC. I'd highly recommend them.

I upgraded partially due to the reputation that the level T's have for people of "our size", and my riding style. I was hearing people with my same bike, and riding style/weight having the brakes completely fail (fading to the point of no stopping power).

The other reason I upgraded was because I wanted to use my bike to take to the bike park a few times. For less than the price of two bike rentals at the bike park, I have a set of brakes that handle it just fine, and that I can enjoy the rest of the year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks all for the reply’s!!

I’m finding brake setup is not that easy even when they are working well. So many options, configurations based on terrain and personnel preference. Get’s pricey testing stuff out.

I think part of the problem is my riding style that I’m trying to change. I tend to favor my rear brake and lightly drag it into corners. I don’t know if the pads are glazing or polishing from the light dragging. Where I ride in MI we don’t have huge decents and I’m not running the brakes for extended periods. I’m not suspecting overheating as the rotors don’t show any discoloring however maybe that’s not a good indicator.

I’m running the Sram Organic pads and then tried a new set of Sram Organic in the rear and then a rear set of Cool Stop Organics. Always could try some sintered pads.

I had Level TL’s on an 18’ Specialized Epic and they actually worked good. With a 180 / 160 combo. My Farley fat tire has Avids with 160 front and rear. Initially they were noisy however after torching them they have been fine.

This seems counterintuitive however wondering if I should try a 160 rear rotor if pad polishing from my light rear braking is the issue as the pads would wear more vs polish with a smaller rotor.

I’m also ruling out contamination as there isn’t any caliper leaks, tried new pads, sanded and cleaned the rotors and I only drip lube my chain.

Considering the Guides have good reviews and have dropped in price with the release of the G2’s I may jump on a set of those. I can just see dropping cash in hope of trying to get these Levels to work and never really will make them better than they are.

Thoughts please.
 

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I think part of the problem is my riding style that I'm trying to change. I tend to favor my rear brake and lightly drag it into corners. I don't know if the pads are glazing or polishing from the light dragging.

Thoughts please.
I do this too.

This could be your root cause of the noise. Do you bed-in your brakes after installing or sanding? Bedding in is important to avoid noise and polishing/glazing
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yea. I bed them after sanding. I also bed them to clean up without sanding.

One thing I noticed after beading when I pulled the front pads was the worn area was in the center, about the size of a quarter and not across the complete pad surface.

Makes me wonder if the pads slightly flex around the piston when braking.
 

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Are they metallic pads?

My road bike has the same pads as the tlm and i have metallic and no matter what i do its a squeely *****.

Going back to resin.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Yea. I bed them after sanding. I also bed them to clean up without sanding.

One thing I noticed after beading when I pulled the front pads was the worn area was in the center, about the size of a quarter and not across the complete pad surface.

Makes me wonder if the pads slightly flex around the piston when braking.
This statement is a big red flag to me. I really, really doubt that the backing plate is bending under braking forces.

Are you sure you're sanding the pads "flat"? What I mean is, it sounds like the pads are being sanded unevenly, and the material on the edges has been reduced how you're sanding them, leaving only the center to make contact with the rotor.

Essentially, I'm wondering if them being uneven is causing them to vibrate in the caliper when you are braking. I can't say I've ever seen a pad that isn't flat, as they are normally worn flat through use even if they're off a bit initially. But it sounds like you're sanding them really often, so maybe that's whats causing your issues?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I guess anything is possible. I have a ground metal plate I put the sandpaper on to clean the pads. Sand in a figure 8 just to clean up and don’t go crazy.

It’s been a few months since I did the fronts however the rears maybe every ~200-300 miles.
 

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Yea. I bed them after sanding. I also bed them to clean up without sanding.

One thing I noticed after beading when I pulled the front pads was the worn area was in the center, about the size of a quarter and not across the complete pad surface.

Makes me wonder if the pads slightly flex around the piston when braking.
The pad wear pattern that you describe is no normal, it should not be caused by the pads flexing (unless your pads cost $0.05). Also, one shouldn't need to re-sand, re-bed brakes. That's abnormal

Can you post pics with wheel & pads installed, and then close ups of the disc then the uneverly worn pads?

Maybe you should you what you mentioned and ask the LBS what's up. Like I said, that wear is abnormal, and the need for any maintenance other than cleaning & bleeding is a sign that something is not right.

Anyway, here's an article and a video that discuss piston cleaning & balancing (ensuring that both pistons extend and retract evenly)

Also, this article is the gold standard for noisy & vibrating brakes.
Enduro Mag - Enduro Workshop: Fixing noisy disc brakes

Wishing you luck!
 
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