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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As the thread title says, I'm researching what I want to replace my Level TL brakes with. I'm not in any hurry to buy, as the Level T's are working fine, I'm just doing the research now so if/when I decide I want to make the move, I already know what to get.

I've got a '18 Kona Process 153 AL 29'er. I'm about 6'1" ~200-210lbs in riding gear (depending on season, pack weight, etc). I live in western Washington, and have places like Duthie, Tiger Mountain, Galbraith Mountain/etc all within ~1 - 1.5hrs of me. I'd say I'm likely somewhere in the "intermediate" rider skill range, as my favorite trails are all blue, but I hope to improve over time (only started last fall).

I got a great deal on the Kona, but the spec on the base model included SRAM Level T brakes (200mm front, 180mm rear rotors). I'm trying to decide 1) if I should upgrade them to something with more power, and 2) if I do, what should that be?

I've read through some reviews, lurked around, read threads, and have narrowed it down to a few models, but haven't really been able to find any comparisons between them.

Mostly thinking about the TRP Quadiem, Formula Cura, and Shimano Zee at the moment. Each have good reviews, and aspects that I find appealing, but all are fairly different.

Any thoughts?

Thanks everyone :).
 

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Well, this is certainly an interesting question.

First off you are unsure if you want to upgrade. I get that. Then I go on to further read that if you replace the basic of basic brakes, it will be with top of the line brakes.

At first I was thinking that if you aren't dissatisfied with them that maybe you would be fine with keeping the cheap model. If you are looking a top end brakes, it seems that you really do want a better brake, no questions.

Here is where I am:
My new hard tail has Level T brakes. Yes, they stop me but I really do not like them. I am right on the line of "I hate them so much I want to replace" and "I will do an upgrade soon because so far I can deal with them".
My plan is to move the Shimano M615 brakes from my full suspension to my hard tail, then replace full suspension with XT.
Maybe through the summer when I ride less and can have the time do perform the work.

You are an intermediate rider, and if you are like me, you are more unhappy with the Level T than you are happy.

So I guess I'm unsure what you want in the end. Do you want to keep your cheap brakes are you want top of the line. You seem to be going from one extrema to the next. That is one heck of an upgrade.

In my opinion, yes you should upgrade. Your riding level would suggest a Level T is too weak for you, considering you do want a better brake. I guess it comes down to how much of an upgrade. The brakes you have suggested will be very powerful and probably very welcomed. It just strikes me a bit odd that you say your Level T brake is working fine, but not so fine to go to the top level brake. :)
 

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I had the level Ts on my Hightower base build, hated those brakes. I'm 6' and about 250, I replaced with the TRP slate T4s with Ice Tech rotors, 200/180 and they are a great combo. Feel almost as strong as the Code RSC brakes on my Process. For the money, you can't go wrong. Just my .02
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the help so far everyone.

To clarify a bit, the main reason I say that the level T's are working fine, is, i have nothing else to compare them to. They work in the sense that i squeeze the lever, I slow down. I ride with one finger on the brakes, and so far haven't felt the need for two finger braking (only done short ~300ft decents with the bike so far though).

For perspective, the level T's are already the most powerful brakes I've ever ridden. I'm coming from a set of tektros on a 7yr old cross country bike, with 160mm rotors.

The other reason for "jumping to the top of the line", is partly because of recommendation's from a close friend who is a more advanced rider. He says he won't ride without 4 piston brakes anymore. He is about my size and weight, and trust his opinion quite a bit. So I did some research, and it seems like those models are about as cheap as you can go in that "power category".

Hopefully that helps add some clarity to my question :).
 

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Level Ts are fine for me for trail riding. I also have XTs on another bike. They're OK too, though I prefer the lever feel and softer initial bite of the Levels. One bike came with 180 rotors front and rear so I changed the rear to 160 for a bit better modulation. In terms of power, any of them are easy enough to lock up or put me OTB with one finger. I'm more interested in fine control to maximize braking while prevent either of those. I feel the Level Ts are better at that than the XTs.
 

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I've got the same bike and was sure those Level T's were going to kill me.
Ok braking power when cold, but after a little decent I couldn't lock the rear up to save my life. Left me with such tired arms and hands.

I got the mt520/501 4-piston brakes and they have been great! The XT/SLX/M6000 would all probably be a huge improvement.

I do know that a lot of people don't like the SRAM stock pads, so you could try changing those as a cheap first step.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've got the same bike and was sure those Level T's were going to kill me.
Ok braking power when cold, but after a little decent I couldn't lock the rear up to save my life. Left me with such tired arms and hands.

I got the mt520/501 4-piston brakes and they have been great! The XT/SLX/M6000 would all probably be a huge improvement.

I do know that a lot of people don't like the SRAM stock pads, so you could try changing those as a cheap first step.
Good feedback, thanks.

Out of curiosity, how long were these descents that you are talking about where they would no longer lock up the rear brakes? I'm wondering if I've just not had a long enough trail to heat them up yet, and thats why they feel more or less "fine" at the moment.

Currently I think the longest continuous descent I've been on so far has been ~200-300ft.

And the Shimano MT520's? Interesting, they look vaguely like they're supposed to be in a similar product class as the TRP Slates. IE, entry level 4 piston brakes. Another to keep an eye on it seems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Trailforks says it's 750ft down. I also ride my rear brake more than I should so there's that...:blush:

The 520's are the new 4-piston brake for heavy E-Mtb's. I got em for $60 each, so they are a great budget option.
$60 each? If I can ask, where did you swing that kind of deal? Thats about half of the price of the other options. Both the Zee, and the Quadiem are right around ~$240 for the set right now. But a full set for $120, thats a steal.

At the moment, I don't really have a preference on Shimano/SRAM. I do have a slight desire for mineral oil, and like the idea of better modulation, but neither are strong enough preferences to rule out any models. The main reason I don't have any SRAM options in there atm, is because the stronger 4 piston models were all more expensive.

Either way though, it sounds like most anything should be an upgrade from the Levels I have now :).
 

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$60 each? If I can ask, where did you swing that kind of deal? Thats about half of the price of the other options. Both the Zee, and the Quadiem are right around ~$240 for the set right now. But a full set for $120, thats a steal.

At the moment, I don't really have a preference on Shimano/SRAM. I do have a slight desire for mineral oil, and like the idea of better modulation, but neither are strong enough preferences to rule out any models. The main reason I don't have any SRAM options in there atm, is because the stronger 4 piston models were all more expensive.

Either way though, it sounds like most anything should be an upgrade from the Levels I have now :).
Do you own more than one bike?
I have never bled a SRAM brake, but Shimano brakes are easy peasy. I understand that SRAM isn't too bad if you've done the bleed enough times.

Personally, I would just install a set of sintered pads and ride them until they fail or you notice shortcomings.
I should add the sintered to my bike and see how it goes.
The Level T for me seem they don't work very well at all until the pads get a little bit of heat in them. i haven't done any fast longer descents on it yet to where they get hot and fade. I can say that I've done a few of the descents and they don't give me a comfortable feeling. The bike is 180/180 also.

I don't mean to jump in the bangwagon of dislike for SRAM, but I have a description of how well they work after one particular ride.
I switch between the Shimano and SRAM bike every few rides, or less. I was about to enter a turn once and had an oh-crap moment then I grabbed a handful of brake. Bike barely even dove from lack of braking.
At that moment I made up a comment for SRAM brakes - "SRAM | They work great when you only want to slow down a little bit"

I know that isn't true. It's just a lot of people describe SRAM as weak in contrast to Shimano because of the difference in feel. For me....the Level T does in fact feel too weak. But are they horrible. Nah, just different. I can get used to them after riding but it sure seems like I need to try harder to get the bike to stop/slow.
Messing around at the house they have plenty of bite and power. In the real world though, just not my favorite.

I now take a minute to operate the brake when I'm practicing wheelies out front of the house because it scares the crap out of me to get a bit too far back then brake to correct the front end only to find I haven't dropped the front yet. After a few minutes of operating the brake I'm okay to control the wheelie.
 

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Mine were on my bike less than 24 hours. The final straw was that I had to take them off the bar to adjust lever throw.

Nope. Gone. Thankfully I was able to trade them in.

Now, not sure how much better I did. I opted for the 4 pot XTs, which are taking a bit of a **** kicking in other threads in this sub-forum. Time will tell I guess.
 

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I have level T's on one bike, for about 18 months and 2000 miles. I'm about 240 geared up and have been on a number of 3000ft downhills with them. They weren't awesome initially set up 180f/r with organic pads, but moving to 203 up front and metal truckerco pads and I have no complaints. One of my other bikes has shimano SLX brakes with the same size rotors, and I switch back and forth without thinking about it. That said, the shimano has a much stronger initial bite. The SRAM's have better modulation.
 

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Brakes!?

They only slow you down!

Which, is... important ;-)

My $0.02

If you like skidding, go Shimano ^^

If you prefer to gradually slow down i.e. less skidding - go Guides

Four pot FTW

Metallic pads

203mm rotor front, 180/200mm rotor rear.

PS - some of the strongest brakes I've ever used were on my first ever MTB... KHS Winslow 29er.

They were 2 pot Tektro somethings & they were uber strong/powerful!

They looked like cold turds, but they were awesome... on 160mm rotors too.

'Born to ride!'
 

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^^^ Yes. I don't like Shimano grabbiness, which is sometimes mistaken for power.

Personally, I don't get this need for more power. Either I've been lucky having a 50 year string of uncharacteristically and weirdly powerful brakes, or I my super power is hugely strong index fingers.
 

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I posted this a few months ago:)

I never understood until today what the fuss was all about regarding Shimano and the perceived on/off feeling. I have always loved the feel, and today I finally read something that made me get it.

From Team Robot. "Price to performance, the BR-M640 is phenomenal. The only knock people have is that it lacks modulation, and in mountain-bike-speak the word “modulation” is code for “I suck at brake control.” Here’s a free tip: get better."

Here's a winkie for those with no sense of humour.
 
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