This is your complete guide to Shimano disc brakes, there's all the information you need here on each model from the two-piston MT200 brakes to the more powerful XTR to the burly four-pot Saint's, plus everything in between. Whether you are looking for an upgrade or want to check out a new bike's component specification prior to purchase this is the place to find out about brake features, prices and the differences between brake models.
We’ve featured all the hydraulic brakes in this article that are readily for sale, with market prices and retail prices listed. Any weights quoted are the claimed weight per brake (one lever and one caliper and will not include the rotor weight.
Scroll down to see all the brakes or hit the links below to jump straight to your brake of choice. If it's SRAM brakes you want to know about, head here to that buyer's guide.
Two piston Shimano brakes
Shimano Tourney TX800 is the brands' entry level mechanical (also called cable) disc brakes. These will use a wire cable from the lever to the calliper to activate the brake. Tourney TX800 brakes use two pistons in the calliper and are compatible with Shimano Tourney TX EZ shift/brake levers which allow the user to alter the reach adjust using an Allen key.
They are used with resin pads (that's organic ones) and with 160-180mm rotors. The rotors can be centre lock or 6 bolt and are made from steel such as the SM-RT26 rotor. These roots are made only to work with the resin pads meaning that when the time comes to replace the pads you'll need to go for the same organic compound rather than sintered ones. You'll mostly see Tourney gear on entry level hybrid bikes.
Next up in the brake hierarchy is Shimano Altus M2000, here there are both mechanical and hydraulic options. The mechanical disc brake looks pretty similar to the Tourney TX one but it's an overall neater package. The cable disc brake is compatible with EX Fire Plus combine shift/brake levers with either 3x 7 or 8 speed options. Shimano defines Altus M2000 as the kit to support first time off-road experiences, meaning its the more basic and cheaper kit for entry level mountain bikes.
Shimano Altus M2000 Brake calliper mechanical
Shimano Altus M2000 brake calliper hydraulic
The Altus level hydraulic brake callipers are called BR-M365 and BR-M315. These callipers feature two pistons and Shimano's 'one way bleeding' system where oil is routed ins a streamlined manner throughout the system to prevent air bubbles. Essentially the oil flows one way through the calliper rather than having to double back on itself within the system, leaving pockets when bleeding the brake. This system is used throughout the Shimano brake range.
Shimano Altus M2000 brake lever
Shimano Altus M2000 Brake lever hydraulic
These brakes are designed to be used with the brands 3 finger levers (BL-M365 or BL-M315) the latter of which gets a steel lever blade whilst the former has an alloy lever blade which is a slightly different shape to also accommodate 2 finger braking. Shimano says these brakes offer 90% of the performance of the Acera M395 (see next section). The levers get reach adjust just like on the Tourney great. The callipers are also compatible with the EZ Fire Plus combined shit/brake lever. Once again these are used with the same stamped steer rotors of the Tourney gear and in this formation can be used with resin brake pads only.
Stepping up again is the Acera M3000 kit where there are only hydraulic brakes. Shimano cite this gear is for trail riding, they say the brakes are easy to set up and give controlled braking performance off-road. The brake callipers are called BR-M395 and BR-M3050, the former has some structural alteration compared to the Atlus kit above, such as the bleed nipple has been moved for easier bleeding and the whole thing looks smaller and sleeker in design. The M3050 steps up braking power a little compared to the M395, Shimano says is compatible with the M447 caliper.
The Acera BL-M396, BL-MT400 and BL-M425 are the levers of the range. Each jas a slightly different lever shape for two and three finger braking and all get reach adjust. The MT400 says it is tuned for entry level mountain bike riders and riders with smaller hands, you can expect to see this on cheaper mountain bikes and kids bikes too.
The callipers are also compatible with the EZ Fire Plus combined shift/brake lever and once again these are used with the same stamped steer rotors of the Tourney gear and in this formation can be used with resin brake pads only.
Before stepping up into the worlds of Deore and SLX is Shimano Alivio M3100, a range which has different hydraulic levers (MT-200 and MT201) designed to be used with similarly named callipers The MT201 has an alloy lever blade whilst the MT200 has a steel one. Again these are two/three finger brakes. These are used with the same stamped steer rotors of the Tourney gear and in this formation can be used with resin brake pads only.
In the range is also the M4050 calliper giving the same braking power as the M447 calliper according to the brand. This is labelled as from the Alivio M4000 range.
Deore is the point in the range where the brakes will start to be used on what can be seen as more serious trail bikes. There are two different options in calliper choice one with two pistons and one with four.
The M6120 calliper gets four pistons and are compatible with Shimano's excellent Ice Tech discs and consequently resin or sintered (metal) pads. Theses brakes will commonly be paired with 180/160 or 203mm rotors. You might see these sorts of callipers on entry level enduro bikes and e-bikes too, as they give good stopping power at a good price. The equivalent two prison brake is the M6100, which can again be used with Ice Tech rotors. The two piston brake will commonly be seen on trail bikes which come in at lower prices.
The lever for these brakes is the Bl-M6100, a one-finger lever with tooled reach just and the brand's servo wave tech; a lever-activated cam that means the lever gives more power for less lever movement. The levers also get I-SPEC EV compatibility meaning that you can affix your shifter together with the brake clamp, clearing up your handlebars, leaving you with fewer clamps attached. Like the new SLX gear, the Deore levers get an additional contact point with the bars acting as a small brace for additional stiffness.
If you see two piston callipers and levers marked M6000/M610/MT500/M501 these are previous years model and will be the I-SPEC II compatible not the new I-SPEC EV which is used in the new SLX/XT/XTR kit.
The new SLX gear bears the numerical M7100. There are two pot brake callipers as well as four pot ones, plus a flat mount option too. The four piston brake is called M7120 and has, Shimano says, quicker piston retraction and the new M7100 gear is said to have an increase of 10% braking power over the previous M7000 gear. The calliper has a banjo style hose attachment for a great degree of flexibility in brake fitment. Again you can use these brakes with Ice Tech discs and with metal or resin pads, plus finned pads too. The two piston M7100 brake gets all the same features but in a smaller, lighter two pot package. It's worth noting that new SLX only has a dedicated six-bolt, all-steel rotor, so you'll need the XT one if you want to run Centrelock.
The SLX BL-M7100 lever uses the I-Spec EV system and gets that same little brace at the far end of the reservoir to increase the stiffness of the lever package. Shimano says this brake is 10% stiffer than the M7000 version. The big difference here is the tool-less reach adjustment, operate by the small dial at the lever blade connection. This lever also benefits from Servo Wave technology where initial pad travel is fast with little lever movement, then power multiplication factor increases rapidly at the pad-to-rim contact so more of the lever stroke is used to apply greater braking power with improved control.
Any two piston callipers and levers marked M7000/M670 are previous years model and will be the I-SPEC II compatible not the new I-SPEC EV which is used in the new SLX/XT/XTR kit.
The flat mount brake calliper (M7110) will be reserved for any bikes using the same flat mount fitment as road bikes, to be used with 180/160/140mm rotors.
The 2020 XT kit is labelled M8100 and again there are two and four piston post mount options with a flat mount version here too. There are many of the same features as SLX, including the lever brace, Ice Tech compatibility, Servo Wave tech, 10% increase in power over M8000 gear and a banjo hose connection.
XT M8100 kit is mid range, sitting between SLX and the race spec XTR gear. On the whole, the groupset is lighter than SlX and pricier too. The biggest difference here aside from the weight is the addition of free stroke adjust on XT levers. The XT brake levers get the ability to just the free stroke, namely where the lever sits from the bar before you pull it. It also gets a tool free reach adjust, just like SLX. Also, just like SLX all the callipers, whether two or four piston, are interchangeable with the levers, so you can mix and match to your heart's content.
While any XT level disc rotor, whether six-bolt or Centrelock, will come with their laminated 'Freeza' rotor design, SLX only has a dedicated six-bolt, all-steel rotor, so you'll need the XT one if you want to run Centrelock.
Remember, anything with the name XT M8000 is last years gear which will be I-SPEC II.
Topping out the range is Shimano XTR M9100. Without meaning to repeat ourselves here, there is two pot and four pot callipers to be used with the dedicated XTR lever. Along with getting all the tech from the XT brakes, the XTR kit is lighter with the callipers getting an alloy one pice design and ceramic positions to better dissipate heat. There are dedicated two piston and four piston levers, where the former gets a carbon lever blade while the latter has an alloy one. The 2-pot version is likely to be seen on pointy cross country race bikes where extra weight needs to be shed, whilst the latter needed a more robust lever as most of these 4-pot brakes will go on harder hitting trail and enduro bikes.
Shimano XTR M9100 four piston brake lever
Other differences between the two are the lack of free stroke adjustment in the two pots, The four pot brakes have the same 15/17mm diameter ceramic pistons as the brands beefier Saint/Zee/XT brakes and they have the same diameter master cylinder too.
Shimano's M820 Saint brakes are the top of the range downhill brake. The four piston calliper share tech with the XTR M9100, in terms of the same 15/17mm diameter ceramic pistons and they have the same diameter master cylinder too. There is a one piece calliper, you can use these with Ice Tech discs and with metal or resin pads, those can be with or without fins.
The lever is I-SPEC B compatible and, as you might expect, you get Servo Wave tech, free stroke and tool-less reach adjust with a textured lever bald for good grip.
Zee M640 provides much of the same downhill tech and power as the Saint brake above but at a cheaper price point, the gear is essentially a reworked SLX lever with a Saint calliper. The calliper is heavier with different pad mount and banjo but still gets ceramic pistons. The level does away with free stroke adjust and the reach adjust need a tool. Elsewhere there is Servo Wave tech and the brakes can be used with Ice Tech discs and either resin or metal pads.
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