It’s not the first time we’re saying this, and it probably won’t be the last: Shimano’s Deore XT brakes are among the best we’ve ever rode. And if we take out of the picture the 4-piston brakes and stick only to 2-piston ones, then Deore XT takes over the lead of this standing, alongside with SRAM’s X0, Formula T1S, Magura MT8 and even XTR brakes. There are some slight differences though between XT and the rest of its competition, but they’re nothing that you cannot get over.
Shimano Deore XT M785 is the generation that replaces the old M775, and, most importantly, brings significant improvements in terms of appearance and performance. The lever is the same for 3 years running however, with the oil reservoir placed high in an area exposed to damaging and with a small wheel that allows setting the distance between it and the handlebar.
The Servo Wave technology kicks in fully when braking, and works effectively, allowing you also to see exactly how the mechanism functions. With very light actuation comes an impressive braking power, with a very fine modulation. It’s true that you’ll need some time to get used to it, but once you’ve unraveled its mistery you can use it to its full, even with only one single finger, a feat that shows its reliability.
We didn’t get to come across any fading, even when tackling long descents, and the reason for this can be found in the air vents of the caliper and in the Ice Tech rotors, with some help provided by the spider, but this last feature also makes straightening the rotor more difficult when hit.
Both 180mm rotors offered great braking power, even comparable with the one reached by the Shimano XTR or Formula T1S brakes, although these 2 have larger pistons (24mm compared to XT’s 22mm). The chromed appearance isn’t though the best choice, but maybe it will suit those looking for a bling-bling style bike. Still, this is just being picky because the moment you’ll start using these brakes they’ll make you fall for them.
For cross-country or enduro buffs the Deore XT brakes may very well be the top choice, if they can skip the fact that they’ll put on more weight (315 grams w/o rotor, 450 grams with rotor vs. the Avid Trail X0 that tips the scale at 340 grams, rotor included). If you can skip this fact, they’ll get to enjoy one of the most reliable and performant brakes out there, which we would have granted the top rating if it weren’t for the extra grams.