Choosing the right brakes for your dirt jump bike is crucial for both performance and safety. The braking system not only influences your control over the bike but also contributes to your overall dirt jumping experience.
We know that navigating through the multitude of options can be overwhelming. That's why we've done the research for you, exploring different types of brakes and their impact on your ride.
After thorough testing and evaluation, we've come to a conclusion. Our top pick for the best brake system for dirt jumping is the Sram Level T brake.
In this post, we'll break down what makes the Sram Level T stand out. We'll also delve into other types of brakes, so you can make an informed decision tailored to your needs.
Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to dirt jumping, you'll find valuable insights here. So, read on to discover the best braking options for elevating your dirt jumping game.
Our top choices
Sram Level T
A simple yet effective DJ brake designed to be unobtrusive but extremely effective at braking strength, efficiency and modulation.Check Price
Shimano SLX M7100
A surprisingly cheap mountain bike brake from one of the major players in the space. Branding and experience at a great price.Check Price
Hope Tech E4
One of the toughest and effectively built braking systems i've ever used. Extremely strong and induces massive confidence when riding.Check Price
Overall Best DJ Brakes
Sram Level T DJ Brake
- Budget-friendly with high-level performance.
- DirectLink lever design ensures precise control.
- Reach Adjust caters to individual preferences.
- DOT 5.1 fluid ensures fade-free performance.
- MatchMaker and MMX compatibility for tidy setup.
- Instances of complete brake function loss reported.
- Some users found brakes hard to bleed.
- Location of adjustments can be inconvenient.
- Potential vibration during hard braking reported.
Photo by chainreactioncycles.com
These SRAM Level T Brakes are a remarkable addition to any dirt jumping bike; embodying a legacy of championship-winning technology, all while being budget-friendly.
Being a product of SRAM, a company renowned for its innovation and high-quality cycling components, the Level T brakes come with a stamp of trust and performance.
Upon initial interaction with these brakes you're presented with a compact lever body featuring Sram's DirectLink™, which is designed to offer a solid, positive feel the moment you engage the brake.
The lever design is not just about aesthetics or ergonomics; it's about providing precise control instantly when needed. The DirectLink lever design eliminates any vague feel. While testing I felt a real sense of precision upon braking, whatever the circumstances.
One of the noteworthy features of the SRAM Level T Brakes is the Reach Adjust technology. This feature allows easy adjustment of the lever for optimal one-finger control, eliminating the need to worry whether your fingers are going to be comfortable when using these brakes.
An innovative new feature is the reshaped bladder in the brake lever design, aimed at regulating and reducing air bubbles. This design helps evacuate air from the lever and directs the fluid precisely where needed, resulting in improved back-pressure relief and consistent braking power. Not to mention this helps increase the time between each brake bleed.
MatchMaker and MMX compatibility is a feature that cannot be overlooked. This compatibility allows for a tidy, lightweight, and clutter-free setup on the handlebar. It's a dream for handlebar component footprint conservationists, holding Avid levers, SRAM triggers, and various RockShox controls all with one light clamp.
The PiggyBack™ Reservoir is another feature optimized for performance and ease of use. It offers a simple, failsafe way to manage brake fluid and allows for ambidextrous lever placement.
Performance on the trail reflects a combination of great modulation, power, and ergonomics. These brakes are self-adjusting, providing decent stopping power and resistance to external beatings. Although there were instances of total brake function loss as reported by some riders, regular maintenance like bleeding could rectify such issues. My experience has been nothing but positive.
- Blade Material: Aluminum - Stamped
- Pad Type: Steel-backed organic
- Reach Adjustment: Tooled
- Hydraulic Fluid: DOT 4
- Weight: 410g
SRAM Level - Poise, Power, Control
Toughest Brake Pick
Shimano Deore Brake Review
- Consistent power
- Quality finish and construction
- Great value
- Hinged lever clamp is inconvenient
- Levers are not ambidextrous
- Some integration issues with dropper remotes and shifters
The Shimano Deore series, epitomized by models like the M6000 and BR-MT420/BL-M4100, caters to a great variety of riding styles, from cross-country (XC) to all-mountain trails.
Shimano's reputation for delivering quality cycling components is well reflected in the Deore brakes, which promise a blend of durable construction, lightweight design, and smooth control, ideal for riders aiming to conquer diverse terrains.
At the core of the Deore M6000 is a hydraulic brake system. The sleek integrated appearance coupled with a robust construction underscores its durability.
Despite its lightweight caliper design, there's no compromise on the rigidity required for effective braking, making it a commendable choice for weight-conscious riders.
With its opposed 4-piston design that minimizes leading effect and optimizes pad wear, Shimano has obviously taken a lot of rider feedback onboard.
Shimano's proprietary ICE TECHNOLOGY significantly enhances the Deore brakes' performance by reducing heat build-up, giving consistent performance even in demanding situations.
The ICE TECHNOLOGY also makes these brakes compatible with various pad types, which is so useful to riders who've tested and found their perfect brake pads.
The one-way bleeding technology simplifies maintenance by providing an easy and clean bleeding system, while the mineral oil brake fluid used is less hazardous and corrosive compared to conventional hydraulic brake fluids, marking an environmentally friendlier choice.
The Deore series also showcases Shimano's understanding of a hassle-free installation and setup process with its shim-less mounting system and I-spec-EV compatibility.
The reach adjustment on the brake lever allows for a perfect custom fit, making it adaptable to different riders. This adaptability extends to the rotor and pad compatibility, offering riders the great freedom to customize their setup.
This kit comes equipped with resin pads, but it's versatile enough to be used with sintered and Ice Tech pads. The freedom to choose between the revolutionary Center Lock rotor system and the conventional 6-bolt rotors, along with a range of rotor sizes, allows riders to tailor the brake system to their riding conditions and preferences.
While researching and testing this product, the biggest issue has probably been the fact you can't use the brake on both sides. It's not ambidextrous. With a lot of slopestyle riders only using one brake, this can be quite a pain to those that prefer a specific orientation.
Budget KING! Shimano Deore 12 speed Brakes, M6100 vs M6000 and XT M8100
Hope Tech 4 E4 Dirt Jumping Brakes
- Exceptional stopping power
- Reduced rider fatigue with lighter lever action
- Efficient heat management during extreme use
- Tool-free bite point and reach adjustments
- Durable, low maintenance hybrid piston design
- Premium price point may deter budget-conscious riders
- Limited color options for personalization
- Requires professional installation for optimal performance
- Rigid CNC'd one-piece caliper may limit compatibility
- Specific rotor thickness requirement (2.3mm)
The Hope Tech 4 E4 hydraulic disc brake is nothing short of a revelation in the dirt jumping scene. Having experienced this brake system firsthand, it's evident that its design and performance are borne out of the impressive 25 years Hope has dedicated almost solely to disc brakes.
The UK-based company has outdone itself with the Tech 4 E4, showing an impeccable balance of power, control, and durability which is paramount for dirt jumping.
The lever is a marvel, embodying new internal sealing that significantly reduces friction. The pivot operates on roller bearings, allowing a reduced spring rate. This translates to a lighter lever action, reducing rider fatigue—a critical factor when pushing the limits on a dirt jump.
Transitioning to the E4 caliper, it's a blend of meticulous engineering and practical innovation. The hybrid-style stainless steel pistons with a phenolic insert are a testament to this.
They not only allow for smoother movement but significantly cut down maintenance time. Even under extreme use, these brakes manage high temperatures efficiently without any heat transfer, thanks to this phenolic insert.
A remarkable feature that caught my attention was the 30% increase in pressure compared to the Tech 3 brake. This increment in pressure is noticeable as it provides a reassuring stopping power.
The hinged clamp design is another notable feature, reducing weight and lowering the overall stack height. This design also augments the brake's ergonomics, making it a pleasure to interact with.
The shifter integration on the Tech 4 E4 has been refined and now offers 30° of angle adjustment. Alongside the lateral adjustment on both sides of the master cylinder provides a wide range of lever position options, catering to different rider preferences. The tool-free bite point and reach adjustments are intuitive, making on-the-fly adjustments a breeze.
Aesthetically, the brake system comes in black or silver, with color accent options of black, silver, purple, red, blue, or orange to match or contrast your bike's scheme. If you've had any experience with Hope you will know how bright and high-quality their color schemes are, this product is no different.
The brakes also come with new racing compound pads, providing excellent bite right from the off. The maximum rotor thickness for the E4 caliper is 2.3mm, providing a good surface for heat dissipation and consistent braking performance.More Information from Hope
MTB PRODUCT OF THE YEAR - Hope Tech 4 E4 Disc Brakes
Budget Pick for DJ Brakes
Shimano SLX M7100 Mountain Bike Brakes
- Exceptional braking power and control
- Quick piston retraction minimizing drag
- Easy assembly and installation
- Innovative cooling technology ensures consistent performance
- Adjustable lever and ergonomic design for rider comfort
- May require additional tools for hose trimming and bleeding
- Some riders might find the need for a bleed kit a bit cumbersome
- Limited compatibility with very old shifter designs
- Banjo-type connections might not appeal to all riders
- The caliper comes unassembled which could be a challenge for novices
Photo by chainreactioncycles.com
Shimano, a name synonymous with cycling excellence, has truly outdone itself with the SLX M7100 hydraulic disc brake caliper, especially when it comes to dirt jumping. Having tried these brakes on the trail, the immediate impression is that of impeccable control and robust stopping power, essential for those steep descents and abrupt halts before takeoff.
The SLX M7100 caliper is a testament to Shimano's constant innovation. The lightweight design doesn't just reduce the overall weight of your rig, but also promises efficient braking performance in all conditions. One remarkable feature is the quicker piston retraction which ensures the pads are well clear of the rotor quickly, minimizing drag, which is crucial when every second counts.
The caliper assembly is quite straightforward, a feature that most riders, including myself, appreciate. The banjo-type connection and inside hose routing further simplify the installation, making it a breeze even for those new to hydraulic setups. The caliper, coupled with the brake lever, offers stable and versatile high-performance brake control, essential for navigating the unpredictable terrain dirt jumpers often find themselves in.
Talking about the brake lever, the action-packed cockpit layout is flexible and the lever itself is easily adjustable to suit individual preferences thanks to the Reach Adjust mechanism. This is invaluable when you're out on the trail, allowing for quick adjustments on the fly.
Diving a bit into the technology, the Servo Wave Action is remarkable. The initial pad travel is fast, making it require lesser lever movement to bring the pads into contact with the rotor. This feature significantly enhances the braking power, providing that much-needed control during high-speed descents.
The I-SPEC EV technology creates an action-optimized cockpit, giving a wider range of riders the ability to adjust to their optimal position. The ergonomic design and light operation are not just about comfort, they are about enhancing rider focus and flexibility, something I noticed while navigating through a particularly technical section of the trail.
Shimano's Ice Technologies take the cake when it comes to consistent braking performance. The clad disc brake rotor blade and the Ice Technologies pad significantly reduce the fade that occurs during long downhill rides. The cooling technology is effective in maintaining a lower surface temperature, ensuring the braking performance remains consistent irrespective of the trail conditions.
The One Way Bleeding technology is another feature that stands out. It was developed for quick and easy prevention of air in Shimano's hydraulic system, ensuring the maintenance is as straightforward as the installation.
Reading through the reviews of other riders, it's clear that the SLX M7100 is a worthy investment. The consistent theme is the ease of installation, robust braking power, and the noticeable upgrade from other brake systems. Some riders have pointed out the need for a bleed kit and hose cutters for setup, but once installed, the performance is unparalleled.
Shimano's 12-Speed SLX M7100 | SHIMANO
Best for Discounts
Sram Guide RE
- Optimized for higher average speeds and increased mass
- Powerful 4-piston caliper derived from gravity-focused brakes
- Tool-free reach and banjo adjustment for customization
- PiggyBack Reservoir simplifies brake fluid management
- MatchMaker X compatibility de-clutters the handlebar
- The Seals have been known to wear down fast
- Some factors are difficult to customize
Photo by gabrielastin
The Sram Guide has been a popular brake for slopestyle and freeride mountain bikers for some time now. There are several different versions but we think the RE model is the best in 2023.
We also love the fact that Sram has fine-tuned this brake for e-bikes and released it as a separate model.
SRAM, a renowned player in the cycling industry, has integrated some of its top technologies into the Guide RE. It combines the proven Guide R lever assembly with a powerful 4-piston caliper derived from the gravity-focused Code brakes. This combination ensures optimal power and modulation which is key in controlling speed in varying terrain, be it uphill or downhill.
The aluminum lever construction not only provides a lightweight solution but also ensures durability over time. The 4-piston caliper design is something carried over from the code gravity-specific brakes.
Every Guide RE is fitted with a tool-free reach and banjo adjustment, making it a customizable solution for every rider. The PiggyBack Reservoir is an ingenious feature that simplifies brake fluid management and allows for ambidextrous lever placement, which is more important than a lot of generic mountain bike brands realize.
One unique feature is the MatchMaker X compatibility which is a boon for handlebar component footprint conservationists. It holds Avid levers, SRAM triggers, and various RockShox controls, all with one tidy, light clamp. This not only saves weight but also declutters the handlebar. I loved the look and feel of these brakes on my bars when we were testing.
SRAM's DirectLink lever design ensures a solid, positive feel the moment you engage the brake. This is paired with the new timing port closure system, TPC Plus, which features durable seals and an ultra-smooth cylinder bore finish. You can feel the improvements when braking. It's a smooth but firm stopping power that feels high-quality and durable.
The main disadvantage we see with these brakes is the seals. Sram seals are known to deteriorate faster than most. Unfortunately, you often can't replace them yourself, requiring you to send them back to the factory to be serviced. Not ideal for cyclists who want to be out and riding several times a week.
- Blade Material: Aluminum-Stamped
- Pad Type: Steel Backed Meta Sintered
- Reach Adjust: Tool Free
- Hydraulic Fluid: DOT 5.1
- Weight: 415g
SRAM Guide BRAKES Quick Check - Any good??? From a Shimano Brake User Perspective
Types of Brakes found on Dirt Jump Bikes
Photo by ashmtnadv
Disc brakes are almost universal on dirt jump bikes due to their efficient stopping power and durability. These brakes work well in various conditions, including mud, water, and dust, making them ideal for the unpredictable terrains encountered in dirt jumping.
Mechanical disc brakes are cable-operated and generally simpler in construction. Mechanical and hydraulic brakes are similar to install and but mechanical brakes ar easier to maintain. If you're a beginner or a rider on a budget then mechanical is perfect.
However, they require more manual effort to generate stopping power, and performance can degrade over time if the cable stretches or collects grime. Regular adjustments are often necessary to keep them in optimal condition.
Hydraulic disc brakes use a fluid-filled system to transfer the force from the lever to the brake caliper. They offer more consistent and potent stopping power, even under harsh conditions.
Hydraulic brakes also self-adjust for brake pad wear, providing a consistently excellent braking experience. The downside is that they are generally more expensive and can be more complicated to service. If the system develops a leak or air gets into the hydraulic fluid, specialized skills may be required to fix the issue.
For bicycles, rim brakes would probably be classed as the most used braking method on bikes. Though they weren't the first brakes used on a bike, following the shoe brake and rim brake, they're lightweight, simple, and cheap to manufacture.
Even now, after centuries of bicycle evolution, they make up a considerable part of brakes released on bicycles each year. While disc brakes are more efficient and more powerful, rim brakes have their place on many bikes, specifically dirt jumping bikes.
Key Features to Consider
Your budget plays a significant role in the type of brake system you can afford. As mentioned above, mechanical disc brakes are cheaper, while hydraulic systems are pricier but offer better performance.
Riding Conditions and Style
Consider the terrains you'll be riding on and how you will be riding. Riders in the UK will often be riding in muddy and wet conditions, while those in Canada or the US will often be in drier terrain and commonly on larger, tougher trails. These factors are important to consider when buying brakes for your dirt jumper.
Modulation and Power
Pay attention to how well the brakes modulate power. Better modulation allows for more controlled stopping, which is crucial for dirt jumping.
Reliability is key in a sport like dirt jumping. Look for brands that have a reputation for durability and consistency. Well known brand names will increase price but with some research you can find well reviewed brands that aren't priced around the hype.
Ensure that the brakes you're considering are compatible with your bike. This includes checking the mount types, disc sizes, and whether your bike can accommodate hydraulic systems if you're leaning that way.
Top Brands for DJ Bike Brakes
One of the biggest names in mountain biking, Shimano center their huge budget and power around creating the best hydraulic and mechanical brakes for all disciplines of cycling. The fact they design products for everything from road bikes to downhill mountain bikes means they bring a brilliant, unique perspective to this area.
Hope are one of the best brands for dirt jumper bike brakes purely from their insanely high quality and craftsmanship. They've created a reputation for taking the quality of their products extremely seriously.
As a result of this, the stopping power, strength and performance of the brakes are second to none. I find these the super important factors in brakes for DJ bikes.
Maintenance and Longevity
Dirt jumping is all about pushing the limits, but that also means your bike will accumulate grime, dust, and mud. A simple yet thorough clean after each session keeps your bike in top shape.
Use a soft brush and mild soap; avoid high-pressure washers as they can force water into bearings and other sensitive areas.
Lubrication isn't just for gears. Your bike's moving parts—like the chain, gear cogs, and brake mechanisms—require regular lubing. Select the right type of lubricant based on your riding conditions. For instance, wet lube is better for muddy terrains, while dry lube is ideal for dusty conditions. Using this correctly on your brakes will keep them effective and efficient for a long time.
Brakes are your best friends when you're airborne. Over time, brake pads wear down and hydraulic systems may require bleeding. Make it a habit to inspect them regularly. I check my brakes and pads every two or three outings. If your brakes feel squishy or make strange noises, it's time for a check-up.
Store your bike in a dry, temperature-controlled environment. Excessive moisture and extreme temperatures can degrade your brakes, bearings, and pads much quicker.
Common Issues with MTB Brakes
This occurs when brakes lose effectiveness due to overheating. This is more common in hydraulic systems and can be dangerous during long descents or heavy usage.
Squeaking and Noise
Noisy brakes are a common issue, often caused by contamination or misalignment. While it's usually not a sign of severe problems, it can be annoying and may require adjustment or cleaning.
Uneven Pad Wear
Over time, brake pads can wear unevenly, leading to reduced performance. Regular inspection and adjustment are required to keep the braking force consistent.
Inconsistency in braking can happen due to various factors like air in hydraulic lines or stretched cables in mechanical systems. It can be disconcerting and requires immediate attention.
In hydraulic systems, a leak can be disastrous, causing a complete loss of braking power. Regular inspection for signs of fluid leakage is essential.
Especially for hydraulic systems, maintenance can be complex and may require specialized tools or expertise, adding to the overall cost and effort.
Other Brakes we Considered
Photo by https://www.tredz.co.uk/
We don't like to create super long lists of recommendations on these buyers guides. We find that too many options will make it more difficult to pick the one that's best for you.
Although we keep the lists small, we research and review a large selection of products in each category. Below are several products that we loved but didn't make it into the top 5.
Frequently Asked Questions about Brakes
Why do dirt jump bikes only have a rear brake?
Not all dirt jump bikes have just one brake. There are a lot of DJ and slopestyle riders who prefer to ride with two brakes. For those that do go with just one brake, there are a few reasons.
Also, less braking is needed on jump trails, eliminating the need for double the braking power. One brake will lighten the bike and make it easier to grab the bars in the air.
Do dirt jumpers have front brakes?
Sometimes dirt jump bikes have front brakes. It's not essential for your DJ bike to have a front brake but you will be safer if you have one.
How do you know when brake pads need replacing?
It's normally quite obvious when your brake pads need replacing. Watch out for a change in the quality of your brakes. If it's taking you longer to stop or requiring more power then it's a good sign you should replace them. Also, brake pads often start squeaking and making noises when they need to be replaced.
You can tell quite quickly whether to replace your pads or not. Simply remove the wheen and feel the pads. If there is not much pad left before the metal base then they should be replaced.
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