Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Heavy-Duty Disc Brakes

Curiously, the better your brakes are the faster you go. But with no shortage of options, things can get a bit confusing when it comes to choosing your next set of stoppers. To make things even more complicated, big four-piston brakes that were once the exclusive domain of downhill bikes are increasingly finding their place on anything from hard-hitting trail bikes to full-on enduro race rigs – such are the demands of today's version of mountain biking.

To help you figure out what’s what, we’ve spent the last six months and over 350 hours putting six of the world’s best heavy-duty brakes to the test. The time has come to reveal the results.

1st Place: Hope Tech 3 V4 - Best in Test

"Designed, tested, and manufactured" – three words that have become synonymous with Hope Technology and the ever-growing catalogue of high-quality bike parts that they produce in their Barnoldswick, UK factory. Hope’s V4 brakes are CNCed from single blocks of aluminum and have been around for about four years. The unchanged design is a testament to just how well they perform and how dependable they are. While they are not the outright most powerful on test here, their incredible modulation and adjustability ultimately helped them to a convincing win.

Shop the V4 at Chain Reaction Cycles.

2nd Place: SRAM Code RSC - Runner Up

Throughout the years, Avid and later SRAM have known more than their fair share of trouble when it comes to the long-term reliability of their brakes. Their Code brakes, however, have stood as a proud exception for a couple of generations. The latest version borrows heavily from the much-lauded line of Guide brakes, but adds another dimension of power and reliability that saw it come very close to challenging for the top spot.

Shop the Code RSC at Jenson USA.

3rd Place: Formula Cura

Formula has often been a bit of a love-hate thing for many people when it comes to brakes. Their previous generation of heavy-duty brakes featured a vertical master cylinder and oval pistons, and while they were often praised for their power some versions of those brakes could be a bit unreliable. Their ergonomics were also not for everybody. The Cura, however, represents a complete redesign from the ground up. Although it was only available in a dual-piston version when we kicked off this test, Formula were confident that it could hold its own in a heavy-duty brake shootout – Finn Iles won the overall Junior UCI Downhill World Cup Title running a standard, off-the-shelf, two-piston Cura after all. Lo and behold, it turns out Formula’s confidence was warranted, and the light and relatively inexpensive Cura surprised us by storming right up the rankings to snatch the last spot on the podium.

Shop the Cura at Chain Reaction Cycles.


How We Tested

We have prior long-term experience with all but the Cura. To put them all to the test under more or less equitable circumstances, we rode a set of each brake again for at least one month on the same bike under the same tester. We used 200mm or 203mm rotors up front and 180mm rotors out back each time.

Of course, conditions change during six months of testing, but this gave us a good idea of how each brake performs day to day. We mounted the brakes on a long-travel enduro bike which allowed us to make sure each brake would see all kinds of riding, from shuttling downhill tracks to general trail duty.

At the end of the six months, it was time for the final exam: one day spent riding the six brakes back to back. We headed out to a local downhill track and a long, steep shuttle road where we set up our mobile workshop for the day and proceeded to bang out runs and fine tune our F1 pitstop brake-swapping skills.

During our back-to-back test, each set of brakes saw one run on the downhill track followed by a “burn test” down the aforementioned fireroad. This test consisted of heavily dragging the front brake for two minutes down the steepest part of the mountain, holding our speed just above walking pace, in order to really heat the brakes up. Once hot, we continued to alternate heavy braking and brake dragging all the way to the bottom to detect any fade or other performance-related issues. At the end of this final exam, we were ready to compile the scores and call a winner…

By The Numbers

Here you have it, one table with all the answers. The maximum score in any one category is 10. Weight measurements are for a front brake and 200mm/203mm rotor, but exclude any mounting hardware. Similarly, the listed prices are full retail value for a complete front and rear set including rotors, but excluding mounting hardware.

Brake

Total
Score

Power
Score

Modulation
Score

Heat
Score

Adjustability
Score

Weight
(grams)

Weight
Score

Retail Price
Per Pair (USD)

Price
Score

Hope V4

9.05

9

10

9

10

461g

8

$560

7

SRAM Code RSC

8.75

10

9

8

9

511g

7

$598

7

Formula Cura

8.60

8

9

9

6

397g

10

$420

10

Magura MT7 HC3

8.35

9

8

9

8

425g

9

$830

6

Shimano Saint

8.35

10

7

8

8

479g

8

$520

8

TRP Quadiem G-Spec

8.15

8

9

8

7

487g

8

$515

8

In order to establish this final ranking, we evaluated performance aspects we feel are most important for a heavy-duty brake. The different aspects were given the following weights:

  • Power: 30%
  • Modulation: 25%
  • Heat Management: 15%
  • Adjustability: 10%
  • Weight: 10%
  • Price: 10%

Power

When testing heavy-duty brakes, one of the most important aspects is power. What is power and how to you measure it? How can one finger stop you so quickly? Braking power is primarily the result of the mechanical advantage the brake lever provides, the hydraulic advantage of increasing piston area from the master cylinder to the caliper, and the size of the rotor. Things like pad material, flex in the brake line, splay in the caliper, and air in the system all have an impact on the amount of power that is produced.

All the brakes tested here generate more than enough power to lock up a front wheel under any circumstance, but we judged them on how much power they are able to create with a similar amount of lever pressure. We did not resort to a machine to test this aspect, nevertheless we were able to easily identify the brakes that offer more stopping power with relatively less input at the lever.

Modulation: Power Is Nothing Without Control

The way each brake behaves is crucial to how it feels on the trail, and it is in fact the main differentiating factor between all the brakes on test here. In short, these six heavy-duty brakes can all stop a truck, but the way they apply their immense braking power is very different.

Power is awesome, but if you can’t control it you can't use it. A locked-up wheel is far less efficient at slowing a bike down than one flirting with the limit of traction. “Modulation” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, so we should clarify what we mean when we say it and how we evaluated it. Basically, modulation describes how sensitive a brake is to changing input at the brake lever. A brake that modulates well lets you easily control the amount of braking power under any circumstance. Squeeze a bit more and you get a bit more power. Squeeze a bit less and the brake should respond accordingly. It sounds straightforward enough, but the way each brake behaves is crucial to how it feels on the trail, and it is in fact the main differentiating factor between all the brakes on test here. In short, these six heavy-duty brakes can all stop a truck, but the way they apply their immense braking power is very different.

Heat Management: Is It Me Or Is It Hot In Here?

Heavy-duty brakes usually have to deal with long runs full of hard and/or sustained braking. As a result they get very hot, and how they deal with this heat build-up is crucial. As previously described, we came up with a specific “burn test” to help us evaluate how each brake reacts to extreme heat build-up. This test doesn’t really mirror any real riding conditions – if this is how you get down mountains regularly you probably need to rethink what and how you ride – but it was the best way for us to easily see how each brake performed when pushed to the extreme. We found some interesting differences in how each brake reacted, most notably in terms of noise but also lever pump.

Making Adjustments

We’re not all born equal, and just one look at how different people set up their brake levers should help convince you of that if you didn’t already know it. Some people like their levers close to the bars, others further away. Some like the lever throw to be as short as possible, others prefer to wait for the bite point. There is no one correct answer, which is why it is so important that a brake lever offers a wide range of easily usable and effective adjustment.

Measuring Up

To complete this overview of scoring aspects, we also took into account physical weight and price. Considering that both these factors are slightly less important to the typical buyers of heavy-duty brakes, these aspected were given a relatively low weighting when the scores were tallied up.


Our Picks

The best three heavy-duty brakes in the world, starting with our winner:

Hope Tech 3 V4 – Best in Test

To say that Hope has a history of making disc brakes for mountain bikes would be an understatement, as they quite literally were among the very first to do so all the way back in 1989. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength, growing their catalog and building a loyal following worldwide based on dependable product and great customer service. Launched in late 2013, the Tech 3 family of brakes took everything Hope had learned and put it into three different packages, the two-piston X2, the enduro-oriented E4 we tested previously with excellent results, and the full-on V4 featured in this heavy-duty brake shootout. Powerful and adjustable, this DH-rated stopper has everything you need to slow you down - it certainly looks the part, too.

Hope Tech 3 V4 Highlights

  • Rigid one piece caliper, CNC machined from 2014 T6 aluminum alloy
  • V4 caliper uses four phenolic pistons to give more usable power
  • DOT 5.1 brake fluid
  • Ergonomic lever design to fit around other handle bar items
  • The Tech 3 lever is directly compatible with Shimano I-Spec shifters, separate direct mounts also available for Shimano I Spec 2 & SRAM shifters
  • Complete brake available in Black, Purple, Red, Orange, Blue and Silver
  • Comes with braided hose as standard (regular brake hoses used in some markets)
  • Tool free bite point and reach adjustments
  • Uses post mount, 9.74 caliper with adapters to suit all mount options
  • Top entry pad fitting
  • Compatible with 180, 183 and 203mm rotors
  • Weight: 461 grams (front brake, including 203mm rotor, verified)
  • MSRP: $560 USD (complete set, including rotors)

Initial Impressions

Best known for their CNC wizardry, it comes as no surprise that Hope’s V4 should impress at first sight. The caliper is intricately machined and certainly looks the part while the equally elaborate lever combines that industrial design with a distinctly modern shape. Add a choice of Hope’s six colors and the V4s never find themselves lacking in the bling department.

The V4 features two different piston sizes (where the slightly lighter E4 makes do with a single size) housed in a caliper machined from a single piece of aluminum. This is said to increase caliper stiffness compared to a traditional two-piece design, and it is also the reason why it features the two distinctive bore caps – this is the only way to get into the caliper!

The Tech 3 lever offers both bite point and reach adjustment via a set of two bolts that are entirely external to the lever body. One bolt moves the master cylinder piston in and out (and thus the caliper pistons which moves the pads closer to or further away from the rotors), while the other changes where the lever blade sits in relation to the handlebar. The V4s come standard with braided hoses and are the only ones in this test to do so (note: they come with regular hoses in some markets). We tested with a set of Hope’s floating disc rotors where the external steel part of the rotor floats on an aluminum carrier. This is said to improve resistance to warping while also offering a good opportunity for a little fun with anodizing.

On The Trail

Installation of the V4 is straightforward as all the hardware is high quality and a pleasure to work with. Aligning the brake is trouble-free, and if you take the time to line up the caliper then work the pads in and out a bit you are rewarded with drag-free performance from day one. Bleeding a Hope brake is a slightly more messy affair than with many others, but what the open-bath procedure lacks in cleanliness it more than makes up for in the performance department. We have yet to fail getting a great bleed on a Hope brake, and we’ve had several years of experience with them.

These Hope brakes deliver their power in a very different manner: the initial bite is very soft and the power builds up quickly as you squeeze the brake with minimal lever travel. Once you get used to it this creates a brake which is incredibly intuitive to use, to the point of becoming completely second nature.

Those accustomed to a more sensitive brake may feel disappointed at first because these Hope brakes deliver their power in a very different manner: the initial bite is very soft and the power builds up quickly as you squeeze the brake with minimal lever travel. Once you get used to it this creates a brake which is incredibly intuitive to use, to the point of becoming completely second nature. There are a couple of other brakes in this test that come close, but those don't deliver that perfect combo of sensitivity and power when you need it.

The impressive adjustability of the Tech 3 lever is another point where the V4s outscored the others. The 100% external reach and bite point adjustments are as simple as they are effective, with a wide range and distinct clicks to help you keep track of what you are doing.

Burn Test

The V4s were among the very best in our burn test with no annoying noise and almost imperceptible lever pump. The feel and the power seemed unaffected by the high temperatures, and the brake essentially delivered the same performance at the bottom of this special test run as it did at the top.

Durability

We have had a set of Tech 3 E4 brakes (the enduro version of this same brake) running for a couple of years now, and we’ve been more than impressed with how it has held up over time. We had one lever start to act up after about 18 months, then replaced the two main piston seals in the master cylinder and were back to normal at a cost of about $5. Hope brakes can be rebuilt at home, and all the individual parts are available for purchase should you need them. This is another strong point of this family of brakes, as aside from the bore cap tool you don’t really need any particularly special equipment or skills to completely strip and rebuild the V4.

Summary

Despite having close to no presence in the OEM space, Hope has managed to build up an impressive catalogue with customers around the world swearing by their products. The Tech 3 V4 is a quality piece of equipment that is set to carry this fine tradition forward, taking the top spot in this shootout thanks to an unbeatable combination of power, feel, adjustability, and durability – that it happens to be available in six rad colors will keep the fettlers happy too!

Shop the V4 at Chain Reaction Cycles.


SRAM Code RSC – Runner Up

Looking back, some Avid brakes were often the subject of much ire and a near endless source of frustration for riders. When they worked well they always offered up a great feel and in many cases the performance to back it up. However, they were plagued with reliability issues which eventually led SRAM to ditch the Avid name altogether and redesign its line of brakes from scratch. The resulting Guide family of brakes presented a significant improvement in quality and consistency of performance. They offer that same trademark lever feel that many have come to appreciate, although some annoying issues persisted as anybody with a stuck master cylinder piston will testify. Throughout the years, however, one brake stood out from the others in terms of both power and consistency – the Code. Now fully part of the new family, SRAM’s flagship stopper seems largely impervious to the troubles sometimes affecting its smaller siblings, which sees it finish very close to the top step in this shootout. If it's monster power and near-perfect modulation you want, you'll find it easy to look past the weight and the price tag of this premium product.

SRAM Code RSC Highlights

  • Based on Guide architecture, designed specifically to handle heavy-duty demands
  • 4-piston, dual diameter alloy caliper
  • CenterLine rotor
  • Steel-backed, metal sintered, top-loading pads
  • DOT 5.1 brake fluid
  • Ambidextrous mount
  • Tool-free Reach Adjust, Contact Point Adjust, Banjo Adjust
  • MatchMaker X compatible
  • Bleeding Edge easy bleed tech
  • SwingLink architecture, lever pivot bearings
  • Rotor sizes: 160, 170, 180, 200mm
  • “Bend Zone” lever blade
  • Color: Black anodized
  • Weight: 511 grams (front brake, including cable and 200mm rotor, verified)
  • MSRP: $598 USD (complete set, including rotors)

Initial Impressions

“All business” is probably the best way to describe the Code. Borrowing heavily from the aesthetics of the Guide brake, the Code is an all-black affair with minimal graphics and understated black-on-black bling. The extra 30% of fluid volume the lever contains compared to the Guide brake is visible in the form of a bulging main reservoir. The two-piece, V-shaped caliper looks almost like a two-piston brake at first glance, but it hides four pistons and its imposing size gives away its purpose: slowing down big loads at any cost.

The Code RSC lever may look simple at first glance, but looks can be deceiving. The lever blade pivots on bearings, and SRAM’s “SwingLink” provides a different effect on the pad travel at different points in the lever stroke. When you initiate the stroke, the pads move faster to allow them to take up the “dead” part of the stroke faster. Once the pads engage, the leverage ratio changes to give more power and control. The RSC lever also offers both contact point adjustment and lever reach adjustment.

On The Trail

Mounting up the Codes is child’s play. They are easy to set up drag free and bleeding is a cinch thanks to SRAM’s “Bleeding Edge” technology. A special port on the caliper allows you to connect a specific syringe and open the bleed port without losing any fluid or without any air entering the system. Simple and very effective. All the hardware is of good quality, and if you happen to be running SRAM shifters and/or a Reverb dropper you can mount everything on just a single clamp on each side.

When it comes to power and modulation, the Code delivers. If you know the feeling of a good Guide brake, pump it up on steroids and you get the Code.

The ergonomics of the lever are near perfect, and the pivot point sits in a great spot which allows you to get good braking power at just the right point in the lever’s travel. Our only gripe with the Code levers is the somewhat faffy and ineffective nature of the adjustments. The bite point adjuster seems to offer too much range in the wrong direction, which translates roughly to “why would anybody want to dial in this much extra lever slop?” The reach adjustment is reasonably effective, but the knob is small and it’s difficult to feel what you’re doing with it. It also has a tendency to get stuck between clicks.

When it comes to power and modulation, the Code delivers. If you know the feeling of a good Guide brake, pump it up on steroids and you get the Code. The same great lever feel is still there, it’s just a bit more "solid" for lack of a better word. The extra power seems to come with even better modulation. With the Codes, you never feel out of power and you never feel out of control.

Burn Test

Pitting the Codes against gravity in our burn test, we discovered a bit of a dichotomy: one the one hand, the lever pump was well controlled and the power never faded. On the other hand, the Codes started howling like stuck pigs about halfway into the test, and they kept it up until normal service had resumed. This is likely due to the rotor design, despite several attempts by SRAM at creating rotors with the promise of “a quieter ride.” Be that as it may, the Codes were mostly quiet under normal use on the trail, although they can pipe up a bit sometimes when riding in wet conditions.

Durability

As mentioned previously, some SRAM brakes have struggled with long term durability. We have not found that to be true of the Codes. Whether it’s the extra volume and size giving the designers more room to work with or simply better tolerances on this family of brakes we can’t say, but we do know that the Codes just keep on keeping on with a consistently smooth lever feel.

Summary

Downhill brakes are flagship products, and SRAM took their time when redesigning the Code. They're like Guides on steroids and are the best of the SRAM family, in our opinion. They're incredibly powerful with great lever feel. Slightly subpar adjustments and lower scores on weight and price kept the Code from challenging for the top spot in this test.

Shop the Code at Jenson USA.


Formula Cura – 3rd Place

Formula has a bit of a spotty record as riders seemed to either love or hate their brakes. Moving on from the previous generation of serious stoppers, the two-piston Cura was developed with downhill World Cup racing team input. They were proudly featured on the bike that Finn Iles rode to the overall 2017 Junior UCI Downhill World Cup title as well as Miranda Miller’s World Champs winning steed. Loic Bruni was also running the new goods in 2017, although he was already testing a four-piston prototype of the same brake later in the season. With such good results it’s clear to see why Formula didn’t hesitate to send us the Cura even though they knew that this two-piston welterweight would be going up against a group of four-piston heavyweights – figuratively and literally. With great power delivery and an even better lever feel, the Cura wasted little time proving itself worthy of the vote of confidence.

Formula Cura Highlights

  • Forged aluminum master cylinder
  • Forged aluminum lever blade
  • PM6 caliper with 24mm pistons
  • Organic compound pads
  • Mineral oil compatible
  • One piece (tested) or two piece rotors available
  • Speed Lock Standard: Caliper side only
  • MixMaster compatible (optional)
  • Weight: 397 grams (front brake, including cable and 203mm rotor, verified)
  • MSRP: $420 USD (complete set, including rotors)

Initial Impressions

The Cura almost looked out of place when its svelte lines revealed themselves. Even the box they showed up in was smaller than the others. Throwing them on the scales confirmed what already seemed obvious: the Cura is also a good deal lighter than any other brake featured in this test. The lines are smooth with the brake lever looking a bit like the result of a night of passion between a Shimano XT and a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Gone is the pull-piston design of old, making way for a classic, in-line push-piston design. For the first time ever, Formula has gone to mineral oil – a move they say was possible because they finally discovered an oil that was “up to their standards.” The oil pushes two pistons per caliper. At a 24mm diameter they are much bigger than the average piston in a four-piston brake, which is necessary to reach downhill-worthy stopping power levels in a two-piston design.

The “Speed Lock” quick connector on the caliper side allows for fast, toolless disconnection of the brake hose from the lever. It seems a bit scary at first, but the execution of the concept seemed solid to us and it is truly a boon for working on internally routed frames. Kudos to Formula on this design.

The lever shape is fairly classic, and Formula says they spent a lot of time figuring out the ideal place for the pivot in order to maximize power at the appropriate point in the stroke. There is no bite point adjust, and the small reach adjust requires a tiny Allen key to operate.

On The Trail

Installing the Cura was devoid of any drama, and the “Speed Lock” system proved to be every bit as effective as advertised. Try as we may, we have not been able to fault it. You can basically connect and disconnect the brake hose as many times as you like without losing fluid or introducing air into your brake lines. Setting up the lever in a comfortable position also proved easy, even if the tiny reach adjust bolt is a pain to work with.

The lever action is direct and solid, and the brakes have a real bite to them. The modulation is awesome, and it’s very easy to feel what the brake is doing at all times.

On the trail, it didn’t take long for the Cura to convince us. The lever action is direct and solid, and the brakes have a real bite to them. The modulation is awesome, and it’s very easy to feel what the brake is doing at all times. The geometry of the lever was perfect for this tester, leaving us feeling in control and with good amounts of power in reserve for when we needed it. Yes, there is a bit less power outright than the most powerful four-piston brakes in this test, but not significantly so. More importantly, the brakes ramp up nicely towards the end of the lever travel and it’s never a struggle to unleash those last bits of braking power when required.

Burn Test

Heading down the steep fireroad for our burn test, the Cura would once again punch above its weight. Completely silent to the end, there was little discernible lever pump and no brake fade. With this level of performance from the dual-piston version, we can hardly wait to get out hands on the four-piston edition which Formula says will drop “sometime during the spring.” We’ll be sure to come back and update this test when they do, as we have a feeling they might well end up challenging those on the podium above it…time will tell!

Durability

We have kept the Cura brakes on a bike for about two months, but as we have no prior experience with this model we can’t yet give a definitive opinion on durability. What we have seen of it so far bodes well – it is easy to bleed and the performance has remained very consistent throughout testing. We’ll keep it on the trail and report back with any additional findings at a later date should anything unexpected reveal itself.

Summary

Formula went back to the drawing board for the Cura, and their dedication has been rewarded with an excellent, general-purpose brake that can also hold its own against the best heavy-duty brakes in the world. With great ergonomics, plenty of power and modulation, and light weight coupled with a slender price tag, the Cura really only lacks a bit of power and adjustability to challenge for the top spot. We can’t wait to see what the four-piston version will deliver…

Shop the Cura at Chain Reaction Cycles.


The Other Contenders

We chose the brakes for this test carefully. We looked for “big boy brakes” with DH-worthy ratings and stopped at the six main contenders that can be easily purchased and serviced pretty much anywhere in the world. Because this is a shootout format somebody has to win, but all the brakes in this test will more than satisfy their users in every condition imaginable. A few words on those that didn’t make the podium:

Magura MT7 HC3 MacAskill Edition

We have tested Magura’s flagship stoppers before, and we were well impressed with the power and modulation on offer. The same is true of this revised version with the brake doing well both on the trail and in our burn test. It showed the least amount of lever pump and only a slightly off-putting grinding noise noticeable towards the end of the burn run. 

We have tested Magura’s flagship stoppers before, and we were well impressed with the power and modulation on offer. The same is true of this revised version with the brake doing well both on the trail and in our burn test.

On the flipside, the MT7s was the most difficult brakes of the bunch to set up right. They are quite sensitive to how you bleed them, and the low overall oil volume does not provide a lot of buffer if things should go a bit wrong. They were also the most tricky to set up drag-free. 

The levers were the major negative point when we originally tested the MT7, which is a flaw that Magura corrected with the release of the new HC3 lever shown here. With far better ergonomics and a nifty feature that allows you to adjust the power delivery, these new levers help the brake suit a much wider range of hand shapes and preferences. Having said that, the MT7 still falls a bit short of the top competitors in terms of overall ergonomics and adjustability, and the heavy price tag on the new lever didn’t help its cause either.

Shop the MT7 at Worldwide Cyclery.


Shimano Saint M820

A staple among gravity riders with a penchant for snappy brakes, the Saint is the most polarizing brake in this test and probably in the world. 

Launched in 2013, the latest generation still has incredibly direct action. Just the slightest squeeze of the lever is enough to see your wheels starting to fight for purchase in pretty much in any conditions. Some swear by this type of power delivery, and for those who master it the Saint could arguably rank higher – such is its outright power and capacity to stop any moving object on a dime. For us, we ultimately felt like the Saint would come back and bite us when we needed to rely on it the most, like moments of panic braking or when making our way down really loose, steep terrain.

Just the slightest squeeze of the lever is enough to see your wheels starting to fight for purchase in pretty much in any conditions. Some swear by this type of power delivery, and for those who master it the Saint could arguably rank higher – such is its outright power and capacity to stop any moving object on a dime.

As Spiderman’s uncle Ben famously said, "with great power comes great responsibility," and we just feel like the Saint is more of a Hulk than a smooth webslinger. Somewhat surprisingly, the Saint exhibited the most amount of lever pump in our burn test. It also howled its discontent with the best of them, but never faded on us despite the racket it was making.

Shop the Saint M820 at Jenson USA.


TRP Quadiem G-Spec

As you would expect from a piece of equipment that bears Aaron Gwin’s name, the Quadiem G-Spec is in many respects an awesome brake. The finish is impeccable and it is the most consistent performer when it comes to lever feel and modulation of all the brakes in this test. The bite point is always in the same place and the lever reacts in exactly the same way every time you squeeze it, all testament to the large oil volume and excellent build quality of these imposing anchors. Power delivery is smooth and linear, and it’s a pleasure to work the brake over loose ground or down slow awkward lines.

As you would expect from a piece of equipment that bears Aaron Gwin’s name, the Quadiem G-Spec is in many respects an awesome brake. The finish is impeccable and it is the most consistent performer when it comes to lever feel and modulation of all the brakes in this test.

In the burn test the TRP was very noisy (especially with metallic pads), but there was little discernible lever pump and no brake fade to speak of. Our major gripe with the Quadiem, which is reflected in its “Power” score, is the lack of power ramp up at the end of the lever travel. We feel like this brake is too linear, which can give an impression of lacking power. This is not true, as the Quadiem has more than enough power in reserve to stop anything, it’s just that we would consistently find ourselves under-braking in situations like when we’d come in hot to a steep section already on the brakes. A little more bite towards the end of the lever travel would be a welcome improvement here, and could see the Quadiem climb up this table thanks to its many other redeeming qualities.

Shop the Quadiem G-Spec at Jenson USA and Competitive Cyclist.


Want more Face Off action? Check out our previous shootouts:

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Flat Pedals

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Dropper Posts

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Tire Inserts


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 44 // Years Riding MTB: 12 // Weight: 200-pounds (90.7kg)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Johan Hjord and Nils Hjord

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