Shimano XTR-985 Brake Review

I ran Shimano XTR-985s on my Superfly and I run them on my Spearfish.  On the Spearfish, they’re on their original pads, notwithstanding the fact that they’ve seen some pretty terrible conditions.

When I got the Beargrease, I swapped the XTRs from the Superfly over to it, and couldn’t be any happier.  The XTRs perform flawlessly.  They squeak less than Avids (I swear they do), they never require adjustment, they have amazing stopping power…the benefits go on and on.  They *almost never require bleeding, and the brake levers are fantastic.  I’d go to XTR just for the brake levers and the ability to adjust throw and reach so easily, even if they didn’t perform so amazingly well otherwise.

I say that they *almost never require bleeding for a simple reason.  I’ve never had to bleed them on any of my bikes, even after shortening the brake lines, until this week.  For some reason, the banjo bolt on my rear caliper came loose on a ride Wednesday night, and I puked all of the brake fluid out of the rear brake.  So Friday night, I did a quick bleed job, and all’s well.

A note on my bleeding technique:  I put the bike in the stand, and set it so the front tire was pointing straight up in the air.  I positioned the brake lever so the reservoir fill hole was pointed up, and removed the reservoir cap.  I removed the rear caliper, and pointed the bleed port down, towards the ground (leaving the brake line attached).  I then filled a syringe with mineral oil, and hooked it to the bleed port on the caliper with a rubber tube.  I cracked the bleed port, and used the syringe to pump oil into the caliper.  This filled the caliper and then the brake line, and eventually the brake master cylinder with oil.  Since I was filling from the bottom, with no place for air to get trapped in the system, all of the air bubbles were pushed up by the rising oil.  I filled until oil started coming out of the master cylinder, tapped the brake caliper and master cylinder a few times with a rubber mallet, pushed in a bit more oil, and then closed the caliper bleed port.  I then closed the master cylinder fill port.  It took about 20 minutes, start to finish, and worked perfectly.  I’ve ridden twice since then, and the brake is nice and solid.

Reliability and function is perfect.  I have zero complaints.  I’m thinking that the odd banjo bolt issue must have been user error in installing the brakes.  We’ll see.  (I’ve paid a bit more attention to brake line routing and hope that it reduces stress on the banjo bolt).

I was a bit worried that mineral oil wouldn’t function well in cold weather.  It isn’t an issue.

Those pictures were taken after a few hours of snowdrift busting on a day when the temperature was -17 and the windchill was nearly -50.  I just let the snow melt off in the garage, and function remained perfect.  No problems in the cold, no problems thereafter once they dried off.

Another great product, that I recommend with no reservations.


2 thoughts on “Shimano XTR-985 Brake Review

  1. Replaced all my Avid brakes with XT and don’t regret it in the least. Have yet to need to bleed them and one set is going on 3 yrs. I’ve replaced pads and still haven’t had to bleed them.
    What type of syringe are you using? Or are you using the the Shimano bleed kit.

    Thx for the Blog, enjoy it very much.


    • I used the Shimano syringe, but in retrospect, a simple piece of vinyl tubing and a animal syringe would work even better. That’s what I’d use in the future.

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