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Background: I used to have a bike with Magura HS33 hydraulic V-brakes which I liked a lot. A while back I bought a new bike with Shimano M395 disc brakes. I've had the bike a little over a year now and really don't like the brakes.

The pads bite quite aggressively and I lack some feel when dosing brake force.

Also the actuation point of the brake lever has shifted quite a lot while I don't see any options to adjust it like on the Magura set (adjustment wheel on the brake levers). There is no visible oil leak and the pads do not have enough miles on them to be significantly worn out. I'd really like to have a brake setup that feels more up to par with my old Magura's.

What parts should I upgrade to get a more high-end setup with a better feel? Just the levers and maybe pads, or the calipers too?

  • There's a useful general question here about "upgrades for disk brakes" but its a bit obscured by the specifics. I'll try an edit, if it conflicts with your intent then please re-edit or use rollback. – Criggie Jun 14 '18 at 19:28
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The M395 are a pretty basic but totally adequate brake set. Their benefits (very little setup and maintenance) are also their short-coming: you really can't adjust much in terms of engagement or lever free-pull. You're not going to be able to change much to adjust the feel.

It's also important to recognize that different manufacturers' brakes have different characteristics. Shimanos are known for their binary engagement - they have great stopping power but many people feel they are either on or off. SRAM generally get praise for modulating braking power but maybe not as much pure stopping power. I don't have much experience with Magura but they are know for their setup and adjustment options. Within a single brand the models are also going to differ (a 4-piston brake has lots of stopping power regardless of manufacturer).

I wouldn't recommend trying to upgrade an entry-level brake set piece-meal. As far as options for replacements - first: are you happy with the braking performance? can you live with or adjust to the amount of lever pull or engagement? If maybe, give this set a bit of time and you may be fine as is.

I like Shimano because they use mineral oil vs. SRAM that use DOT 4/5.1 oil (it can be a little nasty to paint and other surfaces) - it's a whole different argument over which is "superior". If you stick with Shimano you can re-use your rotors; if you switch brands you may have to replace them as well.

At about x2 the price of your 395's ($35) is the SHIMANO SLX ($70). It is excellent quality for the money that has a shorter "pull" and tool-free contact adjustment (like your Maguras). I almost always step up to the SHIMANO XT ($90) which is only a few bucks more. The entire M-8000 line (brakes, drivetrain, etc) hits a real sweet-spot for me in terms of price vs. performance. If you go SRAM I'd suggest looking around the GUIDE price-point which is going to be much closer to $100. These are all per-brake prices.

Whatever you decide, replacing brakes is a job you can do yourself with only a hex or torx key (depending on brand). Brakes all come pre-bled and usually are good to go (sometime you need a bleed to remove the spongy feel). There are two exceptions: if you need/want to run the brake lines internally you'll need to remove the hose and then bleed the brake and sometimes the hose is ridiculously long and needs to be trimmed (and the brake bled). Neither is super hard but you require specific tools that the average mechanic doesn't own.

Brake upgrades are one of the best value for money things you can do for your bike. I'd also suggest wider bars and an adjustable seat post. All three upgrade the enjoyment and level of your riding!

  • Thanks for the information, much appreciated. I'll shop around for a XT set, definately want the extra adjustment options that i was used to have. – MadMarky Jun 13 '18 at 18:25

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