In a world where bikes are continuing to evolve and the speed we are going on the trails continues to climb, there’s little doubt of the importance of brakes on a modern mountain bike. The days of running twin piston brakes on 140mm rotors are gone and the need for four pistons and a decent rotor is ever more apparent. We took a look at Shimano’s Deore M6120 brakes and put them on a 6 month test, here’s our thoughts…..
By Mike Branch
Product: Shimano Deore M6120 4 piston brakes
Available at: MTB Direct, Pushys and all good bike stores
The Nitty Gritty
The Shimano Deore M6120 hydraulic disc brakes come with four piston caliper, hose and lever. It utilizes one way bleeding technology, so the same bleed kits Shimano has been using for some time now. It’s a post mounted hydraulic brake that utilizes mineral oil and is a simple and cost effective design, compatible with up to 203 rotors.
The main objective of any brakes are for them to slow your bike (obviously), clear to say that these certainly do that and do that well. After quite some time on SRAM guides and codes it was a big change to switch across to Shimano’s Deore M6120 4 piston brakes and it took a little getting used to. At first the brakes felt quite good but they did in fact lack stopping power, something that seemed to puzzle us here at Brakes Wide Open. Modulation was on point with a really clear bite point but they did truly lack the ability to pull the bike up at a decent pace or descent.
After a little research and chatting to some industry gurus we swapped out the stock resin pads that came with the brakes for some sintered pads and immediately the world had turned upside down. These brakes had gone from poor to average stopping power to absolutely blockbuster, in fact I think it would be very hard to whack a set of SRAM brakes back on the test bike.
The modulation is not as tempered as SRAM’s offerings but the bite point is more clear and you don’t have to push the levers to the bars to get epic stopping power. For a set of lower budget offerings from Shimano, the Deore M6120 are a high performing brake set. Easy to install, easy to bleed with the gravity bleed system and they don’t use the expensive finned pads that the XT brakes utilise. Super simple setup that is surprisingly appealing to the eye as well, you can use the same old four piston Shimano D series pads that have been floating around for years.
So what is the difference between the Deore offering and the more expensive XT, SLX and XTR offerings? Besides the obvious alteration to cheaper and heavier materials, it’s purely aesthetic and adjustment; tool free adjustment. How often do you adjust your lever blade distance and bite point? A decent set of brakes shouldn’t need bite point adjustment, for us once we are setup on install we don’t adjust the lever blades at all.
The Deore M6120 lever blade adjustment can be made with an allen key and is super simple and easy to do. So is it really worth spending the extra money on Shimano’s more expensive offerings? That’s a question we too have pondered and if you are racing XC it’s an obvious answer because weight is your enemy, but for all other disciplines weight is a mute point. For us these brakes have exceeded our expectations and certainly out perform any of the competition at their price point.
The Final Word
Brakes are important and like many components on our bikes they are often subjective, coming down to personal preference. Shimano’s Deore M6120 brakes are an excellent set of 4 piston brakes that not only get the job done but exceed the expectations – providing you ditch the stock pads that come with the calipers. It’s surprising that Shimano have spec’d these pads on the Deore Brakes as they certainly alter the performance of the system. That being said, once we replaced the pads the performance of the braking system was instantly remarkable for a lower spec range from Shimano.
In our opinion the Shimano Deore M6120 brakes are an excellent offering and certainly have a place in the gravity and trail market. We were honestly quite surprised at the performance and were not expecting them to be as good as they were for the price point. In a day and age when four piston brakes are a must for most mountain biking applications, Shimano have certainly dished up an appetizing offering with the Deore M6120 four piston brakes.
As always, keep the brakes wide open and see you on the trails….