Things

Upgrading my MTB Brakes to 220mm Rotors

So in the course of making my 2019 Turbo Levo Comp my absolute perfect trail weapon, I felt I had one more area I wanted to upgrade; the brakes.

Not that the stock brakes (SRAM Guide RE’s) are bad, they are in fact quite capable. It’s mainly in how I like to ride; fast and aggressive. And how I like my brakes to feel; super progressive with good modulation.

To me, the stock brakes could feel a bit flat during long decents and that doesn’t help for confidence when you might really need your brakes, especially on unfamiliar trails.

So, I decided I would upgrade the front brakes and rather than replacing the levers and calipers, I’d upgrade to 220mm rotors from the stock 200mm rotors. I figured a 10% larger rotor should result in 10% better braking force right? (BTW – I know the maths is way more complex than 10% but I have a simple brain)

So I visited my local bike shop The Hub in Hastings, and they sorted me with a pair of SRAM 220mm Centreline 6 bolt rotors (I have two wheel sets, so one for each front wheel) and a 20mm fork post mount adapter with hardware.

Installing and setting up the new rotors was “reasonably” straight forward, with just one little hiccup along the way.

First up swapping out the rotors was simple enough, just take note of the direction of the original rotor and install the new rotor in the same direction. Also, I used a little dab of Locktite on the Torx 25 bolts to help minimise brake squealing by making sure they can’t loosen off.

Finally, you need to install the fork post brake mount adapter. The adapter you need will vary depending on the fork and rotor size you have, I was going from a 200mm rotor to a 220mm rotor so needed a 20mm adapter. When switching over from the old post mount bracket I ran into some trouble as the old bracket had CPS (Caliper Position System) washers on the inside and outside of the bracket but after referring to an online manual which showed that I only needed the CPS washers on the outside of the new adapter I found that the caliper was “bottoming out” on the rotor. A quick message to guys at The Hub and they mentioned that the Guide RE brakes were a little different, so to set them up as they were originally with CPS washers inside and out. It definitely pays to ensure you know what set-up you need for your brakes and sizing before embarking.

You will want to give the new rotors a little wipe with brake cleaner before re-installing the wheel, this will help to avoid any greasy contaminants like fingerprints or manufacturing remnants getting into your pads during alignment.

To re-align your caliper, back the caliper bolts off a little from tight, spin the wheel and then give your brake lever a squeeze. Holding the lever in, torque the bolts up and then your caliper should be properly aligned on the new rotor.

So, how do the new rotors feel, can I notice a difference and is it a worthwhile investment?

Initially I noticed that the lever position had changed and was slightly more outboard than with the old rotors, I guess this is probably because of the new rotor would have been slightly thicker than the old one. An easy fix with the adjusters on the SRAM RE brakes on my Levo.

Once I had the reach adjusted to where I liked, I bed the rotors in with a few good hard stops in my driveway before heading out to Pan Pac MTB Park to test them out on some familiar trails.

I rode a good selection of fast but technical trails requiring some good squeezes to pull up after faster sections like “Mint” & “Grand Traverse” and some longer more prolonged decents like “Stingray” to get a good feel for these rotors.

Overall I felt that the initial bite seemed good while still being able to modulate and finesse the brakes, and I could put noticeably more force through the brakes. I also noticed on the descents like on Stingray that there appeared to be a little less fade, though I’ll test that out more fully on some bigger descents like up Te Mata Peak and update this post.

So in my opinion I think these rotors are a noticeable improvement over the 200mm rotors and for the money I think they represent a good upgrade before swapping out levers and calipers.

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