Although the XTR brakes from the previous M960 and M970 generations functioned, they left a lot to be desired. They were underpowered, didn't modulate vey well and tended to fade during extended use. The pads always seemd to drag and create noise and friction. Shimano not only redesigned the brakes from ground up, they also offered them in two styles. XT Trail for all mountain riding and XTR Race for XC racing and weight concious riders. For the M980 XTR Trail series, Shimano went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. Rendering what many now believe to be the best disc brake design ever released.
The first thing you will notice are the astonishing good looks and polished silver finish. Beauty is more than skin deep in this case. The brake has a compact lever design that features a 2 finger, 14mm wide lever(1mm wider than the XC version). The fluid is held in an integrated barrel reservoir with a hinged handle bar. The hinged clamp is iSpec compatible, which means it will allow a 980 series shifter to be attached to the clamp so you will only have one clamp for both brake and shifter on your handlebar. The major difference between the Trail lever and the Race lever is the addition of Servo Wave. The Trail's Servo Wave mechanism keeps the pads further away from the rotor for debris clearance and actually engages quicker. Stroke is adjustible on the lever and offers an increase of 15% more power over the Race version. Essentially, a more powerful, more adjustible and approx 40 grams per lever heavier version of the XTR Race lever.
A beefed up, high power hose connects the lever to the caliper. The polished silver calipers have an oversized 22mm ceramic piston. Although it is much larger than it's predecessor, it is lighter and far more powerful. Unique pad design has monster fins for cooling. The resin pad with alloy plate comes stock and a metal pad with titanium back plate is optional. This unit is pre-bled, meaning, the hose is attached to both the lever and calipers and is ready for action, right out of the box.
All of these design elements add up to a near perfect braking system that is lighter and more than 25% more powerful than the previous XTR design. Once again, Shimano proves to the industry that when they focus on a particular component, no one can make it better.