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Novice MTBer: To Servo Wave or not to Servo Wave

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Novice MTBer: To Servo Wave or not to Servo Wave

Old 11-20-22, 03:42 AM
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sjanzeir
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Novice MTBer: To Servo Wave or not to Servo Wave

So, with my brother's-in-law's relentless egging on, I'm about to start out on mountain biking. To help me feel my way into the sport with as little outlay as possible, he and his son and gave me the son's battered, unused (pretty much abandoned, really) X-caliber 9 and said to knock myself out repairing and/or upgrading it if I wanted (I can always unbolt the upgrades at any time.)

And I'm starting with the brakes, and I want to swap out the factory almost completely shot two-pistons for a set of four-pots. Now, as a beginner, would you say that I should just dive in with this whole Servo Wave thing (BL-MT501 and up,) or would I be better off with something simple and non-Servo Wave (Shimano BL-MT401, Clarks, or even a Shigura conversion?)
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Old 11-20-22, 11:33 AM
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I would not put Clarks on any bike unless it were a bike I truly didn't care about and left to get stolen. Shimano or Magura would be a fine option Servo Wave is fine or if not also fine. If you want good brakes I would go for some nice 4 piston brakes and nice big stiff rotors and enjoy Shimano XT or Magura MT5s would be my choice but if I could go MT7s that would be cool as well and if I had to Deore would work fine.

I see no reason not to go with higher end brakes if you are willing to do it. I don't think there are too many people saying I wish I had worse brakes. Maybe if I had bought the Trickstuff Maxima brakes I might only because of the price of them but those are really high end pro brakes that are from a boutique manufacturer.
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Old 11-20-22, 11:52 AM
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How much do you want to spend. The Tektros that came on my Novara work surprisingly well and can be had for a very low price point. You can find nicer brakes and spend more. Personally, I'd stick with something somewhat close in quality to the rest of the bike or a little better. I wouldn't put real high end parts on a low end bike unless I already had them or picked them up cheap used or something.

That is just one opinion though.
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Old 11-20-22, 12:20 PM
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Any old decently functioning disc brakes will do at first unless you have an immediate love of DH/Enduro racing. I MTB'd for a couple of years, improving skill and general fitness, before the quality of my brakes became any issue at all (and these were the much maligned, low end SRAM/Avids).

That said, if you love Servo-Wave get Servo-Wave. We all have some components that we just enjoy having on our bikes (I like X01 drivetrains, even though I know GX works just fine). So it becomes an economic/aesthetic issue, bling vs, buck, but I don't think it makes much functional difference at this stage.

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Old 11-20-22, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by sjanzeir View Post
So, with my brother's-in-law's relentless egging on, I'm about to start out on mountain biking. To help me feel my way into the sport with as little outlay as possible, he and his son and gave me the son's battered, unused (pretty much abandoned, really) X-caliber 9 and said to knock myself out repairing and/or upgrading it if I wanted (I can always unbolt the upgrades at any time.)

And I'm starting with the brakes, and I want to swap out the factory almost completely shot two-pistons for a set of four-pots. Now, as a beginner, would you say that I should just dive in with this whole Servo Wave thing (BL-MT501 and up,) or would I be better off with something simple and non-Servo Wave (Shimano BL-MT401, Clarks, or even a Shigura conversion?)
If you want 4 piston brakes just buy what works for your budget. Don't make your decision based on servo-wave or not.
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Old 11-20-22, 04:18 PM
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Servo Wave is a Shimano trademark about how they have arranged the leverage on their brake levers. It goes back to the 90's long before hydraulic brakes. They didn't say it much in the 2000's but brought it back in the mid-2010's. They don't do a great job explaining it. It doesn't have anything in particular to do with the 4 piston calipers.

I think your goal for this bike should be to get it running well so you can go ride, not get hung up on how premium the parts are. Your supposedly clapped out brakes, is there anything wrong with them that a bleed and new pads and a cleaning wouldn't fix? Do they even need new pads, for that matter? It takes several sets of pads to wear out a rotor. Unless there's exacerbating stuff like downhill use or mud, pads can last thousands of miles. If the brakes are actually leaking it's a different story. You can't always get maintenance parts for cheaper components because they are just so cheap to just swap out.
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Old 11-22-22, 08:47 AM
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As mentioned, Servo-Wave is just Shimano’s way of changing the leverage ratio of the lever over the piston over the course of the stroke. It is not complicated, and not something you are paying extra for. In fact, I believe the XTRs are non-servo.

Some folks prefer it, some hate it, most people don’t think much one way or the other about it. I run bikes with servo and non servo levers. They feel different but you get used to either one. In general, Servo levers let you more easily deliver more power, but the brakes can seem a little more touchy (on/off).

I would not go out and do a Shigura setup from scratch. The main reason people end up there (and the reason I may) is they have bought Magura brakes and have gotten fed up with the levers which are absolute garbage. Cheap, fragile, plastic garbage. The lever blades are metal, but the bodies (including the threaded parts where the hose bolt, bleed port screw, and handle bar clamp screws go) is plastic. “Carbotecture” is just their word for plastic. And not plastic in some technical sense the way some folks argue CF can be called. Not some advanced NASA plastic. I’m talking the stuff you think of when someone says “plastic”. They are crap. And when I say “cheap” I mean they seem cheap. They are actually very expensive to replace.

Also, what do you mean when you say the brakes are shot? Have you tried bleeding them and cleaning up the pads and rotors? For most uses of a hard tail, 2 pots are more than sufficient.

Last edited by Kapusta; 11-22-22 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 11-22-22, 09:59 AM
  #8  
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I had an Xcaliber 9. I rode the piss out of it.

Unless the brakes are damaged, don’t replace them. They’re pretty darn good.

I bet a bleed is all they need. Maybe new pads.

For upgrades on that bike, I monkeyed with the gears. It’s a 3x10 XT 40/30/20 x 11-36 without a clutch. I moved to 1x11 30x11-46 and was a lot happier with it. That may have more to do with me than actual performance.

I thought the fork it came with was pretty good for a 100mm unit. It’s solid and reliable.

I put an external routed dropper on it and was pretty satisfied with it. PNW 27.2 is a great option.

It’s a heavy bike for XC (29lbs) but will totally go anywhere you want to go.

I did bend the handlebars, not in a wreck. So they’re a little sub par, keep an eye on that.
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Old 11-22-22, 10:15 AM
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I guess the theme here is - you have a bike. Don't go buying trouble. The time for these decisions is when you get a new bike. Going through this bike like the Ship of Theseus is going to be more expensive than a new bike of the quality you want.

The counter argument is that there's right now a post covid glut for some companies and they're all dying to sell you something. Dunno about your market or Shimano brakes specifically The sales here in the States have been great. I've been kind of aching that I don't need the specific things that have been on sale right now because getting such a deal after two years of fleecing would be fun.
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