The Best eBike Brake Upgrades For 2021

eBike brake upgrades

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Every year we see new eBikes come out bigger, faster, and heavier, but the brakes stay the same: 203mm rotors, and sub-par calipers. What gives?

 Many riders will tell you that on go-fast bikes like the Sur Ron X, the quickest and easiest eBike brake upgrade you can do is switching to a name-brand pad like the Shimano Saint series, and they’re right about that.

 However, swapping out the pads on a less-than-ideal brake system is just a band-aid for many riders who plan to ultimately upgrade the entire setup.

 We’re into that idea.

 And so are leading eBike manufacturers like Stealth Bikes in Australia, who offer MT7 Magura brake calipers as premium upgrades for their fastest models like the B52.

 Calipers are a great start, but the common denominator between all bikes like these is heavier weight and higher power, which both translate to increased wear and tear on components that weren’t really designed to handle it in the first place.

 Our solution? Calipers are a start, but if you really want performance, longevity, and better performance, you should consider sizing up your rotors to 220mm downhill disks as well.

 We’ve put together a list of our favorite brakes and rotors below, and believe we’ve found the ideal combination for high-powered two-wheelers.

Brakes:

While swapping out either your brakes or your rotors will both have a noticeable impact on your braking performance, if you’ve gotta choose between one or the other, you should start with the calipers themselves.

 Upgrading to a high-power four-piston caliper setup front and rear is a total game-changer for a heavy bike. Add in an upgraded (and adjustable) master cylinder and lever at the bars, and you’ll wonder how you ever went without.

 Here are the four brake systems we think you should consider, all of which are compatible with both the 203mm standard rotors on most eBikes as well as the 220mm upgrades we’ll dive into next.

magura mt7 caliper
magura mt7 lever

Magura MT-7 Caliper and Lever

Magura MT7 Pro (Best Overall):

The Magura MT7 is one of the most popular eBike brake upgrades on the market. These German-made binders are rugged and overbuilt (the calipers are made from a single piece of forged aluminum), which makes them ideal for the rigors of heavy eBikes.

MT7s have won their fair share of brake shootouts, and are commonly offered as a premium factory upgrade for the most powerful models money can buy.

Not much has changed about the MT7 since 2018. In fact the only real difference is the price, which has actually dropped by $20 or more depending on where you shop.

They still pack ungodly stopping power, great modulation and feel at the lever, and a wide range of adjustments that will have something to suit every riding style.  Somehow they also manage to be the least expensive on our list. Win-win.

Pros:

  • Incredible stopping power
  • Highly customizable from the factory
  • Ambidextrous setup
  • 5 year “leak-free” guarantee from Magura

Cons:

  • Setup and bleeding can be messy
hope tech-3 v4 brakes

Hope Tech-3 v4 lever and caliper

Hope Tech-3 V4:

Is there any slicker-looking piece of kit than one of Hope’s CNC’d billet aluminum V4 brake calipers? Especially one hooked up to their top-of-the-line adjustable Tech-3 lever via braided steel lines?

As far as eBike brake upgrades go, the Hope V4 isn’t the newest tech available or the most powerful, but it’s still one the best kits you can buy for their feel and adjustability alone.

If precision and feel are top priorities for you and you’re not taking your bike down double diamonds at the bike park, this option from Hope may be the most enjoyable. The fact that they look great doing it, of course, is an added bonus.

Pros:

  • Custom style that only Hope could deliver
  • Incredible adjustability and feel at the lever
  • Smoothest modulation in the group

Cons:

  • On the pricier side
  • Not quite as powerful as the other brakes on our list
shimano saint brake lever
shimano saint caliper

Shimano Saint Brake lever and caliper

Shimano Saint M820:

The Shimano Saint brake system has been around for a while, largely because riders just keep winning races with them.

Shimano has tweaked the Saint here and there over the years, and the latest version, the M820, is by far the best.

If stopping power is your main priority, these are still the best in the business.

Feel and modulation at the lever is the main pain point for most users historically, and although Shimano has made improvements in their latest iteration, many riders still have complaints. Some folks swear by them, but most swear they prefer the other three models on this list for one reason or another. 

Still, if there’s one thing Shimano is known for generally (and their Saint line specifically), it’s making components that can take a beating and keep performing for years. If sheer power and bulletproof construction describe your ideal brakes, look no further.

Pros:

  • Downhill Cup-proven reliability and performance
  • Ceramic pistons + finned pads = Great heat management
  • Legendary Saint “set it and forget it” reliability

 Cons:

  • Heaviest brakes on the list (if you care about that)
  • Brake bite and feel still not the best
  • Tons of power but also the most difficult to control
Sram code rsc brake lever
Sram code rsc caliper

SRAM Code RSC brale lever and caliper

SRAM Code RSC:

The Code RSC brakes are SRAM’s response to the ever-popular Shimano Saint in the downhill world, and they’ve delivered some serious competition here.

They’re less expensive than the Saint, have better feel and adjustability at the lever, and deliver similar stopping power.

SRAM uses their patented “Swing Lever” technology for an easy initial bite at the pads. Power builds rapidly but progressively from there as you grab more lever. This translates to a seemingly telepathic connection at the lever, virtually eliminating the possibility of accidentally locking up a wheel during an “Oh, sh*t” moment. 

Pros:

  • Swing lever technology provides smooth progressive power
  • Tool-free adjustments that really make a difference
  • Less expensive than the Saint, and a better fit for your average rider

Cons:

  • Not quite as powerful as the Shimano or Magura setups
  • Still considerably more expensive than the MT7 system

 

Rotors:

With great power comes great thrills. If you’re here for a good time, taking a lightweight two-wheeler around fast turns and big jumps is pretty tough to beat.

That is at least until sub-par brakes overheat, your levers start feeling like wet sponges, and obstacles start coming at you faster than you’d prefer.

See, what really comes with great power is a ton of heat.

If your rotors aren’t built to handle it, your entire system is compromised to fading, glazing, or outright failure.

All rotors wear out over time. You’re going to replace them eventually.

We recommend picking up a set of 220mm rotors ASAP (they’re fairly inexpensive) and upgrading at your earliest convenience.

(Side note: Y’all are probably all running six-bolt rotors anyway, but all the rotors listed here use six-bolt mounts. Most eBikes don’t run centerlock rotors anyways, but if yours does, Formula is currently the only company offering a 220mm centerlock option.)

hope float rotor

Hope Floating Rotor

 

Hope 220 Floating Disk (Best eBike Brake Upgrade Overall):

They’re laser-cut, heat-treated, and available in six different colors.

You know them, you want them (or did at some point): They’re Hope’s floating 220mm brake rotors.

Hope gets the credit for bringing disk brakes into mountain biking, and has been designing and building disk brake systems since the 1980s’.

It’s fair to say they’ve got the most experience in the industry.

The latest iteration of their floating rotor comes in two versions, both of which are absolutely top-notch.

The first is the standard floating rotor, which is excellent, sheds heat exceptionally well, and is as lightweight as they come.

The second version is Hope’s new “vented” floating rotor, which looks like it was pulled from an F1 race car.

Strength and heat management of Hope’s floating rotor is surpassed only by their own vented version, making these two options a top contender for any bike.

Regardless of which brakes you pair them with, Hope has updated their floating rotors to be compatible with other popular brands without any modifications, and that includes all of the calipers on our list above.

The vented option, on the other hand, is only compatible with Hope’s own V4 system.

Either rotor would make one of the best eBike brake upgrades money can buy, and yes, they both come in purple.

Pros:

  • You already know it can be ordered to color match your Hope calipers…
  • Full-floating design = optimal heat dissipation
  • Vented disk available for absolute psychos
  • Floating version is the lightest rotor on our list

Cons:

  • Can be tough to source during riding season
  • Vented versions are prohibitively expensive

Heating up the pads on Magura MDR-P 220 mm Brake Rotors with a Motoped Survival bike

Magura MDR-P 220 (Best For eBike/Motorcycle Hybrids):

Take a quick look at the Magura MDR-P rotor and you’ll notice an obvious difference: These burly floating rotors are built with fully interlocking inner and outer braking surfaces.

Magura designed this feature for increased rigidity and additional structural support as your braking surface expands under intense heat.

If that sounds ideal for a heavy eBike to you, that’s because it should.

Magura built these rotors specifically for the extra weight and heat of modern eBikes, and they’re absolutely up to the task.

Yes, the extra steel makes them heavy, and no, they don’t have the bling factor of anything coming out of the Hope factory. Still, as an “eBike optimized” rotor, the Magura MDR-P disks are top notch and by far the best option for customers whose eBikes haul extra gear or tackle camping/touring duties like the Motopeds Survival Bike.

Pros:

  • Burliest rotors money can buy
  • Optimized for eBike brake upgrades
  • Ideal for heavier/faster/loaded down rigs

Cons:

  • They’re heavy. No way around it.
  • Most expensive rotor on the list
sram centerline rotor

SRAM Centerline 220mm Rotor

SRAM Centerline 220 (Best eBike Upgrade On A Budget):

You’ve gotta love SRAM for bringing reliable quality to the masses on any budget.

The Centerline is the only 220mm rotor on our list that doesn’t feature floating construction (it’s 100% steel), but they still manage to weigh less than the Magura option and you just can’t beat the price.

220mm Centerlines can be bought all day for under $60. They’ve been around for years, are no stranger to enduro or downhill racing, and they’re SRAM reliable.

As an added bonus, SRAM builds the Centerline with a rounded outer edge, which makes installation a breeze as it slips right into your calipers without any awkward wiggling or frustration.

They’re not going to take quite as much abuse as the other rotors on our list, but for the money you just can’t go wrong with these classic disks. Truth be told they’ll take more abuse than 90% of riders will dish out anyways.

You may have heard that Centerline rotors run on the noisier side, and I’m here to tell you that’s 100% true.

But, if you’re on a budget, you really can’t go wrong here. Just throw some headphones in and give em’ hell all the way down, it’s a minor inconvenience for a fantastic value.

Pros:

  • Lowest price on this list = price is right
  • Tried-and-true, reliable ol’ SRAM component
  • Rounded edged make for easy install

 Cons:

  • Single piece construction more likely to overheat
  • Known to be on the noisy side

 

Final Thoughts On The Best eBike Brake Upgrades:

If I were building an eBike today and money wasn’t an option, I don’t think you can beat the Magura MT7 for its all-around performance, reliability, and modulation. Doesn’t hurt that it’s also the least expensive option on our list.

They’ve got a little less feel than the Hope Tech-3/V4 system, and a little less power than the Shimano Saint, but pound for pound I think they’re just the best all-around choice for any application.

Manufacturers really aren’t catering to the Stealth/Sur Ron/Vector crowd quite yet, so in a lot of ways, we’re on our own to figure out what works and what doesn’t on these powerful machines.

The fact that Magura is making “eBike optimized” products and getting support from big names like Stealth bikes is a huge vote in their favor.

In terms of rotors, however, I just can’t pass up on Hope’s big 220mm floating disk.

Hope’s focus on quality extends well beyond the fit and finish of their colorful anodized metals. The Magura rotors will be the better choice for certain applications (again, if you’re carrying extra weight), but I’d gladly bet the farm on Hope products any day.

With that being said, keeping costs down is a big part of the appeal for many eBike riders.

The best eBike brake upgrades aren’t always cheap, but there are some damn good ones out there like the Centerline rotors that won’t break the bank either.