Until recently, I hadn’t thought much about the Shimano CenterLock hub/rotor standard. I had brushed it off as another Shimano proprietary design made just to frustrate and confuse consumers (yeah, Shimano does that sometimes). But, after thinking it through, I can see some merit to the design.

But, with those positives, come lots of compatibility questions and other problems. So, I’ve compiled a quick list of what I see as positives and negatives of both the Shimano CenterLock and the 6-bolt standard used by everyone else. You make the call which is preferred and chime in below with your own take on things. I’m not set either way, but always lean towards sticking with the standard 6-bolt, however, if Shimano is onto something, maybe that “standard” should change?

Shimano CenterLock Rotors

Shimano XTR Centerlock Hub and Rotor

This system involves a channeled rotor attachment and matching hub that provides a secure and always-centered rotor. The system is patented by Shimano and licensed by several hub manufacturers including DT Swiss and Mavic. Here are the positive and negatives I see with the Shimano CenterLock design:

Good CenterLock

  • Rotors are always centered around the hub
  • Stripping a bolt and rendering the hub useless is eliminated
  • Rotors are more difficult to bend due to the reinforced inner spider ring
  • Easy rotor removal for shipping or transport
  • Hub weight can be less than ISO 6-bolt due to reduction of reinforced side area

Bad CenterLock

  • Compatibility issues have resulted in funky adapters
  • Lack of mass-market adoption and options from high-end hub makers Chris King, Industry Nine, etc.
  • Really only compatible with Shimano brakes, but their brakes are solid performers
  • Oddball 180mm diameter rotor vs. 185mm from other manufacturers
  • Rotors are slightly heavier and can cost twice as much
  • Need to buy a Centerlock wrench

ISO Standard 6-bolt Disc Rotors

ISO Standard 6-bolt Chris King Hub and Avid Rotor

This is what has been used by all manufacturers since it was adopted in the late 1990’s. Rotors are simple and available in standard rotor diameters that are readily interchangeable between all other brake manufacturers including Hayes, Avid, Magura, Hope and even Shimano. Yes, Shimano still plays in this market while at the same time pushing the CenterLock option.

Good 6-bolt

  • Rotors and adapters are readily available
  • Plethora of brake options
  • Lots of hub choices
  • Rotors can be half the price of CenterLock designs

Bad 6-bolt

  • Can install rotors off-center
  • Removal for shipping is cumbersome
  • Risk of stripping a bolt
  • Multiple points of failure (6 bolts)

In the end, the choice is up to you as there are good and bad with each design. I’m always reluctant to adopt any proprietary design, but the CenterLock has some merit if you are starting from scratch. But, if you are retrofitting your bike and wish to use Shimano CenterLock, you’re in for some serious sticker shock with all the parts you’ll have to replace.

Chime in… what do you see as good/bad with each design?

Buy Now: Search for Shimano CenterLock

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

20 Comments

  1. One more… Torque wrench required! Center lock is nice but I don’t own it. Post hits the nail about about 100% on the head…

  2. I think that you have a good grasp of the Pro’s and Con’s of the Center Lock. That being said, I think we can extend the benefits a bit and also comment on some of the drawbacks:

    1) An additional benefit is that the ease of removal actually encourages removal during air travel, shipping, or other transport that can also save a destination trip from a fate where a bike shows up with a bent rotor without a replacement in sight.

    2) Any six bolt hub can be built relatively lighter with Center Lock because you don’t require the large reinforced threaded area. Some may argue that our hubs are heavier, but they would be heavier with six bolt. Other designs using six bolt would likely be lighter (more than off-setting any increase in rotor weight).

    3) While I can’t officially go out and tell anyone to use Shimano rotors with another company’s brakes, I find it interesting that this is the only part of a bike where a cyclist seems concerned with compatibility. In other words, they’ll use a brand X chain with a Shimano derailleur or cassette, and another company’s crank. So, do you have to use Shimano brakes with Shimano rotors or vice versa, we certainly recommend it and it’s the only way that we guarantee performance, but that’s no different than other part of the bike.

    4) Typically our 180mm rotors work with most 7 inch adapters.

    Thanks for giving us an opportunity to chime in.

    ~ Devin Walton, Shimano Bike PR

  3. from a structural engineer’s point of view, the centerlock is better in resisting all forces exerted on the points/planes of contact. whereas in the 6-bolted design it’s all shearing forces, in the centerlock design what resists the forces are the small surfaces (planes if u may) thus it’s a bearing stress thing and bearing capacity for metal components is always desired than shearing capacity…from Statics of Rigid Bodies or Strength of Materials formulas, it can be proven that the centerlock design can better withstand the braking forces.

  4. Emerald… great points. From a structural perspective, I can completely see the merits of Centerlock. You enginerds have to get all technical on us with Rigid Bodies and stuff. 🙂 But, it makes complete sense. Thanks man!

  5. The braking surface of the rotor is attached to the spider arms by metal pins that will experience shearing forces. Just no shearing forces on the hub itself. Ease of removal of the rotor was the original reason I went with Center Lock.

    I have successfully used the XTR rotors with the Avid Juicy brakes, however, I had to cut off the metal tabs on the brake pads to make them work. I also just recently installed Avid Elixir CR brakes and found the calliper interferes with the spider arm of the XTR rotor. It is possible to shave down the calliper as the interference is less than 1mm. Rotors were purchase about 3 years ago but don’t think the design has changed since then. The brake setup uses the 160 F/R adapters…so not sure how it would work for post mount type fork/frame.

  6. “Need to buy a Centerlock wrench”

    Actually, if you have a cassette lockring removal tool, then you have a centerlock lockring removal tool. I think for the centerlock 20mm thru axle hubs, you need a BB removal tool to take those off, but I could be wrong.

    I’ve used centrelock, along with Shimano brakes, for as long as I’ve been MTB’ing (therefore, not as long as many – only 4ish years). But so far – no probs. About to build up a new bike with Easton Havoc wheels, therefore no centrelock rotors. But I’m still going to use Shimano’s new RT-76 6-bolt rotors with Saint 4-pot brakes.

  7. bad centerlock: rotor comes loose mid ride, and you have to stop every ten minutes to tighten it by hand, because you don’t carry the tool with you.

    also if you have a 15qr, the required tool isn’t the a casette tool but a large bottom bracket wrench.

  8. blad ubermann on

    just changed my brakes to center lock, they work great, the wrench adaptor is the same as the rear cassette.

    many people say the disk comes loose all the time, never happened to me, just made sure the the nut was properly tightened.

    and yes, as a auto mechanic, and as emerald explained, the design of the hub make the centerlock design a very, but i mean VERY reliable and solid brake.
    Every single car and truck wheel axle has this sort of arrangement inside the differential. even huge 18 wheelers.

    the only weak spot would be the nut coming loose if not properly tightened. and if you dont have the tools you cant really check to see if your bike mechanic did his job correctly.

    however, if you keep experiencing this problem, such as cris, may i suggest using some thread adhesive? suck as locktite 243? i use it on some bearing cones thread, never had a problem. locktite has many products, some adhere better than others, i use 243 because with a little effort you are able to loosen the bolt for replacement, but you can use a stronger one if you want to be extra sure it wont come loose during a long trip.

    just my 2 cents

  9. Hey just noticed that you said the required tool could be a large bottom bracket wrench as opposed to a cassette tool….I just got some mavic rims with the mavic centrelock hub, and there’s no grooves for a cassette tool on the inside of the centrelock. There are however groves (although very shallow) on the outer circumference of the centrelock, could a large bottom bracket wrench be the answer? I’ve had no luck in finding any (official) info online as to what tool to use.

    Cheers

  10. Fantastic! Cheers Chris i’ll have to get my hands on one of those from my LBS. Tightening the centrelock by hand just doesn’t cut it as i sadly found out. Cheers, Tom

  11. I’m actually tired of everyone changing the standards and having to adapt and spend,spend,spend to keep up! iI think that with the 6 bolt being so interchangeable with other parts and manufactrers it should stay that way.I mean unless its a huge change for the better and i mean much better then “if it aint broke dont fix it!” 6 bolt baby!!! Don’t let Shimano keep doing this to us or you’ll never find parts that fit together!!

  12. I built up a set of wheels using a set of XT centerlock hubs about a year ago. I had a couple of major issues:

    1) The first thing I noticed was a bad pulse from the rotor on the front hub. I measured it, and the thickness varied by about 0.003″. That doesn’t sound like much, but the results were enough to scare the hell out of me. Fortunately, I work at a machine shop, and I was able to use a surface grinder to make the disc completely flat.

    That problem could have happened to ANY rotor, regardless of hub design, but it doesn’t speak well of the quality control.

    2) The major issue I have with the center lock design is the fit between the rotor and the hub. By design, there is clearance between the splines. There has to be, otherwise the rotor wouldn’t slide on and off. This allows for a little play, which I noticed even with brand new parts. As soon as a drop of rain hit the ground, the result was the most horrible brake noise and vibration I’ve ever experienced.

    The fix for this was to use epoxy and basically glue the rotors to the hubs. It solved the problem, but it makes it rather hard to remove the rotor.

    I ended up throwing the hubs in the trash, and rebuilding the wheels with a set of 6 bolt hubs.

    • Ian Ray Betron on

      I don’t find any compatibility issue with my Avid BB5 caliper biting on my Shimano XT rotors. The set-up works great.

      • Chris from SC on

        Just added Centerlock rotors (Avid Cleansweep X 140mm) to a Salsa Colassal disc road bike with the new BB7 Road SL brakes. I had to adjust the inside pistona bit more out that I wanted because the tabs on the pads were hitting the spider holding the rotor. Just wondering if anyone else has run into this and come up with any other solution but grinding off part of the tabs…?

  13. I have an xtr rotor that has movement on the pins that attach to the spider, local mechanic told me this is normal..Im not convinced so I used a punch and ballpeen to tighten the pins and ouila no more movement. Has anyone else encountered this? the movement was definitely not the centerlock. thanks

  14. Pingback: How Centerlock Wheels Work | dark - black rims

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