From Elixir to Guide

How SRAM reinvented its stoppers

There are people who will never try this brake. That’s the plain truth of the matter. They are burnt on Avid and while Guide brakes bear the SRAM nameplate, we all know we’re talking about the same family here. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, Avid introduced the Elixir in 2008 and while the Taperbore design was ambitious, it also proved problematic. It was a brake that required incredibly tight tolerances on the factory floor and damn near perfect bleeds in your workshop. Some Elixirs performed flawlessly. Others were shite right out of the box.

Riders can forgive slightly sticky shifting, suspension that makes wounded-hamster noises and tires that wear a bit quickly. They will not, and can not, tolerate a brake that goes mushy mid-ride or which reduces them to bitter tears when it comes time for a brake bleed. Avid updated the Elixir over time, making it a more reliable brake, but for a lot of folks, it was over. Never. Avid. Again.

So, when SRAM rolled out the Guide R, RS and RSC brakes back in the spring of 2014, expectations were fairly low and the sniping was plenty high. But here’s the thing. Several of us editors at Bike rode that brake for a year and were impressed. It wasn’t a good brake. It was a damn good brake. Even the Avid haters amongst us had to admit: SRAM had done something–a lot of things–right. But what, in fact, had they done? What was the story with Guide?

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Last spring the company rolled out yet another version of Guide–the Guide Ultimate–that rocks an entirely new caliper. It seemed a great opportunity to head down to SRAM headquarters and ask some uncomfortable questions. Which we did. We also took home several sets of the new brakes and proceeded to put a season of riding on them.

To date, several of us editors have each put a year and a half of ride time on Guide RSC models and about six months apiece on the Ultimate. We have ridden these things all over the country, slapped them in bike boxes, ridden overseas with them and generally treated the Guides in a fashion that should have had Child Protective Services knocking on our doors. That experience is what informs the video above. Given the spotty past of Elixir, we weren’t willing to put out a video without riding the piss out of these things.

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If you aren’t in love with the idea of hearing us talk to an engineer, wait for the second half–we knew at the outset that people wouldn’t want to just hear the company line about these brakes. They’d want to know whether or not this brake lived up to the hype. That, at any rate, is what I would want to know if I was sitting on the other end of this internet connection. So, yeah, the second half of this thing is, essentially, a review of how the Guides actually function on dirt.

For the record, yes, we did ask all the wonky-ass questions about hose material, piston size and coatings, and so forth. We filmed several hours of that stuff, but in this age of 2-minute shredits, we also realized that we were asking a lot of you by simply keeping this thing as long as it is.

Someday, if enough people want to hear us quack on and on about DOT fluid cold-weather performance, contact-point adjusters and the like, we might crank out the soul-crushing full-length video, but I have a feeling that what we have here is more detail than most of you even want. We are geeks. We make no apologies for that shit.

Related:

Blueprint: The Story Behind the Evil Following

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