SRAM Code brakes do an extraordinary job at speeding you up. That’s not a backhanded way of saying that SRAM’s updated stoppers aren’t powerful—they’re stronger than Trump’s late night urges to Tweet. But that’s not what helps them make riders faster. That comes down to how they deliver all that power.
Which sort of relates to the Code’s new look, that of a beefed up version of SRAM’s Guide brakes. Like the Guides, the new Code lever uses a cam between the lever blade and piston to control how quickly the pistons advance at any point during the lever stroke. Here’s a not-so-quick explanation of how it works and why:
In their resting position, the brake pads sit a millimeter or so off the rotor to prevent noise and drag. When you start braking, you want to get them in contact with the rotor with the least amount of lever throw possible, so you can start stopping. During this time, the cam is giving the lever a huge mechanical advantage—in other words, you move the lever a small amount and the pistons advance a lot. But if you continue to have that same level of mechanical advantage once the pads are in contact with the rotor, the power will come on too fast and you’ll skid your ass right off the trail. The cam is shaped such that, once the pads are in contact with the rotor, the mechanical advantage is reduced to a manageable level, making it easier to control how much force is applied.
Here’s the short version: The cam is responsible for the Codes’ excellent modulation, and it’s that remarkable ability to control power that makes it possible for a device meant to slow people down, to make them faster.
After getting to know them, I found that I could brake later into corners than with the Guides I’m familiar with, without locking up the wheels and losing grip. This was especially noticeable in loose conditions. Whereas the previous Codes feel grabby in comparison to the Guides, the new ones just feel stronger. A lot stronger. It did take some getting used to, because less finger strength is required to manage the chaos. But once I got used to the power, it was easy to control.
Power and modulation is a good start, but consistency is king. The new Code brakes don’t disappoint here either. All brakes fade when they get hot, but the Codes fade less. Even though both the lever and caliper are smaller and lighter, the new Codes have more fluid volume, which means they take longer to get hot—just like two gallons of water takes longer to boil than one. And SRAM uses other techniques, like a wide pad pocket and a steel heat shield to keep the mercury in check.
Best of all, these new Codes are slimmer and lighter—by about 100 grams per pair—than the previous generation, which I’m guessing will make people want to put them on more than just downhill bikes. I’ve been running them on my 6-inch-travel trail bike that previously had a pair of Guides, and there’s not a person on earth that could convince me to go back.
The Guides are excellent brakes in their own right, but I like to ride fast, brake late and drift corners, and these new Codes are the perfect companion. They’ve got my back when I come into sections way too hot on trails I’ve never ridden before, they provide that extra level of control that riding on the ragged edge demands and they stay consistent when things heat up on long descents.
Plus, the RSC version of the Codes have enough tool-less reach and contact point adjustment to satisfy the ergonomic needs of most riders. When dialing in your brakes is this convenient, you find yourself making small adjustments all the time.
The only thing I’m not fond of is that the caliper extends past the lower brake mount, making it nearly impossible to access the fixing bolt without a ball-ended tool. It makes for slightly less user-friendly installation and caliper alignment, but I’m sure SRAM needed that real estate to meet performance goals. And if it’s any consolation, the new Code brakes are easier and cleaner to bleed, thanks to SRAM’s Bleeding Edge bleed port.
With the month or so of riding I’ve had on these new Code brakes, I’m more than impressed. They’ve been reliable, consistent, strong and most importantly, controllable and reliable. If you’re looking for stronger brakes, no matter what kind of bike you’re on, these things are worth a try.
SRAM Code Specs and Pricing:
-Larger fluid volume for consistency.
-Powerful four-piston caliper with 15 and 16mm diameter phenolic plastic pistons
-Full featured: SwingLink™, Contact Point Adjust, Lever Pivot Bearing
-Proven Guide technologies optimized for heavy duty applications
-Bleeding Edge™ provides easiest bleed process
-Price: $244 per brake, not including rotor or adaptor