Not content with making aftermarket shock links for what seems like nearly every bike in existence, Cascade Components have now added brake calipers to their catalog of CNC machined components. The new North Fork calipers are compatible with all of SRAM's Code levers, and are said to deliver 20% more power than the stock Code calipers.
That increase in power is achieved via the use of larger diameter pistons – the North Fork caliper uses 16 and 18mm phenolic pistons, compared to the 15 and 16mm pistons in a standard Code caliper. The lever throw remains the same in order to maintain a familiar feel, just with more available power.
North Fork Caliper Details
• 6061-T6 aluminum
• 18mm and 16mm pistons
• Designed for use with any Code levers
• Colors: Black, purple, electroless nickel
• Made in USA
• Price $283 each / $530 USD pair
The calipers are priced at $283 each, or $530 for a pair, lever not included. For reference, the MSRP of a SRAM Code RSC brake lever and
caliper is $250 USD. On my scale, one North Fork caliper weighed in at 137 grams, just 18 grams more than a Code caliper.
The calipers are machined in the USA from 6061-T6 aluminum, and are compatible with SRAM's Code pads, as well as their Bleeding Edge system, with the bleed port at the top outboard portion of the caliper. While Cascade Components makes or sources their own parts for the North Fork calipers, there's a large amount of cross-compatibility in order to make sure spares are relatively easy to find, and everything except the two bolts that hold the calipers together could be sourced from SRAM if necessary.
For riders who want to tweak their brake setup even further, Cascade Components also has a new cam kit that works with Guide and Code RS and RSC levers, the ones that have SRAM's SwingLink design.
Cascade's cam is designed to ramp up the amount of force more quickly, creating less lever throw and a faster bite. The cams are priced at $37 per pair, although Cascade do warn that they're not going to be everyone's cup of tea – riders that tend to drag rather than stab their brakes may notice more hand fatigue from the change in lever feel.
I've had a set of the North Fork calipers in my testing rotation for the last few months, and I've been able to take them on plenty of long, brake burning descents during that time period. Getting them up and running didn't pose any hassles – the bleeding instructions are clearly written and easy to follow. It's worth noting that not all post mount adaptors are compatible with the North Fork calipers due to the larger dimensions – Cascade Components has a list of what will and won't work. The good news is that there aren't any known fork incompatibilities; for instance, if you're using a RockShox Zeb, which has a 200mm post mount, the caliper should bolt right on.
On the trail, the extra power is noticeable, but it doesn't smack you upside the head. There's still plenty of modulation, which is handy for creeping down dust covered rock faces without fully locking them up and doing the skid of doom. The extra power was most evident during heavy braking, on really steep sections of trail where the brakes were constantly engaged. Again, it's not a night and day difference from the stock caliper, but it is a definite improvement, and it could be the ticket for bigger riders, e-bikers, or anyone who's typical trail selection varies between steep and steeper.
There's also the fact the that calipers simply look great, at least in my eyes. I'm a fan of the slightly chunky, machined look - they take me back to a time when aftermarket brake levers were all the rage for riders eager to hop up their Hayes and Avid brakes.
Given the substantial of cost, I'd recommend that power hungry riders give SRAM's new HS2 rotors
a try first, and then consider the North Fork calipers as the next step if that bump up in power still isn't enough.
As for the cams, those are a little less straightforward to install – there's a pin that needs to be pushed out, and spring that needs to be oriented the right way. I did it sans instructions; I'd imagine Cascade will have a little manual that'll include some tips and tricks.
I have big hands, so I tend to run my levers a little further out, and have them bite a little quicker. For that reason, I got along fairly well with the different cam installed, although I personally didn't find the new leverage rate to be that much of a benefit over the stock configuration. The modulation of SRAM's Code RSC levers is one of the reasons I tend to prefer them over Shimano, and the cam took some of that away. For some riders, though, the change in feel the cams deliver could be exactly what they're looking for.