SRAM released the latest version of their Code brakes earlier this year
, and since then they've been popping up on more and more bikes, everything from enduro race machines to full blown DH rigs. They use a similar design to SRAM's Guide brakes, but with an increased fluid reservoir and larger piston diameter to increase their stopping power.
There are two different versions, the Code RSC ($244) reviewed here, and the Code R ($154). Both brakes have alloy lever blades, but the Code R brakes cost slightly less due to the lack of a pad contact adjustment, although they still have a tool-free reach adjustment knob. At the caliper, the Code RSC uses phenolic plastic pistons for improved heat management, while the Code R's pistons are aluminum.
SRAM Code RSC Details
• Intended use: downhill / enduro
• Four piston caliper
• Larger fluid volume
• Aluminum lever blade
• Reach adjust, pad contact point adjust (RSC)
• Bleeding Edge caliper fitting
• DOT 5.1 fluid
• Weight: 294 grams (actual, front caliper w/pads, hose, and lever)
• MSRP: $244 (RSC), $154(R)
The Code's lever body design is almost identical to what's found on the more trail-riding oriented Guide brakes, including the same cam activated cup seal and port system. The main difference is the size of the lever's reservoir, which holds 30% more fluid. That increase in volume is designed to ensure that the brakes feel the same for the duration of a run, no matter the length or steepness.
At the caliper end, the new Codes use 15mm and 16mm pistons; the slightly larger dimension versus the Guide's 14 and 16mm pistons is said to help increase the amount of stopping power by 15%. The brakes come with metallic brake pads already installed, and it's the same pad design as what was found on the previous generation of Code brakes.
The calipers also now have SRAM's Bleeding Edge fitting, where the bleed adaptor pushes into a port in the caliper, eliminating one of the tiny screws that used to like to go missing during a brake bleed.Performance
I've spent the last six months on the new Code brakes, and during that time period they've seen everything from long, sustained brake burners in Pemberton, BC, numerous laps in the Whistler Bike Park, along with countless hours of everyday trail riding. Throughout all of that, their performance has been remarkably consistent, delivering the same level of power no matter how long the run.
At first I wondered if the Code's increased amount of stopping power would be overkill for the Trek Slash that I installed them on, but I ended up really appreciating that extra power. I was able to brake later, and for less time compared to the Guide Ultimate brakes they replaced, which lead to reduced hand fatigue after long days of riding. There's not quite the same level of modulation – the Codes' power comes on quicker than the Guides – but I didn't have any trouble controlling their output, even on slippery, dusty rock rolls and loose corners.
I was glad to see that the Codes come properly configured with metallic pads out of the box; I've never understood why so many brakes come spec'd with organic pads, considering that they wear quickly and can be unpredictable in wet conditions. However, during a hot, steep, dusty ride in Pemberton they did develop an ear-splitting howl on a trail that required heavy, sustained braking. The power remained the same, but the sound was tough to bear. Organic pads would have likely silenced, or at least reduced, that howling, but that instance seemed to be an outlier, and otherwise the brakes were quiet and trouble-free for the duration of the test period.SRAM Code vs Shimano Saint
Now for the big question – Shimano Saint vs SRAM Code – which one should you pick? Given that both options have been proven at the highest levels of mountain biking, along with the fact that they're similarly priced, it's the little details that set them apart. Personally, if I was forced to choose I'd go with the Codes. That'll undoubtedly raise the hackles of the die-hard Shimano fans, but here's the breakdown: Modulation:
SRAM's Code and Shimano's Saint brakes both have enough power to slow down the biggest riders on the steepest tracks, but the way the Codes' power is delivered is a little easier to manage. There's a slight ramp up to before the maximum amount of power is deployed, where the Saints' power comes on quicker, giving them more of an on/off feel. Based solely on outright power, the Saints have the edge, but the Codes take the cake when it comes to modulation. Consistency:
I've been on multiple sets of Code and Saint brakes over the last few months, and I've found the Codes to have a more predictable lever feel, especially during longer, more sustained braking. On the Saints, the power is always there, but the amount the lever needs to move before you can feel the pads contacting the rotor isn't as consistent as I'd like, even on a freshly bled set of brakes. The Codes are more consistent, and I didn't have any unwanted pumping up during the test period.Lever Shape / Design:
Shimano's levers are a little shorter than SRAM's, with a more pronounced hook on the end, and dimples on the blade that are meant to add traction in the wet. Both shapes fit my hands well, and it doesn't take long for me to get used to either one. As far as ergonomics go, I'd call it a draw, but SRAM takes the win when it comes to adjusting the lever feel. The pad contact dial on the Codes actually works, while I'm pretty sure the free stroke adjust on Shimano's brakes is just for show. Pinkbike's Take: