What's Up Top?
SRAM's new Guide brake lineup consists of three models with varying degrees of tool-free adjustability, with the middle of the road RS model that's reviewed below foregoing the free-stroke adjustment of the higher-end RSC but retaining a tool-free reach adjustment dial. That omission sees them come in at $149 USD per end, which is about $50 less expensive than the premium model. Want to save a bit more coin? $129 USD gets you the basic R version that still boasts the same reach adjustment but loses the ball bearing lever pivot that's employed in both the RS and RSC versions. All three take advantage of the same four piston caliper, and they can be fitted with the same brake pads as used on Avid's four piston offerings. That leads us to the question of why the Guide brake falls under the SRAM banner rather than the Avid name, with the most obvious answer being that SRAM is looking to separate the Guides from the somewhat potted history of Avid's older offerings. Below, we find out if they've been able to do exactly that.
Guide RS Brake Details
• Intended use: all-mountain / trail
• Four piston caliper
• Tool-free reach adjust
• MatchMaker X compatible
• Lever pivots on ball bearings
• Top loading pads
• DOT 5.1 fluid
• Weight: 385 grams (front system, 160mm rotor)
• MSRP: $149 USD
The Guide brake's top end looks quite different compared to the Avid offerings that came before, with a revised in-line master cylinder that holds more DOT 5.1 fluid and a reach adjustment dial that has been moved to a new location at the front of the lever. The forged lever blades themselves are a bit shorter as well, but the entire shadow of the master cylinder and lever blade is actually the same length as its predecessor, although SRAM has built-in increased clearance so they mate with the company's Grip Shift perfectly. Our RS test brakes forego the free-stroke adjustment (SRAM calls it Contact Point Adjust
) found on the more expensive RSC model, but still allow for tool-free reach adjust. The split clamp makes them easy to install, and they're compatible with SRAM's space-saving Matchmaker combined shifter, brake and Reverb mounts, as well as being ambidextrous to make switching to a moto style setup as easy as swapping sides.
Up until the release of the new Guide brake this year, SRAM has employed their TaperBore master cylinder design many seasons. While it did work, asking shop mechanics and longtime Avid users about the system would likely show that it lacked consistency when it came to lever feel, and that the required bleeding process was a bit convoluted. The Guide brake features a new design that uses a small cam-driven linkage that moves the piston quickly past the bleed port, a setup that SRAM says makes for less dead band in the lever's throw. The result of this is that the brake pads hit the rotor sooner compared to the older design, and the cam is then said to allow for the clamping force to feel linear, with an easy to modulate power band. Internally, it's also a more traditional system compared to the older TaperBore setup, which should increase reliability in the long run.
The redesigned master cylinder holds more brake fluid than what is used in Avid's Elixir range, which means that there should be more than enough to compensate for brake pad wear that sees the pistons move out of their bores an increased amount. This was one of my complaints of their predecessor - how the lever feel could change drastically when the pads wear past the halfway point - so it's good to see SRAM acknowledge the issue. The internal profile of the reservoir also sports shaping that's designed to move any reluctant air bubbles out and away, and the butyl membrane in the reservoir is said to be more flexible and less porous. Caliper and Rotor
While the upstairs is all-new, SRAM stuck with a proven design when it came to the caliper. The Guide caliper is the same as what's used on Avid's four piston Trail brake, with two 14mm and two 16mm pistons driving a set of organic pads that come stock. There is also a sintered metallic option, though, and since the caliper is the same, you can fit any pads that work with Avid's four piston brakes. That should be great news for anyone who's got a few sets of spare pads sitting around.
The caliper is the same, but there's yet another new rotor design, this one being referred to as ''Centerline'' - the name comes from the long openings in the middle of the braking surface that are claimed to clear mud and debris out quicker than the old rotor could. There are also twelve spokes now, double that of the G3 rotor, that SRAM says offers better heating and cooler characteristics, as well as more resistance to warping. 140, 160, 180, and 200mm options are available, all using the standard six-bolt mounting pattern.
Setup and Ergonomics - All of the Guide brakes that I've used have been ready to go right off the bat, and I never needed to bleed our RS test set or any of the others I've depended on, something that you couldn't say about the Avid's offerings. This means that it's just a matter of setting in the brake's position on the handlebar via the dial on the face of the lever (see photo at right) and tweaking the reach until it matches your hand - there's no free-stroke adjustment on the RS, remember. That said, the point at which the pads hit the rotors felt spot-on, and I don't think I would have made any changes, even if I had the Contact Point Adjust dial of the more expensive RSC model. The slightly shorter lever blade will still feel like home to anyone who's used the company's other offerings in the past, and I'd argue that they can brag about having some of the best ergonomics in the brake game.
Despite never needing
to bleed a set of Guide brakes on any of our test bikes, we went through the process just to see if the still very involved procedure was more effective than in the past. The steps haven't changed, meaning you'll need two syringes to get 'er done, and the same bleed fittings that Avid's brakes require also work with the Guides. The job is quicker, however, because you only need to do it once to remove the air in the system and replace the DOT fluid. That's a big improvement over the older Avid brakes that often required the patience of a saint in order to do complete the job. Power -
I've never felt that Avid's brakes don't offer enough power for their intended use, but I also know that there are bigger anchors out there if you're looking for something with the stopping power of a brick wall. That hasn't been the case for everyone, but, at 170lb and expert-level skills, I never found myself wishing for more bite. This begs the question: is the right amount of power an acceptable thing to be okay with, or should you have more than you need for those times when you're doing top to bottom non-stoppers on Whistler's Original Sin and Joyride? SRAM obviously believes the latter because the Guides are a clear leap ahead in terms of outright power. Maybe not Shimano power, though, but they're close enough that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to Shaq if he asked me what to spec on his Rampage bike. Anyone who complained about a lack of power in the past should be happy with what SRAM have done with the new Guide brake.
Power is one thing, but consistency is an entirely different requirement. After all, who cares if they have loads of power for a few minutes if you cook the brake fluid and glaze your pads in the time shortly after. That didn't happen with the Guides, and no amount of brake dragging did anything to have them either pump up at the lever or fade at the caliper, despite plenty of long descents that would result in tired hands if using less powerful brakes. I've also gone through a number of sets of pads on different Guide brakes, often continuing to use them past the point where one should drop in a new set, and can say that lever feel stays consistent until you begin to get close to the backing plate. It's obviously best to avoid doing that sort of thing, though, and I normally wouldn't run them so low unless it was a testing scenario. Modulation -
SRAM's previous offerings under the Avid name may have put some riders off when it comes to consistency over the long haul, but there was never any doubting the degree of control at your finger tips, with them providing heaps of modulation in the early and mid stages of braking. This was always their trump card over the competition - while not as powerful as Shimano, they were powerful enough while offering great feel in low-traction conditions. My concern with the new Guide stoppers was if SRAM was going to up the power but lose the feel, an approach that wouldn't set them apart from their biggest competitor in the brake world. I needn't have worried, though, as the Guides still feel very much like Avid brakes when talking about what a rider is going to feel through his or her fingers. The same control that I've always praised Avid for is there, and it's still easy to judge when to relax those digits to prevent locking up. The levers do have a firmer end to their pull, however, so it's not all the same as it was before, but I suspect that a lot of riders are going to associate that more solid lever stroke stopping point with the brakes being "better". Me, I sort of liked that old Avid feel, but the modulation is still there so I don't really have anything to complain about.
More power doesn't equal less modulation, and the new Guide brake prove that. They still have that Avid-esque control, and the firmer feel at the lever will be appreciated by most riders out there.
|The new Guide brakes offer improved consistency and more power over their predecessors, but haven't sacrificed the impressive modulation that has always made the company's brakes winners when it comes to low-traction scenarios. The bolstered reliability will be what wins the average rider over, though, as SRAM finally has a brake offering that I'd consider as being able to set-and-forget. - Mike Levy|
I have used XT and XTR brakes, and they have tons of power (probably more than guide). They also have all-or-nothing terrible modulation. If you want to brake by locking up your tires all the time, then that is your gig, but if you want to be fast, and only bleed off the speed that you need to in maintaining a line, then you need modulation.
Guide has power and modulation, they are quiet and really, who cares if they look like old jucy's? Are you getting chicks because your brakes look futuristic? Nope. Be happy they work well and they dont cost a fortune.
IF WE WIN I WILL GIVE AWAY A SET OF GUIDE BRAKES!!!!!!!!!!
I run the guides on my 2015 Enduro 650B and LOVE THEM. At the Ashland Mountain Challenge there was a super steep fast trail where everyone else's brakes overheated and began to fail, but the guides had absolutely no problem handling it.
If you are gonna get hydro brakes, you get Shimano, Hope, Magura, Formula...in that order.
Clean Sweep rotor + BB7 + Odyssey Linear Slic cables + any vee lever > any hydro brake
The weak link/negative to that set-up? Brake adapters are your bottle neck. While I've personally never broke one, most people opt for higher quality ones like Hope or other CNC'd options. However, most trials frames that utilize a disc mount tab that's already adjusted for a rotor larger than 203, which is why, again, it's the best disc brake set-up out there.
During my last trip I got to rent a bike equiped with guides and the first thing my girlfriend said is "wow these brakes are really powerful" so they did up their game power wise. Only thing that bothers me on set of elixir 7 I'm currently riding is that they heat up way too much/fast on the big descents. I didn't ride a big enough mountain to put the guides to the test on the front but if they fixed that and the wacky reliability... I was never a big fan of avid but for 150$ msrp I'd risk it.
Every single Shimano I've tried suffers from pump-up, even when freshly bled and including brand new demo bikes. I think this is mostly due to the DOT vs mineral oil, because my DOT Hayes also have fewer problems than the Shimanos. I would choose the new Guides every time over Shimano, they are great brakes. I have not had any issues with reliability or brake noise from any of these brands/models. The reality is that entry level Elixir 1-7 OEM brakes may have a horrible reputation, but their higher-end performance models work great.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had lost a net three weeks of sleep and 23 separate layers of paint bleeding the things, had to teach myself how to completely strip down, hack and rebuild taperbore code levers and the master cylinder pistons and worst of all, be told that it I must be doing something wrong if I have all those issues.
Deore rules here now thank you very much. They work. Well. All the time.
My XT brakes take mineral oil, don't gobble like a freaking Turkey if the humidity goes above 25% and don't fade. Just saying.
My past looks like this: Hayes 9, Hayes stroker ride and trail, avid juicy 3, 4, 5, elixer cr. Hayes were weak and bad modulaters, avid need constant love. I even tried dot 5 (not 5.1) as an experiment in the juicy 5. It has held up three years now, and the fluid is the same color as day one, but the aerophilic nature of the the stuff means it is hard to get air out and needs to be bled often.
I am getting shimano next. I am sick or screwing around.
I wanna know what happens.
Other than that, I do know that all the cans & bottles of DOT 5 talk about not using it in DOT5.1/4 brakes, but their concern is probably more along the lines of " oh hey, my brake is low on fluid, let me just top it up" & having a large amount of both fluids in one system.
you use them and how you squeeze them they are not good for any beginners or any rider ho has no idea how the break works and what is the breaking
time so far im looking to get this Guide RS model couse RSC has one more settings i ve never used on my X9's
DH bike, even.
And because I can't justify dropping $ on new brakes but we'll go with the pride thing...
It's about damn time.
But I've picked up a set of the RSC's a few months back and they have been FOOL PROOF. Running them with the Centerline rotors, and metallic pads, I've had no noise under braking, and a lot less noise even when they get wet. I've had absolutely no turkey gobble, no running water, and not even a high pitch squeal. The modulation is per Avid/Sram usualness, but the power is in loads. The bleed has held fine upsidedown and rightsideup. In the cold? No issues. Hot? Nope. Really? Yes.
I'm a HUGE fan of the fact that these are user serviceable. If my brakes end up needing anything in the course of their lifetime, all the part numbers and instructions are on sram's website. Try getting a "seal kit" for a set of Shimano XT's. Or a piston for that matter.
Additionally, I've been seeing some messed up stuff coming in from Shimano brakes recently. Cracked, frozen, and damaged caliper pistons, black mineral oil, and terrible pad wear to name a few.
My Elixer CR and Codes: noisy, contaminate easily ie need regular bleeding and do not have the same modulation that the XTRs have.
PinkBike readers want to know whether these brakes are worth purchasing. How do they stack up to Shimano? Magura? Other available options? Please don't sacrifice the trust of your readers for some short term gain in the eyes of SRAM and Shimano. PinkBike should be better than this. Also you really need to hire a reliable copy editor.
It seems to me they took a good look at themselves in the mirror at sram and admitted their brakes were not good enough and that they needed to do something about it. They got rid of those troublesome spherical washers that were causing more harm than good and went back to a tried and true master cylinder system that is known to be reliable. It's the same system shimano uses, unless they got some major quality control issues or cheaped out on seals, I don't see why they shouldn't be reliable as well.
As Levy said, the modulation of SRAM has always been great. Power was good enough. Consistency was dubious by today's standards. The Guides still have great modulation. And they have plenty of power. And feel the same at the bottom of big brake-burner descents as they do at the top. Oh, and no more wild turkey.
Avid brakes have been bashed so heavily over the years that it's going to take a lot more than a few positive reviews to make folks switch.
Plus, when switching brakes you're also switching bleed kits, brake fluid, pads, and possibly rotors which adds up to be rather expensive.
I for one need more of an incentive to switch from my XT brakes, but I must admit that the new Guide brakes have peaked my interest.
After a friend busted one of my levers, I had my Faith set up with X9 F and Saint R. I could never get used to the all or nothing feel of the Saint. Sure, it was powerful, but I never felt comfortable with it. I missed being able to feather the brake in early and mid stroke- something that made descending on steep wet rock less of a gamble.
I recently hit a wet rock trail on a bike with XTs. For whatever reason, they felt like they had no power at all. The feel was consistent front and rear, but I had to brake so much earlier and still found myself slamming hard into low turns and losing flow. Terrible experience.
I'm picking up my new Nomad today and it comes with SLX. I'm willing to give them a fair shot, but I'm seriously concerned that they won't be able to give me the surgical precision Avid spoiled me with, much less actually stop me when needed.
On the flip side, out of the half dozen sets of shimano brakes I've only had one defect which was replaced by the manufacturer. (Leaky master cylinder out of the box.) Shimano brakes are a solid pick on a new build. Dead simple to bleed and easy to maintain.
Maybe sram can do a program where you turn in your old shitty avid brakes for a set of these, that will get some of their shimano buyers back, just an idea.
I have the Avid 9 Trail brakes. Would I be able to use the new Centerline Rotors with my 9 Trails? Do you know if I would feel an improvement. Would they perform better? Would they be quieter?
I think the guide brakes are the right step forward for sram and time should prove that. I might try hooking up gude levers with code calipers for a try.
Oh, and no turkey was present when riding with superstar components floating rotors installed
Second year into the use, they developed the level piston freezing (poor design in tolerance so it made the material expand and get stuck).
Researched the problem but I couldnt find documents explaining the problem (like for real, fess up and tell me that I bought shit from you SRAM).
Found it too risky to do the repair myself.
Gave BOTH front and rear to my LBS and they sent them back to SRAM.
Been three weeks and nothing yet. Beautiful trails outside rn but SRAM has to be lazy af.
Very poor customer service.
Other than this problem I loved them.
Probably will go with Shimano from now on.
There better be a fullsome review shortly or my spleen will explode :-) , I demand my free , quality internet content now goddammit !!!.
@Vanguard was thinking the same...
IF WE WIN I WILL GIVE AWAY A SET OF GUIDE BRAKES!!!!!!!!!!
I'm and old-fuggin-guy,and rode on Avids for longer than I care to say. The last set being [what I thought were] a great pair of Trail 9s.
I moved to a new location that is right across the street from a trail system that has several (AWESOME) descents, so I started doing a LOT more DH-style riding.
After a few months I started paying attention to my brakes not having the level of threshold braking(which is often mistakenly called 'Modulation', which is actually CYCLING the lever) that I always thought they had/what I needed, so I decided to try a set of Saints. The level of feel these things have at the THRESHOLD is fricken LIGHT YEARS better than ANY Avid brakes I ever had, and since then I've installed a second set of Saints on my (new) DH bike, and a set of XT's on my trail bike. Every single set of these Shimano brakes put Avid to shame as far as the threshold feel. I'm not gonna say that they have more power(the XTs in particular) than my Trail 9s, or even some Juicy 7s or Codes that I've also owned, but they have WAY better feel at the threshold. I can regularly hold my Saints RIGHT at the point before the rear will start sliding-riding on our local flavor of sand-over-concrete- and I was NEVER able to do that with ANY Avids I've owned.
At 220lbs, it might be that in consistently asking more from my brakes than this 170lbs writer/reviewer does gives us two different animals, but considering that the writers of MTB Action are around the same weight as this writer/reviewer, yet ALSO classify Shimano's threshold braking to be in a class of its own, I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that this writer/reviewer might be someone that has difficulty accurately describing what's going on with the bike/vehicle he's operating. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and they even have medication for that nowadays. Oh wait, nevermind.
Anyway, we need the bike review!
Nintendo Virtual Boy?