Review: SRAM Guide Ultimate Brakes

Sep 29, 2015
by Mike Kazimer  
SRAM Guide Ultimate

SRAM's Guide Ultimate brakes are the most recent addition to the Guide series, slotting into the top position as the lightest and most full featured option in the lineup. Niceties include carbon lever blades, titanium lever hardware, tool free reach and pad contact adjustments, and a redesigned caliper that's intended to improve the brake's heat management. Compared to the Guide RSC, the Ultimates are 80 grams lighter for the pair, and retail for $288 per wheel, compared to $205 per wheel for the RSC version.
Guide Ultimate Brake Details

• Intended use: all-mountain / trail
• New S4 four piston caliper
• Titanium lever hardware, carbon lever blades
• Weight: 240 grams (actual, front caliper w/pads, hose, and lever)
• DOT 5.1 fluid
• MSRP: $288 USD per wheel
www.sram.com, @SramMedia


SRAM Guide Ultimate
Each caliper holds four aluminum pistons that have an insulator in their center.
SRAM Guide Ultimate
A small heat sink (the horseshoe shape piece of steel) is intended to reduce the system's operating temperature.


Details

Except for the carbon lever blade and titanium hardware, the Guide Ultimate brake lever body has the same internals as the rest of the Guide series of brakes, relying on a cam activated cup seal and port system to move the DOT fluid through the system. The caliper is where the true differences lie – SRAM have implemented a number of measures intended to keep the brakes operating temperature as low as possible, and reduce the number of steps necessary to bleed them.

Each caliper is outfitted with four updated aluminum pistons that each have an insulator in their center, and tiny grooves have also been machined on the outside of the pistons to improve improve rollback, the speed that they return to their original position after the lever is released. Along with the revised pistons, a heat sink now sits in front of the brake pads. The horseshoe shaped piece of stainless steel is designed to pull heat away from the pads, and SRAM's in-house testing found that this created a 20°C reduction in running temperature.

The location of the bleed port on each caliper has been moved rearward, a position change that should help make sure that stubborn air bubbles don't remain in the caliper even after the system is bled correctly. There's also no longer a tiny screw to remove before bleeding the caliper - instead, lifting a small rubber cover reveals a hexagon shaped port that an adaptor fits into, and is then turned counter-clockwise to open up the system, allowing fluid to be moved from the caliper and up through the lever body. The Guide Ultimates are the first brakes to feature this design, but it wouldn't be surprising to see it start to trickle down through the rest of the Guide lineup.

SRAM Guide Ultimate
The Guide Ultimate caliper has more room around the pad and rotor for increased airflow.

On the Trail

I spent over three months with the Guide Ultimate brakes, and during that time they saw everything from long top-to-bottom runs in the dry and dusty Whistler Bike Park to a 7,000 vertical foot helicopter shuttle in Rettallack, BC (rough life, I know). Overall, they've been extremely consistent and reliable, with the benchmark-setting modulation that the Guide series of brakes have become known for. Other than the slightly different tactile feel of the carbon lever versus the aluminum lever found on the lower priced options, the Guide Ultimate brakes feel nearly identical to the other brakes in the Guide series, which is a good thing. There's a smooth buildup of power the harder you squeeze the levers, which makes it possible to creep down steep rock faces without skidding out of control, or to scrub the perfect amount of speed just before entering a loose and dusty turn. Both the lever reach and pad contact point adjustments work well, and make it easy to really fine tune exactly where the lever sits, as well as at what point the pads reach the rotor.

I did end up bleeding the rear brake after a few weeks of riding – it began to pump up slightly on long, extended downhills, which is often a sign of air in the system. Fortunately, the bleed procedure for these brakes is extremely simple, and the new Bleeding Edge adaptor (included) makes life even easier. That one bit of maintenance was all it took to get the brake working flawlessly once again, and I didn't run into any other issues during my time on them. Brake pad wear and piston advancement were all uneventful - the pads wore evenly, and even when they were close to the end of their lifespan there wasn't any drastic change to the feel at the lever.
SRAM Guide Ultimate
The Bleeding Edge adaptor pushes directly into the caliper - there's no longer a tiny screw to fuss with.



SRAM
Shimano XTR Trail brake


SRAM Guide Ultimate Compared to Shimano XTR M9020

SRAM and Shimano are the current leaders of the pack when it comes to hydraulic disc brakes, and the performance gap between the two companies top offerings is smaller than ever – it's more of a matter of personal preference, like choosing between chocolate or strawberry ice cream, rather than one drastically outperforming the other. Since the Guide Ultimates are SRAM's top of the line trail brakes, it's worth taking a moment to compare them to Shimano's XTR Trail brakes.

Weight: SRAM has an ever-so-slight edge here, with a front Guide Ultimate brake weighing in at 240 grams, versus 250 grams for the XTR Trail brake. Those are the actual weights of a front caliper, lever, brake line, and pads.

Price: Guide Ultimate: $288 USD per wheel. XTR M9020: $299 USD per wheel.

Aesthetics: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm going to give this one to Shimano. The sleek, low profile design of the latest XTR trail brakes simply looks more polished and refined than the Guide Ultimate brakes.

Power: Even though the XTR Trail brakes only have two pistons compared to the Guide's four, they feel a touch more powerful - it takes less pressure at the lever to lock up the rear wheel.

Modulation: The Guide Ultimates have a slight edge when it comes to modulation – the XTR Trail's power comes on a little earlier in the stroke, while on the Guides there's more room to feather the brakes and apply just the right amount of pressure to the caliper. Both brakes deliver plenty of usable, easily controllable power, but the Guide brakes have the edge by a narrow margin.

Consistency: Overall, the set of Guide Ultimate brakes used for this review ended up having a more consistent feel than Shimano's XTR Trail brakes. The last few sets of XTR brakes I've been on have been finicky when it comes to getting the lever to feel the same every time it's pulled, even after being bled several times. The point at where the lever stops moving, the moment it hits the pad, seemed like more of a moving target with the XTR brakes, while on the Ultimates, other than the need to bleed them one time early on in the test period, the lever felt exactly the same every time I grabbed it.

* Note: Keep in mind that this comparison is solely between the Guide Ultimate and XTR Trail brakes – I'm currently evaluating a set of the XT M8000 brakes, and so far they've exhibited a much more consistent feel than their more expensive sibling.



Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesOne of SRAM's mottos is 'incremental enhancement', and that's exactly what the Guide Ultimate brakes are. By taking a successful design, trimming the fat and adding in a few new features, SRAM have created a brake that deserves its place as the creme de la creme of the Guide brake line, a light and powerful brake that can handle everything from trail riding to long, steep downhill runs. That being said, despite the revised caliper, there's not a drastic difference in performance between the Ultimate brakes and the lower priced options in the line, which means that riders who don't mind carrying around a few extra grams can get nearly all of the benefits without the associated cost. - Mike Kazimer


Must Read This Week

320 Comments

  • + 348
 In Shimano I trust
  • + 91
 Correction, in Shimano Deore I trust
  • + 59
 I'll take the saints over the ultis every time, save a lot of cash and know they wont shit themselves in 3 years.
  • + 51
 Shimano>Sram
  • + 9
 All about reliability and durablitly
  • + 48
 Shimano XTR warranty fail. Both previous and current model in my case.

God is dead.

Bike stuff is all the same: a gamble.
  • + 56
 Mate, don't even need to go for Saints. Zee is all the brake you need!
  • + 144
 @DaPeach - one does not simply come to Pinkbike and criticize Shimano brakes, RS Pike, Marzocchi or sponsored freerider roosting sand
  • + 27
 Power is nothing without modulation. Try it before you knock it... If your a good rider, who dousen't mash and drag, you'll feel the difference. Especialy if you ride the loose sandy stuff we have in the south west.
  • + 8
 BTW. 5k laps down all day. Check out mt wilson above pasadena on trailforks. I used to burn up or boil formulas, elixers, and xt's. The guides are the most reliable trail brake I have riden in this type of riding.
  • + 2
 wikenrider i hear u dude, my deores have not failed me since i have owned them
  • - 13
flag YoKev (Sep 30, 2015 at 3:04) (Below Threshold)
 Hey Mr Furycrew..
I used to think the same thing until I bought into the 'hype' and bought a set of ZEEs after I owned Saints on another bike.
I found the Zees to be noticeably weaker than Saints, and their braking force varied more every time I used them compared to the Saints.
Turns out the Zee's calipers are actually multi-piece units, which obviously allows them to flex and expand more, pissing away braking force into thin air.
I'm 240lbs, and my favorite run has you grabbing all the brakes you have at the finish, as you only have 7-8 yards to come to a complete stop from 25+/-MPH before you literally go off a cliff.
I need and use ALL of the power my Saints can muster, and the Zee's scared the piss outta me every time as they took me right to the edge.
Regarding the article, if the Guides are SRAM's most powerful brakes, shouldn't said power have been compared to Saints rather than XTR's?
  • + 4
 @YoKev - sorry but that bit with multi-piece caliper is a WTF. Those are the same calipers with changed decals. General idea of monopiece vs twopiece is a BS. You save a tiny bit of weight if you do that, complicate servicing, and manufacturing process along with tolerances. Difference in power between Saints to Zees? It is simply impossible to notice, you must have had compromised set of Zees. Saints have master cylinder from XTR and are labeled as a top Shimano DH brake. This is where the difference ends. In general, Saint Grouppo is a joke when compared to Zee. Reasonably speaking, with no premium status value added, the only thing I may want from Saint would be frickin rear mech pulleys and maybe the shifter.
  • + 21
 @YoKev, Avid Codes would be the Sram brake most comparable to the Saints.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns yeah the zee rear mech pulleys wear out like they're made of cheese
  • + 0
 Yup greame. Just buy XT pulleys with bearings. Saint rear mech is indeed a massive piece of equipment but it has Achilles ankle in form of the plate which connects the main body with the hanger. There's no point in making a massive structure just so it fails at a tiny bit holding it to the frame, which in fact is hard to obtain as a spare. I would buy Saint rear mech if I had a frame with direct mount hanger, eliminating the middleman. I smashed all sorts of derailleurs and recent SRAMs are hardest to kill (my X9 killed 2 hangers until it died, taking third hanger with it), while Shimanos fail at mounting plate and their cages are very suspectible to bending, making the chain jump off from lower pulley and get stuck between it and cage plate, with that plate being hard to bend back to position so it doesn't happen anymore.
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns you should try to run your bike with the rubber side down instead of sideways ;-).

Nah, I was just pulling your chain. Shimano has been consolidating their product line for the last 7-8 years -as SRAM has been doing for ages, but since they like to present this whole "gruppo" ideal, they mix and match calipers and levers as you properly stated about the XTRs and Saint levers. Maybe they could simplify and clean their lineup a bit by going the path SRAM does, and call their brakes with a different nomenclature than their shifting groups instead of changing three bolts and a plate and labeling the brake Deore instead of SLX. And don't get me started on their OEM/unlabeled offerings. Up to 20% cheaper prices for a brake without "Deore" stamped in? You've got to be kidding me...
  • + 3
 I've been running Magura MT5's for a couple months now and holy hell are they awesome. Everyone should give them a look before jumping on the shimano wagon.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns my zee mech pulleys wear faster than my Sora road mech pulleys! XT is a good shout, need to get round to ordering these
  • + 8
 my $50 shimano deore m446 work better than my $120 avid codes
  • + 9
 In Avid we trust. Said no one ever.
  • - 3
 HalfandHalf - you must leave in a very detached place Big Grin
  • + 0
 Ive killed 3 sets of zee brakes (leaking levers) and 3 zee derailleurs(high limit screws get beaten to a pulp), I have killed 1 x9.

I still use my zee brakes on my dh because they have more power, but on my trail bike my lowly guide db5s are great, and my warranty experience is that shimano is awesome, but sram is better.

Thats all folks!!!
  • + 3
 Waiting 6 months now for my xtr warranty brakes. My Saints spent more time at Shimano than on my bike. After the third warranty replacement I sold them. My Maguras blow them away in terms of power and modulation.
  • + 0
 Finally a rational thinker.
  • + 6
 I have the x0 trail brakes and they have been faultless for a year. alot of my mates (probably around 6) have had there xt brakes fail on them, some more than once just in 1 year. anyone saying shimano are faultless is completely wrong, the seals in the levers dont last at all.
  • + 1
 But but but, magura suck! I have mt5. Yep loads of power.. But work for 5 mins.in 3 months they have been to warranty once and have gone faulty again. And the pads sit way to close to the disc. Sram stuck too, probably. Avid did anyway. Not a fan of Shimano either, stupid contact point adjusters don't do anything, and they didn't fix it on new m8000 either! Basically,they all suck.
  • + 4
 I dunno how maguras work but their plastic levers look like they've been made by the same company that makes window cleaners. I could maybe swallow it with MT5 but at the price of MT8, that is plain silly
  • + 1
 They feel amazing though @waki. I do have massive hands so maybe that has something to do with it.
  • + 1
 Thats easy, chocolate is way better.
  • + 3
 I use the sole of my shoes and they are the most amazing brakes I've ever had on concrete. On dirt it's a little painfull so I close my eyes and pray.
  • + 1
 Sorry mate. I've used slx to Saint m820. M820 is problematic. I sold it off and both a dram guide rsc. Performance if way better than m820.
  • + 0
 I heard: "If you have to compare, deep inside you know the other is better".. Shimano 4 life
  • + 1
 I've been running the Guide RSC's for 2 months on my 160mm trail bike and the power and control is awesome. Lots of control for manuals, wheelie's, preparing for corners and the other stuff we do on dirt. No warbling, but a little noise from the front. Likely a little contamination. I bled them myself with the SRAM/AVID bleed kit and they have been flawless. Whenever I hop on a friend's bike with XT's I appreciate the power and firm lever feel but the lack of modulation would take a while to get used to.
  • + 2
 friends won't guide friends into drinking the poisonous elixir
  • + 201
 Thank you for comparing them directly to Shimano brakes! Without comparison, reviews are worthless.
  • + 19
 ^ this
  • + 1
 But all professional testers do this, they just don't alway tell you in the review itself. How else would they come to these conclusions? Blind opinion? There's a far greater scrutiny out there than in the comments section below...
  • + 11
 At the quality level of the Ultimates and XTRs any comparison is pointless and all ends up at individual preference of each rider.
  • + 8
 They should do this more often, especially with bikes
  • + 9
 I think I prefer the guides. The power is there! I hope the test took into consideration the pad type and that they were properly broken in (the pads)

I think the power is in favor for the guides but it takes a little more pull to access it. Shimano's had the upper hand for a while because Avid/Sram really messed up with the elixir line and shimano was the best alternative once sram/avid went downhill.

I think shimano brakes are quick to bite a little too hard. Guides have more modulation and power, if you ask me. But you can't just jump around brake to brake on different bikes. Different pads, rotor sizes, some may or may not be warmed up or even broken in properly...it's hard to have an honest comparison but I favor my guides to shimano XT's. But not by a long shot.
That's modulation.
  • + 8
 I don't understand people going for "Lock up power". Seriously. When is it faster to skid? Never. Modulation, as long as you have enough power to back it up in an emergency, is king. Scrub only the speed that needs to be scrubbed.

Seriously if your riding style has you skidding every time you need to slow down, you have some work to do.

The Guides have great power, and great modulation. The XTRs are like a light switch, all on or all off. end of story.
  • + 7
 When you're at the bottom of a long, steep section and you've got major arm pump and your brakes are red hot, its good to have "lock up power", even though you aren't locking up the brakes. It means that it takes less force at the lever to get a ton of power, and when you're forearms are dead thats a very good thing.
  • - 5
flag t-turi-mullett (Sep 30, 2015 at 13:29) (Below Threshold)
 I am pro Avid, but sliding around everywhere is obviously the most fun way to ride pretty much any type of bike.
  • + 2
 The lock up thing is a little irrelevant in my humble opinion. At this end of the braking spectrum anything you buy is going to have power in spades, locking shouldn't be a problem. I've always been a massive fan of the zee line, sure they're not the lightest and they don't have the most feel, but man are they reliable and consistent. Once you learn their bite point you can put all the trust in them that you want. Ive recently put a pair of guide RS on my commencal to try something different, and so far they've been great. Loads of feel adjustability and power when you want it. I find the added modulation really helps you work with a plush, long travel fork. That being said, if they blow up like Avids I'll be right back in the Shimano camp.
  • + 1
 Honestly I don't think it's super noticeable anyway. I'd be fine on either brake. You just get to know them and pull accordingly. I'm just saying shimano is more sensitive and I feel like it creates this illusion that they are more powerful. And it's not like the guides take a lot more power at the level to get the full power of the brake...just enough more so that it's very controllable. I was fine on shimano's and preferred them when avid went to crap but the guides offer me that good old avid modulation and feel that shimano never had for me. Avid Guides are literally the brakes I have been waiting for. Last reliable pair of Avid brakes I had were like 5 years ago. Avid Juicy 7's. I actually have a very reliable pair of Elixir 7's on my slope bike but they'll never recover from their tainted history without changing their name. Give guides a chance if you miss the old Avid.
  • + 72
 obviously chocolate ice cream far out performs strawberry... there really is no competition there
  • + 6
 My girlfriend would say otherwise, but I agree, chocolate is better than strawberry
  • - 4
flag davidsimons (Sep 29, 2015 at 23:43) (Below Threshold)
 At least they weren't vanilla.
  • + 3
 But which is the chocolate?
  • + 14
 I once tried strawberry ice cream instead of mineral oil!
  • + 9
 at least they didn't compare it to Fsa which is a blue waffle
  • + 1
 @waki it sounds awkward to have a brake product from a company that calls itself "full speed ahead". They should just drop it. Or make another brand name for it.
  • + 4
 @hollowing2000, speed is nothing without control.
  • + 1
 replied to wrong person...
  • + 43
 Don't ever rule out Hope.
  • + 9
 Except demand prices
  • + 4
 Dem* stupid auto correct
  • + 12
 Hopes are next level in terms of quality, manufacture and feel compared to anything else out there, Shimano seem to be a good staple though, my brakes can get a little shorter in stroke after a long decent but they perform very well, I've always found any avid's i've used to be grossly underpowered
  • + 0
 Oh... I thought we were talking about guides... must have misread
  • + 15
 Hope e4 brakes are cheaper than the ultimates and the v4 are the same price.
  • + 7
 I finally picked up Hope V4s for my DH bike... nothing like them. Coming off The Ones and loving the initial bite and power, these still easily out shine after dialing in the pad contact and a good solid bleed. Over the moon impressed. There's a reason why you never really see them for sale in the Used Parts section... yes they're expensive, but I feel like for everyone that makes the plunge, they'll be keeping them for their next 4 or 5 bikes. They can be had all day lately for like $240 a side. Throw in a $60-80 rotor and you're hardly at a higher price than any of these.
  • + 1
 Am I the only person who thinks hopes have too small of pad clearances and not very much power? Or have I only test ridden the wrong ones...
  • + 6
 No you are not the only one, had hope tech m4, and after countless bleads, seals change and main cyllinder change, they still had weak power. Tryed Shimano SLX at half price and blew Hopes into dust.
  • + 3
 Yes hope are more expensive, I have 2 sets of v2 on my bikes, both are 7 years old and still just work. My 2 kids have M4's on their bikes which are good few years older ( my old brakes) and still work better than any new scrap or shitmano..
  • + 1
 For grgsmith above... I don't think pad clearance is the way to put it. Each set I've bought talks about procedure to align the pads and let's not forget that you may need to align your caliper on the posts a little.

If you still have crap for performance, maybe the pads weren't bedded in well or contaminated (not as likely). Take some sand paper to the rotor (to break any glaze or other material that may be there) and switch the pads to the opposite sides.

And check out / try EBC. I used their pads for year on high performance motorcycles and they are the preferred pad on my car builds (Volvo 850R. Volvo 245 Turbo, BMW E46 with supercharger coming soon!). The greenstuff pads I ran on an RF600 with a swapped GSXR750 front end had AMAZING BITE and were very fade resistant. I'm going to try those as my next set on my Hopes and Avids both.

In terms of adjustability, build quality, and performance potential I don't believe SRAM and She-Man-0h have anything on Hope! They are a little finicky but if you don't treat them as a bolt on and forget system then you can reap some dramatic rewards from them.
  • + 3
 Don't waste your money s/c'n an e46. Seriously

Every one I've driven let me down. (3 of 'em)
  • + 1
 Hope or Magura MT7? I have the MT7 and j never had more powerful brakes, I never tried hope bc there so rare, pls advise
  • + 1
 @UtahBikeMike : I'll send an email. :-)
  • + 1
 @BDKR........STOPTECH!!!!!!
  • + 1
 @jewpowered LOL! I've been interested in their rotors. The 850 needs some so I think I'll give those a try.
  • + 1
 Just rotors.....try racingbrake, stoptech is $$$$$
  • + 37
 "Heat dissipating insulator" .... I am not quite that insulators dissipate heat.....
  • + 67
 You're confusing marketing with engineering.
  • + 7
 And sense with nonsense, in a marketing-speak kind of way that is.
  • + 5
 I'm fairly certain the goal in the piston is to keep the heat in the caliper and avoid heading the fluid behind the piston. Agreed that the caption was terrible.
  • + 13
 Heat dissipating insulator is the new flux capacitor.
  • + 1
 I am also not quite that thing you say...
  • + 32
 Maverick: "I feel the need"

Maverick & Goose: "The need to bleed!"
  • + 11
 nope, I got hopes. only need to change fluid every few years, no need to bleed Smile
  • + 3
 @bat-fastard : Except if you need to disconnect an end. ;-)

That said, they are stupid easy to bleed. If you can bleed car brakes then you can bleed bike brakes. At least Hope had the good sense to use the same 8mm bleed screw size on mine.

And Hope is just much higher quality then all this plastic shit from SRAM and Shimano. I used some Guides on a rental out at Snow Summit back in May. The lever assemblies are junk!
  • + 22
 So SRAM finally managed to kill the turkey? How many rotor versions did that take again?
  • + 7
 Thanksgiving dinner tables will be filled with Avid G3 rotors this year.
  • + 16
 I have em. I love em. They're good. If you have the money, try them. If you dont. Get the rsc. If you can't afford those, rs. They're very similar to xtr or xt brakes. I feel like my ultimates have more power than my friends xtrs. But idk, it's too close to tell
  • + 1
 What about the Guide R's?
  • + 3
 Idk. Haven't tried those
  • + 6
 I have the r and they're very powerful and consistent. Only complaint I have is lack of contact point adjustment
  • + 6
 I have Guide RS and they are the best brakes I have ever had. The consistency in great modulation, I can feel the tyre slip very well, they are fantastic for wheelies (!) power right on spot for what I am doing. Lever feel is great for me. 801 Saints are second on my list, slightly more powerful and fade a bit less but they are not as precise and I hate all recent shimano levers - personal preference but a strong one). I sold recent XTs after only a couple of months. Tried also Formulas R1 - no!
  • + 4
 Got Guide RS too, i was before on X9, before X9 i was on Juicy 7 custom tuned, never had any troubles or lack of stopping power, as always sram/avid modulations is never beaten, I have experience on saint, zee, xt as well formula R1, well all the rest ware good except the lack of modulation, bite feel on the aggressive cornering, or lack of stopping power due to overheating, im not too addicted to Avid/Sram but i find them close to my need of stopping power, the only downside of Guide RS is they eat the pads relatively quickly than Shimano Saint or Zee nothing can beet the long pads live on them they last all the season compare to Guide RS 2 sets of pads a season... and i ride a lot of DH at the local trail witch is 3,1 km long Smile
  • + 1
 I find my old Saints a bit better for brake burning on steep trails in the park, but Guides are almost as capable and they are absolutely amazing with feel in the wet. With 160 rotors you can simply become a surgeon with how much power you want to apply, even on wet rock slabs. At the same time they are not as spongy as elixirs which I had trouble with finding when do they actually bite, and Guides are much easier to bleed.
  • + 2
 Have the guide r's and love them.
I dont mind the extra 100 grams (if your not a weight wienie) and if you bleed them right (not like the old elixers) they have a great feel and the master cylender adjustment is all I need.

They were a real game changer for me on the the "dust on crust" we ride in the south west.

I have alot less "Skiddiot" moments
  • + 1
 I currently run Guide RS and a set of XT's and I prefer the guides hands down. More power, better modulation. Bled them once and they still work great same for my XT's but the feel is better on the guides.
  • + 1
 I have some Guide RS brakes on my bike at the moment, they're alright. Still think I preferred my old Deores in terms of lever feel and power.
  • + 10
 Dear brake reviewers: Power ≠ locking up the wheel.

Any brake that can't lock up a wheel is probably unsafe to ride. Locking up the wheel only requires high force between the pads and the rotor, which you can get by stabbing the lever.

Power is how fast you can decelerate from a given speed - how quickly you can reduce your speed. When you are riding at a certain speed, you have kinetic energy proportional to your speed. (Actually it's proportional to the square of your speed.) In any case to slow down, your brakes need to turn that energy into heat, and dissipate it: to the air, the brake fluid, the caliper body, your fork leg, etc. Power is a measure of how fast a brake can dissipate that energy. When you exceed the maximum power your brakes can provide, the pads overheat and the braking force on the rotor is reduced. That's fade.

So unfortunately it's really hard to discern braking power on the bike.. It's highly dependent on tires, braking surface, and how far back you can get over the bike. While you can feel braking force, you can't feel power, you can only observe it by measuring deceleration.. and your body doesn't know how to do that.
  • + 2
 Why isn't this higher...
  • + 12
 if something has to have "ultimate" in the name in order to sell, I get suspicious. Very suspicious.
  • + 3
 "Ultimate" = As good as it will ever get...
  • + 7
 And your wallet hides in the basement
  • + 6
 Sure they look great and all, but I experienced complete brake failure on my Guide RSCs screaming down crested butte this weekend. Turns out a seal was blown in the master cylinder on my brakes that aren't even 2 months old. Hope will be getting my money in the future. Currently in contact with my distributor regarding a potential warranty replacement.
  • + 1
 I had a similar issue today- complete failure of my front brake on a tricky decent- not a pleasant experience. My brakes have about 50 hours use. Will be putting them on the bay after they are warrantied and going back to Shimano.
  • + 5
 I went from Zee front, Saint rear to Guide RSC's in my DH bike and couldn't be happier. They work and work great. No more guessing when they're going to bite. Sometimes it was instant, sometimes it was almost all the way to the bar. Especially on the Saint. Bled it to vet and over. I did them and had 2 shops and a Shimano tech at Windham do them. Still crap. On the other hand, my Shimano deore on my trail bike are bombproof. Go figure.
  • + 5
 Mineral oil, that's the key to have a good brake. With dot, you need to bleed a lot, plus your joints at one point will fail. I have Magura's and shimano's brakes for ages and not a single problem. I had Avid's, Formula's and it cost me a lot in dot and joints kit.... And I'll add, mineral oil never attacks the paint of your brakes, while dot, after few years... don't tell me that's not true please !
  • + 3
 lol what if that was actually true everyone driving a car would be going in for bleeds all the time... But no. The guides only need to be bleed once a year to put new dot in. I know I have the rsc
  • + 5
 In case if you hadn't notice, they might use the same liquid, but parts are fully different, not the same size, not the same weight and actually the tank for a car is mush bigger than a bike. I have almost 20 years of brake bleeding behind me as a mechanic, and dot is a pain on bike.
  • + 5
 Ah, yes- the well known high-performance braking fluid mineral oil.

God I hate mineral oil. "But it doesn't absorb water! DOT does!" Uh yeah, that's the whole point. You get any water in a mineral oil, you're stuck with a pocket that will flash to steam under heating. DOT keeps things consistent.
  • + 0
 @tsheep true that and this is one of the most important factors of DOT miral oil tends to steam up and corrosion is much more than DOT... apart of that Shimano min Oil is not lasting very long and you have to bleed Shimano more often while since i use Avid i do bleeding only when its needed or just once a season never had any issues but i have to say you have to do it right in a proper way to get the best results.. by the way i run Motul DOT 5.1 and there is one more Motul RBF 600 and 660 they are superior consider the quality... @nicolai7 never had any issues with joints and any corrosion or bleed a lot, currently i have pair of Elixir 5, X9, and Guide RS all still in excellent working order all running the same DOT Wink @Jokesterwild yep true story its not a rocket science to find the best DOT not all the same quality and yes some of them couse corrosion more than the others
  • + 2
 @DragRider : Over 10 years of bleeding brakes' customers, make at least 10 bleeds per week in the shop, make it at least 40 weeks of work by year and multiply by at least 10 years. Without counting the fact of being a mechanic during the we for a DH team, with over the years severals brands as sponsor such as, Magura, Shimano, Avid and Formula. I won't say I'm an expert but I know a bit. And Dot cause much more damage on brakes than mineral oil, that's a sure point. Now feel free to think what you want, you have the right; But by my experience, Dot brakes suck. point.
  • + 2
 @nicolai7
That's a maintenance viewpoint. No one is arguing mineral oil is less harsh. But from a riding viewpoint, DOT is consistent and higher performing. You get any water in a mineral oil system, and you can kiss consistency under hard braking goodbye. Also, good DOT fluids have considerably higher boiling points than mineral oil. Ask Kelly McGarry about the boiling point of mineral oil, I'm sure he can give some perspective on it. Mineral oil sucks as a brake fluid.
  • + 1
 Oh come on, how many riders use mineral oil during the WC ? A lot (all the shimano's sponsored at least and Magura's) and they don't have any problem ! Water doesn't form like that in your brake. I'm not only a mechanic, I'm also a rider, downhill and enduro, living with mountains over 3000m high. Our downhill trails are 10 times longer than what you have on a race day and I don't have any problem. Lately I bled my Gustav M because I realized I haven't done it for at least over 2 years... didn't have any problem of breaking but I thought it was time to change. While being sponsored by Sram, I had to change the joint kit on a pair of brand new Code. They had been siting in their box for a year and seals were off.... And I'm not talking about the old Juicy shit, or the best Formula Oro. I won't go this far talking about formula Evolution or the first Hope where you had to pee on it to cool it down so you could continue riding... yup dot is so fine, specially when you think of all the bleeding done on parking lot during the race days, that's fully green spirit...
  • + 1
 well do you complain of bad bleeding or bad DOT as i mentioned before i do know a bit more as well you @nicolai7 .Since i was a kid i used to disassemble all my toys just to see what's inside well now days don't tell me you didn't do that with the brakes... Well i used to custom tune my Juicy 7's by the time and after long seasons of abusive DH i used to open them to see what's going on and i ve never seen any damage apart of worn out seals(only once after 3 seasons) and believe or not that tend's to happen more often with the breaks that incorporate mineral oil like Shimano well call it a bad breaking or bad luck but i believe the water tends to build up more often at Mineral oil prior DOT i do bleed once a year vs few times my friends with Shimano the lad said it Mineral oil is not the best breaking fluid, just for the protocol try Motul DOT 5.1 not bad and not that aggressive never had paint problems or so ... Smile
  • + 1
 Whoa, watch out, we got a badass here @nicolai7 . Those 3000m mountains sure sound amazing. I can only imagine what a descent 10x longer than top to bottom of whistler must be like. Out of curiosity- where are you finding your 15000 m descents? I'd like to know.

I have no idea what you are saying in those last few sentences. They are perfectly valid grammatically, but, uh, huh? Something something Gustavs, Codes, Oros....
  • + 5
 Ultimates are lighter then saints and can be used for dh. Xtr over heat to easy. If tried to use them because the xtr is such a good brake. But just can't handle the heat. So if u want light dh brakes go guide ultimate if u don't care about weight go saint. If it's not in a dh bike. Xtr and ultimates have plenty of power.
  • + 3
 I have XTR on my DH bike and they have been perfect. I've been trying to think of an excuse to buy Saints just because...well...they're Saints for God's sake. But I just can't find a fault in the XTRs even in 30-minute long high-speed descents with the brakes engaged pretty much the entire time.
  • + 1
 How much do u weigh. Because at 220 lbs xtr brakes do not work for me. They just get to hot then start acting up, all the way to the bar. Then grab right away. Then fade. Then they cool and back to normal. I tried with dual 8 inch rotors just to see if I could make it work, but still no.
  • + 1
 205lbs without gear. I run 8" up front and 7" rear. I do have the finned sintered metal pads, if that makes a difference.
  • + 2
 I've just replaced my old saint m810 levers with these new xtr 9020 levers, they're still fitted to the saint calipers, the power is amazing compared to the old saint levers although the modulation is not quite as good so you do have to adjust your braking technique a bit, must say though I'm very pleased with them now and saved a good amount of money compared to a full brake swap. oh and this set up outperforms my zee brakes on my other lighter bike as well
  • + 0
 Nice mark i was thining about doing that too.
  • + 8
 "I'll definitely get these over Shimanos"

- Said nobody ever.
  • + 3
 I say it every time I buy SRAM brakes instead of Shimano. I haven't bought Shimano hydraulic brakes since an old set of Deores I had on a beater bike.
  • + 6
 I've had recent Shimano brakes (m775, 3 different sets of m820), and all had reliability issues (the one mentionned in the article, inconsistent lever feel, even out of the box !). Switched to Guide RSC, even on the longest tracks I could find, no change in lever feel, same power, super easy bleeding procedure. Now switched to what I would call the "best set of brakes in the world" (tm), Guide RSC levers with Code calipers.

Tired of Shimano, I've had 3 defective sets of M820 brakes, the m775 were kind of fine, until you bled them (and all hell broke loose)
  • + 2
 Shimano XTR is the Ultimate!
  • + 8
 @hollowing2000 - It really isn't. Some of us don't like how Shimano brakes feel. I much prefer the feel of my Guide RSCs.
  • + 1
 @seraph try Alligator semi-metallic pads on Guide they are just awesome don't need code's callipers Smile at all
  • - 2
 Any Shimano brake I have owned has been terrible, pads kept glazing over, faded and everyone i know has and issues with all the models of Saints. Personally wouldn't buy them again. Avid and Sram all the way. If bled right they are superb and their pads are far superior to any others I have used. The new guides seem to have resolved all the issues the Elixirs had
  • + 8
 What makes no sense to me is the fact that they compared these to the "Trail" Shimano brakes. Trail brakes use servo-wave levers which have a very logarithmic pressure curve. They are the brakes that give the "on/off" feel that some riders require. The "Race" Shimano brakes are what Guide should be compared to as they have a progressive pressure curve (i.e excellent modulation).

Nothing against Guides, as i've had no problems with SRAMs new brakes either, but if you're having issues with Shimano's 80-series or 000-series brakes, you need to go back to brake school. I can't even tell you how many sets i've set up...in just the last two years i've had five on my personal bikes (two XTR race, three XT trail) and every one has been set and forget. Even with the sets i've installed for riding buddies - i've NEVER had to re-bleed shimano brakes. I've NEVER had any reliability issues. NONE. Shimano brakes are as close to perfect as you will find.

That said, i'd happily trust SRAM's new offerings as i've heard and experienced nothing but great things with them. When it comes down to recommendations though, i'm recommending Shimano, a brand which has nearly a decade-long reputation for set-and-forget brakes.
  • + 2
 @TheRaven - do you ride a lot or not too often? couse if you dont ride they last forever Smile Smile
  • + 1
 At least twice a week. But remember i'm not talking about only my own bikes.
  • + 3
 After a shattered piston, bulged brake line and needing to bleed my slx/xt brakes a few times in the last month, I've given some serious consideration to buying some guides.

I just hate dot fluid.
  • + 2
 @TheRaven I have owned a lot of brakes and bled a lot of brakes and Shimanos have been the least reliable and always seem to have issues, needing bled and there stock organic pads are terrible! Maybe I have had bad sets but I have lost trust in them and others i know have had similar issues. Avids have their quirks but when you get used to the annoying bleed procedure they work brilliantly and the new guides bleeding is so much easier and they have been flawless for the last 6 months of riding including a lot of racing and descending.

Looking at all the brake failures on the pro circuit, Aaron Gwin and Kelly McGarry as 2 examples, both were running Shimano brakes at the time. just saying!

Personally I have had no luck with Shimano brakes and think they are massively over hyped but that is my opinion and people seem to like them. Each to their own.
  • + 1
 @Farry Yeah we are going to have to agree to disagree. With the volume of Shimano setups i've done it's impossible for me to believe anyone can have consistently bad experiences with them. I just can't bring my mind to say "yeah that's possible". Conversely, i've removed A TON of Avid brakesets and I can't think of a single one that was working properly at the time I removed it. There are still three guys I ride with pretty regularly using Juicy and Code brakesets and NONE of them are working right. But, I will also note that the few Guide setups that i've maintenanced have been excellent. I have nothing bad to say about Guides.

Personal experiences are what they are, but I just don't buy some of the stories I hear.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven unfortunately, I've only had only problems with the different Shimano brakes as I've mentionned earlier. But I've also seen many people and friends being totally fine and happy with their Shimano brakes. Some because they truly work just fine, some because they don't care about the bite point changing position, as long as it slows them down. On the other hand I'm super picky with how the brakes perform, and I had to send twice a set of M820 brakes back to Shimano (and I got a new set every time).

Sold the last set I got after trying them out for about 2hrs, and they were just as bad as the 2 other sets. The guy who bought them off me loved them ! Told him about the weird lever feel, and he didn't even notice it.
  • + 1
 @Ploutre It sounds to me like your issue with the brakes is personal preference, not the brakes themselves.

It's well established that there are two schools on how brakes "should" feel. The "power" school, and the "modulation" school. Often times, guys confuse feel for function. Just because a brake doesn't feel the way you think it should, that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the brake. Shimano has two different brake types for this reason - "Trail" brakes for the guys who want their brakes to bite HARD, and the "Race" brakes for guys who want precise modulation, and prefer to use the entire lever travel (so that the lever is nearly touching the bar before the wheels lock up). XT Trail brakes seem to be the most popular new brake setup, so naturally everyone assumes that's how Shimanos brakes feel. But I use the race setups because I prefer the precise modulation (probably why I like the Guides too).

One of my closest riding buddies is still using Avid BB7 (mech) brakes and has his levers set to hair trigger. I've tried to ride his bike and I just can't do it...if you breath on those levers you're going over the bars. But there's nothing wrong with the brakes, as i've set them up with great modulation...it's just the way he has his set up. Conversely, he can't even ride my bike because he says he feels like he can't trust the brakes, they feel like they are not working. I think this is the kind of thing that causes alot of guys to say "brake X sucks".

That said, I don't care how you want your brakes setup...The old Avids suck. It's not feel, it's not preference, they just plain don't work right.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven I'm not making reference to the ServoWave stuff on the XT Trail or m820 Saints. The problem I had was that on small DH runs, the bite point would change. Sometimes a lot, sometimes not too much, and that is the sign some air is trapped. But no matter the number of bleed I or a few LBS would do, it just wouldn't go away.

Now if a changing bite point is a normal thing to find in Shimano brakes, well then I do understand why you only had good experiences with Shimano brakes ! It seems all the people you have set up brakes for aren't as picky as some of us are, and it's good for you, but I won't ride a brake where I have to slightly pump the brake before a turn to judge where the bite point is at the precise moment...

On the side, never had ANY problem with Elixirs ... I've had 2010 Elixir CR, 2012 Elixir 7, 2013 X0, no issues. Bled once a year, a bit noisy but spot on performance. They've been more reliable than the more recent Shimano brakes I've ran hahaha
  • + 1
 @Ploutre Yup we are talking about differences of opinion here.

I've never ever experienced a self-adjusting hydraulic brake system where the bite point doesn't continually change. Cars and trucks do it, motorcycles do it, so it's no surprise that bike brakes do too. The system continually adjusts for pad wear and temperature, so being a fairly technical guy myself, it's tough for me to see how you could expect a bite point to always be at the exact same spot. That said, i've experienced what you are talking about on every bike brake i've used, ever. This includes Guides. Just as you have to get used to a clutch and brake on a given car, you have to get used to the drivetrain and brakeset on a bike. It's never been an issue for me...yeah i'll feel a bit tentative and out of place on the first run on a new or borrowed bike, but it doesn't take long to get the feel down and know to how modulate the brakes regardless of where the bite point is on a given pull.
  • + 1
 @Farry Kelly Mcgarry runs Hope brakes.
  • + 3
 Brakes must be the most subjective component. My XT's deliver stopping power with far less lever force than my Hope E4's, making it seem that they're more powerful, but I don't think they are. I find that I over brake with the XT's which is obviously my own fault; I just don't seem to be able to make my fingers pull so lightly that I get a level of moderation from them. My E4's are far more suited to my lack of finesse but that doesn't mean they are better brakes, and certainly not better for everyone.
  • + 2
 Alot of the subjective evaluation of any set of brakes comes down to "feel". There is not a whole lot of difference in real power between the different brakesets available out there. The difference is much more in how that power is applied. I have a riding buddy who still swears by his BB7 mechanicals, and truth be told, I think they are just as powerful as my 80-series XTRs. The difference is in feel. They don't "feel" like the XTRs at all.
  • + 2
 The only other thing to consider is what they are like to live with. Rightly or wrongly I haven't forgiven Avid/SRAM for Juicy brakes and have point blank refused to bleed any of my friends Avid/SRAM juicy and elixirs, leading them to all to buy shimano!
To be fair to Avid/SRAM, it must be said that the new bleed kits look to improve this no end.
  • - 1
 but it needs proprietary tools. new saints you need a $6 funnel. old saints you need an eyedropper. I will bleed my friends avid/scram brakes, but only after giving them a look that says you owe me a beer. I will not be able to bleed these new guides cause i dont have the tool. I actually think more sheeman brakes are showing up spec on bikes because more bikes have internal routing and sheeman are so much easier to bleed when assembling these bikes.
  • + 0
 No it actually goes like this. A 'friend' says my elixers need to be serviced. i say bring it over i have all the gear and fluid you need. I will stand over your shoulder and help you out. I will even give you some brand new elixer pads, you can have them i will never need them myself, I have kevlar, organic, or metalic. I have all three because i was always trying t quiet down that squeal.
  • + 3
 If you bleed Shimano's (80-series and newer) brakes bottom-to-top, like any sensible human being would do when trying to remove AIR BUBBLES, you don't need ANY tools at all. I have ZERO specific tools for Shimano brakes and have never found myself wishing I did. I do use a generic syringe in the even that I need to add/remove oil, but it's not necessary as you could just dab a paper towel in the MC port to remove oil or pour very carefully to add.

I know Shimano wants you to bleed top-to-bottom and use their special kit, but there are easier and cheaper ways.
  • + 3
 I had the chance to ride Shimano XT Brakes, guide RSC, Magura MT7 und MT5 brakes on the same bike with the same tires back to back.
Both Maguras were much better than Sram or Shimano. Much more power (power like a real dh-brake) und much better modulation.
Magura MT7 are in my opinion the best brakes on the market.
  • + 1
 try some saint/zee
  • + 2
 One thing that was missed in the review is the ability to flip the SRAM brakes as they do not have a left and right specific lever. Can be very useful at times. especially if borrowing or letting someone borrow your bike that runs brakes opposite to you.
  • + 2
 I wonder how much of the poor experiences in the comments section comes from shitty bleeds; whether it be from the shop where you'd expect it not to be an issue, or from the home mechanic that doesn't want to blame their own handy work.
  • + 1
 shitty bleeds come from brakes that are hard to bleed. avid/scram IMO are difficult to bleed and that is after you know what you are doing.
  • + 1
 I'd never bled a brake in my life until recently, my coworker showed me the principle and gave me the tools to do it. 20 min later I had a freshly bled set of avid trail brakes It's harder than the shimano basic cup and pump the lever bleed but its really not hard. It's about as hard as installing a derailleur out the box.
  • + 3
 Man alive...Republican Democrat Conservative Liberal Sunni Shia Protestant Catholic Sram Shimano

Could there be a more divisive issue?

For the record, I love my Guides but I'm equally happy if you love your Shimanos.
  • + 2
 Constantly changing the mechanics of how brakes work is a clear sign that the brakes are less than perfect.
Shimano brakes are consistent in d esighn and quality.
Why take chances on yet another remake of a brake.
the pads look over engineered and bloody expensive!
Will the pads work with any other calipers?
  • + 1
 Codes were alright. My budget/family responsibilities mean I cannot go out and buy every new bell and whistle. I do have to say that the guide line looks like sram finally just started emulating shim. After having two pair of elixers (and getting proficient at bleeding them it is a skill that takes much practice) and one pair of XTR and one pair of saint, I can say that given the opportunity to choose brakes in the future I will always go shim, even if Waki touts sram and a waki endorsement is bigger than a ratboy endorsement.
  • + 1
 Hello all, my avid xx brakes were sent in for service with the usual leaver not pumping back and avid have replaced the entire brake system with the guide ultimate system minus the discs FOC. My bike is with the workshop at present and I will pick in two days. Will report back once I have used them.
  • + 3
 I calculate that if I run these calipers with their heatsink along with finned pads and icetech rotors I can actually run my brakes at -10 degrees C....
  • + 1
 You can use your brakes to cool beer. awesome.
  • + 1
 Put a couple of months on the Ultimates at Retallack this summer. Averaging 15k' per day, in conditions ranging from hot and dry to miserably wet/muddy to snow. Apart from wearing two sets of pads out (which is less than half the consumption rate of the Codes), haven't had to touch them.
  • + 1
 "Just like the regular guides"
Yep. I'll stick with the R version. All that extra crap just makes me more pissed off when I have to buy another after stuffing it on a landing or snaging a line at high speed.
KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid.
  • + 3
 Oh boy more proprietary tools needed to bleed the damn thing! I've never heard anybody complain a bout a grub screw in the bleed port.
  • + 1
 I have had the same issue w inconsistent bite point in the rear of my XTR M9020s. This has persisted over the last six months despite repeated bleeding. The front XTR and the XTs on two other bikes have been perfect. Maybe a qc issue?
  • + 1
 I have the same issue w my guide brakes too.
  • + 0
 The xtrs have felt like junk consistently when stacked up next to the new XT stuff. You're not alone man.
  • + 3
 when you bleed shimano's take the free stroke screw out. theres a spring that hides an air bubble there.
  • + 0
 Thanks for the suggestion, but been there done that with the free stroke screw. Didn't help. Bled in pretty much every way I can find described on the internet including as described by Shimano, multiple times. Not a bubble problem.
  • + 1
 I had 2 sets of brand new 9020 xtr's both went back as they had inconsistent bite points. I'd never go back to shimano again. My x0 trails are.amazing compered. I'll be getting some new.guides next
  • + 1
 I've run my guides (only got the R) for a few local rides and a week in the Alps. Not quite as powerful as my old Zees and haven't noticed this better modulation people talk about but they definitely have a more solid feel to them. Neither me or my brother have been able to get a really solid lever feel with the Zees, always just been a bit squidgy. The Zee levers are a nicer shape though. Would probably stick with Zees if the guides didn't come with all the matchmaker stuff to fit my other controls.
  • + 1
 Shimano are not the brake they were two years ago. I am going to get some Hope brakes as I think the quality is not there with Shimano (I've had 3 rear XT brakes in 8 months after having a set of XT brakes for 2 years with never a single issue). Not sure what the power of the Hopes will be but I am fully confident that the quality will be there. Shimano have let me down so many times now that the Hopes are goof to be a step in the right direction for sure. I had Sram brakes before too, I will say this for them, they were better than the formula rx brakes I started out with, that's the kindest I can be!!

I don't think any big company is worth of fans, they are not good or bad, just companies trying to market their stuff and make money Shimano don't care any more or less about me than SRAM or Apple or Bob's chicken shack so rest assured it's not malice or loyalty etc. Speaking when I say the current Shimano xt brakes are horribly unreliable.
  • + 1
 " Both the lever reach and pad contact point adjustments work well"

I have the Guide Ultimate brakes and strongly disagree with that statement. The reach adjustment on both levers constantly gets stuck so I've had to just make due where they are at. When I tried these adjusters on a bike at the shop for the first time, they literally fell apart when I turned it just one turn. By far, an inferior design compared to the Shimano reach adjusters. And the contact point adjustment is also worthless because I am not able to get enough grip/leverage to move it. It's so much of a hassle, that it's as if I don't even have these features!

Other than that, the brakes themselves work fine so far. I prefer the modulation of these over the Shimano XT (I've tried both organic and sintered pads).
  • + 1
 Another guy who should have tried the Shimano Race brakes. I'm not saying to ditch the Guides because they are good brakes, but if you do decide to try another Shimano brake, get the RACE brakes, not the TRAIL brakes. You want the non Servo-Wave levers.
  • + 1
 @MikeKazimer

1 - How would you compare the noise levels, squeels... Ultimate and XTR ?
2 - How does Ultimate to compare XTR in regards to lever feel (+ consistency) with both levers positioned close to bars? Guide RS, XT, ZEE....? Or any other model(s) that fairs better with close lever setup consistency. Thanks for review.
  • + 1
 Raced every version of SRAM brake this year and loved all of them. For intensive racing applications I absolutely love the Guide DH setup (even on my enduro) For everything else I have been using the carbons and love them. I do suggest running larger rotors. I run 200 up front and 180 rear.

The only thing I like better about shimano used to be the bleed process, but the new locking bleed nipple system on the Guides is AMAZING.

Nuff said.
  • + 1
 i think comparing them to a similar four pot from shimano would have been a better comparison. though i haven't tried the guides, i am in love with the zees and the power they have. people can say they bite too hard and have no modulation, but i beg to differ. coming from a race prepped motorcycle to mountain bikes, the zees are on par with modulation. hate on the bite all you want, but there is no more confidence inspiring feeling than a slight pull to tell you that they are working properly. and for half the price, ill take the non tool free reach adjust and use the old school remove the wheel and squeeze a little pad adjustment.
  • + 3
 XT and ZEE's are such good value for brakes. I bought a pair of ZEE's (levers and calipers) online for $215CAD out the door back in the spring before our dollar totally shit the bed.

Right now:
XTR9000 = $396CAD
XT785 = $202CAD
XT8000 = $270CAD
SAINT = $392CAD
ZEE = $265CAD

RSC = $396CAD
RS = $340CAD
R = $285CAD

RS and R pricing makes zero sense IMO.
  • + 2
 Blame Canada for the strength of their dollar. In USD the prices make a little more sense:

XTR M9000: $280
XT M8000: $160
Zee: $220
Saint: $280

Ultimate: $288
RSC: $205
RS: $154
R: $133
  • + 0
 Yeah I dunno why they compared Guides to Shimano Trail brakes. The Shimano Race brakes would have been a much more appropriate comparison. Seems like power-wise though the comparison was better as they said the XTRs were a tad more powerful despite being two-piston. Saints would have been in another league altogether.
  • + 3
 We have tried them all, we went through two sets of Guides this year. Back on Saints. The best.
  • + 2
 "insul(t)-ator"
once you brake
a high peached voice rises,saying
"shieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet"

if youre lucky, your brake is gonna be gentle for the first 1000 km
and then...well you get the joke
  • + 1
 Must say I always loved my SLx's but even after a good bleed at both ends they remain inconsistent and feel as if they are pumped up after sustained use. That and a numb right hand in the Alps on a 5km down run are my only complaints however. Resin pads definitely are the best for power. Metal is fine for XC but lacked the bite of the resins leading to the numb hand on the back brake...
  • + 1
 @mikekazmier

Interested to hear your thoughts on where the M8000's stack up. So far, I think they are more consistent than the M9000's that I've been able to try, but at about the 300mile mark they are starting to emit a massive shriek at the end of my steepest downhill (I'm admittedly on the brakes too much on this trail, but the name is lock'em up).

In any case, for a big guy like me (220lbs) I've got great modulation on 180 rotors front and rear. Guides I've demo'd just seem to come on power late and I end up grabbing a fist-full. A lot more locked and sliding rear wheel than with my Shimanos or even my formulas.
  • + 1
 Been Riding standard Guide Rs for a while now. Asked to multiple local shops about Guide R vs SLX Shimano, was sent toward The Guides. Happy camper here. No issues. Great price, power and modulation.
  • + 1
 2 pairs of this brakes i rebuild in my repair store, piston lever have problem, the calliper its ok. From sram group i choose everytime , just rear derraileur and shifters, nothing more!
  • + 0
 Why - on God's Green Earth - would they continue to have the stupid "tri-align" spherical washers to tilt the caliper? that was the single greatest improvement Shimano made to the hydraulic brake - eliminating an unnecessary adjustment that very few ppl can adjust correctly. C'mon SRAM - do you really want ppl to continue setting up your shit wrong and making that horrid "Avid-noise" we all know you for? Like how many times, ever, has there been a dinner-plate shaped rotor that actually needed a tilted caliper?
  • + 0
 Its not a horrible noise, that is a downhill safety feature that sheeman has yet to offer. when descending avid/scrams let out an alarm so everybody knows your coming down. Kinda like brake lights on a car.
  • + 5
 @shredmdp: you've clearly missed the point of the conical washers, they allow the brake to be unaffected by poor fork/frame brake mount tolerances. I have personally seen some terribly out of alignment mounts which the conical washers can correct.
  • - 1
 I actually love the conical washers. I use them with my sheeman saints.
  • + 1
 @Nobble - thats for clarifying - I can see that being useful on poorly machined bikes
@Gasket-Jeff - the noises are like a safety feature - or a training feature for my girlfriend - I can set her up squeaky and then start yelling "brake less!!!!" the instant she touches em
  • + 0
 Everyone I know who bought XT M785s has had issues. I kinda hate the inconsistent feel of mine, but they are really easy to bleed. Not worth the pump-up in my opinion, and my Ice Tech rotors...first time I have ever had rotor bolts come loose. Ever. In my life. I hate that I have to check and retorque those. Can't say I trust that.
  • + 3
 Conversely, the internet is the ONLY place i've ever heard about problems with any 80-series Shimano brake.
  • + 4
 Hope. That will be all. Smile
  • + 3
 Step 1: Remove Sram brakes and throw in bin
Step 2: Buy and fit Shimano brakes
Step 3: Continue riding happily ever after
  • - 4
flag seraph (Sep 29, 2015 at 23:52) (Below Threshold)
 Funny, my method looks similar but has better results because it ends with you riding SRAM brakes and Shimanos sitting where they belong in the circular folder.
  • + 1
 That method always worked well for me when the bike started out with Avid brakes. I've NEVER had to replace a set of Shimano brakes though.
  • + 1
 I prefer the Shimano XT's bite & power. This review sums up the main pros and cons of each brake pretty well: www.freshmtbreviews.com/review-shimano-xt-m785-disc-brakes-vs-sram-guide-rsc-brakes
  • + 3
 Guide brakes. Meh, I always lose back brake mid run. The adjusters suck and bounce out of adjustment.
  • + 2
 Aha! I thought my adjusters might be auto-unadjusting, thanks for confirming @makripper. How come more people aren't complaining about this?
  • + 2
 @barcolounger not sure. haha they are auto-unadjusting. in bike parks i've learned to use just the front break haha. I've had bleeds, pads are new, everything. still happens.
  • + 1
 We're been riding SRAM's Guide brakes hard all season and they perform super well in all conditions. Can't say enough about them!!
  • + 2
 got these brakes on my new santa cruz and they shat themselves in a day. So much fade. SO BAD. Shimano always.
  • + 1
 ... it shouldnt be expensive or complicated to measure lever pressure vs brake power, in order to add some real numbers to this article ..just saying
  • + 2
 The trouble is at what pressure do you measure? Shimano tends to be more powerful at lower lever pressure, but sram stuff tends to ramp up. Ultimately they provide similar panic stopping power in my experience. You see this all the time with the german tests; the germans LOOOOVE data. I remember reading some old fork torsion/deflection test where they said a horribly noodly float 32 qr15 150mm was more stout than a 20mm axle pike- they chose a load value that tested bushing slop and not what the fork was doing when a bit of deflection was gonna send us off the trail. I'll take good anecdotes over that fosho.
  • + 6
 Uh, what exactly is your definition of expensive?
  • + 1
 @BlazeNawaY maybe after all of those runs u made and all of those brakes you tryed you were the one who improved your technique and not the brakes! Better rider less braking!
  • + 1
 Actualy I'm a ICP certified Guide and I have to drag my brakes to crawl with my clients. I have used each of these brakes while guiding and burn up brakes becouse of this. I do fine by my own but the experience I am speaking of is consistant across all the brakes I have used.
  • + 1
 I used to have Code R, they were okay, had juicy 7's, those failed. Been riding with Shimano XT, SLX, and Zee's. Never went back.
  • + 3
 I'll just get the hope brakes, thanks.
  • + 2
 288 per wheel? What a rip off. I just had the Brembos serviced on my car and it wasnt even 500 bucks.
  • + 2
 Ever buy Brembo's? The calipers on my CTS-V were $600/per front, $400/per rear.

Though I agree with you that $300 for bike brakes is pretty crazy. Seems like a silly complaint though when we are paying $3000-$5000 for bike frames.
  • + 1
 I definitely have. At 288 x 2 that's 576 dollars, which shouldn't cost the same amount as high performance brakes, like your case. I have a '13 GT500 so it's the big 15 inch front and 13 inch rear brakes, and to service them with new pads and brake fluid flush it was only 400... it's frustrating that biking industry has become what it is.
  • + 1
 I have Sram Elixir R on my Glory. Silly power but ZERO modulation. They are either on or off. I don't and have never liked them.
  • + 3
 I'll stick with Shimano, mineral oil is so much nicer to work with.
  • + 1
 I love these brakes litterly can bleed them in 2 minutes and don't have to de-gas the fluid. Also extremely reliable have never failed me yet with no fade at all.
  • + 3
 What in god's teeth is a 'heat dissipating insulator'??
  • + 1
 Their still mutton dressed up as lamb..!! Nothing to see here boys and girls, move along ..!!
  • + 2
 These brakes have technology that will trickle down.
  • + 5
 fluid that will trickle out and eat your paint.
  • + 2
 love my SHIMANO's........
  • + 2
 Hey @mikekazimer, how's that Novyparts remote working out?
  • + 2
 seems a bit steep for trail brakes!
  • + 1
 From what I read the new Magura MT7 (and MT5) are currently the strongest brakes.
I'll go for theses.
  • + 1
 I have rsc's on my dh bike and im going through pads like crazy. Seems abnormally fast
  • + 4
 What pad compound are you using? Organic pads typically wear much faster than metallic pads.
  • + 1
 My metallics last at least double as long as organics with better power. (More noise and vibration though)
  • + 1
 and what disc you are running small size tends to worn the pads quicker, i have formula 203 that i believe is responsible for it...
  • + 1
 Im running 8 inch rotors. Not sure what pads i got. Im hoping thats all it is. I managed half a day in whistler, a local shuttle day and 2.5 days at sunpeaks and i already need new ones cause the lever goes to the bar.
  • + 1
 well this sounds like bad rotor or you are stopping too much or you are too heavy or just bad pads Smile Smile Smile i do extreme DH
almost everyday at the local trail and changed the pads only once this season... so far but never tried the stock pads and i know they are not the best currently i wasted one carbon pads and now running fully sintered pads 50% of them left so far..
  • + 2
 I had your same problem with my Guide RS, until I switched to sintered pads: They last waaay more, they are more powerful and they don't fade like the organic ones...
  • + 1
 Let of the brakes. Primo - you save money on pads, Secundo - you go faster!
  • + 1
 Chocolate VS Strawberry huh? What about Vanilla ice cream www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlm0PQGrBzA
  • + 1
 Those who said Sram is shit have never used Avid Code R ou Avid Code brakes ...
  • + 2
 Aron Gwin still uses code's Smile
  • + 1
 I love my codes. just swapped them out for some saints but I keep them around for back up or for my next build. My elixers tho I felt guilty about selling both pairs I have sold to the poor saps who bought them.
  • + 4
 @DragRider Aaron Gwin is sponsored by Specialized. Specialized uses SRAM components, thus Aaron Gwin uses SRAM brakes. (In reality, Aaron Gwin was told to use SRAM brakes). If Specialized one day switches to Shimano, Aaron Gwin will be using Shimano brakes.

Besides, Gwin doesn't use brakes. Hell he often doesn't even use A DRIVETRAIN. So he's not much of an endorsement for those products.
  • + 0
 Yeah I think Gwins Chainless win was kind of an embarrassment. It was promptly followed up by an scram sponsored edit. I have not tried guides or trail but Have ridden every other scram brake. Codes come closest to saint but are not as quite there IMO. that cuppled with difficult bleeding and dot 5.1 just makes me say no. I am still keeping my old codes tho.
  • + 1
 he doesn't use tires and chain as well Smile
i remember he had failed Shimano brake in leogang at the time Smile or im wrong Smile
  • + 1
 @DragRider Demos have been equipped with Guides for a few years now.
  • + 1
 no way couse officially Guide popped out this year at least in EU Smile
  • + 2
 Brakes shouldn't break. As simple as that.
  • + 1
 I don't think it was very fair to pit a 4 piston break against a 2 piston. The comparison should have been to the Saint.
  • + 1
 Why DOT fluid? Thats what makes avids so bad. And it is terrible to work with.
  • + 2
 Moved from Code to Zee .. and im happy)
  • - 1
 truth
  • + 0
 So many shimano fan boys here.... Why do they even read the sram articles and reviews? Maybe just to hate and troll. Awesome.
  • + 0
 not trolling at all just offering my experience to help others. We all make our purchase decisions nowadays based on forum chat and I feel obligated to contribute to the truth. that and I cant help bet feel ripped off after using both shim and scram products.
  • + 1
 I've had both sram and shimano brakes and components. I've had bad luck with shimano and great luck with sram. So I'm sticking with what works for me. Both companies work for some, and both companies have let some of us down. It's pointless to debate. People like what they like.
  • + 0
 And how about maintenance? have you bled both? have you aligned both? how do you feel about needing to upgrade to propitiatory tools? how about corrosive fluids? and while I do not have scientific data to back it up, I am always able to tell when some one is descending with avid/sram brakes, because they have this squeal safety feature that emits a high pitch alarm to notify everybody that some avid/sram brakes are coming down hill.
  • - 2
 My shitmano brakes died midway thru a run and howled at the moon when they sorta worked. No science needed there. I just know I'll never run their brakes again. Period. Let's move on. If you're not into the sram stuff, that's fine. But you're in the wrong place to debate it. This was an article/review for SRAM. Why even bother clicking on it if you're never going to buy them? I'll never click on a shimano article for that matter. To each his own. Cheers
  • + 0
 IDK I always like reading reviews of new tech. I am biased towards sheeman, however I have been very excited about the guide line. I have no experience with it. and IMO it does look like an sheeman emulation. this latest release tho needing proprietary parts is a big no no in my books. I also love to read the forums on this stuff too to get a LOT of ppls feedback. It is the horror stories I want to hear, I want to hear your shitman howl at the moon story, I want to know does this happen a lot, i want to know that this new propratary tool is an improvement... yeah ppl dump hate in forums but it comes from somewhere, it is not like racism or some form of ignorance that a father passes to a child. I tend to and try to think that the criticism even if it looks like fanboi hatred is going in a positive direction. not clicking the link imo is more detrimental.
  • + 0
 Sooooooo you have zero experience with guides, yet you're so outspoken against them..... Makes sense!
  • + 0
 oh how i love flame wars. I have plenty of experience with juicy, code and its multiple iterations, and multiple iterations of elixirs, as well as tones of experience with xt/xtr multiple iterations, and two iterations of saints, i even have some tektro experience. and well yeah I have spoken out about them but more about the history of previous products from these companies. I also just said I have been excited about guides (since they were released last year). I can say with out experience that the need for a proprietary tool is prolly a bad thing, as is corrosive fluid. I can say also that it looks to me like ppl have had negative experiences with both of these manufacturers. I want to know is it always the same problem? and which one of these two groups has more bad/positive experiences? Places to share these experiences help one decide determine the value /risk of future purchases. Your comments actually make you seem more fanboi. "I'll never click on a shimano article" and you started out by criticizing sheeman fanboiz. I think the sharing of knowledge and storeis is very valuable. I can speak about what i know, but I am also quite capable of inductive reasoning, and if we did not have that capability (or choose not to use that capability ie " I'll never click on a shimano article") then the whole exercise is pointless.
  • + 1
 Again.....you have ZERO EXPERIENCE with guides....

Your point? You can't really comment unless you've actually tried them.
  • + 1
 Bang on.
  • + 4
 @fredro I HAVE experience with Guides, and i'll agree that they are excellent brakes and overall AS GOOD AS Shimano's current offerings.

Here's the problem though. I'm a bike mechanic enthusiast. All my riding buddies, and lots of other folks I have come across on the trails and meets rely on me to keep their bikes running in top shape and to help them make good purchasing decisions. That said, why should I recommend a newly-good brake over one that has been at the top of the game since the beginning? Guides are now as good as Shimanos, but they are not cheaper, nor easier to set up, nor more premium in appearance or build. So why would I recommend them to someone who wants to buy a new brakeset?
  • + 2
 It's all good with whatever people are in to. Shimano guys enjoy their stuff, while sram guys enjoy theirs as well. It just boggles my mind when people try so hard to convince the other guy to use/buy what they believe is better. At the end of the day, it's really up to the guy making the purchase. Who cares?! Just ride. My point was BOTH companies have great things to offer, but at the same time, BOTH companies have had epic failures as well. Ride what you like, as long as you're riding...that's all that matters.
  • + 4
 My favorite is the guys who post complete made up BS in the comment section...

"I have owned 82,000 sets of brake B and every single one of them stopped working before I installed them, killed me, melted my bike to make scrap art, murdered my parents, raped my sister, and burned down my house. I bought one set of brake A and they resurrected me and my parents, counseled my sister, built me a new house and bought me a new carbon Demo.".

Right. There's no way a product that I have personally witnessed 20+ instances of behave perfectly is going to be a nightmare for anyone. Sure there are QC issues with any product, but these guys posting nightmare experiences are full of it. Or they are just totally inept...that's always a possibility.
  • + 0
 I am that guy. wanna buy some scrap artwork?
  • + 3
 my guides suck ass. the adjuster always moves during rides giving me no power. my last code xo's were warrantied 3 times and sucked. my saints in 2013 (new ones) were pretty bad ass. My elixer trails were the only sram brakes i had recently that weren't a headache all the time, but would have to bleed them constantly.
  • + 2
 "Heat dissipating insulator"?
  • + 2
 Still using DOT fluid? Thanks, but no thanks.
  • + 1
 well dot is far better than min oil less expensive and high boiling point, also compatible with others... Frown
  • + 4
 The price of the fluid is not an issue since its not like mineral oil is expensive. However the corrosiveness of dot fluid is an issue.
  • + 4
 My opinion too. Hate brake fluid so much. Maybe more than coolant... no. Coolant pisses all over you when you drain the radiator. Dot 5.1 Corrosive and poisonous and absorbs water so no long term storage.

Mineral oil is non-toxic. I use the febi-bilstein 02615 in my Shimano brakes for the past 4 years, still on same quart bottle I got at AutoZone for $10.
  • + 0
 Buy these if you want to sound like a retarded turkey going down the trail!!!
  • + 1
 HOPE brakes are superior!
  • + 1
 PIIIIIIINNNNKKKKKBIIIIIIIIIIIKE!
  • + 1
 Anyone know if you can get those carbon levers aftermarket for rsc?
  • - 2
 Single piston brake Shimano verse SRAM dual piston not great test...... Shimano saint would be the real test verse the guide duh or even zee bolth dual piston brakes like SRAM guides???
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer isn't that the Novyparts remote I see behind the lever ?
  • + 1
 That's right - good eye. A review is on the way in the next few weeks.
  • + 1
 Seriously Xtr M9000 trail is 300$ per pair, not per wheel in my country
  • + 2
 XT ALL THE WAY
  • + 1
 i agree, best bang for your buck.
  • - 5
flag seraph (Sep 29, 2015 at 23:53) (Below Threshold)
 You spelled "Guide" wrong.
  • + 1
 2 pieces caliper --> you loose. HOPE wins.
  • - 1
 I would actually like to see more ppl with experience with hope, tektro, and magura compare to their experience with scram/sheeman.
  • + 1
 My Magura are Magnificent
  • + 1
 friends won't guide friends into drinking the poisonous elixir
  • + 1
 i want the last post!
  • - 2
 I like comparisons. But this one isn't equal.. The Ultimate as a 4 piston brake should've been compared to a Shimano Saint brake set.
  • + 7
 Code = Saint, Guide = XTR. The guide and XTR were both designed to do the same thing even if they use different methods of achieving the same result.
  • - 4
flag vhdh666 (Sep 30, 2015 at 13:24) (Below Threshold)
 2 Pistons are 2 Pistons and 4 Pistons are 4
  • + 1
 What, no Hayes fans?
  • + 1
 Hope's anyone... Maybe!?
  • - 1
 too much plastic inside on sram products.
  • - 1
 There's no plastic on the inside of Guide brakes. Blank Stare
  • - 2
 Bla bla bla bla #Enduro, becouse bla bla bla DH.

Ride bikes, not keyboards.


Peace.
  • - 3
 I have guide rs and its exactly the same story as avids, they fade every time I get on the bike. Shimano all the way.
  • + 1
 I had the same problem with mine. Try with sintered pads, they'll be fine and perhaps even more powerful when in temperature
  • + 1
 yea depending on your weight and riding style through some metallic pads in. Makes huge amounts of difference!!
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