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
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. 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.
SRAM Guide Ultimate Compared to Shimano XTR M9020
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 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:
|One 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|
God is dead.
Bike stuff is all the same: a gamble.
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?
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...
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
Every one I've driven let me down. (3 of 'em)
Maverick & Goose: "The need to bleed!"
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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....
- Said nobody ever.
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)
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.
I just hate dot fluid.
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.
Personal experiences are what they are, but I just don't buy some of the stories I hear.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
To be fair to Avid/SRAM, it must be said that the new bleed kits look to improve this no end.
I know Shimano wants you to bleed top-to-bottom and use their special kit, but there are easier and cheaper ways.
XTR9000 = $396CAD
XT785 = $202CAD
XT8000 = $270CAD
SAINT = $392CAD
ZEE = $265CAD
RSC = $396CAD
RS = $340CAD
R = $285CAD
RS and R pricing makes zero sense IMO.
XTR M9000: $280
XT M8000: $160
Could there be a more divisive issue?
For the record, I love my Guides but I'm equally happy if you love your Shimanos.
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 - 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.
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.
once you brake
a high peached voice rises,saying
if youre lucky, your brake is gonna be gentle for the first 1000 km
and then...well you get the joke
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.
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.
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.
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).
Step 2: Buy and fit Shimano brakes
Step 3: Continue riding happily ever after
@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
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.
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..
I'll go for theses.
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.
i remember he had failed Shimano brake in leogang at the time or im wrong
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.
Your point? You can't really comment unless you've actually tried them.
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?
"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.
Ride bikes, not keyboards.
Shimano definitely wins on ergonomics.
Kinda tough to argue with the thumb-on-the-pull, index-on-the-release, middle-on-the-brake, and everything else on the grip method. One digit dedicated for each function. Want to use your thumb for both pull and release so you can have an extra finger on the brake and/or grip? No problem with Shimano! The release works both ways.
No matter what the press/media/industry says, they're f*cking shit.
But you comment is much more insightful so I'll shut up now................
"Sponsored by Sram"
At the end of review.
Come on PB, i know how it works.