Given the success of SRAM's line of Guide brakes, it's not surprising that the classic Code
brakes were next in line for an overhaul. The longevity of those powerful DH-oriented stoppers has been impressive, and even on the World Cup circuit last year there were plenty of riders still using them, but SRAM felt there were areas that could be improved and modernized.
The new Codes aren't quite as industrial looking as the previous version, with a lever design that's very similar to what's found on Guide brakes, including the same cam activated cup seal and port system. The main difference is the size of the lever's reservoir, which holds 30% more fluid. This increased volume is intended to help ensure that the brakes feel the same at the beginning and the end of a run, no matter how long and steep it may be.
SRAM Code Brakes
• Intended use: downhill / enduro
• Four piston caliper
• Larger fluid volume
• Aluminum lever blade
• Reach adjust, pad contact point adjust (RSC)
• Bleeding Edge caliper fitting
• DOT 5.1 fluid
• Claimed weight: 433 grams
• MSRP: $244 (RSC), $154(R)
• Available: May 2017
At the caliper side the new Codes use 15mm and 16mm pistons; the slightly larger dimension versus the Guide's 14 and 16mm pistons is said to help increase the amount of stopping power by 15%. The brakes use the same brake pad as what was used on the previous version of Code brakes, welcome news for riders who have a stockpile of spares and are considering upgrading. The calipers also now have SRAM's Bleeding Edge fitting, simplifying the bleed procedure and eliminating the tiny screw that loved to fall to the ground and roll to the darkest recesses of a workshop.Ride Impressions
Since the Whistler Bike Park is in the process of shedding its thick winter coat of ice and snow, I've been riding the new Codes mounted on a Trek Slash for the last month rather than on a full-blown downhill bike. I've still been able to get them onto plenty of steep trails with sustained sections of heavy braking, I just had to get up to the top under my own power rather than relaxing on a chairlift.
Compared to the Guide Ultimates whose spot they replaced, the additional power the Codes deliver was instantly noticeable—it's like grabbing the emergency brake lever instead of gently stepping on the floor pedal in your car. I kept the same rotor size as I had before—200mm up front and 180mm in the rear—but after that initial ride I found myself considering downsizing to reduce the power a little bit. I ended up sticking with the 200mm rotor, but there's definitely enough strength in these stoppers that you might be able to go with a slightly smaller rotor, especially if they're being used on an all-mountain or enduro bike rather than a downhill machine.
The Codes have more of an on / off feel than the Guides, but there's still plenty of modulation for creeping into steep rock rolls, or navigating through loose sections of trail where fully locking up the rear wheel will end up making you go even faster. One of the trails I regularly use for brake testing descends 2,300 vertical feet in less than 2 miles, and even on the longest, most unrelenting sections the feel of the brakes remained exactly the same—there was absolutely no pumping up or fading.
The Codes are definitely best suited to downhillers and enduro riders who regularly find themselves in need of as much braking power as possible. For more all-round usage, the regular Guides seem to offer better modulation and deliver their power in a less whiplash-inducing fashion, but for riders looking for extra strong, fade-free brakes, so far the Codes fit the bill. Look for a more in-depth review once I've burned through a couple sets of brake pads and can better comment on their long term reliability.