SRAM Code RSC | $450/pair

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The new­est Code isn’t an up­dated ver­sion of the old one—that big hunk of metal is gone, and has been re­placed with what is es­sen­tially a scaled-up Guide brake, with a more ro­bust caliper, larger pads, and more fluid vol­ume. It’s built on all the same tech­nol­ogy that makes the Guide a leader in mod­u­la­tion and con­sis­tency—there’s just more of it. About 50 grams per brake more.

A small sac­ri­fice for an ex­tra­or­di­nary boost in per­for­mance. They aren’t just stronger, they’re more con­sis­tent than their smaller cousins. You can be con­fi­dent that the levers will pull to the same point every time, and they have an over­all snap­pier, firmer, less-spongy lever feel. They stay con­sis­tent, even dur­ing long sec­tions of heavy brak­ing, but best of all, they have plenty of mod­u­la­tion.

This is some­thing that the pre­vi­ous Codes lacked. Those suck­ers were ei­ther fully off or fully skid­ding. The power curve of the new ones feels a lot like the Guide brakes, just with much more over­all strength. On long, steep de­scents, I’ll some­times need to throw a sec­ond fin­ger on a Guide lever, but I haven’t come close to need­ing to on the Codes. I can eas­ily ap­ply a lit­tle, or a lot, of power without break­ing trac­tion. I’ve found my­self lay­ing off the brakes for longer and brak­ing harder into cor­ners be­cause I know the power will be there when I need it.

So, we’ve es­tab­lished that the Codes are ex­cel­lent on de­mand­ing de­scents, but do they have too much power for or­di­nary trail rid­ing? On nor­mal rides, you’re bound to en­counter lower-speed stuff. Down­hill bikes are spend­ing more of their time go­ing faster, and al­most al­ways on steep ter­rain—they’re made ex­clu­sively for that kind of rid­ing, and so are the brakes that are de­signed for them. Which is why, his­tor­i­cally, they’ve been far too grabby on lower-an­gle ter­rain where there’s less over­all mass to slow down. It’s like putting big-rig brakes on a Prius.

But the Codes aren’t too strong or too grabby for lit­tle bikes on mel­lower ter­rain. That’s partly due to the brakes’ in­cred­i­ble mod­u­la­tion, but it’s more than that. Ac­tu­ally less. What makes the Codes bet­ter suited to trail

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