SRAM Code RSC | $450/pair
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