SRAM’s ‘new’ Guide RE is officially designed for stopping the extra mass of electric bikes that regularly burn out conventional brakes. The good news is that also makes it an outstanding brake for anyone who needs a ton of power and control without spending a fortune.
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We say ‘new’ because while it’s only just appeared on the SRAM roster, the Guide RE is a hybrid of two well established brakes. At the bar end is a standard Guide R lever, while the bike end is a four-cylinder brake caliper from SRAM’s long-running Code downhill brake. The same pairing has also previously appeared on Specialized DH bikes and SRAM has been offering a similar XC meets DH hybrid in the shape of the Code R brake for years.
The Guide RE lever fits with all the usual SRAM shifter/Reverb/lockout combo clamps and it gets along fine with Shimano shifters, too, for easy cockpit integration. Positioning the main pivot nearer the bar than most brakes gives a distinctive lever sweep that creates a naturally modulated and progressive feel that’s always appreciated by our testers.
SRAM Guide RE ride impression
While there's nothing obviously different in the layout of the differentially sized pistons of the big calliper compared to other four-cylinder units, it definitely applies its power in a more subtle way. That means there's less worry about ‘stick in the spokes’ snatch than with the similarly powerful Shimano Zee M640/Saint, Formula R0 Racing or Magura MT5 and a more forgiving introduction to the brake if you’re used to XC levels of power. It also takes a while and a fair few hot runs to reach peak power, so don’t be surprised if you’re slightly underwhelmed at first if you’re coming from a dedicated downhill brake.
Either way, there’s tons of grunt from the 461g (with 180mm rotor and adaptor) Guide RE if you do keep on squeezing. And the broader bandwidth between a slight skim of stoppage and hurling you over the bars makes modulation easy and intuitive. It also sucks up big mountain heat all day long without worries, and it’s more consistent than the Shimano Zee on the first few runs if you haven’t ridden it for a while.
Pad life is good – the mid mounted hose is hidden really well from crash damage, it’s not heavy and while the package price is higher, the brake-only price is actually lower than the Shimano Zee.
If you ride the SRAM Guide RE back to back with a Guide RS/RSC or Ultimate brake then you'l notice it can't quite match the ultra-rich modulation and consistent control added by the ‘Swing Link’ leverage altering cam in those levers. The extra power reserve offsets that to some extent, though, and it’s still a great brake to use in intense trail situations.
If you don’t need a new brake right away, then be patient and save up for the almost inevitable introduction of a more expensive ‘Swing Link’ lever option, as we imagine SRAM will want to capitalise on the deservedly excellent reviews this basic model is getting.