After its infamous 'total recall' false start, SRAM has significantly re-engineered its second generation disc brakes, and we’ve not had a single issue in a year of working several sets to the ragged edge.
The tall lever body, reminiscent of the famous Easter Island head statues, gives a super secure ‘hood braking’ position that you can really haul the power on from or just ride rough surfaces – even sketchy cyclocross descents – without worrying about slipping your grip. Reservoir position at the top of the body means they’re also easier to bleed than Shimano’s hydraulic brakes according to our own experience and that of shop mechanics we talked to.
Unlike Shimano they come fully plumbed and ready to use too, so even if you have to thread them through your frame it’s normally only a partial re bleed. You might even be lucky enough to get them through in working order – but it goes without saying that you should always double check anyway.
Once set up, modulation and feedback is excellent with SRAM’s latest 160mm ‘Centerline’ rotors as standard for impressive, quiet power and slower, lower level heat build up than smaller 140mm rotors. Add that hood security and this is a brake that really comes into its own when you’re right at the razors edge of traction control in treacherous conditions. They let you take braking liberties that would be lethal with most rim or cable disc brake setups.
The levers generally engage significantly closer to the bar than Shimano though and sometimes pull right onto the tape, which won’t suit everyone. This can also cause trapping issues with winter gloves or single-finger braking when you’re on on the drops.
While they make Red the lightest fully hydraulic, integrated shifting disc brake system available, the carbon shift levers and titanium bolts don’t save much weight over Force 22 Hydro R discs. In our opinion that makes the otherwise identically performing but much cheaper-priced Force 22 the better buy among the SRAM disc brake aristocracy.