SRAM Red hydraulic disc brakes – First look

Prototype disc brakes and levers spotted

SRAM hasn’t officially announced the upcoming Red hydraulic disc brakes and matching levers, but we know they’re deep in development. Now we’ve spotted them out in public at a local cyclocross race in Castle Rock, Colorado – not far from SRAM’s brake headquarters in Colorado Springs.

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It still feels as though there’s some refining to do (we squeezed the levers but didn’t have a chance to actually ride them). But it looks as though they’re tantalizingly close to being finished. SRAM isn’t officially discussing them but several details can be ascertained just by observation.

“Right now we’re not really talking about it, but it needs to be out there and tested,” said Avid product manager Paul Kantor.

Massive lever bodies with vertical hydraulic cylinders

The new sram red hydraulic brake levers have the same outward cant as the mechanical version:
James Huang/Future Publishing

The new levers have an outward cant

The current SRAM Red DoubleTap levers don’t leave much room inside the bodies for master cylinders, so the new hydraulic levers sport huge extensions up front to house the additional guts. We weren’t able to pull the hoods back to see what was going on underneath but, given the packaging requirements, we’re assuming the cylinders sit in a vertical orientation with the levers pushing on them from below – sort of like an Avid Elixir mountain bike lever turned sideways.

While the new shape may be offputting to some viewers, the hood shape is still near-identical to the current Red levers. If anything, the protrusion should lend a firmer grip to a position many riders already use.

Otherwise, the shifter paddle looks and feels identical to the standard Red setup, and we expect the usual independent brake and shift lever reach adjustments.

Lever feel was a little vague on the sample we played with, but it’s still in prototype form. On the plus side, the lever throw seems admirably short, and by placing the pivot point far away from the handlebar we expect good leverage from the hoods.

Two-piece forged aluminum two-piston calipers

Barring any major changes moving forward, the new SRAM Red hydraulic disc calipers will use a compact two-piece design with forged aluminum construction, titanium hardware throughout, and dual pistons. The new pads are top-fed through large windows for easy replacement and reasonable airflow, although to our eyes it appears that it’s a new standard that isn’t shared with any current Avid brake.

SRAM also seems to have fitted the new Red hydraulic disc caliper with a beefier pad spring – presumably to encourage piston retraction and boost rotor clearance – there’s a rotating inboard aluminum hose banjo for more flexible routing options and, as with Avid’s latest mountain bike disc brakes, there are no CPS washers sandwiching the caliper.

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Other details such as retail pricing, claimed weights, and projected availability are still unknown at this time but we expect more information no later than April 2013.