In the unlikely event that other four-pot brakes on the market, such as the SRAM G2 and Hope E4, just don’t cut your particular mustard for stopping power, there is another option out there – SRAM’s Code RSC.
For heavier riders, electric mountain bikes or just for those who have a habit of dropping down sustained alpine descents more often, SRAM’s Code RSCs could be just the ticket.
At first glance, the Codes look to be built only subtly beefier than the more trail-oriented G2 range, but they pack larger 15 and 16mm pistons that provide more power and have other upgrades under the bonnet that should make them more suitable for heavy-duty applications.
SRAM has placed a slightly smaller 15mm piston at the leading edge of the caliper, which should enable quicker engagement, followed by a ramp up in power as the trailing edge of the pad contacts the disc thanks to the fractionally slower moving 16mm piston.
The theory is that this will improve modulation and reduce vibration and noise in use, acting as a ‘toed in’ brake – if you are old enough to remember rim brakes, this is where the brakes were adjusted to make the trailing edge of the pad push harder to reduce brake squeal.
This no doubt helps the feel of the sintered pads that come as standard and the end result is a beautifully modulated and supremely powerful brake. SRAM claims power is 15 per cent up on previous versions and it certainly feels impressive.
Even on trails less extreme than flat-out, arm-burning alpine descents, the Codes showed up as a performer with wonderfully smooth and measured braking from the chunky calipers. This meant they felt very capable and confidence inspiring.
The quality feel was, in part, delivered by a play-free bearing at the lever pivot, making it all very smooth and robust, while hidden improvements such as the 30 per cent increase in fluid reservoir size should help to deal with expanding fluid under sustained braking on steep descents – the theory being that lever travel should stay consistent for longer.
Needless to say, power was off the charts, but it was always consistent, nicely controlled and easily modulated at the same time. Every tester that bolted them on had to be cajoled in to taking them off, they were that good.
SRAM’s Bleeding Edge system is a pretty convenient and slightly less messy way to get a good bleed on the system; simply plug the syringe with Bleeding Edge connector into the caliper, turn the tap, and push and pull with the syringe at the lever.
It’s not hugely different in practice to other systems, but SRAM says it has improved the fluid path through the caliper so there are fewer corners and pockets for that naughty air to linger, causing spongy levers.
In practice, I liked it a lot, and there was certainly less opportunity for air to sneak in while bleeding.
Of course, all that braking performance comes at a price. They tip the scales at a pretty meaty 330g, compared to 256g for Hope Tech3/E4 brakes, or even 268g for SRAM’s perfectly capable G2 Ultimate trail brakes. Not only that, but £240 per wheel isn’t cheap.
Although they are superb in every other way, you would need to decide if this extra performance is really necessary for you when you consider the cost and small weight penalties they bring.
However, if you spend a lot of time on big descents, regularly cook off other brakes or just don’t mind spending a bit more, you won’t be disappointed by the Code RSCs.
How we tested
We bolted 10 sets of brakes to our test bikes, with a 200mm rotor up front and 180mm at the rear, and scraped our way down descents, checking for power, feel, fade, modulation and reliability.
Other brakes on test included:
- Hope Tech 3 X2
- Magura MT 7 Pro
- Shimano Deore BR-M6000
- Shimano Deore XT BR-M8020
- Hope Tech 3 E4
- Hayes Dominion A4
- Clarks Clout 1
- SRAM G2 Ultimate
- Formula Cura 4