Brake Testing: SRAM Guide RSC Brakes

SRAM catches a new brake

SRAM introduced the all-new Guide line of brakes earlier this year, and we have to say, we were surprised. After years of sticking to the “Taperbore” technology used on the Avid Elixir and X series products for years and years (Avid has long been the brake division of SRAM), the new system abandons this technology entirely. The new Guide brakes are not just evolutionary, but revolutionary.

Tech Features: The Guide RSC brakes feature a four-piston, dual-diameter design that is controlled with a SwingLink technology lever, Pure Bladder, Timing Port Closure and Lever Pivot Bearings. The Guide RSC brakes feature two tool-free lever adjustments so the rider can dial in his desired feel. The reach adjust adjusts the distance between the lever and the bar. The Contact Point Adjustment allows the rider to pick the amount of “throw” the lever has before the brakes are engaged.

The Swinglink system is a new cam system that requires less lever throw to push the pads toward the rotor without sacrificing modulation. The Guide brake’s new timing port closure system features new seals coupled with an ultra-smooth cylinder bore finish designed to produce more dependable braking power and consistency. Our Guide brakes tipped the scales at ??? with hoses trimmed to fit our test bike, and all hardware was included. The Guide brakes retail for $200 per wheel and will be available this summer.

Field Test Results: With the barrage of technical speak we just threw at you, it’s easy to forget what a brake is supposed to do. It’s supposed to modulate speed without making too much noise and provide enough stopping power to make this crazy sport safe enough for more than a few daredevils. We bolted our Guide brakes to our Intense Tracer 275 test sled and hit the trails with the hope we could ride the trails faster, even though this product is designed to slow you down.

Setting up the Guide brakes proved to be relatively simple. Our brakes mounted up with no hiccups. On the trail, the Guide brakes delivered plenty of power with a snappy and responsive feel we were not used to from Avid, oops, we mean SRAM brakes. Our two criticisms of SRAM’s previous brakes were an inconsistent lever feel and an unavoidable “turkey gobble” noise under hard braking. The Guide brake seems to have solved both of these problems.

The much-improved lever delivers a rock-solid feel that remained consistent for the duration of the test, regardless of how much heat we put into the system. The previous Elixir and X0 brakes would force the rider to guess if the brake was going to engage right away or pull almost to the bar; those days are gone with the Guide. As an added bonus, the levers are notably short and work exceptionally well for riders who prefer a one-finger braking technique. The new Centerline rotor also seems to have solved the noise issue by providing a very consistent braking surface that glides easily through the pads, regardless of the pressure and heat, rather than vibrating and chugging through. It’s a welcome change.

Our one complaint is the size of the lever itself. While SRAM has done its best to streamline the cockpit setup by making this brake perfectly compatible with its shifters and dropper seatpost controls, the sheer size of the lever makes it less aesthetically pleasing than some of the other brake options. That said, however, we’ll take a brake that works well over one that’s pretty any day of the week.

The Guide shows a noticeable improvement in consistency over the Taperbore brakes of the past, including the Elixir and X0 Trail brakes. The brakes are also less noisy in all conditions, including dry and dusty desert trails and muddy ones littered with stream crossings. Overall, the Guide is most certainly a notch above anything SRAM or Avid has produced in the past, and it is a welcome addition to SRAM’s already stellar drivetrain and suspension offerings.