Product News: SRAM releases new MTB brake system called Guide

All Mountain Trail Brakes News

While component manufacturer SRAM has been on a roll with parts to make you go faster as of late, it appears their new goal is to bring you to a firm, predictable, well-modulated stop. The company announced the release of a new, four-piston hydraulic disc brake system called Guide today, aimed at the trail/all-mountain segment.

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The new brake is a departure from its predecessors in a number of ways, including the abandonment of two of the company’s longtime brake hallmarks—the Taperbore master cylinder design, and the notably absent Avid brand name.

But before we talk about what’s not there, we’ll look at what is—a host of new technologies like Swinglink, TPC Plus, Pure Bladder and Direct Link joining SRAM’s existing Contact Point Adjust and Reach Adjust features

SwingLink

In order to minimize what SRAM calls “deadband”—that part of brake lever throw before you get to any stopping power—they’ve introduced a cam system within the master cylinder body called SwingLink. SRAM purports this little trick of engineering reduces lever throw while increasing modulation, two traits previously thought to be mutually exclusive. The result, according to SRAM, is balance of power and precision that is smoothly and predictably modulated rather than the abrupt, grabby on-off feel associated with a short lever-throw set-up.

TPC Plus

TPC Plus refers to the “timing port connection” where the master cylinder bore and reservoir are connected. When the lever is squeezed, a cup seal passes this area and closes the port, pressurizing the system. It effectively vents out power-sapping air bubbles from the system more-or-less automatically bleeding it. In theory, this should lead to longer service intervals and more consistent performance which was somewhat of an Achille’s heel for its Taperbore predecessors.

Pure Bladder

Also helping to tame the tiny bubbles of bad performance is a reshaped bladder specifically designed to evacuate air called Pure. SRAM says the new design improves braking power, consistency and back-pressure relief, all, again pointing to more consistent overall performance.

Contact Point Adjust and Reach Adjust

Despite a clear intent to depart from prior designs, we were glad to see SRAM carry-over two excellent features from the Elixer 9 Trail brakes. Contact Point Adjust is a feature that uses a large dial on the master cylinder body to adjust how far the pads are from the rotor. This allows you to adjust how soon in the lever-throw the pads engage the rotor.

We frequently use this feature to balance out the feel between levers after brake pads start to wear. With front pads normally going away first, a turn of the dial makes the levers feel equal, despite unequal pad wear.

Somewhat related is Reach Adjust, a feature that lets you dial in bias of how far the lever sits from the bars. This is particularly useful for people with smaller hands or riders who prefer to have their levers closer to the bar. [Editors note: We’re fairly certain this adjustment alone has saved numerous marriages].

Reach Adjust, SwingLink and Contact Point availability

SRAM has essentially used the features Reach Adjust (R), SwingLink (S) and Contact Point Adjust (C) to differentiate the three brake models and price points. The full-featured Guide RSC goes for $199 per brake and includes, predictably, Reach Adjust, SwingLink and Contact Point Adjustments. The $149 per brake Guide RS deletes the Contact Point Adjust, while the entry-level $129 Guide R comes only with Reach Adjust and uses the simplified  DirectLink in place of the higher-end SwingLink (see full specs at end of story).

Guide calipers look familiar

Calipers for the new brake system appear to be re-styled versions of the four-piston, dual diameter stoppers on current Elixer Trail models. The lightweight calipers feature the same 14 and 16mm pistons of their predecessors and presumably share the same easy-to-change, top-load brake pads. SRAM says the powerful calipers weigh only four grams more than Avid’s two-piston cross-country calipers.

New Centerline rotors

Not to be confused with Shimano’s Center Lock, SRAM’s new brakes ship with updated brake rotors dubbed Centerline. The six-bolt, one-piece steel rotors feature a twin diameter contact pattern “designed to keep the center of friction consistent throughout the rotation thereby minimizing vibration,” according to SRAM. It replaces the Avid HS-1 and is available in 140, 160, 170, 180, 200MM diameters.

So why not Avid?

As we alluded to in our intro, a significant part of the story here is what’s not on the new brakes. Item one—Taperbore—has been essentially replaced by TPC Plus, so we covered that. But the Avid branding, what of that?

We move from informational to speculative here but clearly Avid and brakes in general have been a headache for SRAM. While we’ve had excellent performance from some Avid brakes, we’ve had our share of mystery maladies as well.

A check through our forums shows plenty of nay-saying, and SRAM’s recent hydraulic cross disc debacle— while well handled by the company—is undoubtedly a costly black eye. But is it enough to force a drastic change in branding? Or were the wheels already in motion from years of cumulative baggage.

Clearly we don’t know the answer to that question nor the future prospects for the Avid brand name, but given the rate and volume of high-level successful product introductions in the last couple years—1×11 drivetrains, the RockShox Pike fork and Reverb dropper post, among others—the lagging brake brand may have simply become intolerable for company management. Time will tell.

SRAM Guide RSC Brake Specs

R – Reach Adjust
S – SwingLink
C – Contact Point Adjust

Features:

Contact Point Adjust
Tool-free Reach Adjust
MatchMaker X Compatible
Lever Pivot Bearings
Guide caliper

Technologies:

SwingLink
Pure Bladder
TPC Plus

Weight: 375 Grams
Colors: Polished Silver Ano or Black Ano
MSRP: $199

SRAM Guide RS Brake Specs

R – Reach Adjust
S – SwingLink

Features:

Tool-free Reach Adjust
MatchMaker X Compatible
Guide caliper

Technologies:

SwingLink
Pure Bladder
TPC Plus

Weight: 380 Grams
Colors: Black
MSRP: $149

SRAM Guide R Brake Specs

R – Reach Adjust

Features:

Tool-free Reach Adjust
MatchMaker X Compatible
Guide caliper

Technologies:

DirectLink
Pure Bladder
TPC Plus

Weight: 375 Grams
Colors: Black
MSRP: $129

SRAM Guide Caliper Specs

Features:

Dual-diameter four-piston caliper
14 and 16mm pistons
All mountain power and control

SRAM Centerline Rotor Specs

Features:

One-piece
140, 160, 170, 180, 200mm sizes
6-bolt

For more information visit www.sram.com.

Product News: SRAM releases new MTB brake system called Guide Gallery
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SRAM MTB Guide RSC Brakes

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SRAM MTB Guide RSC Lever Caliper

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SRAM MTB Guide RS Black Lever Caliper

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SRAM MTB GUIDE R Black Lever Caliper

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SRAM MTB Guide Centerline Rotor

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SRAM MTB Guide Calipers

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born editorial director Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and pedaling for Mtbr, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.


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  • JRT says:

    I’d like to see an article directly comparing these SRAM Guide brakes to Shimano Zee M640b brakes, on similar bikes both running the same rotors and pad material, both bikes used in the same conditions, a couple of riders trading bikes back and forth.

  • Mark says:

    When will the mountainbiking world realize that Avid BB7 CABLE OPERATED discs leaps and bounds better for most unsponsored riders? You want no dead space in the lever throw? Done. You want no maintenance problems? Check. You want to get great disc brake performance for a great price? TADA!

    If you have the cash and desire to perform maintenance, and/or seconds and grams matter when you bike, fine, do hydros. Otherwise, BB7s aren’t even a compromise…they are just plain better, more reliable, and WAY cheaper.

    • David says:

      We don’t know exaclty what caused the dinosaurs to disappear, but, perhaps it was due to them using cable operated disc brakes. Roll on 21st century i say.

    • Jordan says:

      BB7 modulation is nothing compared to the likes of the XTR Trails or even the XTs, they are a great cable disc brake don’t get me wrong, but they are nothing like modern hydraulics. They are also heavy.

    • turtle purpl says:

      yes Mark finally someone else that agrees with me on avid bb7 cable brakes.. i have been running a pair of them for nearly ten years and they have never failed to stop me under any conditions .. and im still using the original pads ..long live cable disks..

    • jK says:

      I really liked the BB7 as far as a mechanical disk brake goes but even my 2nd gen Hayes mags provided much more stopping power and better modulation. Newer systems are even better.

      Bleeding brakes aside, the advantages of hydraulics vs simple mechanical leverage are not debatable.

      Shovel or a backhoe?

  • PinkFloydLandis says:

    Still using DOT fluid presumably?

  • rynoman03 says:

    While the BB7′s do have a good amount of stopping power for everyday use slap on a set of Shimano XT or XTR and be amazed in the difference. I’d like to give these Guide’s a try.

  • r1Gel says:

    As good as they were, I was constantly adjusting the red dials on my BBDBs to avoid rub. And I had to adjust manually for pad wear.
    In contrast, the only times I had to adjust the calipers on my Deore hydros were those odd times I was careless in putting my wheels back after replacing a tube and hit the calipers wrong. Had automatic pad wear adjustment too.

  • Mark says:

    Apologies, I came off fanboyish before… All I’m saying is that for $50 a pair, Avid BB7s or a comparable mechanical disk brake (sadly discontinued by Shimano, which I believe was money/marketing at work) set with inboard and outboard adjustment gives you great performance and stopping power. I’ve ridden lots of different brakes, both mech and hydro. Mechs are simple and they work and they don’t add a complicated maintenance chore to my routine. Plus you can adjust them to engage the instant you touch them. For basic Deore hydros you’re spending at least the money, they will need bled at some point, and you will have dead space in the lever. Unquestioningly, you gain some modulation and power with hydros, but for the weekend warrior, I don’t think it’s enough to matter.
    Anyone out there running hydro shifters? :) And yes I know it’s been done…

  • bob says:

    i agree w mark. ive seen hydros go bad and friends ride nue races without rear brakes because of it. bb7s on my steeds = solid reliability

  • duder says:

    LOL. Have BB7′s on my Fargo and Hakkalugi Disc, and XT’s on my Mojo and SS 29er…far less maintenance needed on the Hydros, and they perform much better. You guys are crazy.

  • tyrebyter says:

    The description of TPC plus is how every master cylinder on every truck, car, motorcycle and bike has worked since the invention of hydraulic brakes. What do you suppose they meant to say?

    • Mtbr says:

      The TPC Plus’ predecessor, SRAM’s Taperbore utilized a closed system design which works differently than the new config. This old SRAM doc compares Taperbore’s closed design to an open one much like the TPC (though I think this is from before they moved to it): http://bit.ly/1lAPFqO

      • tyrebyter says:

        I read the document you linked, and it says the Taperbore is an open system.That makes sense, since closed systems don’t work. The point is, your team seems to accept marketing without question. If you’re just going to reprint ad copy, why bother to credit one of your contributors? Is there no technical editor on staff who could filter out the nonsense?

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