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SRAM Code RSC Brakes Review

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

What it is: SRAM's reworked Code series brakes for enduro or downhill applications, providing numerous adjustments (reach/contact point) and a fair amount of power over the Guide brakes.

Thoughts:

There has been a lot said about these brakes, I don't think I can add a lot to the discussion over the PinkBike, VitalMTB, or other reviews, so I'll just touch on a few things I considered important.

The lever feel of these brakes is really nice. The engagement time between the first part of the lever stroke and when the pads begin to apply power is very short, which allows them to easily run closer to the bars. The reach adjuster and contact point adjuster also provide meaningful adjustments that actually work, so you can add or remove as much slack to the lever as you like, regardless of where it is set.

The use of a bearing in the lever is very nice, as it prevents the vertical slop that develops on some levers (Shimano, Guide R/RS) that use bushings instead of a bearing. The ergonomics of the lever are very nice and comfortable, although I have found a moderate tendency for my fingers to slip off the edge if I run the lever too far inboard, something the more aggressive hook angle on Shimano and Hayes brakes prevents. Proper setup can reduce that likelihood pretty considerably, but a more textured surface would be nice here.

The clamp design is solid and free of flex, unlike some other brakes (e.g. Shimano). It is a standard Matchmaker clamp, so not much really to report there, either.

The caliper allows toploading of brake pads and bleeds using the Bleeding Edge tool, which makes bleeding the easiest of any brakeset I've owned or used. If used properly, it should eliminate any risk of leakage out of the caliper end and allows for a perfect bleed every time, a process I've gotten down to less than 10-15 minutes.

The shape of the caliper is worth noting, if you look at the aftmost bolt, it unwinds very close to the caliper body. You'll probably notice also that the bolts have a rounded head. That is intentional, because the squarer heads of other bolts (e.g. Shimano) will rub against the caliper body during removal and scar the body, along with creating alignment issues. In other words: use rounded bolts here that are provided by SRAM, otherwise you'll never get the caliper aligned and will possibly scar the caliper body removing the bolts.

The angle of the hose is adjustable and rebuild parts are available for the brakes, unlike Shimano and some other brands, so you can replace pistons and seals fairly easily.

Back to the bleeding edge port, the only thing that concerns me about it's location is the tendency for that rubber gasket to pop out, which means it would be exposed to dirt and debris. It's not a huge deal, I think it is somewhat mitigated by pushing from the lever during the bleed process, but a better mechanism of sealing there would probably be a good idea.

Riding

I'm a 215-220lb rider on a 29er, which means brakes get toasted. I had issues with the Guides fading, along with the M8020s that I replaced with these brakes. Right up there with the Dominions, I found these brakes consistent and with next to no fade. The power delivery is clean and predictable, however it does require a bit more strength from your hand to operate the lever and power delivery is a bit later than some other more powerful brakes I've used.

I don't have much to add over other reviews. They are powerful, consistent, easy to work on, fully rebuildable, and adjustable.

My only complaint is that they can get a bit noisy when it's dusty or wet out, but that's typical of most brakes with metallic pads.

I did not try these with resin pads. So who would I recommend this to?

Riders over 200lbs that are looking for a more consistent, powerful brake and that have fade issues with other trail brakes are great candidates for these. If you like the feel of the Guides, but need more power, then these are a great option. I don't think these are 'too much' for trail riding like some may indicate, the contact and lever adjustments mean you can tune them to be as powerful or modulated as you like, however lighter riders may find them a bit more grabby.

If you are lighter, riding XC or mellow terrain, then the power may be a bit overwhelming. That said, the adjustments provided give you a lot of flexibility in how they are setup, so if you find that they grab too hard or are too much, letting off the contact point adjuster should give you a more modulated feel.

Aside from weight, I can't really find anyone that these wouldn't work well for, largely because the adjustments provided allow you to tune them to be as grabby or mellow as you like

Comparisons:

vs. Hayes Dominion A4 : The closest comparison of the brakes I've run. I would say the modulation and power delivery is similar, the Hayes have slightly more power than the Codes overall (esp. with metallic pads), however the lever feel on the Hayes is much lighter. The bleed process on the Codes is much cleaner due to the Bleeding Edge fitting and the Codes have a much more progressive lever rampup and firm feel. I think the Codes are slightly better being run close to the bar, but only by a narrow margin. It's a tough call between the two and I'd say it depends on the lever feel you want. Personally, I need a lighter lever feel to help with my hands, so I'd give it to the Hayes here, but if you want a more solid feel with less slack, the Codes are a better option. Aside from bleeding, the Hayes are also a little easier to install.


vs. Shimano XT M8020 : The Codes handle heat better, provide more power, are user rebuildable, easier to bleed, and have better lever feel. The only place the Shimano brakes win out here IMO is the cost, however it's not entirely a fair comparison because the M8020s are more of a trail brake than the Codes, which are oriented towards downhill or enduro style riding.


vs. Guide RSC : The Codes have a similar lever feel and design, but with a lot more power and considerably less fade. If you are on the Guides and like the lever feel, but hate the fade and lack of power, Codes are a great option.


Pros:

  • Plenty of power even for a heavy rider on a big 29er

  • Great modulation

  • Very progressive, firm lever feel

  • Plenty of useful adjustments to adapt the brakes to any rider

  • Bearings in the lever pivot prevent up/down slop

  • Solid clamping mechanism

  • Bleeding Edge fitting allows quicker, cleaner, and more effective bleeding

  • Hose trimming process is very easy thanks to the threaded barb (vs. Shimano in particular)

  • Parts available for rebuild and service

  • Hose angle is adjustable for cleaner routing

Cons:

  • Bleeding Edge fitting requires a special tool to bleed

  • Caliper bleed port gasket tends to fall out, exposing it to dirt and dust

  • Metallic pads can be a bit noisy when wet or dusty

  • SRAM end user support is nonexistent, no way to contact them without going through a shop

  • Reach adjust knob feels kindof cheap and flimsy on an otherwise well designed lever

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