Crankworx wasn't all about watching the world's top athletes and drinking beer. It also included checking out some of the coolest new bits for your bikes and the highlight for us would have to have been SRAM's new Guide Ultimate brakes. The fact that they put on a pretty sweet breakfast spread was just icing on the cake really.
Arriving at SRAM's Rotorua Trail House we were greeted by marketing man Duncan Riffle and their MTB brake product manager James Alberts. What we were about to see wasn't exactly a secret, as all the media in attendance had been expecting this brake, but none of us knew anything about it other than the name.
Here at Spoke we are in love the Guide brakes and this new iteration has everything in it that you didn't know you needed. Well, some of you who live in chairlift-friendly locations might, also if you live near any riding with massive 20-minute-plus descents and people who live in the cold, but other than them most of the new features, while awesome, may be quite unexpected.
We may as well kick things off with the lever which for all intents and purposes remains unchanged except for some swanky new graphics and a carbon lever blade. Now I love carbon parts full stop, but coming from Wellington I HATE the feel of cold alloy levers on crappy days, and the always warm feeling from a carbon lever has been on my wish list for Guides for a while now. SRAM felt apart from that welcome addition there wasn't much they could do to improve on with the Guide Lever but down at the caliper end of things it's a whole different story.
Where to start? So this caliper is a new design from the ground up; admittedly it looks similar but at every turn there are positive changes. Okay so the big move or motivation for the brake department at SRAM was to make a product that had a more consistent feel, especially through various stages of heat buildup and to that end most of the changes take that into account. The pad loading bay has been enlarged, primarily for increased airflow around the pads but it also does away with the lip that makes loading pads into current Guides a little tricky. With the lip is gone, pads now just drop straight in.
The all-new S4 Caliper features four machined and moly-coated aluminum pistons for consistent rollback and easy set-up. Improved heat management features and the new bleeding edge porting and adapter technology means mess-free super easy bleeds. It features four pistons: two 14mm and two 16mm, for power and modulation as well as new seals, gland geometry and alloy piston coating for improved rollback. All this results in much easier setup and improved consistency.
The enlarged pad pocket, piston insulators and heat shield reduce operating temperature and minimize heat transfer to the caliper body. The new bleeding adapter and porting for quick, mess-free bleeding are just the icing on the cake. All of these features create a cailper that requires less time required to achieve proper caliper alignment and pad retraction for drag-free performance as well as improved consistency, precise piston rollback guarantees a constant lever feel and contact point in all situations.
SRAM have also created a new range of six bolt and centre lock compatible floating rotors. These sexy rotors are the lighter-weight version of SRAM’s quiet, smooth CenterLine rotors, featuring a two-piece design with an alloy centre and steel brake track. They come in 140mm, 160mm, 180mm and feature an aluminum carrier, a steel CenterLine brake track and the 160mm rotor comes in at only 125grams.
After James and Duncan had been through the full pitch, we grabbed a bunch of Guide Ultimate equipped bikes and headed into the forest for a quick lap. I'd love to say that the brakes were groundbreaking and a breath of fresh air, but to be honest a 1.5 hour ride is never going to tell you much. What I can say however is that they felt exactly like a brand new set of Guides; that in itself is what SRAM were going for. But with the new S4 caliper, with its increased heat management and new piston cups and seals, the whole idea is that they should maintain that brand new feel for a lot, lot, lot longer. Only time and a long term test will be able to show that.
They will be available in July and we should have pricing soon, but expect at least $100 more than current Guide RSCs.