Lever feel, consistency, power and adjustment are all top-notch from SRAM's most potent anchors.
The Code is SRAM’s most powerful disc brake, aimed at DH and enduro riding, traits that also make it ideal for controlling the extra weight of an e-bike. Over the years it has proven itself as one of the best MTB disc brakes on the market. It has four-pistons, larger pads and more oil volume compared to its trail-orientated stablemate, the G2.
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed about the new Code RSC disc brake is the lever/master cylinder are now super-sized. SRAM has increased the fluid volume by 30%, which should make the RSC more consistent under extreme conditions as well as more powerful. The cost of a rotor is not included in the price listed, but you now have the option of the new HS2 disc, which is slightly thicker and has different cooling.
There is a lot going on with the CODE RSC lever. First off, it comes with a Matchmaker X clamp, which allows you to bolt a SRAM shifter or dropper remote directly onto the lever, eliminating a clamp and the associated weight. I’m not a big fan of the Torx bolt, but I really like being able to free up some bar space.
On the face of the lever is the tool-free reach adjustment, which has a good range for different hand sizes and detents for the dial. The brake also features Contact Point adjustment that allows you to tune the firmness of the lever and reduce ‘deadband,’ which is the amount of lever movement before the brake engages.
Combined with the reach adjustment, it lets you keep a similar brake feel as the pads wear down. To reduce lever friction and prevent it getting sloppy over time, there’s a cartridge bearing in the main pivot. Remember to check the pivot bolt periodically as they can come loose.
At the other end, there’s a forged two-piece caliper, which features four slippery phenolic pistons and a stainless-steel heatshield in the brake slot. According to SRAM, this tiny addition helps break the thermal connection between the pad and the caliper body, reducing fluid temperature by about 20ºC. In other words, the Code should be more consistent on long descents as it won’t heat up as quickly, which causes brake fade and fluid expansion.
The brake pads are top loading and are now metal sintered as standard. In a lot of brakes I test the pads take several rides to bed-in, but the Code pads came up to full power almost instantly. However, in the wet you will need to do several hard stops to get some heat into them, because I found they can wear down to the backing plate in a single outing, although to be fair that’s a process you should do with all brake pads.
My sample Code RSC came with the new stainless-steel HS2 disc rotor, which has a thicker 2mm construction than the regular 1.85mm CentreLine rotor. To increase friction, it also has a redesigned brake track and there’s a special thermal grey paint on the spokes to boost heat-dissipation. SRAM says the HS2 rotor runs 40% cooler and is 7% more powerful, although I did the sums and it’s around 20% more expensive (and heavier too, if that’s important to you).
To bleed the Code you will need a SRAM kit. It uses DOT 5.1 fluid, which absorbs moisture, so you will need to bleed them more regularly than a brake that uses mineral oil. The process requires some preparation, but there are plenty of how-to videos online and it’s not too heinous a task once you’ve done it a few times.
Once fitted to our test bike, our initial impressions of the SRAM Code RSC disc brake were how noticeably firm it felt as you grabbed the lever. Brake feel with the CODE RSC is one of the best out there – it has incredibly light lever action but the power builds progressively, so you don’t have to pull too hard and there’s always something in reserve. The lever has a great shape and there’s plenty of grip. With the Matchmaker integration you really don’t have to compromise on where you position your levers or controls either.
As the Code comes standard on so many bikes, we’ve ridden multiple sets and never had an issue with inconsistency or failure. The only issue we’ve had is the pistons getting a bit sticky in the caliper with age, but this can be cured by working them in and out with a plastic tyre lever and a bit of brake fluid.
If you do any sort of gravity riding like enduro, downhill or even aggressive trail riding, or you’re running a heavy e-bike, the Code is the best brake in the SRAM arsenal and the one to get. At over £300 a wheel I can’t give the RSC model top marks for value, but the feel and power are outstanding and there is a cheaper Code R model that forgoes the Contact Point adjuster and bearing lever pivot. But, if you’ve got the cash, those details make the RSC worth the premium, and it also looks super nice in black with those oil slick accents.