SRAM's excellent Guide brake gets a revamp. Enter the new SRAM G2...
Goodbye Guide, hello G2. SRAM have a new trail disc brake. We’ve tested the SRAM G2 Ultimate and it has alloy rotors, ‘Power pads’ and improved consistency.
SRAM’s Guide has topped our trail brake charts for a few years now. Now there’s a new Guide in town, called the SRAM G2 Ultimate, and while it strongly resembles its predecessor, SRAM assures us that it is has been reworked from top to tail.
Let’s run down those changes starting at the caliper end, and while it looks pretty similar to the old Guide, and shares the same pad shape and hose connections, the SRAM G2 Ultimate unit is actually completely new. According to SRAM, the biggest advance is in terms of stiffness. The caliper is still a two-piece design that’s bolted together, but changes to the forging means they should resist flexing under extreme pressure better than the old caliper, with the aim of creating a firmer lever feel.
The pad gap has also increased thanks to some changes to the machining around the pistons, which helps achieve a drag-free set-up, and the G2 is said to retain that gap as the pad wears, keeping lever feel more consistent. In this regard, credit must also go to the new phenolic pistons (a type of resin material) that glide in and out and resist heat so well that SRAM says it was able to ditch the previous steel heat sink.
Connecting the caliper to the lever is a new hose material with a smooth, matt finish that SRAM claims should resist kinking better than the old one. It’s also a bit easier to route through frames during installation.
And at the touchy, feely end is the familiar lever that’s largely unchanged from its predecessor. Having said that, there’s some additional machining around the master cylinder, while you still get the fancy carbon lever blade, sealed bearing pivot, reach and bite point adjustment. All up, with the included titanium hardware, the new front brake weighs 272g. That’s actually 25g heavier than the old Guide Ultimate we tested five years ago, although the new two-piece CLX rotors (£68) with alloy spider claw some of that difference back – they weigh 121g (180mm) and save a reasonable 30-40g over a full steel version.
Perhaps the biggest news is the new ‘Power’ pad compound — introduced to complement the sintered and organic offerings — and being the same shape as the Guide pad means you can run this in your generation one caliper. It’s an organic compound with a grey steel backing plate and is designed to offer improved bite and less tail-off during sustained braking.
While much has changed with the G2, it doesn’t feel dramatically different. Having said that, the Guide was already an excellent trail brake, and there are subtle improvements that can be felt in direct comparison with the old model.
The lever feels like it has a stronger return spring. Which it doesn’t. So we reckon this must be a result of the improvements to the piston area. There’s a really nice light action (once you’ve got past the initial breakaway of the Swinglink cam) from the broad, comfortable lever blades. Power comes in softly, particularly if you’re used to the immediate bite of a Shimano brake. Then resistance builds gradually at your fingertips as you pull harder, communicating perfectly the pressure being exerted at the caliper. This means modulation is superbly intuitive and natural with a sense of solidity as the pressure in the system builds.
Once you’re used to that feedback, the new Power pad lets you brake less and leave it later because you can trust the bike will slow down from the moment the pads hit the rotor. So far we’ve burned through a set of rear pads, but they have lasted well through several rides with filthy wet and gritty conditions.
And most importantly, we’ve not had any of the bite point inconsistency that continues to sporadically impede its Shimano XT and XTR rivals.
Finally, it’s a small detail, but the old Guide reach adjustment always felt graunchy and unpleasant to use. The new one is crisp and snappy.
Not the ultimate in outright stopping power then – for that there’s the 40g heavier Code – but the new G2 offers slick, dependable performance and is a delight to use.