For today’s cross country racers, keeping their bikes light is still a major priority, yet race courses are getting rowdier and rougher. With these demands in mind, SRAM redesigned their Level Ultimate and TLM brakes, packing the most stopping power they could into the lightest packages possible.
The new higher-spec Level levers and calipers have been chiseled down to the slimmest shapes, and even their hardware has been pared down to remove excess weight. But SRAM didn’t just put the Level Ultimate and TLM brakes on a diet; they’ve also redesigned the calipers. The updated calipers now feature a two-piece, two-piston design which aims to offer excellent heat management and smooth piston actuation.
SRAM shaved every gram they could from the Level Ultimate brakes while ensuring they have ample power to handle current XC courses. Using DOT 5.1 fluid and the option for two-piece CLX 160 or 180mm front rotors (paired to a 140mm rear) promises quick and powerful stopping for XC riders.
The Level Ultimate’s carbon lever blades pivot on bearings for smooth action, and feature SRAM’s DirectLink actuation to ensure a solid and consistent pull. The levers also include tooled reach adjusters to accommodate any rider’s hands or preferences.
Easy installation and maintenance was also a priority while updating the Level brakes. The new Ultimates feature familiar SRAM design elements like a hinged bar clamp and top-loading pads, and they now include SRAM’s Bleeding Edge ports. These bleed ports aim to make brake bleeds easier and quicker by allowing fluid to flow through the caliper more easily, but please note they do require a special adapter.
The new Level Ultimates are compatible with SRAM’s Matchmaker or Matchmaker X (MMX) clamps, and with their lightweight titanium hardware their weight is listed at 318g. MSRP for the Level Ultimates is $300 USD.
The Level TLM is SRAM’s high-value offering for XC riders, but don’t let the word ‘value’ suggest they’re a low-end brake – they actually sit just below the Ultimates in the Level lineup. While they lose the Ultimate’s two-piece rotors, titanium hardware and carbon lever blades, they do retain many of the same performance features.
The TLM’s feature the same updated calipers as the Ultimates, and they still include a bearing in the lever pivot. The levers also feature DirectLink actuation and tooled reach adjusters. The TLM’s hinged handlebar clamps allow for easy removal and installation, and they can be swapped out for SRAM’s Matchmaker or MMX clamps to clean up your cockpit.
The Level TLM’s use Dot 5.1 fluid, and are sold with SRAM’s Centerline rotors. A 140mm rear comes stock, but there are options for 160, 170, 180 and even 200mm fronts. The TLM’s retail price is considerably cheaper than the Ultimate model at just $170, and their listed weight is 356g.