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.

Level Ultimate

SRAM Level Ultimate caliper, angle SRAM Level Ultimate caliper, side

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.

SRAM Level Ultimate lever on bars

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.

Level TLM

SRAM Level TLM lever
*Images c. SRAM

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.

SRAM Level TLM caliper, angle SRAM Level TLM caliper, side

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.


  1. So, now 2 piece calipers is an upgrade? SRAM is taking the piss. Just slap a DB7 logo on there and be done with it. Why doesn’t the Level series get lighter levers? They could trim a bit of weight if they abandoned the ambidextrous lever design. For all the talk about weights, they ignored the part right up front.

    Ditching the banjo does mean they could move toward a standard hose with a compression nut at the caliper. It probably helps on some bikes if you can route it front to back with a bare hose. Hmmm.

    • I’m actually disappointed in the lack of banjo. Some frames are specifically designed for Shimano brakes, which results in sharp turns for hoses when You use Sram calipers.

      2 piece calipers are a downgrade? Since when? What does it even matter, especially since they were able to make them lighter? Got Level TL on 2 bikes and old Avid X0 Trail on another bike – all work like a charm.

      • The 2 piece caliper is a downgrade simply because it’s utilized as a cost saving measure. A single forged piece can theoretically be made in a more efficient design, but the manufacturer has to implement it. Since SRAM added no features except the minor weight reduction possible by using 2 separate smaller forgings, we can accept that there is otherwise no functional change.

        In other words, it’s so much more expensive to execute a one piece caliper correctly, that they opted to change back to their more mature design to cut costs. The previous Level calipers were beautiful to say the least. A very compact design with smooth lines.

        • Since it works the same/better and is lighter, it’s not a downgrade.

          For me, loosing the banjo is a huge downgrade, I could care less about the 1-piece design…

    • SRAM is definitely getting creative with their claims. I’m just annoyed that they tell you Red won’t work with Etap, where the one piece HRD is supposed to be some sort of advance over the two piece design of Red. A bunch of malarky. I’d scrap their calipers entirely if Hope RX4 were a little smaller and lighter.

  2. Monoblock vs two piece, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the end result is stiffer so that the hydraulic force goes into clamping the rotor and not flexing the caliper. Two piece also allows for more material to be removed and improve fluid flow through cleaner conduit through the body.

  3. Everyone’s losing their shit about the caliper being two pieces instead of one, but as long as they still perform as well as the previous generation, I’ll be stoked. I had Level Ultimates on my last trailbike and I loved them.

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