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SRAM’s Most Powerful Disc Brakes Ever are the New Mineral Oil Based Mavens!

SRAM Maven brakes, rear caliper, my bike
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Without question, brakes are one of the most important components of a bike. Ask any aggressive rider what they want out of a brake, and the first thing most would say is tons of stopping power. Now ask SRAM what’s up with their new Maven brakes and they’ll say “Maven is the absolute most powerful brake we’ve ever made.”

The new Maven brakes have beefy 4-piston calipers, large caliper and lever pistons, a re-tuned lever, and new XL brake pads, all of which make them an incredibly strong brake. With all that power, riders can lighten up on squeezing their levers and reduce arm fatigue. Of course, sheer power is no good without the ability to control it, so the Mavens can be tuned in various ways to provide a lighter or more forceful bite.

SRAM has produced three different models of the new brakes. The Maven Ultimate, Silver, and Bronze. I’ve had the Maven Ultimates on my bike since early this month, so my initial impressions are included in this post. I plan to write a full review later this summer after a lot more testing and tuning.

SRAM Maven Brakes:

SRAM Maven brakes, rear caliper, inside
Look familiar? The finish is very similar to the SRAM Blackbox prototype brakes we spotted on Kyle Strait’s bike at Sea Otter.

Let’s start with some numbers. Most importantly, SRAM says the Mavens produce almost 50% more power than their DH-grade Code brakes. They also say it takes 32% less force at the lever to match the bite power of Codes. With gobs of power, the Maven brakes are suitable for any type of riding; DH, eMTB, enduro, or trail.

In the Maven’s press material, SRAM dove deep into explaining how heat management provides optimal braking power and control. I’ll describe below how some of the Mavens’ components help achieve this…

Calipers:

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate Expert Kit Red Splash caliper

The Maven calipers are quite beefy looking, and those four big bolts are there for strength! They keep the caliper body extra stiff, reducing flex and power losses. All models of the calipers use large pistons, with two 18mm and two 19.5mm in each. The big pistons offer more surface area to push on the new XL pads the Mavens require. The Mavens’ brake pads are bottom-loading.

As for managing heat, the Maven calipers are actually designed not to cool down too quickly. The calipers do take longer to heat up, but once they do they will resist overheating and stay within an optimal temperature range longer than other brakes. SRAM says less temperature variation as you ride translates into more consistent braking power.

Maven is Mineral Oil-Based

SRAM Maven brakes, caliper, rear

Surprisingly, the Maven is a mineral oil system. A few years ago, SRAM built two versions of the same brake system and tested them back-to-back with both mineral oil and DOT brake fluid. They liked some of the advantages of mineral oil, particularly a longer-lasting setup with less maintenance. However, they had to overcome one issue: the seals in the calipers.

Traditional mineral oil-compatible seals simply don’t perform as well as those designed for DOT brake fluid. The oil-resistant material they use doesn’t handle extreme temperature variations as well as DOT-compatible seals. To resolve this SRAM found a new proprietary seal material that’s mineral oil-friendly, but can handle high-heat situations and low temperatures.

On the topic of mineral oil, SRAM only approves the use of Maxima Mineral Brake Oil (co-developed with SRAM) for the Maven brakes.

Levers:

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate lever

The Maven brake levers offer a similar feel to SRAM’s Code levers. They feature the same pivot point, blade shape, tool-free reach adjusters, and (on most models) contact point adjustments. I like how close the lever body sits to your handlebar. It’s not a tiny lever, but SRAM tucks it in nicely so it doesn’t look too bulky. The Maven levers were designed with SRAM’s ‘stealth architecture’ so they do have a fairly sleek appearance for their size.

SRAM Maven brakes, lever force chart

SRAM has re-tuned their SwingLink lever and optimized it for the Mavens. The lever’s leverage rate changes through the stroke, delivering more power the further you pull. The intention is to provide more progressive power delivery and prevent an ‘on/off’ feeling.

SRAM ensured to match the big caliper pistons with an appropriately sized lever piston. They say the ratio between the two must be balanced to provide maximum stopping power.

Rotors:

SRAM HS2 rotors

The new Mavens do not require specific rotors. SRAM recommends using their HS2 rotors for the most stopping power and best heat management, or their Centerline rotors if you’d rather shave some weight and don’t mind a 7% loss in power. Choosing the correct rotor size is part of how you can manage the Maven’s power delivery. SRAM recommends setting up the Mavens with the smallest rotors your bike can run, and upsizing from there if needed.

Interestingly, SRAM provides some instructions on how to check your rotors to ensure you’re managing heat correctly. The first thing they point out is that heat isn’t always a bad thing. You need a certain amount of heat to keep the brake pads and rotors warm enough to grab each other optimally. If you run rotors that are too big you may not generate enough heat as you ride, so smaller rotors may actually provide better grab.

To monitor this, SRAM suggests checking for discoloration on the spokes of your rotors. If there are bronzed or brown spots at the top of the spokes, you’re achieving the correct heat levels. The rotor is getting too hot if you’re seeing purple or rainbow colors, and you should move up a size. If there is no coloration, the rotor is not warming up enough and you should go to a smaller size. Check out the above video for SRAM’s full explanation.

Brake Pads:

SRAM Maven brakes, XL brake pads

The Mavens’ brake pads are unique to the calipers, coming in a new XL size to provide tons of contact on the rotor. There are two compounds available; organic and sintered. The organic pads offer a strong initial bite and less noise and are ideal for dry conditions. The sintered pads offer superior sustained heat resistance and better performance in wet or muddy conditions.

Brake Mounts:

SRAM Maven brakes, mount

Brake post mount brackets are specific to the Mavens. Two sizes are available; The 20P-1 bracket works for 160/180mm rotors, and the 20P-2 fits 200/220mm. No conical hardware is required with these brackets, and four stainless steel mounting bolts are included.

Weights:

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate rear on scale
Photo: Steve Fisher

SRAM did provide weights for the Mavens: They list 362g for the Ultimate model, 371g for Silver, and 369g for Bronze (that’s the rear brake with pads, lever, and an 1800mm hose). My scale showed the Ultimates coming in slightly higher than claimed, at 350g for the front and 371g for the rear. Obviously, these are not an ideal brake for weight weenies, but they’re not significantly heavier than Codes.

SRAM 200mm HS2 rotor on scale
Photo: Steve Fisher

The HS2 rotors come in at 171g/180mm, 203g/200mm, and 270g/220mm. Each matchmaker handlebar clamp weighs 28g.

Bleeding:

SRAM Maven brakes, front caliper

While bleeding the Mavens is mostly a standard job, there is one unique part to the process – massaging the caliper pistons. In simplified terms, once the system has been filled and bled there is one extra step of pumping the pistons in and out over the thin side of the pad spacer, and then pushing them back out before installing your wheel.

Model Lineup:

There are three models of the Maven brakes, and an option to buy the Ultimate model with an Expert Kit that includes everything you need plus a few extras.  Below are some key differences between the models.

Maven Ultimate Expert Kit – $599

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate Expert Kit 1
Photo: Steve Fisher

The very deluxe Maven Ultimate Expert Kit is a limited run, introductory package deal that anyone considering the Maven Ultimates should definitely jump on! For the same price as a front/rear combo of Maven Ultimates, the Expert Kit gives you a ton of extra parts so you can fine-tune the brakes to your needs, or for different race tracks. Once these kits sell out, they’re gone.

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate Expert Kit 2
Photo: Steve Fisher

The Expert Kit includes both levers and calipers, four HS2 rotors (180/200/200/220mm) in a zippered carrying case, rotor bolts, two MMX clamps, two 20P-2 post mount brackets, two sets of sintered brake pads, a set of pre-installed organic pads, and a Pro Bleed Kit that includes Maxima mineral oil, four barbs and four olives.

Key specs on the Maven Ultimate brake include Ti caliper bolts and Ti lever bolts, and if you can get the Expert Kit you’ll get polished lever bodies. Last but not least, the calipers in the Ultimate Expert Kit come in a unique red splash anodized finish.

Maven Ultimate – $300

SRAM Maven brakes, Ultimate caliper

For the Ultimate, Silver, and Bronze models SRAM lists pricing for one brake (front or rear). All models include the caliper and lever, hose, a 20P-2 post mount bracket with bolts, a barb, an olive, and a matchmaker clamp. Rear brake kits include a Bleeding Edge fitting.

The Ultimate model gets Ti caliper and lever bolts. The calipers come in a clear anodized finish.

Maven Silver – $265

SRAM Maven brakes, Silver caliper/rotor

The Maven Silver steps down to stainless steel caliper and lever bolts, and the calipers are anodized in Bold Black.

Maven Bronze – $185

SRAM Maven brakes, Bronze caliper
*All images and video above c. SRAM unless noted otherwise

The Maven Bronze features the same size pistons, Bleeding Edge bleed ports, and tool-free reach adjust levers as the higher-end models, but there are some differences.

The bronze models use stamped aluminum caliper bodies, whereas higher-end models are all forged aluminum. They also get stainless steel hardware, and a bushing lever pivot instead of a bearing. There is no contact point adjustment on the bronze levers, and the calipers are anodized in Dark Polar.

When it’s time for replacements, XL organic or sintered brake pads both sell for $27.

The Maven brakes will be available at SRAM retailers this month.

Initial Impressions: Set up

SRAM Maven brakes, rear caliper, my bike

For initial setup, SRAM recommends starting with the smallest rotors your bike can run! I could actually put a 160mm rear rotor on my bike, but my local trails can get pretty steep so I stuck with two 180mm rotors.

I’m not a heavy guy, and I was putting the brakes on my non-electric enduro bike. Anticipating what the Maven Ultimates are capable of, SRAM’s North American PR agent Chris Mandell suggested I start with 180mm rotors and the organic brake pads.

Due to slippery, snowy conditions, my first test ride was just a chance to start bedding in the pads. On snowy trails, it was hard to get a feel for new brakes, but I noticed an obvious initial bite and it didn’t take much more of a squeeze to lock up a wheel.

On-Trail Performance:

SRAM Maven brakes, SF, rock chute, Pemberton

My next couple of rides were better for testing, as I was mostly on damp dirt. I noticed much less effort squeezing the levers versus any other brake. The Mavens have a solid initial bite and the power comes on quickly. As soon as the pads touch the rotors you feel braking power, but you won’t just lock up your wheels. Beyond that, it only takes a slight squeeze to ramp up ample power for most brake taps into corners, etc. The only time you have to put out anything close to the effort most brakes require is on steep descents or high-speed sections.

Some of my trails are still slippery and the Spring dirt is a bit slick, so I’m still having some issues with locking up the rear wheel. Feathering the Mavens does take some getting used to; you really do need to lighten up your touch on the lever for light and mid-level braking, or the Maven’s power can come on too strong. Even on dirt sections of trail, I locked up the rear a few times when I didn’t intend to. I expect with a few more rides I’ll adapt to the lighter touch needed.

SRAM-Maven-brakes-SF-MI-rear-caliper

As for the levers I like how SRAM stuck with their established shape. Aside from squeezing them more gently, the Maven levers will offer a familiar feel to anyone who runs SRAM brakes. Also, the matchmaker clamps left my dropper post remote and shifter in comfortable positions.

With only a few rides so far, I’ll dive deeper into long-term performance and fine-tuning in a full review later this summer… stay tuned to Bikerumor!

sram.com

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35 Comments
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Barry Walstead
Barry Walstead
1 month ago

Sounds like you need to try a 160mm rear rotor.

Doc Sarvis
Doc Sarvis
1 month ago

Not craven them.

Kenneth
Kenneth
1 month ago

Best improvemenrt to Sram brakes in 20 years, mineral oil. At least now they won’t strip the pain off of everything.

Billyshoo
Billyshoo
1 month ago
Reply to  Kenneth

Yes, this is a fantastic move on their part.

Robert
Robert
1 month ago
Reply to  Kenneth

Mineral oil’s biggest problem is it’s lower boiling point than DOT 4.1 and 5.1 .

JNH
JNH
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert

The boiling point of mineral oil is +300C (or +572F for you Imperialists), it’s not a realistic problem for someone on a bicycle.

myke
myke
1 month ago
Reply to  JNH

Not really true. As the operating temp increases there will be a point where performance starts to decrease. The boiling point is like a best-case scenario. There are a lot of variables here, weight, speed, force etc… so in certain applications, yes it still is an issue.

JoeS
JoeS
1 month ago
Reply to  myke

BS

Sprawl
Sprawl
1 month ago
Reply to  Kenneth

Since it’s now oil, can we bleed them using a Shimano bleed kit? Nope. Need a third bleed kit. Thanks SRAM.

Eric E. Strave
Eric E. Strave
1 month ago
Reply to  Sprawl

the Shimano bleed kit is miserable heap of garbage and you should be thanking SRAM for saving your from the injustice

Cheese
Cheese
1 month ago
Reply to  Kenneth

Fantastic news. Now do drop bar brakes.

Ullulu
Ullulu
1 month ago
Reply to  Kenneth

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of DOT in the bicycle world.

nooner
nooner
1 month ago

NEWSFLASH! Sram finally makes decent brakes which do not fade causing max arm pump! IN OTHER NEWS! Sram still working on producing a functional front derailleur…

Keith
Keith
1 month ago
Reply to  nooner

What’s a derailleur? My MTB’s don’t have such a thing….

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
1 month ago
Reply to  Keith

It’s that contraption with which you derail trains off their tracks.

Robert
Robert
1 month ago

One of my riding group friends is so strong that they may lock up the rear wheel as well as bend the lever out of shape . They have big hands . They have bent code levers twice which have had to be replaced .

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

so you have to take the brake off the frame to change pads. ahhh garbage!!

Zach Overholt
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

No need to pull the brake from the frame. Just drop the wheel, and pull the pads from the bottom like any other caliper with bottom-loading pads.

Tim
Tim
1 month ago

Every Code brake I have squeezed feels stiction-y. Brand new ones on shop bikes, strangers’ brakes on the trail, a friend’s bike. I hope the Mavens solve this problem.

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Same. Crap feel when I first switch from my Shimano-braked bike, but I forget about it, eventually. But still.

syborg
syborg
1 month ago

After having a piston sieze, on two different bikes, I became a fan of two piston brakes.

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
1 month ago
Reply to  syborg

Once for me with Shimano 4p XTs. Replaced without much fanfare from Shimano.

blahblahblah
blahblahblah
1 month ago

cant sram make brakes you don’t have to faff around with to bleed

DAvid
DAvid
1 month ago

I wonder if the first winner of WWE Tough Enough really needs a signature brake?

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

Have you tried Hayes Dominion, Steve? Other reviewers are saying the lever feel isn’t as light as Dominion and others, and your opinion seems to be contradictory

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Replying to my own comment because now it’s up to two reviews I have read that contradict your opinion regarding lever feel is not as light as even the Lewis LHT brakes (reviewed by PB) – care to comment?

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Fisher

Hi Steve, I recommend you give the Dominion’s a go before touting these as, “less effort,” than others – the Hayes have about the lightest feel as you can get before spending 4x as much on brakes (Trickstuff or similar)

Il_Dottore
Il_Dottore
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Dominion’s use DOT hydraulic fluid, a retrograde decision on the part of Hayes, this won’t save them from further irrelevance, and eventually no one will want the product.

Rupes
Rupes
1 month ago

Wait. These *require* brackets? You say 160/180 uses a different bracket from 200/220. What, really? Looking at the lead image for the article it seems like the front bolt on the bracket isn’t any farther from the rotor than the front bolt in the caliper? Typical +20mm bracket the rotor will be roughly in line with the front frame screw. And then the picture of the brake on the scale doesn’t have the bracket in it so the published and listed weights are off by like 40g if that’s the case… Can you clarify?

Jay Ess
Jay Ess
1 month ago

These literally look like cheap brakes from a small road motorcycle. Even mid level motorcycles run monobloc calipers.

Yeah sure
Yeah sure
1 month ago

No interest. Brakes are for slow unskilled riders. I just lean more to get around the bends. Try it boys.

JoeS
JoeS
1 month ago
Reply to  Yeah sure

Burp….. ahhhhhh

JoeS
JoeS
1 month ago

LOL

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