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SRAM’s DB5 is the best cheap mountain bike disc brake you’ve never heard of

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SRAM DB5 hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes for budget pricing

Many times when companies come out with a really great new product, the flagship models get all the press and the price point models are barely mentioned. Such is the case of the SRAM DB5. When they introduced the Guide brakes this year, there was a lot of well deserved press for the excellent brakes that finally stopped riders from swearing at those “A” brand brakes typically spec’ed on SRAM-equipped bikes. But nary a word was mentioned of the Guide’s little brother DB5. And since they’re most commonly found as OE spec on $1,500-$2,500 bikes, intended to replace the Avid Elixir 5, it’s unlikely your local shop has made much of a big deal about their either.

Fortunately, they get all the good trickle down from the Guides and the older Avids (yes, there was some good in there). Not only are they are really good brakes, but they’re available aftermarket for a pittance. In other words, they should have made a bigger deal about these.

Stop in to see what makes this $99 model such a shining gem in the new SRAM brake line…

SRAM DB5 hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes for budget pricing

SRAM introduced the DB line of brakes alongside the Guide line, but without much fanfare. Both lines moved the mid and high end brakes out of the Avid brand name and into the SRAM brand name, to better align with the rest of the company’s products.

The DB5 is intended to replace the Elixir 5 in SRAM’s brake lineup, and uses a similar caliper with 21mm pistons and a fixed position cable port as the previous brake. The major difference is the new DB5 uses a lever that is almost the same as the new Guide R brake, except with a tooled reach adjust instead of a tool-free. So yes, that means the all-important internals are exactly the same. The DB5 also uses SRAM’s new Centerline rotors, which is one of the major departures from the previous Avid line.

In our ride tests of the Guide and DB5 brakes, the new Centerline rotors were one of the greatest improvements in the overall package, eliminating the turkey gobble the G-series rotors were infamous for. We spoke with James Alberts, SRAM Product Manager, to hear more about them:

“Rotor development, like all of our products, is driven by engineering. Industrial Designers are always part of the development team, but when optimizing a rotor for thermal, noise, and power performance, small changes to geometry can make a huge difference. CenterLine’s design came directly from the minds of our engineers and was tested and optimized by engineering with our ID team being informed.  What’s notable is that it looks different, but the aesthetic is the direct result of engineering.”

MSRP is $99 for the brake (per wheel) and does not include rotor. SRAM sells the rotors separately that the consumer can choose rotor size, but that also means they may choose other rotors, and miss out on the performance benefits of the Centerline. We don’t recommend it, but you will find some bikes spec’d with the older G2 rotor.. We asked James about this:

“OE’s choose the rotor they wish to pair with a brake, however most bikes you will see with a DB5 brake will come with CenterLine rotors.  The noise reduction and thermal management performance of CenterLine rotors make them a popular choice.  It’s worth noting that CenterLine rotors are backwards compatible as well, so they will work with brakes we produced before Guide and DB5.”

Even though the Guide brakes have received most of the press, the DB5 is the most likely brake to show up on the bikes most of us can afford. When you get that new bike, make sure the company spec’ed the Centerline rotors too, since they are a huge part of what makes the brake great. And with the majority of the good things that came on the Guide, packed into the DB5, that’s a really good thing for riders.

SRAM DB5 hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes for budget pricing

SPECS:

• Weight: 410g
• Lever Material: Aluminum
• Caliper Design: 2-piston caliper
• Finish: Gloss Black, White
• Rotor: Centerline (recommended)
• Pad: Steel-backed Organic
• Fluid: DOT 5.1
• Mount: Ambidextrous
• Adjustment: Tooled Reach Adjust, Banjo Adjust
• Special Features: Tooled Reach Adjust, Piggyback Reservoir, MatchMaker X compatible
• Material: Aluminum
• Pad / Holder: Top-loading
• Intended Use: XC/TR
• System: Open System
• Rotor Sizes: 140 (rear), 160, 170, 180, 200mm
• Tool-Free Pad Replacement

SRAM DB5 hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes for budget pricing

It’s even available in white!

SRAM.com

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43 Comments
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MTBRDR929
MTBRDR929
8 years ago

DB5 is Best cheap MTB brake? I think not shimano deore BR-M615 brakes are far superior to anything made by avid.

alistair
alistair
8 years ago

Have you ridden these brakes before or are you just assuming based on avids reputation?

-
-
8 years ago

These bolts, are pretty only on unboxing day.

Mirwin
Mirwin
8 years ago

“Have you ridden these brakes before or are you just assuming based on avids reputation?”

$ on assuming.

NB
NB
8 years ago

I’ve ridden both, and although the DB5 is nice, I have to agree that the Deore brakes are much nicer. Just my opinion.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 years ago

Shimano Deore brakes are WAY better than these. I haven’t tried either of them but trust me 100%. I bet my reputation on it!!!

PS…I don’t have a very good reputation and I’m wrong pretty often. Especially about MTB stuff

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Anyone have any idea where the newest lines are being marketed under the Sram name, just looking on their site, Avid are left with the old brakes (code/elixir) and the even cheaper versions of these (DB1), doesn’t make much sense. Sram=Pedalling, Avid=Braking, Rockshox=Bouncing, and who knows what Truvativ are doing these days!

MTBRDR929
MTBRDR929
8 years ago

I have ridden and worked on both brakes, the avids feel very similar to shimanos (they pretty much are shimanos with dot fluid) but they fade quicker and need more bleeding.the deore brakes are really impressive, the feel just like slx or even xt brakes(w/out ice tech pads) and rarely require bleeding.

Sevo
Sevo
8 years ago

Little early to say that. Wait until it’s actually been tidden for a year or two with zero problems.

Otherwise right now the Magura MT2 is still thr regning champ. $99 a wheel with a 5 year no bleeed warranty, plus been on the market trouble free for 5 years. Can’t beat it. Homorable mention: Shimano SLX

What?
What?
8 years ago

It is a SRAM brake, no way it is better then any brake out there.

john
john
8 years ago

I haven’t ridden the DB5’s but I can’t echo the sentiment that the Deore M615’s are fantastic brakes – I can’t tell any difference between them and my XT M785’s. And at about $50/wheel from the Euro internet sites (sans rotors) I would argue the M615’s are the bang-for-your-buck champs.

Alb
Alb
8 years ago

@matt – the hyd brakes were rebranded Sram because of Avid’s dismal reputation in the marketplace and they’d like to sell some

dean
dean
8 years ago

Wait, so has anyone actually ridden these brakes?

Tim Krueger
Tim Krueger
8 years ago

To ask who have asked, yes, I have spent considerable time on these brakes, as well as Guides. My title fell victim to the editors, and I also agree with others, I personally would not call them the “best” brake out there, but they are really good for the money.

Peter R
8 years ago

If we’re talking just price point, then you get get XT 785 ice-tech a bunch of places for the same price. If they are better than XT, good, but XT seems to be the benchmark if you ask me.

CJ
CJ
8 years ago

Has anyone ever said the words “SRAM” “brakes” and “best” in the same sentence before? SRAM you have fooled me a few times, and like the Who said “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Until they come up with a product that is better than Shimano XT, no thanks.

Bluefire
Bluefire
8 years ago

@CJ: …Well, you can’t know whether or not SRAM’s made a brake to best the XT until you actually TRY that brake, no? 😉

(The stigma on display on this post is shocking, to say the least. Amazing as it is to say, this community is more and more often proving itself more narrow-minded than Pinkbike.)

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

@bluefire. There is a multitude of us that have spent enormous amounts of money and time with avid/sram brakes only to have that d*mn turkey scream at us over and over and/or fly off the trail after all braking tension decides to disappear mid decent. So don’t tell us there is a need to continue to try them. When they become better than shimano, we will know, but until that day, I will avoid their brakes like I avoid guys that ride in the gruppo with tri bars.

alexpdx
alexpdx
8 years ago

Agree… Guides are fine brakes and the MC design is better than Elixirs. But Deore is the way to go for budget brakes. And they are CHEAP online.

PBJoe
PBJoe
8 years ago

@Bluefire, Are you seriously telling us that we are narrow-minded for not believing marketing hype from a company that has yet to prove that they can make a functional and trustworthy brake? I maybe could understand this view point on Energy gels, or even handlebar grips; low-ticket low-risk items, but brakes? Really?

John
John
8 years ago

Any negative reputation SRAM brakes have is **purely** self inflicted.

scheezler
8 years ago

Lol @ guys that ride in the gruppo

SB
SB
8 years ago

@ Tim Krueger,

Don’t you (or didn’t you recently) work for Salsa? I ask only because you mentioned the importance of using Centerline rotors with these brakes for best performance. All of our Salsa Mukluks that came with either DB or Guide brakes shipped with older style Avid GS2 rotors.

On a similar but side note, SRAM fat bike cranks also have “for use with SRAM chain only” printed on the rings, but I have yet to get a new bike in yet that actually uses a SRAM chain.

I wish OE specs were done a little more in line with what’s best for the customer and bicycle’s long term performance and quality needs than just in the interest of the bottom line.

pilf
pilf
8 years ago

There’s really no discussion about this – Shimano Deores are vastly better, and yes, I have ridden both. The Deore is basically indistinguishable from XT and SLX, whereas these feel like … Avids.

Darryn
Darryn
8 years ago

Gonna be hard to beat those Deores. To be fair on the title though, I’ve heard of the Deores and haven’t heard of these, so these could well be the best I’d never heard of. I tihnk the sneaky URL makes the point better: https://bikerumor.com/2015/01/12/srams-db5-mountain-bike-disc-brake-is-really-good-but-you-have-never-heard-of-it/

Darryn
Darryn
8 years ago

*think

mateo
mateo
8 years ago

I love BR comments. SRAM knows they dug themselves a whole with the Avid brake line, which is why it is now the SRAM brake line.

The new stuff is vastly improved. I currently have XT, SLX, and Guide RSC brakes (and spent a good deal of time on the FSA K-Force as well). I have to say I prefer the Guides at this point. The modulation is much better than Shimano, and power is great.

I’m 6 months in on the Guides with no problems and zero maintenance required. We’ll see if that continues, but up to this point they’ve been dead reliable and SILENT.

WannaBeSTi
WannaBeSTi
8 years ago

As a shop owner, I’d say a large problem with Avid brakes comes, unfortunately, form the bike shops. There is a huge lack of education coming from component companies to the shops. We rarely see a technical rep come by to show new product, much less teach. We can’t tell you, the customer, what to expect or what needs to be done when if we aren’t told. Which, I feel, the reason Avid have been so eager to sling out warranty product.

Sure there are opportunities for education, like at Interbike, but it is still very limited.

Thankfully, my shop has over come a lot of the problems associated with Avid brakes. This has come from a lot of conversations with Avid, unfortunately because I had to pay for the educational time spent on the phone with Avid and the trial-and-error time spent after the phone calls. The customers have to pay by waiting longer to get their bike back.

SRAM/Avid/RockShox isn’t the only one letting bike shops figure things out on their own. Shimano has 3-4 tech reps for California alone, but maybe 2-3 for the whole east coast. Fox doesn’t even have a tech rep for the east (they don’t really what shops or customers working on their stuff anyway). Nothing from Magura, Tektro/TRP, Manitou, Hayes, and the list goes on and on.

Ok, I’m finished…

Ol' Shel'
Ol' Shel'
8 years ago

After years of horrible rotors, it’s cool that they can claim that finally making quiet rotors is a huge advantage. “Our rotors are now as good as everybody else’s have always been!”

Avid brakes are probably extremely reliable, now, but it’ll take years for them to fully recover, sales-wise. Many people will enjoy the lower cost of really good brakes, as others are scared away.

Now, let’s talk about finally getting strong brakes for 29er. The industry expects us to take a brake that’s designed for small wheel, and then get less braking power with our larger diameter wheels (larger radius = more leverage over the brake = less stopping). Hopefully, with 650 taking over DH, the brakes will get stronger.

fast foreward freddie
fast foreward freddie
8 years ago

dot fluid and a convoluted bleed process? no thanks. Deore is the same price, mineral oil, one way plumbing, and more reliable than any scam brake. I’ve seen two guide brakes fail already.

Mikey
Mikey
8 years ago

@ Ol’ Shel’
You saying that Shimano, SRAM, Magura, etc. aren’t producing brakes with 29ers in mind is laughable. How many 26″ bikes are you seeing spec’d with XT brakes? Considering most companies don’t even make a 26″ bike >$8-900, I’d be willing to say damn near zero.

Brendan
8 years ago

@wannabesti – Fox does now have an East coast tech rep. He’s great! Give Fox a call and they’ll give you his info. He’ll go over whatever you want with regard to fork/shock tech.

As far as these brakes are concerned… I love my Guides, but from an ease of install and bleed perspective the Shimanos are my go to. When recommending a brake I almost always default to Shimano (or Formulas).

With any new, or older, SRAM or Avid brake you need to check the fitting at the lever. If it needs a bleed out of the box don’t be surprised if it’s under filled either. I’ve been dealing with at least one set a week over the last few months. I’ve only had one SRAM brake (defective DB5 lever) that required a warranty. Many of the brakes coming on new bikes, or rolling in on service bikes purchased elsewhere have needed the compression fittings torqued and a bleed but have been fine since.

These brakes could be on par with Deore but until SRAM’s QC is dialed (seems like I’ve been saying this forever) I’ll still recommend Shimano. SRAM = System Requires A lot of Maintenance.

Antoine
Antoine
8 years ago

Sick price point and performance ? Check Alivio brake ! That’s as good as XT for about 20$ oO A bit heavier though. I bought those for my father’s bike and i am amazed by the performance (i ride exotic stuff on my bikes: Sram XX and XTs).

starpak
starpak
8 years ago

Many riders are bitching about Avid’s brakes without even spending any actual time on them. Fact: on my 29er I am using the 596 Deore, which is a good brake indeed. My 650b came with the Avid Elixir 5 (2014 model) brakes and to be honest it feels superior. So far, and it’s been over a 6 month period, they feel as in the first day I received the bike. So, without any personal experience how can someone criticise? I would definitely give a try on the DB5, why not?

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I am going to make the bold statement that I have always prefered avid brakes and in fact never had any problems with them.

Beehmex
Beehmex
8 years ago

No bleed screw. Yeah really awesome try bleeding these a few times and I’m sure you’ll change your opinion.

WannaBeSTi
WannaBeSTi
8 years ago

@Brendan. You confirmed my statement about Fox not having a tech rep for the east. I’ve worked a shop from 96-08 and been the owner of one since 08. We have never had a Fox tech rep come through our doors. For how long Fox has been on the market, one should have come around our parts. So, as far I’m concerned, there still isn’t one. By the time he could get to us, we’ll have the issue figured out and the customer is out riding.

Bernard
Bernard
8 years ago

Deore’s don’t come in white, so they won’t ever stack up…

Keyboarder
Keyboarder
8 years ago

I built up a rig a couple years ago and went with the Elixir 5, regretted it almost immediately. The DB5 may be an improvement, but when I finally got sick of dealing with the Elixir I didn’t want to chance it. Heard/read great things about the Deore, and pulled the trigger – couldn’t be happier. Outstanding brakes at a very reasonable price.

Zach.H
Zach.H
7 years ago

I just sold my xt m785 and bought DB5. Much better than xt, at least db5 does not leak.My xt is a mess, oil leak,weak,and it took the place for seatpost controller.

Nobby44
Nobby44
7 years ago

I have recently purchased T130 Whyte S, equiped with the DB5, I have the Whyte 905 2014 equiped with Shimano deore. imo having just started to suffer fade on the t130 after two months of trail use. and no probs after 17 months on Deore equiped Whyte 905 I will be upgrading from SRAM DB5 ASAP, DB5’S are far from the best.

Harris
Harris
5 years ago

These brakes suck. Still waiting over a month for replacement due to know defect.

David
David
4 years ago

DB5 are rubbish. I have them on my Specialized fuse pro. 2 trips to a proper MTB trail and they will be finished. The piston will cease up. This is a known fact and you will have to send them back. You will see this common problem on utube. You will have to remove the brake piston and sand down the piston to reduce its size.

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