Takin’ it to the street.
When SRAM’s line of hydraulic disc road brakes hit the market, they shook things up, setting the new standard for what road brakes could do. SRAM, however saw some room for improvement. The brakes were torn all the way down, picked apart, and completely reconfigured for huge improvements in stopping power and reliability.
SRAM started with the lever body, which houses the reservoir and master cylinder. It was redesigned for more internal spacing and a boost in strength and stiffness. The resulting performance is solid and consistent, regardless of weather conditions. The master cylinder piston was redesigned as well, in order to achieve absolute reliability. It succeeded.
SRAM then redesigned a new higher-capacity bladder to improve fluid flow to give your brakes the ideal feel, whether you’re riding them on day 1 or day 1001. The caliper spring was also redesigned for increased pad contact and smoother retraction. Finally, the shift paddles were trimmed to reduce weight and increase comfort.
- Redesigned lever body
- Reconfigured master cylinder
- Higher-capacity bladder
- Redesigned caliper spring
- Trimmed shift paddles
What is a front derailleur
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I have been riding SRAM 1x drivetrain for years on the mountain side, but was a bit worried about dropping my front derailleur on the road side.
I decided to give the 1x a shot on my Niner RLT because of the simplicity and weight reduction. Also, with a trip from Banff, CA to Whitefish, MT on the Divide Route, I was worried about the problematic issues of chain suck and other issues caused by a front derailleur.
The Force 1x group did not let me down. Crisp precise shifting with not a single issue on the whole trip. I used a 38t up front and a 10/42t rear.
The climbing gear only let me down on the Whitefish Divide climb, which I was able to ride clean, but with a heavily loaded bike packing set up, a big bail out gear would have been appreciated. I think I would like to at least have a 46t in the rear for future trips that include a load of climbing.
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I have not had nearly the same experience as the reviewer below. Nowhere in my experience did the brakes do anything but stop. No squealing, no issues popping the pads in and out. Not sure what the person below is experiencing an issue with.
Shifting is great. Havent had any issues with the teflon wearing off either. That does tend to happen once the cable has stretched significantly though.
All in all a great system, and looks much more clean than Shimano options.
Amazing shifting, frustrating brakes
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Let me be clear...braking performance is fantastic. Your tires will slide before these brakes give (even in rain/slush/snow). But setting up new pads is a gigantic pain and they are still prone to squealing. Not the Avid turkey warble that hurts your ears, but just enough to be incredibly annoying and make you wish you didn't pay such a premium for these brakes.
As for the shifting, it is absolutely fantastic - but with a catch. The first thing you should do is take that plastic coated inner wire and throw it out so you can replace it with a quality stainless inner wire. It will slowly peel off and bunch up inside each cable stop, making your shifting gradually more mushy the more you use it. Seriously, since switching to a quality stainless inner cable the shifting might be the best I've ever had.
Overall I'm still more pleased that dissatisfied. The hoods (where I spend more than 90% of my time) are incredibly comfortable for my hands. The shift paddles feel great on my fingers but are still very easy to use with thick lobster finger gloves in the winter as well as bare hands in the summer. Shifting is crisp and responsive. Brake levers feel great, and once you get used to using discs on the road feathering the brakes has become second nature. Being able to have full performance braking in the rain is also a huge plus, with tires and bike control now being the limiting factor. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever be completely happy with regular road calipers anymore, road discs are just so amazing.
That being said, the brakes are still frustrating. I've become spoiled by the XT 785 brakes on my hardtail, and these are not nearly as smooth even though I use 160mm Sram rotors on both bikes. Bedding in the brakes takes a lot more time than Shimano and is hardly fool proof. They've never once bedded correctly the first time, usually requiring me to go back and clean everything with alcohol all over again before sanding and adding a little flame, and even if they bed in right they can start squealing again after a few rides which may or may not go away after a few hundred miles. At least the pads last longer than mountain bike pads seem to, although even with a dead straight rotor it is sometimes difficult to get the calipers set up to not rub since the pads sit so close to the rotor.
Overall I've put a little over 6 months and 3000 miles on these shifters and brakes, and if it wasn't for the frustrations with the brakes I'd be incredibly happy. If you hate Shimano and want some powerful brakes, give these a try - especially if you don't mind tinkering with your bike. Shifting is wonderful and braking power is amazing, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't currently pricing out a swap to Shimano's RS685 right now. Frustrations such as these shouldn't be present in a product that retails for nearly $1000/set.
Rob, thanks for the review. I'm riding XT and my mtn bike and my wife has them too. I was thinking of switching to these SRAM brakes on my CX bike but I may have to stick with Shimano.
I've have this brake set on 2 or 3 different bike, road, CX and NEVER had any issues. they are awesome.