SRAM’s new Maven brakes are MEGA!

There are very few parts on a bike that will instantly change the way that you ride. For the better. These brakes are definitely one!

A little while back an email popped into my inbox from our ‘guy’ from SRAM global and the subject line simply read ‘Maven’.

“We’re sending you down some new product to check out, let me know what you think?”

No further information about what it actually was included in the message…

Hmm, I was excited and intrigued to find out what these new goodies were, and perhaps mostly I was curious about the name, Maven?

A short while later a box arrived at the office and inside it was a set of the biggest mountain bike brakes I’ve ever held in my hands. These calipers are MASSIVE! Imagine them being double the physical size of Code calipers and you’d be imagining right. The Maven levers seemed pretty similar in size and appearance to what we’ve seen from SRAM in the past, albeit the angle that the cable enters/exists the lever body now runs parallel with the handle bars rather than being angled towards the bars, as was the case with ‘stealth’ levers. Have I mentioned that the brakes we got sent were sporting an eeeeeepic red/silver camo anodizing effect!? So dope.

Now, I couldn’t imagine a lot of riders out there felt that SRAM’s existing CODE brakes lacked power, regardless, the brand set themselves the challenge to create the most powerful brakes in all of MTB. Of course, with great power comes responsibility, and there’s no point having a shit load of braking force if the delivery and feel isn’t usable. One of the absolute greatest strengths of SRAM brakes has always been the modulation and smoothness of the power delivery when you pull on those levers, and the brand was extremely mindful to retain that signature ‘feel’ when they set out to develop these monsters.

SRAM claim that the Maven’s produce a whopping 50% more power than CODE’s, and perhaps even more impressive is that the Maven system requires 33% lighter force at the lever to generate the same amount of power as Codes. Less finger force means less fatigue which in turn boosts the amount of control that the rider has. And guess what? It actually works. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of creating a braking system that boasts a crazy amount of power is that it allows the rider to reduce the size of the brake rotors that they ride and still have enough brake power. Smaller rotors of course means less weight and less vulnerability of the rotor smacking into stuff out on the trail. To this point, SRAM are actively encouraging riders to opt for smaller rotor when they ride Maven brakes.

Before we chat about how the Maven’s ride lets first dive into some tech ‘deets… Inside those massive calipers are four pistons. Two measure at 19.5mm and the other two are slightly smaller coming in at 18mm. These massive pistons provide loads of force against the pads resulting in far more friction/brake power with less effort. Those large bolts that you’ll notice positioned through the middle of each caliper are there to increase the stiffness of the calipers. Measure any brake caliper under power and you’ll find flex. Those big ‘ol bolts reduce the natural power loss through the caliper which translates to a solid feel in the lever even under the hardest braking.

I learned something whilst reviewing these brakes and chatting to SRAM about their development… It’s a common misconception that heat is a brake’s worst enemy. The fact is though that heat is essential. For a brake to be powerful and consistent, it must retain enough heat in the system but avoid quick fluctuations between hot and cold. Given their clever design, Maven calipers provide greater performance consistency by maintaining optimal operating temperatures for longer durations.

Fun fact: unlike ‘dot fluid’ mineral oil is hydrophobic and does not absorb moisture from the environment and therefore the boiling point of mineral oil stays consistent when used in a braking system. Traditionally, SRAM have usually opted to run dot fluid in their brakes (yes, except for in the DB range) but interestingly the Maven’s use mineral oil. The main reason for this is that it provides more performance consistency, and Maven’s are all about pure performance after all, eh!

To match those massive calipers and gigantic pistons the Maven’s utilise ‘XL’ size pads. These monsters are available in two compounds; organic and sintered. The organic brake pads are great if you are wanting a strong initial bite feel and less overall noise. They offer the best performance in drier conditions. On the other hand, sintered brake pads are great if you are looking for the most resistance to sustained heat. They also offer better performance in wet or muddy conditions.

Now I may not have figured out how to win the lotto just yet, but I can let you in on a different secret which is that taking the time to properly ‘bedding’ a fresh set of brakes is absolutely f*king key if you want them to perform properly, as designed, at their optimal level. And it’s often something riders overlook. Me included. But do it, trust me. Brake bedding is process of quickly heating and cooling the brakes in a repeated fashion, and in doing so it deposits a layer of the pad material onto the rotor surface and at the same time cures the rotor. Drag the brakes, create friction, which is heat, cool and repeat. Invest half an hour in this process whenever you get new pads or rotors and your brakes will be dialed.

So how do they ride?

As you might expect these puppies certainly do offer crazy amounts of power! From the very first time you touch them out on the trail that is immediately apparent. Especially with the front brake. You grab a finger full of that Maven brake lever and you are coming to a very sudden holt, to put it lightly. I found this actually took a little getting used to. Re-training my brain I guess you could say. During the first few rides I definitely found myself scrubbing off more speed than I wanted to. For instance, I’d be coming into a corner or approaching a tricky section and I’d naturally go to slow down a certain amount so that I could safely navigate said section, but in fact I’d pretty much come to a complete stop and have to put a foot down to dab and hold myself up. I was a little surprised how much I was doing that. Usually applying the brakes and monitoring my trail speed is something I’d do in autopilot but when I was getting used to the added power or the Maven’s I definitely found myself having to think about how much I was going to pull on the levers. Of course, the plus side to all that was that I could brake much later and for a shorter period in order to scrub to my desired speed. And I found that delivered a noticeable boost in my confidence out there on the trail.

As I mentioned earlier, SRAM do claim that the Maven’s require less finger force to operate the system, and honestly whilst that wasn’t really something I overly noticed whilst I was out riding with these brakes what I can confidently say is that the lever feel felt very familiar. In fact, I’d say feel exactly the same as the Codes brakes that I’ve been using and loving for the past few years. One of the things I’ve always liked most about SRAM brakes is how much modulation they provide, rather than that horrible ‘on/off’ feel that brakes from other brands tend to have. And so even though the Maven’s boast a ridiculous amount of power, which does take a little getting used to when you first start riding them, the power is actually manageable, and it comes as a major advantage particularly when the trail gets super rough and fast. In Mavens you can trust.

The Maven range consists of 3 models; Ultimate, Silver and Bronze. Now, you might be wondering why SRAM aren’t spec’ing any no carbon lever options in any of the models? The reason is quite simply because metal is stiffer and in the quest to create the maximum amount of brake power and feel there’s no place for lever blade flex. Makes sense, eh.

In the lead up to their official launch I had the opportunity to chat with ‘our guy’ at SRAM global and one of the things I was dying to find out about was where the name MAVEN came to be assuming it must be something pretty significant? “Ah, I don’t really know, it’s just a cool name” was the reply I got. Haha, mystery solved!

Maven brakes are available at SRAM dealers Australia wide literally right now with pricing starting at $320 per end.

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