SRAM’s new Maven brakes are the most powerful mountain bike stoppers we’ve ever tested. What are the secrets behind these ultimate anchors?

SRAM Maven riding shot
(Image credit: SRAM)

The headline stats for the new Maven brakes are certainly pretty impressive. SRAM claim that Maven delivers almost 50 percent more power than their previous top power brake – the Code. It does that with 32 percent lighter force at the lever too, so you don’t have to pull nearly as hard. So how have they done that?

Massive mineral power

At the wheel end, the Maven uses four upsized pistons (two 19.5mm and two 18mm) pushing similarly oversized pads onto SRAM's extra thick HS2 rotors. These sit in a massive bolted caliper that’s completely enclosed on the outside face to add stiffness and reduce contamination risk. Once they’re up to operating temperature, they also hold heat longer, theoretically giving a more consistent performance than fast cooling brakes. The Maven also uses a new proprietary piston seal material to cope with any extreme fluctuations of heat that might occur. More consistent heat levels also mean that SRAM have been able to use more eco-friendly mineral fluid as the hydraulic medium rather than synthetic DOT fluids. 

SRAM Maven brake

Four bolts minimise flex across the massive fist of the Maven brake (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Levering an advantage

Besides the different fluid, things aren’t that different at the lever end, with a similar looking but oversized body replicating the same lever position and feel as the current Code. SwingLink cam actuation provides progressive power increase via the bearing mounted lever on the Ultimate version of the brakes we’ve been riding. Hose alignment is less inward than previous Stealth brakes though, which stops them potentially banging against your bars and doing your head in.

SRAM Maven lever

The Maven lever looks a lot like Code but gets a realigned 'Stealth' hose for a quieter ride (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Box set

The Maven Ultimate Expert kit we were given to test also includes all the parts and accessories you could possibly need to fit and tune your brakes:

  • Pre-bled front and rear brakes
  • A camo carry case containing a pair or 180mm, 200mm and 220mm HS2 rotors and bolts
  • Mounting kits with titanium hardware
  • Organic and sintered pads
  • Pro Bleed kit
  • Mineral oil
  • Four sets of olives and barbs

That kit costs $599 / £599 / €699 which is definitely top end, but it’s great to get everything you need to get started and stay sorted. It’s also less than double the cost of the Ultimate brakes separately without the extras. Maven Silver ($265 / £285 / €320) and Maven Bronze ($185 / £200 / €220) options will also be available soon too. 

SRAM Maven being ridden by Vali Holl

More powerful brakes let you ride faster safer and SRAM's Maven's are an invitation to go mental with less risk once you're used to them (Image credit: SRAM)

First impressions

We were lucky enough to have our brakes installed by Alex Rafferty from SRAM who underlined the importance of a very thorough bleed to get consistent bite point and feel from the brakes. He also told us that we should pick the rotor size that would get brown or bronzed by the heat we were generating. If we started seeing purple or rainbow coloring after a long descent though he advised we went up a rotor size to optimize the operating temperature.

We'd be evil if we didn't pass on Alex's warning to be very careful with initial use too. Even before the brakes were fully bedded in, the power levels are easily capable of throwing you over the bars like a siege engine. It certainly took us a few runs to adjust to the sheer power of the system even with 200mm rotors on to start with. Once we'd calibrated our digits, the Mavens gave huge amounts of accurate modulation at our finger tips, allowing accurate traction control in even the slipperiest conditions. The fact you barely have to tickle the levers to get a serious amount of stoppage is a big advantage when it comes to avoiding arm pump, even on long e-MTB descents or just horribly janky, brake heavy terrain.

We're a few thousand meters into testing on the Maven's now but we’ve only been able to use them in cold, short descent UK conditions so far. With that in mind make sure you keep your eyes peeled for a full comprehensive review once we’ve had a chance to get them into proper mountains in summer heat.

SRAM Maven brakes are available now, for more info head to SRAM.com.

Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg