SRAM’s Most Powerful Brake Ever:  SRAM Maven Ride Review

SRAM’s Most Powerful Brake Ever: SRAM Maven Ride Review

Written by Isaac Boyden, on May 06, 2024

Recently SRAM released what they claim to be the most powerful downhill brake ever, the shop posted a tech review on the day of that release showing off one of the pairs we received. The showcased brakes happened to be installed on my custom Santa Cruz 5010 just 3 days later. When I learned of the Mavens release and was already building a bike, I knew I had to get my hands on a set to try for myself.

With over a month of riding later on that 5010, how do these brakes perform versus their claims of ultimate power and ride feel? Well after some skidders, some rough desert riding, and some time I am here to give you my thoughts on these absolute behemoths of a brake and how they perform.   


Brake installation is made easy with features like tube-in-tube cable routing on the Santa Cruz 5010 and the use of SRAM's Bleeding-Edge system for the Mavens. The bleeding edge tool used for mineral oil brakes from SRAM is now green, and a 5mm base as opposed to the red tool and 4mm base on the DOT fluid version. This way you can not mix the tools and cross-contaminate them even if you tried. They use the same banjo/hose system as the Code brakes, providing no issue in finding parts.

After cutting and trimming hoses to size, the bleed procedure was clean and relatively painless using that tool, and the same as other SRAM brakes. The Mavens do require a “piston massage” when you are done bleeding to reduce deadband in the lever feel, but this only adds around one minute to the bleed over a normal one.

It requires you to use a brake pad spacer, insert it thin-side first and pull the lever a couple of times to advance the pistons slightly, then flip it and put the thicker side of the spacer in once to open the pads back up so they won't rub the rotor. Then install the wheel and adjust the caliper as normal. 

I found the pads had some unique features during installation. They only load from the bottom of the caliper, so the wheel must be removed to pull the pads out. This might be seen as an inconvenience to some people, but in my case if I need to pull the pads out, the wheel is most likely removed anyway and this hasn't affected me yet.

The pads also have a tab on the bottom to let you pull them out because you can't poke them from the top like a normal brake system. These tabs also stick out far enough that you might have issues running certain 2-part rotors, like (tested, non-compatible) Shimano XTR rotors or (maybe, not tested) TRP rotors. 

That being said, this should not be an issue as these brakes are meant to and were designed around running SRAM's HS2 rotors. (And my kit came with the ones I needed.) Something worth noting is that some other reviews of these brakes online mention these levers feel like they have a heavy throw, and while they do, people were complaining about the throw being heavy enough to have their arms feel pumped.

In all reviews that mention this, they were not running 2mm rotors !!!! (or higher). While you can run Shimano rotors or Centerlines or other rotors in this system, running a 1.8mm rotor will cause this feeling of arm pump due to increased lever pull and deadband. Aftermarket 2.3mm rotors should be fine though, there is enough room in the caliper for 2.3mm rotors. 

Overall, the SRAM Mavens offer a user-friendly experience with easy installation and maintenance. By following recommended rotor thickness guidelines, riders should not run into any issues with deadband. 

Ride Review 

Now onto the juicy (throwback to when SRAM/Avid brakes were called Juicys) bit. With some days of good enough weather and dry trials for things just opening occasionally (weather permitting) like Terror Ridge, Bobsled, other non-marked steep skidders and gulleys as well a lot of time spent down south in St. George, Virgin and Hurricane.

When it comes to power, the brakes lack nothing. Per SRAM’s recommendations, I decided to go with a 180mm rotor in the rear and organic pads, instead of my normal 200mm rotors front/rear and metallic pads. I was skeptical at first but was very pleased with how they felt on the trail. The brakes exhibit formidable power and consistency, albeit with a brief heat-up period, proving their reliability once they reach optimal temperature. These brakes almost are, dare I say it, too powerful?  

By that, I mean how when I was riding them after coming off the Level 4 pistons on my XC bike I had been riding, these brakes took some getting used to over a short period of time. For the first couple of runs on these brakes, it felt (and probably looked) super jerky, as these brakes are very on/off. Every time I braked, I threw myself forward on the bike, almost like the brakes were throwing me around.

At first, this may sound like a bad thing but it is more of an aspect of just getting used to it. In the simplest terms possible, the more you use these brakes, the less you use them. As in, the more you get used to riding these brakes, the less you use them. Riders may initially find the brakes overly responsive, requiring an adjustment period. However, this responsiveness encourages smoother riding and faster lap times over time. 

If you have become very used to your personal brakes, or have a habit of brake dragging, etc. these brakes will force you to unlearn that. They are so powerful that they teach you to use them less because you need them less. I noticed at the end of my testing vs the beginning, I was setting faster and faster times, and becoming a smoother rider. The longer you ride these brakes, the more you teach your body and bike to do the work, and be more one with the trail and feel how the trail is going to change and ride and use the brakes less and less.

They are so powerful, that where you would normally drag the brake for a second, the Mavens only need a quick tap for the same speed scrub. These brakes teach you much more about how to handle speed on a trail, get more speed from the trail, and how to gauge features requiring speed with a lot less stop-and-go. Once at optimal temperature, the Mavens prove to be consistent and reliable, regardless of descent length. There's no wandering bite point, squish, fade, or change in lever feel, making them suitable for any terrain.

These brakes would almost be considered too powerful for a lot of people and bikes, and definitely benefit a faster riding style. While a fantastic brake system, they will only really benefit riders who want/will be moving at a higher pace than most. Even after returning to my XC bike, I've noticed an improvement in my braking technique, thanks to my experience with the Mavens. 

The Bike

This test was conducted on my Santa Cruz 5010, which was built for rougher trails than the average 5010. Equipped with 150mm front travel, SRAM mechanical shifting, and Rockshox Ultimate suspension, this bike rips but might not fully exploit the Mavens' capabilities. But, I still thoroughly enjoyed the combination. 

Final Thoughts 

Tailored for faster riding styles, the Mavens may be deemed excessively powerful for some riders and bikes. Yet, they offer substantial benefits for those seeking enhanced braking performance and speed control. SRAM's Mavens represent a significant leap into the mineral oil brake domain, offering high-end performance for gravity riders. Installation and setup are straightforward.

On the trail, these brakes deliver exceptional power and consistency, though their initial responsiveness may require adjustment for some riders. Nevertheless, as users become accustomed to their capabilities, they encourage smoother riding and faster lap times. While they may be considered too powerful for some and best suited to faster riding styles, the Mavens provide consistent and reliable performance even under prolonged use, proving their worth on any challenging terrain you can find.

Interested in getting your own set of Mavens? Feel free to reach out via the chat regarding picking up your own set. Or call us at the shop!


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