SRAM Maven Ultimate Brakes - Are These The Most Powerful Mountain Bike Brakes?

Words by: Trevor Mejia

Are These The Most Powerful MTB Brakes To Exist?

Over the past year we have seen a new style brake caliper sneaking onto the bikes of top SRAM athletes at EDR and DH World Cup events. After much speculation by the industry, SRAM has introduced Maven, claimed to be their most powerful brake yet. They know that to go faster, you have to be able to slow down faster, easier and with more control. They have sought out to do this and have accomplished it in a different way. Going away from DOT 5.1 Fluid, these new brakes use mineral oil, a new XL brake pad, a large lever body and unique caliper. Let’s get into it!

What's New?

Previously, SRAM’s Code brakes were their most powerful offering, until now. These new Mavens are claimed to be 50% more powerful than Code, a bold statement by SRAM. It also takes 32% less force to produce the same amount of power as Code, making the Mavens have more usable power. These two figures combined allows for far less fatigue and a consistent lever feel for long and steep descents. 

So how did they manage to fit this much more power into a braking system? It starts at the new caliper. For a brake to work properly, it needs to heat up to an ideal temperature and not fluctuate too far away from it. Maven calipers are oversized with a bridge across the top thus being able to take on a greater thermal mass, keeping the caliper at a more consistent operating temperature. There are four caliper body bolts, opposed to the normal two, which reduces actual flex in the caliper and 4 oversized phenolic plastic pistons, measuring out to 19.5 and 18mm. They are huge. The pistons also use special seals to keep the system air tight during temperature fluctuations and in harsh conditions as well as being compatible with mineral oil. The ratio between the caliper pistons and lever piston has also been optimized for the most power. 

Maven Caliper

Mavens require an all new XL brake pad. The brakes come stock with an organic compound for a strong bite point and less noise and can be changed to their sintered brake pad for more heat resistance in wet conditions. The lever is similar to the new Code Stealth but larger in almost every way. The brake line also comes out a bit more straight than Code Stealth does, with the Maven running more parallel to the handlebar where the Code Stealth brakes point towards the bar. They use their stiffest forged lever blade available, contact point and tool-free reach adjustment as well as their SwingLink technology for a progressive power feel.

Maven / Code Side by Side

Brake Tuning 

Because there is so much more power available, SRAM recommends that you start with the smallest rotor size that your frame/fork will accommodate. This is to allow for proper heat buildup. The concern is that if you go straight to the biggest rotor size possible, the caliper and rotor will not get hot enough for optimal performance. We put these brakes on a Crestline RS 75/50 E-Bike with 200mm minimum post mounts, normally we would have it with 220 front and rear.  If your rotor is brown or bronzed, the heat management is ideal and if your rotor is purple, its getting too hot. If there is no discoloration then the rotor is not getting hot enough. In our case, running 200mm rotors and organic pads on a 50lb e-bike, the rear rotor is bronze and the front has no discoloration. 

Rotor Tuning


Bleeding is the same process as any modern SRAM brake, although it uses Maxima Mineral Oil instead of DOT 5.1 Hydraulic Brake Fluid and must use a specific bleed kit that can accept Mineral Oil. They use a bleeding edge tool for the caliper, but it is a 5mm hex to unlock the port, instead of the standard 4mm, to require the specific mineral oil bleed kit to be used. They DO recommend that you massage the pistons, basically moving them in and out, breaking away any friction using their transportation block. This helps advance the pistons properly and give a better lever feel. The video for bleeding can be found here. 


We received the Maven Ultimate Expert Kit. This is a one of a kind kit, allowing for tuning options for different tracks and conditions. This is ideal for a racer. The kit comes with 4 HS2 rotors (1x 220, 2x 200, 1x 180), a rotor travel bag, 2x organic 2x sintered XL brake pads, 2x 20mm post mount brackets, 2x matchmaker clamps, and a Pro mineral oil bleed kit. Edition #1 comes with limited red splash anodized calipers which is pretty sweet. The kit comes at a price of course but if you are getting ready for a race season, it is the perfect kit for that and something we have not seen offered before. 

Maven Ultimate is still the highest end option with a polished lever body and Ti hardware. Silver gets a black anodized finish and stainless steel hardware. Bronze gets a Dark Polar anodized finish, but skips out on the contact adjustment and gets a bushing lever pivot as opposed to a bearing on the other models. 

SRAM is also introducing 2 machined post mount brackets. This means no more concave/convex hardware and four mounting bolts for a stiff and secure mount. 20P-1 is for 160 and 180 mm rotors while 20P-2 is for 200 and 220 mm rotors. Maven requires these new mounts for 20mm jumps in rotor size. 

Maven XL Brake Pad

How Do They Ride? 

When first installing these brakes, I was skeptical of it coming stock with organic pads. For the descents that we do on a long travel bike locally in Southern California, sintered/metallic brake pads are a must because it keeps the brake cooler and performs better over the whole run. They also tend to last much longer. I haven’t run organic pads in a long time because of this. I was also skeptical of SRAM telling us to run the minimum rotor size that the bike can take. I am so used to running a post mount adapter with an oversized rotor. We put this brake to the test on a heavy e-bike that is ready to go fast, assuming that this is the hardest case scenario that we can put the brake through. 

The power with these organic pads comes on strong. It is easy to lock up the wheels, especially the rear and it took a few rides to get used to that. The lever is not an on and off feel, but it is firm and the power is there. When you do figure out that bite point, it is easy to modulate the power and not have to squeeze the lever as hard. It pays off at the end of a long dh run where your hands are less tired from not having the brake as hard. I really tried to push hard while riding these brakes on some long and tough descents and have not had any complaints about lack of power throughout the whole run. The 200mm HS2 rotors have perfect discoloration and have not glazed over. I will say that the lever is tougher to pull in during the free stroke than other brakes on the market, even with a bearing in the lever pivot. It would have been nice to have this as a weightless feel and I believe this to come down to how large the caliper pistons are, it simply takes more force to move them. 

Maven Brake Lever

Who Are These Brakes For?

This brake is for those riders that emphasize the downhill and burn through brake rotors and pads regularly. Specifically it is best for DH racers, EMTBers and some enduro bikes. Downhill riders need the best brakes on their bikes, they ride the steepest and roughest tracks and you need to slow down faster and easier to go faster over a whole course. E MTBs are on average about 50+ pounds and require downhill style brakes like Maven. I can’t think of a better brake for an e bike, which is why we put it on our Crestline RS 75/50. For enduro bikes, these can be ridden anywhere, but are put to the test on long descents when you are going down an actual whole mountain. 

Worldwide's Final Thoughts:

We are very impressed by this new SRAM Maven Ultimate brake. There are not many times while riding where I wish to have a less powerful brake. Yes this brake is heavy at 362 g’s, but for its use case, weight does not matter. These brakes will come in handy and will be worth the money as soon as you find yourself on a trail that is relentlessly steep, rough and long. Most brakes will fall short at some point and we have yet to find Mavens limit. 

Trevor Instagram

Shop SRAM Maven Brake

February 22, 2024

HS2 › Hydraulic Brakes › MAVEN › Product Review › SRAM ›

Top Products For You...