SRAM Maven Ultimate Expert Kit: first ride review

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TLDR: the SRAM Maven Ultimate brakes offer bucket loads in a very usable package. A few rides is by no means a full review yet but currently they seem to be up there with the best.

  • Brand: SRAM
  • Product: Maven Ultimate Expert Kit
  • Info: SRAM
  • From: Leisure Lakes £599
  • Price: £599 (inc. front & rear brakes, bleed kit, sintered pads, organic pads, left & right MMX clamps, 4 x rotors, 2 x brackets)
  • Tested by: Ross for 2 weeks

The new SRAM Maven claims to produces around 50% more power than a SRAM Code brake. Apparently it also takes 32% less force at the lever to generate the same amount of power as with a Code.

The calipers are large. And they have large pistons within them. 19.5mm and 18mm to be exact. And they have four big flipping bolts holding them together. “Maven’s four caliper body bolts aren’t just for show. They reduce power loss at the caliper, translating to a solid feel in the lever.”

Maven piston seals use a material that maintains air-tight sealing regardless of high braking heat or low ambient temperatures. And much like SRAM’s entry level DB8 brakes, SRAM Mavens have gone with mineral oil instead of DOT.

SRAM: “[our] remarkable heat-tolerant seals also enable Maven to overcome the past weakness associated with mineral oil, and use mineral oil for its advantages. Take on the most extreme terrain and longest descents with consistent feel, run after run, ride after ride.”

“For Maven to meet our requirements as a mineral oil brake, we went through many seal material iterations to find the most heat resistant compound. Formulated to work with our co-developed Maxima Mineral Brake Oil, this proprietary seal material retains its elastomeric properties to maintain air tight sealing regardless of extreme braking heat or low atmospheric temps. In other words, the material is able to regain its original shape when a load is removed from it. Through testing it was determined that mineral oil offered the best performance (outperforming DOT versions) while also offering desired lower maintenance qualities.”

The Maven levers don’t look a great deal different to Code levers. Pivot point placement, blade length/shape, Swinglink, reach and contact point adjustments all carry over from Codes. The hoses head in the parallel-with-handlebar direction of SRAM’s new stealth architecture “for a clean cockpit, while meshing well with today’s frame routing options.”

SRAM actually advise not going straight in with a big whacking dinner plate size rotors; “Start small – the smallest rotor size that your frame and fork can accept is the recommended starting point when tuning Maven.” For every 20mm jump in rotor size, the mechanical advantage is 14%. This means that going from a 180mm rotor to a 220mm rotor boosts power by 28%.

Wondering why Mavens don’t use any cooling fins on the caliber or pads? SRAM: “Maven calipers are designed to get hot. Built for greater thermal mass, Maven calipers take longer to heat up and keep excess heat at bay, yet retain optimal heat so as to not cool down too fast. When the caliper avoids the peaks and valleys of hot and cold, consistency of performance reaches totally new levels.”

Installation

We were sent a SRAM Maven Ultimate Expert Kit pre-launch to get some miles in, and get an idea of how the new brakes perform. The Ultimate Expert kit comes with everything you need for a new set of brakes – obviously levers and callipers for each end, four rotors (1 x 220mm, 2 x 200mm, 1 x 180mm), 4 sets of brake pads (2 x organic, 2 x sintered), two handlebar mounts and a couple of brake mounts along with a bleed kit. Asd the Mavens use mineral oil, rather than the DOT fluid of their other brakes such as Code, it’s good to get a fresh bleed kit to ensure no cross contamination.

As the Mavens offer such a power increase over previous brakes, SRAM advises starting with the smallest rotor combo you can with your frame and fork, The thinking being that the increase in power means you can go smaller to ensure enough heat gets into the system for optimum performance. I was fitting the brakes to my own personal Privateer 161 so I went with a 180mm on the rear and 200mm up front fitted to a Fox 38.

The front brake was the right length so I didn’t need to trim the hose or bleed the system. The rear brake needed shortening slightly, which then meant a bleed. If you’ve ever bled a SRAM rear brake before then you’ll be familiar with the process, which is nice and easy using SRAM’s own bleed kit and the bleeding edge technology and syringe system makes it fairly mess free. I got a good bleed on the first go and haven’t felt the need for a re-bleed and the lever feel is the same across both levers.

Both calipers come fitted with organic brake pads. Given it’s currently as wet and as I can remember, I swapped the rear pads to the sintered compound as they’re more suited to wetter conditions. I left the front as organic though to see how they performed whether I could notice any discernible difference.

The only installation issue I had was having to move my dropper lever. As with all new SRAM brakes, the lever reservoir sits much further in board and closer to the bar which meant I had to rotate my dropper lever towards me to get everything to fit. Not a huge issue and after a ride I was used to the position. For reference it was a Wolf Tooth dropper lever.

Rear brake weight with pads and unshortened hose: 378g

Performance

The Mavens offer a really, good, positive lever feel. Anyone used to SRAM brakes will find them familiar and the levers are a good size and shape. Initially, the organic pads had better initial bite, but once bedded in properly the sintered pads have matched them.

Once being used in anger, the Mavens offer a huge amount of power, but it is delivered in a really controllable way. During the first ride I gradually wound the levers in towards the bar to find the sweet spot and have settled on running them 2 clicks from fully in. I like to run my levers close to the bar but on some brakes this compromises power as there isn’t enough leverage. Not with the Mavens though. I can easily still control, and lock up both wheels with the levers in this position and when things dry off a bit and become a bit more predictable I’ll no doubt wind them in further.

The Mavens replaced a set of Code RSC brakes which I’ve long been a fan off, but first impressions indicate that they definitely offer more overall power. Pre Code brakes I was running a set og Hope Tech 4 V4 which are one of my favourite brakes and the Mavens seem just as powerful. One thing that I really liked about the Hope brakes was how usable the power is and the Mavens match them on that front as well.

I’ve only had the Mavens for a week but so far they have been really impressive. They offer eye popping top end power but in a manageable package and really let you control your braking, brake late and really control your speed and grip in the current sloppy conditions. Anchor dropping power is great, but modulation is even better (especially in the current conditions) and the Mavens offer loads of it, letting you adjust the pressure to stop your wheels sliding and losing grip. That top end power is there though when you need it, and the light lever feel lets you lock things up and slam on without having to death grip, requiring much less pressure.

Overall

The SRAM Maven Ultimate brakes offer bucket loads in a very usable package. A few rides is by no means a full review and only time will tell how they get on long term but currently they are up there with the best.

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Review Info

Brand: SRAM
Product: Maven Ultimate Expert Kit
From: SRAM
Price: £599 (Front & Rear, inc. bleed kit, sintered pads, organic pads, left & right MMX clamps, 4 x rotors, 2 x brackets)
Tested: by Ross for 2 weeks

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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