Luxury Bikes

SRAM Maven Ultimate Expert Kit – Reviews, Comparisons, Specifications – Hydraulic Disc Brakes

AAfter a long-awaited trip from Improving spy photos on Tech Forum And humorous vent etching, the new MAVEN brakes from SRAM are finally here! The purpose of MAVEN brakes is not only to give bikes more stopping power, but also to get the most useful power out of a braking system. Figuring out how much power can actually be used on a bike is a laborious process, and SRAM has done extensive homework over the last few years to figure out where that limit lies. Is there such a thing as too much braking power?

SRAM MAVEN Ultimate Highlights

  • mineral oil
  • 18.5mm and 19.5mm pistons
  • New metal/resin pads with larger surface area
  • Bleeding Edge interface
  • MatchMaker X compatible
  • Limited Ultimate Expert Kit
  • Offered in Ultimate, Silver and Bronze levels
  • Weight: 362 g per line (Ultimate)
  • MSRP: $185-$599 ($599 Ultimate Expert Kit tested)


What is the advantage over SRAM code brakes?

SRAM has switched to mineral oil in its latest brakes for the simple reason of better sealing technology. Switching to liquid allowed them to explore more sophisticated sealing options, achieving the rollback properties they wanted to achieve with the piston seals. What is rollback? The way the pistons in the caliper retract is determined by the resistance created by the seals, ultimately affecting things like lever return speed and contact point sensitivity. This increase in sensitivity was achieved through the use of a two-stage seal behind the piston, the course of which more closely resembles the seal interface found in most automotive applications. An additional advantage of this design in terms of durability is that there is no need to maintain a seal around the pots housed in the caliper. The move to these seals coupled with larger bores in the caliper body helps produce approximately 50% more power than code brakes, with 30% less force required to pull the lever.


Speaking of the brake calipers, they’re insanely huge, with four large bolts running through them and housing a set of 18.5mm and 19.5mm pistons with bottom-loaded brake pads. SRAM intentionally made these calipers large after countless trials and errors to find the optimal caliper mass and stiffness to maximize desired characteristics. From this project they learned that brakes with more mass help maintain optimal operating temperature. While it’s great for keeping the brakes cool, the additional mass of the Maven calipers is designed to keep performance more consistent by maintaining a more consistent operating temperature.


First impressions

I was intrigued by the fact that better sealing technology was the reason SRAM switched to mineral oil from DOT fluid for these brakes. As someone who has worked as a mechanic for years, I’m certainly not sad when the DOT fluid fails, but during that time I’ve seen less than impressive service intervals on some mineral oil brakes. Especially when it comes to how long the liquid lasts before it turns completely black after a shorter period of use than expected. It’s interesting to see how the seals used in the Mavens help eliminate this factor by improving the seal interface while facilitating leverage.


Visually, the Maven lever assemblies are slightly larger than the Code levers and the hose exits at a flatter angle than SRAM’s Stealth brake line. In terms of lever feel, the lever blade feels similar to most SRAM brakes, but the lever travel is significantly lighter and shorter than a Code. When stationary the difference is barely noticeable, but even a parking lot test shows how much less effort is required to achieve what was once considered full power. The brake pads feature tabs that allow for easy removal and a convenient recess for the pad spring to snap into, keeping everything clean and aligned when reinstalled.

Set up

Setting up a set of Maven brakes is just as easy as any other SRAM brake, with things like the Stealthamajig threaded pin and olive threading together and the Bleeding Edge connector helping to eliminate clutter. However, the Mavens now have an additional step that requires a few piston cycles to get everything ready and in place. During initial setup, two to three cycles of the pistons through their full range of motion are required to get the two-stage seals in place and centered. I made the brilliant decision to ignore this step during my initial setup and can confirm that it is necessary. After reading the troubleshooting section of the owner’s manual, I installed two rotors into the caliper, moved the pistons back and forth until they made contact, then spread them back to the open position a few times. After this exercise, my experience was night and day, and I finally experienced the light lever deflection and full power that the Mavens were designed for.

Do you want perfect piston centering?
Do you want perfect piston centering?
Remove the pads and insert two rotors while pressing the lever
Remove the pads, insert two rotors and press the lever.


On track

On my first ride with the Mavens, I wondered why I would ever use a 220mm front disc and a 200mm rear disc on my 150mm travel trail bike. While this combination with Code Ultimate brakes feels pretty good for pretty much any trail, when combined with Mavens and the loose, rocky soil in Phoenix, Arizona, it feels pretty overkill. The trails on South Mountain are certainly not the steepest overall, but they do require some braking when things get steep due to the lack of traction. The power was a bit overwhelming at first and I found that the front wheel was locking even though most of my weight was on the front of the bike. This required me to recalibrate the lever by reminding myself not to pull as hard as I normally would and instead relax my hands a little more.


This made it quite difficult to modulate the brakes as I learned how little the lever actually needed to be moved to get the kind of performance I was used to. The extra power would be more useful if there was more traction, but I had never experienced such overwhelming power with so little lever travel. Even though I’ve only ridden the brakes a few times so far, switching from my usual 220mm disc to a 200mm front disc has significantly helped keep the bike under control and made the braking power much more useful. This is where the MAVEN Expert Kit comes into play.


MAVEN Ultimate Expert Kit

With so much anticipation surrounding these brakes, it’s cool to see that SRAM is just as eager to put these in the hands of riders. As part of the launch, they are offering 2,000 limited sets of Expert Kits to tailor braking performance to users’ specific needs. At $599, it costs the equivalent of two individual Ultimate brakes.

The kit contains:

  • Maven Ultimate brake set with limited Red Splash anodized brake calipers
  • 2x organic and 2x sintered XL brake pad sets
  • 4x HS2 rotors (1x 220mm, 2x 200mm, 1x 180mm)
  • A 180mm rotor.
  • 2x 20mm post mount adapters.
  • 2x MatchMaker X-clamps
  • Professional mineral oil venting set
  • Rotor travel bag
  • MSRP: $599


In recent years, the largest brake discs paired with special pad compounds have become the norm to maximize brake performance. This is not the case with the MAVENs, as such a significant increase in performance requires experimentation to find a sensible combination of rotors and pad compounds. As I learned on my first ride, a 220mm front brake disc was entirely too much for Phoenix; With the Expert Kit I had more options to choose from and even different pad compounds when rotors alone weren’t enough. Where codes somewhat reach a performance limit that applies to most terrain types, smaller rotor options are available MAVENs will be quite useful for those who regularly ride or race on different terrains.


What is the end result?

It’s no secret that SRAM brakes have a love-hate relationship with many riders, most often due to incorrect initial setup. Long-time mechanics will have different reasons for their feelings; Reliability issues with SRAM brakes of the past are no secret, but that’s a story from another time. Regardless of what you think of SRAM brakes, the Mavens are sure to change the perspective of what a set of gravity-focused brakes should feel like. The high braking performance combined with more advanced sealing technology and less corrosive fluid inside seems like a sure way to make performance and durability concerns a thing of the past.

For more information about MAVEN brakes, see

Check out the key specifications, compare and rate what’s new SRAM Maven Brakes in the Vital MTB Product Guide.

These brakes are now available from Powerful cyclist.

About the tester

Jonathan Simonetti – Age: 30 // Years of MTB rider: 21 // Height: 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) // Weight: 230 pounds (97.5 kg)

Jonny started mountain biking in 2003 after a trip to Northstar showed him how much more you can ride on 26-inch wheels than a BMX bike. He started racing downhill in 2004 and raced for twelve years until he finally decided that having fun on the bike was more important than race results. Having worked in the industry for a number of years as a mechanic and developing a deeper understanding of the interior and exterior of bikes, he has a knack for combining his riding skills with analyzing bikes and breaking down what makes them perform well. He spends most of his time between horseback rides and skate park sessions, occasionally on the downhill bike.

Important member lickmycrinkle launched everything with this CIA-level computer extension in early 2023.  Important forum members rule!
Vital member lickmycrinkle launched a photo of a pit piece in early 2023 with this CIA-level computer improvement. Important forum members rule!
Then SRAM got the last laugh with this screw that was featured at Crankworx.
Then SRAM got the last laugh with this screw that was featured at Crankworx.

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