Two of the test bikes we’ve had at the site over the last year have come equipped with the same configuration of SRAM DB8 brake, so we’ve managed to log a solid amount of descending time on them between a few testers. The overall consensus is that they’re a solid brake with a different feel to typical SRAM brakes, which may or may not be to your preference depending on what you’re used to. The tooled lever reach adjustment didn’t cause any complaints; and while the ergonomics feel a little different to CODE levers, we were able to find a comfortable setup on the DB8 brakes without too much effort.
A standout impression from day one was the more positive, slightly “wooden” feeling of the pads contacting the rotor with the DB8s. Where a CODE has a smooth initial bite that ramps up progressively in feel at the lever, the DB8’s feel to suddenly hit the rotor. Once the pads are contacting the rotor there’s limited lever travel, only an increase in the force under the finger which is matched by the resulting stopping power at the rotor. The stock organic pads and Centerline rotor combo didn’t provide the highest amount of initial bite that we’ve felt, which helps to add some control to prevent the wheels from locking at initial pad contact, but won’t be to the liking of those who want a lot of power early on.
Maximum power feels to be dictated purely by the strength of the rider’s fingers. That is to say that to obtain enough power to stop heavier riders like 220lbs (98kg) Robert in steeper terrain, you need to give a lot of input power. Sufficient power to stop can be achieved, but you must give the lever a hard enough pull. This can lead to increased hand fatigue on long and steep descents compared with a CODE or the likes of the Hope Tech 4 V4. The flip side is that there’s a ton of predictability with the SRAM DB8 brakes, with a very direct relationship between how hard you pull the lever and how much stopping power is generated.
The consistency of the DB8 brakes never faltered, failing to overheat the fluid and create a notable change in feeling on the longest brake-dragging descents we had them on. Lever feel remained the same across the spectrum of air temperatures and for the duration of the tests on both bikes, to the point that we didn’t need to bleed them during our tests. This was a relief since they use a different bleed kit to the standard SRAM kit, which retails for $74.
We did manage to glaze the pads on a couple of occasions, leading to reduced bite until they cooled slightly, but never a complete reduction in stopping power. To remedy this, we’d love to upgrade the rotor and pad combination on the SRAM DB8 to see if we can unlock some further performance. But for now, we can safely say that they’re a solid and reliable brake for riders on the lighter end of the weight scale with limited budget, or those with strong fingers or less steep descents. Riders looking for ultimate stopping power with minimal lever pulling power will be better served by a CODE or alternative brake manufacturer.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Once we grew accustomed to the different lever feel of the SRAM DB8 brakes, we began to trust in their predictability and consistency. They require more finger power to obtain their full stopping abilities compared to some, which may not be to the liking of heavier riders or those looking to ride the steepest terrain with the least hand fatigue, but for everyone else they’re a solid and reliable option.
Price: $137 per brake