SRAM DB8 Disc Brake Review


Words by Robert Johnston  |  Photos by Sam Howard

SRAM quietly dropped the DB8 brakeset last year, and we’ve seen them pop up on mid-level builds on both mountain bikes and eMTBs across the board. Essentially a budget version of their CODE brakes, the SRAM DB8 share some similar looking calipers and the same pads, but with a different lever shape, and most notably, Mineral Oil brake fluid instead of their typical DOT fluid. We’ve had these on a couple of test bikes now, most recently the Nukeproof Mega, so figured we’d share our experiences in case you’re wondering how they perform.


• Maxima Mineral Oil Fluid
• Four Piston Caliper
• Code Organic Brake Pads
• Extended Bleed Intervals


  • Predictable Power Delivery

  • Consistent Performance

  • Solid Lever Feel


  • Wooden Feeling

  • Less Power Than Code


SRAM created the DB8 brakes to offer a simple alternative to their DOT fluid CODEs, which would be able to pack extended service intervals due to the more stable nature of the mineral oil brake fluid. Borrowing similar architecture as the four-piston CODE caliper, the DB8 brakes are claimed to be similar in power (with some sources claiming a 10% reduction), with a set-and-forget nature.

SRAM DB8 Disc Brake Review

At the lever you’ll find a stamped aluminum blade which pivots around a bushing. Its reach can be adjusted by using a hex key – there’s no tool-free adjustments here, and no way to adjust the contact point aside from bleeding and pad advancement trickery. SRAM called upon a Maxima Mineral Oil fluid to power the brakes (they can’t be used with other Mineral Oil brands without voiding the warranty), with a two year recommended service interval for a full system bleed compared with the one year recommended for DOT fluid brakes. This full system bleed comes as an addition to typical bleeding and lever and caliper servicing when required.

Down in their four pot calipers, the DB8 brakes are fitted with the same pads as their CODE brake series, making replacements easier to source. The original brake pad spec is an organic pad with a steel backing plate, but many other SRAM and aftermarket pad compounds are available. We tested the SRAM DB8 brakes on a pair of 200mm Centerline rotors on both bikes, rather than their thicker HS2 rotors which may be able to increase their performance.

The SRAM DB8 brakes seem to be primarily focused at the OE market, but can also be purchased aftermarket for $137 per end at their recommended retail price.

SRAM DB8 Brake Review


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

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