This year SRAM have introduced their line up of two piston brakes under the “Level” family, built to replace the XX – Avid line up of brakes. SRAM have taken all that’s good from their Guide four piston brakes and crammed it into the Level brake line up. The focus for SRAM was to produce a lighter weight, high performance XC/trail brake.
We have had a mid range TLM Level brake mounted for the last few months, read on to find out what we thought about their performance.
The level TLM is an XO replacement brake that focuses on being lighter weight and takes many developments from the Guide range of brakes. Although the brakes are aimed at trail/XC use, their specs show though that they are highly adaptable to all types of situations.
– WEIGHT: 356g (inc 160mm rotor)
– LEVER MATERIAL: Forged aluminum
– CALIPER DESIGN: Monoblock 2-piston caliper
– PADS: Steel-backed organic
– FLUID: DOT 5.1
– ADJUSTMENT: Tooled reach adjust
– TECH HIGHLIGHTS: DirectLink™, Expandable Bladder, Timing Port Closure, Bleeding Edge™, Heat Shield
– MATERIAL: Aluminum
– PAD / HOLDER: Top loading
– INTENDED USE: XC, Trail
– ROTOR SIZES: 140 (rear), 160, 170, 180, 200mm
– Price: – €207
On The Trail
Punta Ala was an ideal testing ground for the Level TLM brakes, with multiple trail types and possibilities to push the brakes to the upper end of their limit. Our main objective was to understand their sphere of performance under ideal usage of this style of brake.
When compared to the XX brakes of yesteryear the power is much greater with the Level, also the ease of bleeding the brakes is greatly appreciated. We ran the TLM with 180mm front and rear discs on our Transition Enduro bike which we mainly used on a variety of trails. The TLM’s home was clearly the all mountain environment, but if needed we could hammer a long descent out.
We had to bleed the rear caliper when we mounted the brake on the rear as the hose passes through the frame on the Transition, this was a 5-10 minute job with the quick connect “Bleeding Edge” tool.
Our rider weight is 90 kilos plus bike meaning these brakes are stopping over 105 kilos of combined weight. The power comes on with the lever in a nicely modulated manner and is constant in its feel.
On normal rolling trails the brake was always precise and ready with a grabby initial stroke and well managed bite at the end. Heat management was good with no fade on rolling trails. Enduro trails when ridden at a gentle pace were more for the brakes to cope with but the TLM surprised us with their constant feel, despite the increased heat with the higher gradients even with organic pads mounted.
As the pads wore the bite point remained in a constant position, we felt that considering what we did with them they performed really well, they are not Guide brakes, they do not have the four piston power, but are perfect for riders that like to scrub a bit and ride all mountain trails especially if you are a heavy rider. Install Guide brakes if you are are descending more than riding along average grade trails, SRAM have all trail eventualities covered in their line up. The performance to weight ratio though cant be argued with.
The construction of the actual product is robust for its intended use. There is no skimping on materials and the levers feel solid at the bar, the mounting hardware is proven and the bike felt constantly under control when we applied braking force. When used with the center line discs the look of the overall TLM brake package was discrete and well intended. It will look at home on many levels of bike build.
We really don’t mind the need for a tool to adjust the reach, it saves weight and gives a sleek look. The type of less extreme intended use will mean you will not need to constantly adjust the levers reach. The levers blades themselves were robust and despite a few crashes did not bend. The pivots felt dialed and had no play, the lever surface was ideal for one finger braking with or without gloves and fitted well to the ergonomics of our bar setup.
The Level TLM brakes fit well for all mountain usage. Power is well controlled as the Level TLM is very well modulated. We did not experience fatigue in our hands and the brakes stayed consistent in feel whenever they were called upon to perform. Weight is competitive and the overall product finish is discrete. SRAM clearly wanted a no-nonsense brake that completed their transition from their old lineups.
If you want to do extreme descents and are a heavy rider look towards Guide brakes, otherwise it seems the Level TLM will cover just about everything else with zero fuss at a great price.