SRAM was originally established in Chicago (US) in 1987. SRAM also sells brands like RockShox (famous shock absorbers), Avid (brakes and other components) and of course SRAM components. 

Today SRAMs components are produced in Portugal, Taiwan, China and US. SRAM can be seen as number one competitor to Shimano today.

Sales (2014)      -       652M€

​Employed         -        3 000

Shimano is a japanese manufacturing company, that makes cycling components, fishing tackle and rowing equipment. In 2015 around 83% of Shimano's sales came from cycling components. 

​More about the company's history in Wikipedia.

SRAM groupset hierarchy - mountain bike components

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The bicycle brake component markets are relatively centralized. Roughly 50% of the 6 billion dollar industry cake goes to Shimano's pocket, while SRAM and Campagnolo pretty much take what's left. 

In addition there are plenty of aftermarket component makers. For example EBC and Jagwire.

Bike brake component manufacturers and groupsets

Shimano groupset hierarchy - mountain bike components

Sales (2015)      -       3,1B€

​Employed         -        13 000

Bicycle brake component markets - general

Shimano groupset hierarchy - MTB

Below you can find an introduction to Shimano's MTB brakesets. All these are groupsets that also include derailleurs, gears, cranksets etc, but we are just focusing on the brakes and their characteristics. Tourney and Altus are cantilever brakes, whereas Acera, Alivio, Deore, SLX, ZEE, Deore XT, Saint and XTR are hydraulic disc brakes. From the latter set, ZEE and Saint are designed for downhill riding mainly. 

If you are unfamiliar with what are cantilever brakes, and what are hydraulic disc brakes, follow these links to find out.


Made for kids' and entry-level bikes. As a rule of thumb, you should not buy these if you are planning on leaving paved road with your bike.​ 


Good old cantilever (V-brakes) brakes. Cost somewhere around 10$ and they are naturally mechanically cable operated. All brakes from this on will be hydraulic disc brakes.


​Hydraulic disc brakes, with 160mm rotor. Suitable for mtb beginners or riders who don't want to invest too much in brakes. Acera is delivered with resin brake pads and levers are aluminium. Cost of front or rear system (without brake disc) is roughly around 30$.


Can be used with 160mm, 180mm or even 203mm rotor. Brake pads are organic and levers alloy. Alivio brakes can usually be found in hardtail mountainbikes. Alivio allows you to choose from a wider range of rotors than acera and is  is slightly lighter (without rotor) than Acera. Price of set moving around 50$.


Naturally hydraulic set as we move towards the higher end of Shimano's price range. Suitable with 160mm, 180mm and 203mm rotors. Caliper has two opposing pistons. With 287 grams Deore is bit heavier than Alivio brake system. Prices starting from 65$ at the moment.


SLX hits the price-quality ratio sweetspot. SLX brakes are relatively durable with some of the qualities of XT, of course this means more weight. SLX brakes fit with 160mm, 180mm and 203mm rotors. The pistons in the caliper are ceramic and won't get stuck that easy. Pads can be resin or sintered. At this point you'll probably have to cross the 100$ limit.


For gravity riders. Zee has got 4 ceramic pistons and a 3-layer brake hose. Extra durability for heavy users such as downhillers comes with extra weight - lever, hose and caliper total 306 grams.

Deore XT

Deore XT has basically the characteristics of the professional series XTR, but with a little extra weight and lower cost. Nevertheless, the system weights only 277 grams per side. Top choice for bikers who want premium and don't mind paying for it. You can choose from pads varying from resin to sintered. There are dual ceramic pistons and levers are to be operated with two fingers. Deore XT can be used with rotors of size 140mm, 160mm, 180mmand 203mm. Price range around 110$ - 150$.


Basically an impoved version of ZEE, meaning Saint was designed for enduro and DH riders. It has also stiffer hoses and enhanced heat reduction system. Weight of the system is a strong 309 grams and Saints can be fitted with 160mm, 180mm or 203mm brake rotors. Price is currently somewhere around 170$.


​The best of the best. XTR is a professional series and currently the best option Shimano has to offer for mountain bikers. There's a minor weight difference between front and rear brake, due to longer hose in rear (applies to all groupsets, naturally), and XTR weights a ridiculous 255/270g (front, rear). Price around 200$.

Here's a list of SRAM mtb component groupset and short descriptions to them. Like with Shimano, with SRAM you can pay more to get lighter and/or tougher (brake) components to your bike.  SRAM is currently offering brakes under three categories;

Level brakes

Guide brakes

Avid brakes

All of the brands or categories then have five to six sub categories (divided by components), so that choosing the right brakes wouldn't be too easy. Let's take a look what they are made of. All prices presented below are maximum suggested retail prices by SRAM.



Series include Shorty 4, shorty 6 and shorty Ultimate, with prices varying from 40 to 110 $. Cantilever brakes made for cyclocross use. Weight of one brakesystem is 115g for Shorty Ultimate and 157g for Shorty 4. Shorty brake system has a centered pulling system.

Single digit

Single digit, like Shorty, includes three different variations: Single Digit 5, Single Digit 7 and Single Digit SL. They are all cantilever brakes with a price range from 25$ to 42$. It has cartridge style pads, so you don't have to change the whole brakeshoe. Brake arms are forged and thus the weight per wheel rises up to 185g.

Speed dial

The Speed dial holds two different mechanical brake levers. Speed dial 7 costs around 16$-29$, while the Speed Dial SL is not even sold separately. Speed dial 7 weights 175g per pair of levers. Note that this is only for mechanical brakes (with cables).


The BB set contains nine variations for mechanical disc brake calipers. Prices vary from 56$ to 170$. As you may imagine, nine different calipers offer you a great deal of freedom you can choose from. For mountain bikers and freeriders - BB7 is intended for your use. Fits with 160mm rotor. You can find and compare the models in SRAM's website.


In DB series we are talking about hydraulic brakes. Double piston technology with a majestetic weight of over 400g per set (DB3 = 405g, DB1 = 425g). DB brakes, like all SRAM brakes are operated with DOT brake fluid. If you want to find out more about different brake fluids, visit here.


Code and Code R are the downhill / freeride set from Avid.  Code R is compatible with 160mm rotors, whereas Code can be mounted with 160/170/180/200mm rotors. Four piston calipers. The weirds thing is that SRAM recommends organic pads for Code and Code R, when we are talking about downhill brakes.


All Guide brakes are hydraulic disc brakes. Brake fluid used is DOT 5.1. Almost all come with aluminium levers, except for Guide Ultimate (carbon). These brakes are made for mountain bikers, from XC to downhill. Special about Guide brakes is that they come with 4-piston brake calipers.

Guide RE

​4-piston brake calipers, with aluminuim levers. Set weights 415g with 800mm hose and 160mm CL rotor. Caliper from Code series, yet with sintered brake pads. Retail price around 133$.

Guide R

Guide R drops the weight down to 390g. As with other SRAM hydraulic brakes, Guide R works with DOT 5.1 brake fluid. This model is built for cross country / trail kind of riding. 

Guide RS

A few dollars more for Guide RS. This slightly lighter version of Guide R comes with a recommended retail price of ​154$. You can fit this brakeset with a realtively wide range of rotors: 140 (rear) / 160 / 170 / 180 / 200mm).  As usual, we are talking about 4-piston calipers.​ Intended use for Guide RS is trail/freeride.

Guide RSC

Guide RSC breaks the limit of 200, with retail price 205$. What you get in return is lighter brakes and steel-backed organic pads. Guide RSC is the last model that comes with aluminium levers, ultimate is with carbon levers.

​Guide Ultimate

Ultimate Guide brake. 360 grams per set, carbon lever blade and according to the manufacturer - superior heat management capabilities.


New series presented in 2016 - Level brakes represent the finest of SRAM. Naturally - hydraulic disc brakes. Level - series come with dual piston calipers.


The first level is called just Level. It comes with dual piston caliper and semi-sintered brake pads. Levers are stamped aluminium and the weight with 160mm G2 rotor is an even 430g. Level brakes are designed for XC and trail use. Price is 63$.

Level T

​Level T is stripped of 20 extra grams in Level, thus weighting 410g. 2 piston calipers, top loading steel-backed organic brake pads and stamped aluminium brake levers. Fits with 140 / 160 / 170 / 180 /200mm rotors. Price of Level T set is 82$.

Level TL

​Even lighter - Level TL weights only 370g. Level TL is also made for XC and trail use. It can be mounted with the same size rotors as Level T (see above). The price of this version is 102$. 

Level TLM

Level TLM is almost double the price of TL, with 190$. It weights 356 grams and has a 2-piston monoblock brake caliper. This was the first Level series to come out in December 2015. 

​Level Ultimate

Levers from carbon, this baby weights only 318g with 160mm CLX rotor. Level Ultimate has all the technical advancements SRAM has to offer: DirectLink, Expandable bladder, Timing Port Closure, Lever Pivot Bearings, Bleeding Edge, Heat Shield. You can get this XC, trail brakeset for 297$.