Level is the new brake set launched by Sram, the manufacturer opting to scrap the brand Avid, which failed to become a hit. So, the Americans rebranded and rethinked two line of products – Level and Guide. Even the famous Code products will bear the Sram logo. Let’s have a look at what’s new here.
During the year we tested several versions the bottom three versions of the Level brakes, which are also the products that will make up for most of the sales – Level, Level T, Level TL. Other two models wrap up the Level range, TLM and Ultimate, but it’s quite hard to think they will be a hit given the price-quality ratio and the amount a mid-level mountain bike owner is willing to usually spend. Starting from the idea that an upgrade from entry-level brakes found on an entry-level bike shouldn’t cost too much, we focused on the three products we mentioned.
Coming back to the models we’re about to speak about today, we’ll kick tghe discussion off with Level, a model that competes with Shimano M315 or Tektro Draco. Leaving the rotor aside, Level loads the weight scale the most, having 50 grams extra than Shimano’s entry level option. Looks do not make the breaks more appealing either. With chubby, oversized shapes, the lever’s body seems it had insufficient treatment, where as the caliper seems to have room for more than the two pistons it claims to have. However, functioning proves more efficient than in the case of Draco or M315 and you can feel that from the very first touch of the lever. So, you have a little edge over the competitors, but weight and design lag behind, which make Level a choice well-suited for making the transition from mechanical disc brakes to hydraulical ones.
Level T changes things a lot and makes you notice this right away. Design may have inherited the same out-dated look, but the breaking’s modulation reminds you instantly you stepped up a… level. Also, breaking is more consistant and grip improves. The caliper provides all these features and it also benefited from a facelift. The lever is mounted on the handlebar using a system that doesn’t imply removing the grip, so Level T scores extra points for functionality. Weighing 30 grams less than Level, you have to pay only 20 euros more compared to it. And as far as functioning goes, we would place them above Tektro Auriga and very close to Shimano Deore.
Though in the same range with the other two, Level TL looks and works worlds apart. It weighs only 260 grams without the rotor, it looks radically different in terms of lever and caliper and it costs around 100 euro/piece. Carbon isn’t yet present here, while mounting the lever is done thanks to a clamp. Level TL also handles heat better, which is maybe one of the main reasons why fading was absent during long descents. Shimano SLX would be an equivalent in terms of performance, except for weight, where Level TL bests them. We also took note that the lever is more ergonomical, while the caliper has shrinked significantly.
The other two models, TLM and Ultimate, weigh a lot less and have great finishing touches of the lever. Ultimate features a carbon lever, and titanium screws.
Taking all aspects into account, the T model form the Level range finds the balance point between price and performance.What is above T, represents an upgrade of weight, materials and design, but doesn’t improve braking power too much.