SRAM Code Ultimate Stealth Brake Review


What component on your bike is the most polarizing in terms of brand loyalty? Brakes? Yep, I think I would agree. Differences between brands can be highly subjective, leading to strong opinions and even stronger followings. So, when SRAM decided to release an update to an already popular model in it’s lineup, the reactions were sure to follow. Especially when it seemed this was mostly a paint job and re-packaging of a lever design. The new Code Ultimate Stealth setup from SRAM adds new words in the name and some features to differentiate it from the Code RSC. It’s been over 10 years since I used a SRAM brake on a mountain bike, so I was eager to get my hands on them, literally, and see if the trail side behavior would have me begging for more.

Announced in March of 2023, alongside the new Eagle Transmission - SRAM added 4 new brake models that all adorned the “Stealth” name. Code Ultimate, Code Silver, Level Ultimate, Level Silver. The Level series being aimed at the XC crowd with weight in mind. While the Code offering was aimed to appease anything from trail to enduro/downhill bikes. Confusingly enough, the “Silver” named brakes don’t actually have silver calipers. But rather some silver appeared on the levers. While the Ultimate variations do carry silver calipers… Yep, it is what it is. The model positioning for SRAM seems to be evolving especially with the “Bronze” series of brakes that came out later in 2023 as well. But wait, they are not bronze in color. I wonder who the marketing team polled for this naming convention. Complaints on linguistics aside, the tiered structure to the newest brake lineup goes from Bronze to Silver to Ultimate (they skipped Gold). Give me a brake (insert pun displeasure). I digress, let’s get into the details and performance before I lose you forever.

What's in the box and Setup

For an Ultimate level of product, you would think the packaging would be ultimate too. Sadly no, we just have the standard SRAM packaging with dusty cardboard that leaves its mark on the components because nothing is shrink wrapped or covered in a protective bag. I swear I will have some positive things to say eventually. Like right now! Inside the boxes you will find everything you need for a basic setup (except a bleed kit). Including spare parts, matchmaker hardware, titanium mounting bolts (silver) and the initially proclaimed “optional” stem clips to secure the stealth brake lines to your handlebars discreetly.

For setup, you will need a DOT/SRAM brake bleed kit, or a local bike shop to help take on the task of cutting lines and bleeding once installed. Unless you have an externally routed frame for your brake lines and don’t mind the insane amount of extra hose flopping around. In which case, these are pre-bled and can be mounted straight away. Like other SRAM brake products, the installation was straightforward. I took my time, watched a YouTube video a few times before and during - and made sure to use the proper tools and torque values on all parts. The only difference in getting these installed on your bike versus other SRAM brakes are the stem clips. You definitely want to take advantage of the new angle that the brake lines exit the levers and make your cockpit nice and tidy. The clips themselves are plastic and require you to disassemble your stem to make use of them. But this part can be done after all is said and done for the final touch.

Looking down at this view might never feel normal

What makes this Ultimate and Stealth?

So, if the packaging doesn’t make these Ultimate, what does? A few things. The most obvious being the way the brake levers themselves tuck up nicely to your bars. You probably don’t think you need/want this. But let me tell you, once you ride with them - the view from the saddle and from afar has me never wanting to go back. It’s how brake levers should’ve been positioned the whole time. A side effect of the new lever positioning is that your brake lines are more out of the way of passing branches and random snags if you’re in the middle of a fall. This was never an issue for me, but it’s an added bonus having the extra level of protection. I also talked a little bit about the paint job - the levers have some machined silver faces on them, and are more chiseled in appearance. While the calipers are unchanged in shape, with simply a silver top coat to ensure everyone knows you are rocking the latest brakes from SRAM.

Still present are 3 main technologies SRAM has in legacy products like the Code RSC. Bleeding Edge, Tool Free Contact Point Adjustment and SwingLink. Bleeding Edge refers to the clever “quick-release” style way a bleed kit will attach to the calipers. While the levers still require you to screw your bleed kit syringe into the body. The Bleeding Edge system is welcomed on the caliper end, making sure you don’t have to fuss around too much to get your bleeding procedure handled. Tool Free Contact Point Adjust is a pretty common offering across the industry now, but it remains - adjust the reach of your lever and the contact point of the pads to the rotors. All from the levers with clearly marked directions and intended outcomes. The third technology being SwingLink. A piece of tech that minimizes “dead-band” which makes your input from the lever blade to the pads as immediate as possible. While striking a balance to ensure modulation is still present when contact with the rotor is made. Specifically called out by SRAM, they designed the system to have a flat leverage curve in the master cylinder to make sure your brakes aren’t biting or have an on/off feel. But rather provide you control of how much force is being applied to the rotors based on the position of your finger.

Finally, for the Ultimate level of bragging rights, you have carbon lever blades. Saving a few grams and boosting the cool factor for sure. This was however, another feature I didn’t know I needed. The feel of the carbon blade is supreme, and makes riding glove-less a more enjoyable experience.


The way a brake performs definitely depends on the design, pad material, rotor size, bedding in procedure, etc. Which is why grading a brake system can be subjective. Because I can’t guarantee that you have setup and maintain your brakes the same way I do. That being said, I will lay out my data points and present my opinion as clear as I can.

Mounted to a Specialized Stumpjumper (non Evo) I have 180mm SRAM HS2 rotors front and rear. Using the stock metallic pads the kit came with. My most recent experience and comparison point with another braking system being the Hayes Dominion A4 - my thoughts on them available here!

TL;DR: The Code Ultimate feel powerful enough to stop me with great lever feel, but don’t offer the brutal stopping power the Hayes A4 do.

But let me expand upon this. These brakes are fitted to a new bike of mine specifically for trail use and not DH/Enduro. I wasn’t looking for the most stopping power. Hence my selection of 180mm rotors to keep the weight down, and it simply not being necessary for my 140 pound body weight. Do I miss the stopping power of 200+ mm rotors and the Hayes A4 system? Yes. But I laugh even now thinking about what that would feel like on this trail bike. It would be like taking the monstrous 16+ inch rotor and caliper combination from a Porsche GT3RS and putting them on a Honda Civic. Would you stop faster? Of course, but at some point you need step back and apply the right parts to the right vehicle and have it’s intended purpose in mind. And even though stopping power is “lower” I never once felt brake fade or was concerned with the heat of the system. It all just works.

I think this section can be summed up by saying that you can feel confident in these brakes for any application. SRAM has nearly perfected the design and implementation of the Code series. And buying from a trusted and long standing brand has to count for something. Especially when 99% of bike shops you come across will have spare parts should you be on a trip and need an emergency tune-up.

Final Thoughts

Something I haven’t mentioned yet is value. The Code Ultimate’s come in at one of the higher price points when compared to other mainstream brands and even boutique companies as well. But you get what you pay for. A no-nonsense tried and true system designed utilizing DOT fluid for not only stopping power, but reliability and ease of maintenance.

Value, performance, ease of setup; should all be purchasing factors you make with any bike component. But also consider how dang sexy these look. I started this review by bashing the naming convention and marketing strategy… Forget what they are called though. I love how these feel while riding and how they transformed my bike aesthetic, scratching my OCD itch when it comes to a tidy looking bike. And with sales routinely popping up, I think these should be on your shortlist the next time you need to build a new bike or upgrade your existing one.

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Nick Hanson



Boulder, CO

Current Bikes: 2023 Specialized Stumpjumper

Bike Size: S4 (Large)

Favorite Trails: Hall Ranch, Trestle Bike Park, Free Lunch, Hangover Trail

About Me: Been riding bikes my whole life. But feel I've only been a true Mountain Biker since 2012. Currently trying to take my bike wherever I can ride in conjunction with car road trips. Engaged, and living in Boulder with our 2 dogs.