Several months ago, I bought a pair of 2008 Avid Code 5 brakes which were on sale. I’ve been very impressed with the performance of these, especially considering their price, so I thought I’d write a brief product review.
The interesting thing about Avid Codes is that they don’t come standard with braided steel brake lines – that gives them a consistent, progressive feel but at the expense of some outright brute power. Nevertheless, if you squeeze the lever gently your bike silently screeches to a halt like it’s on rails. This is no doubt due to them having four pistons per caliper whereas most hydraulic brake calipers only have two.
Note that I tested the front brake with a Formula rotor which is 220mm in diameter… this no doubt affects the outcome of the review by slightly increasing the perceived power of the Avid Code 5’s. But I do know enough about hydraulic brake systems to know that these have extremely good modulation. What I mean by that is, some disc brakes have a very on/off feel. These don’t. You can apply them gently and not worry about locking a wheel.
In comparison, I have another bike set up with Hayes HFX-9 HD disc brakes, a goodbridge braided front brake line and Hayes’ own V9 9″ rotor. I don’t know whether to say these have a linear feel, progressive braking rate or what. But I will say they are extremely grabby… I worry too much about locking the front wheel around corners. Not so with the Avid Codes + Formula 9″ disc rotor!
One of the things that most impressed me was their performance on true downhill runs. These brakes are equipped on my Mountain Cycle Shockwave 9.5, a veirtable downhill beast. One of my favourite test sessions which will cook most brakes is to ride down Camino Chasna here in Tenerife as fast as possible without stopping…
This street descends from 1023m to 670 metres in only 1.6km, averaging ~22% gradient! Depending on your sense of self-preserverance it takes around 2 – 5 minutes to descend. Going down here, dragging the brakes is mandatory; in fact you’re almost constantly applying either one or the other and sometimes both simultaneously. Hence, if the caliper, pads or rotor tend to have an overheating problem, it is soon revealed. The Avid Code 5 brakes descended Camino Chasna without complaint. I would have to go down Monroy Street, an even steeper street, to say these pass the downhill test with flying colours. For now, they are plenty good enough.
The concave washers supposedly help the alignment of the brake caliper with respect to the rotors; I might be alone in this assumption, but I don’t think they are all that effective. I still found myself adjusting the lateral caliper position by eye after looking edge on and centralising them carefully between the disc rotors. After doing that, it’s hard to know if they’re still aligned w.r.t the vertical plane of the bike. What I mean is that there’s a good chance that the pads will wear asymmetrically.
Note that the colour of Avid Code 5 isn’t black like it often appears in photos -it’s moss grey- so that may or may not go with your intended paint scheme. I quite like the colour and I wouldn’t hesitate in getting another set.