Avid Elixir 9 Brakes
Avid’s Elixir brakes are a popular stopper on many new bikes, gracing everything from basic models with the OEM-only Elixir 1 up to high-end builds with Elixir 9s (or even the related XX units). Avid’s previous Elixir brakes faced some consistency issues; get a good set and you’ll hear riders waxing lyrical about low weight, high power and great lever ergonomics, but get a bad set and the conversation quickly becomes one of poor bleed consistency, variable feel, stuck pistons and the infamous ‘turkey gobble’. Avid’s brief for the 2012 Elixir range was to keep all the things riders loved about the current brakes but sort out the reliability and consistency issues. With that in mind we’ve had a set of Elixir 9s on test for the last six-months, and we’ve also spoken to a few trustworthy bike shop mechanics, to see just how well they’ve fulfilled their mission. The 9s weigh in at 319g per end with 160mm rotors (sans hardware), which is substantially lighter than most of the competition at the $240 asking price.
Early Avid brakes were difficult to set up drag free, but over the years they’ve been getting progressively better, and we’re happy to report that our Elixir 9s were about as easy as you can get. We simply mounted them with the calliper bolts a little loose, squeezed and held the brake lever, tightened the bolts, and job done; throughout the test they not required readjustment. Although our test brakes didn’t require servicing, our sources reported that the Elixirs are still slightly more prone to developing sticking pistons than some other brands if they’re not kept clean, so if you ride a lot in the mud make sure you at least hose your bike afterwards. Speaking of wet weather, the Elixir 9s seem to maintain their performance in the wet significantly better than, for example, the latest Shimano brakes; although they squeal a fair bit when wet, the overall power is almost the same as in the dry.
Avid brakes have been notorious in the past for squealing, screeching, and gobbling like a terrified turkey. In their latest incarnation these problems have been largely resolved. Whether it’s down to the new drilled (rather than slotted) rotors, or changes to the pad compounds, or a combination of both, we can’t say, but in the dry they were pretty much noise-free, and at no stage did thanksgiving dinner make a trailside appearance. We have heard of specific bike and rotor size combinations setting up resonant vibration within the frame, but these are very isolated cases. The new rotors are amongst the lightest stainless units on the market, and thankfully Avid have also decided to join the rest of the braking world by offering rotors in 160/180/200mm sizes instead of their previous 160/185/203mm.
Moving on to the lever end of the Elixir 9s and we find the same outstanding lever shape that Avid users love. The blade pivot is still close to the handlebar giving a very consistent curvature as you squeeze the lever, unlike when the pivot is further away where full lever travel can make it feel like your finger is sliding off the end of the blade. Also consistent is the power delivery; the Elixir 9s have fantastic modulation, so it’s very easy to scrub exactly the right amount of speed, no more and no less. There’s ample power on tap for anything but full on downhill racing, and all at the tip of just one finger.
The lever perch on the Elixir range is a newer design and we’re not really fans of it. The band that wraps around the handlebar is quite wide taking up significant real estate on the bar, and the stub it bolts to is pushed unevenly into the bar making it rather unfriendly to carbon in particular. Truth be told, we preferred the older, symmetrical two bolt clamp design.