Avid Elixir 7:
Avid's brake lineup spans the gamut of uses, from their cross-country intended XX brakes, to the powerful Code stoppers that are usually seen bolted to downhill bikes, but it's their five model Elixir lineup that will appeal to most riders, having been designed for duty as all around brakes. The 350 gram Elixir 7's tested here sit one down from the top range 9's, and feature adjustable reach via a redesigned tool-less dial, a carbon or aluminum lever blade option and come with the new HS1 rotor that are said to be less prone to noise. The Elixir 7's are available in either silver or grey color options, and retail for $179 USD per end.
What's newRedesigned internals:
Avid's Elixir 7's are all around brakes that can do duty on everything from cross-country to downhill bikes.
Avid Elixir 7 details:
- Adjustments: tool free reach
- Carbon or alloy lever option
- Top loading, two piston caliper
- Comes stock with sintered pads
- 160/180/200mm HS1 rotor options
- DOT 5.1 brake fluid
- Hinged Ambidextrous bar mount
- Silver or grey color options
- 350grams (front post mount, 160mm rotor, w/ carbon lever blade)
- MSRP: $179 USD per end
The Elixir series incorporates a number of updates that look to improve on the previous models in a number of categories, enough in fact that while the new brakes may look similar to prior designs, they need to be thought of as an entirely new platform. The biggest and most important changes have taken place internally, with the Elixir lineup making use of Avid's Taperbore internals that are claimed to not only offer increased longterm reliability, but also better heat management and more effective bleeding. Taperbore is exactly as it sounds - the design seals off the master cylinder by forcing the plunger's O-ring into a tapered barrel as the brake lever is pulled. Not only does this system move more fluid than a more standard timing port system, thereby better managing heat, but it also lets Avid's engineers better fine tune the system's power and modulation to suit the brake's intentions. Even more beneficial, especially in the long run, is the fact that the sealing O-ring no longer passes over the timing port like within more traditional designs, meaning that it is less likely to become worn or tear over time.
Better air management:
The previous design (left) has its bleed port located on the contact adjustment dial. The Elixir's bleed port is now on the lever body itself (right) to allow air to be removed from the system easier. The internal shape of the master cylinder is referred to by Avid as their Airtrap feature and prevents bubbles from entering the system.
Comparing the new and old lever bodies side by side will also reveal a different location for the bleed port, with the Elixir's now located on the body itself instead of on the contact adjustment dial. This change, as small as it may seem, means that the brake's DOT 5.1 fluid has to pass by one less O-ring during the bleeding process. This, along with changes made to the internal shape of the master cylinder, is claimed to allow for both more effective bleeding and works to keep any air that is present in the system from entering the brake line.New reach adjustment dial:
There have also been some notable external changes to the new Elixir's as well, including the reconfigured reach adjustment dial that now lives between the lever blade and the bar clamp and is inline with the master cylinder, making it much more protected from impacts than the older location at the front of the lever body. It also features stronger detents that should do a better job of keeping adjustments in postion, a point of contention that we had with previous designs.
Less heat, less sound:
The new reach adjustment dial (top left) is better protected from impacts and stronger detents should limit migration. The brake's bleed port (top right) has been moved to the lever body to aid air removal. The Elixir 7 brakes can be had with either a carbon (bottom) or aluminum lever blade option.
Moving down the system will reveal a caliper that has been pared down quite a bit when compared to last year's model. Avid has done this for two reasons: first and most importantly, the extra surface area created by the reliefs in the caliper body allow it to expel heat at a greater rate, reducing the chance of fade during sustained braking. Secondly, the trimmed down caliper saves grams when the total weight is added up. Spinning between the Elixir's sintered brake pads is the new HS1 rotor. Avid says that the new shape, including the redesigned brake track that is said to offer better feel under light braking, goes a long way to reducing the dreaded "turkey warble" that plagued some riders. There is a slight weight savings as well, about 10 grams per rotor in the 160mm size.Performance Setup and bleeding:
Our Elixir 7 brakes showed up with a much better factory bleed than what we've come to expect from Avid - their older models were notorious for needing to be bled right out of the box - that we were very thankful for. Avid has invested quite a bit in new factory bleeding hardware and refined the process, allowing you a much better chance of being able to simply bolt them on and head for the trails. Regardless, we wanted to bleed our test brakes to see for ourselves if the master cylinder updates translate to the real world. Anyone who has bled Avid brakes before will surely acknowledge that Avid's bleeding procedure is slightly more involved than what some of the competition requires, calling for two syringes and a few extra steps. That procedure is still basically the same, but we had one noteworthy difference when performing a bleed on the Elixir 7's - air stopped coming out, presumably because we removed it from the system. When bleeding previous Avid brakes we've always managed to be able to get just a little more air out of the master cylinder regardless of how many times we redid the job. It may have only been a small amount, but it was always disconcerting. With the Elixir's we were quickly able to perform a solid bleed that had us satisfied that there was zero appreciable air in the system, no matter how much suction was applied to the syringes at the caliper or lever. Avid's Tri-Align caliper hardware (concave and convex washers that allow the caliper to center itself over the rotor regardless of inconsistencies in hardware or brake tabs
) made it easy to set them up drag free, and the hinged lever perch allows for simple installation. SRAM's Ambidextrous clamp is also MatchMaker compatible, meaning that you can also mount up your shifters, X-Loc fork lockout or Reverb remote as well - this system actually allows for three different controls to be mounted to the bar with a single clamp. On the trail:
Performance at lower speeds feels to be on par with Avid's previous offerings, with a light touch and manageable feel that makes riding in slippery conditions quite user friendly. The power is there, but it comes on in a gradual way that won't catch you by surprise. It's easy to get caught up in the battle for outright power, but a brake system needs to have a useable feel and not simply loads of unwieldy bite - The 7's don't disappoint here - but it's when you get up to speed that the new Taperbore internals make themselves known. Modulation is second to none at that critical moment just before locking the wheels up, making for a lever feel that seems to let you know exactly when is going on under your tires in the heat of the moment. There is no doubt that Elixir's lever feel in the heat of the moment is a step forward from previous designs.
The Elixir's Ambidextrous lever mount is MatchMaker compatible, allowing you to bolt up the shifter, X-Loc fork, and even a Reverb remote to the same clamp. You may have hoses everywhere, but at least the bar clutter will be kept to a minimum.
We tested the new Elixir 7's back to back with Avid's previous XO stoppers and found that there is a noticeable increase in power with the Elixir, even if the new brakes don't quite feel like they have the sheer bite of some of the competition. But it was clear on the first ride that the Elixirs have more usable
power than those same brakes, the type of bite that has you at a stand still on the steepest pitches without leaving a skid mark in your wake. The lever perch also felt to be slightly stiffer than what was used on XO, contributing to a firmer overall lever feel. Brake fade proved to be a non-issue on sustained downhills, even when dragging the binders on long, steep pitches more than the average rider would in the real world. While we could fault some of Avid's previous offerings in this regard, the Elixir's have impressive consistency regardless of conditions.
We've always been fans of Avid's lever shape and it's no different with the Elixir 7's, our fingers feel at home on its lever blades. The shape is not too tall and not too skinny, and the rounded edges feel just right. The levers also pull into the bar in a way that doesn't feel as if you are losing leverage or going to slide off the end if there was no hook to the shape. Full points in the ergonomics department. The brake's new reach adjustment dial does as asked, moving the lever postion in or out, but, more importantly, it didn't creep during use. Lever reach is still exactly where we set it during installation, which is more than we can say for some other designs.
A new pared down caliper features more surface area, allowing heat to escape from the system for more consistent and fade free braking.
Just like a sports car's top speed, outright power can be overrated as long as the brakes offer up enough to get the job done without excessive lever pressure. Having said that, there are more powerful brakes on the market than the Elixirs. While we never found ourselves in dire need of more strength, heavy riders will likely do well to make use of the larger 180 and 200mm rotor sizes, especially if using the 7's on a dedicated downhill rig or 29'er. Avid is one of the few companies to offer an effective pad contact adjustment system and we would have loved to see it on the Elixir 7's, but that may be asking a bit much considering the sound $179 USD per end asking price. Riders who feel that they can make use of the extra setup option should opt for the Elixir 9 brakes that retail for an extra $35 per brake, although keep in mind that it does add complication and extra weight.
Our last concern comes down to the new HS1 rotor design that does little to lessen the "turkey warble" sound, especially when riding the Elixirs in the rain and mud. Power and modulation don't seem to be affected in the slightest, but we can't deny that the sound is annoying. Pinkbike's take:
|So, how do the Elixir brakes compare to their direct competition, Shimano's XT and SLX stoppers? Shimano has the lead in sheer power, but the Elixir 7's have much more modulation and lever feel. The result is an easier to control brake system that lets you get the most out of the traction provided by your tires, a trait that we'd choose over out and out power any day. When talking ergonomics the Elixir's take the win, hands down. Their lever shape and geometry is second to none in this category. After spending a considerable amount of time on both the previous models and the new Elixir's we can confidently say that Avid have taken a step forward with their 2012 brakes - usable amounts of power, loads of modulation when it's needed most, and much more effective bleeding thanks to a master cylinder redesign. With an MSRP of $179 USD, the new Elixir 7's are a great choice if you're thinking about new brakes. In fact, we would have a hard time recommending to the average rider that they should spend more for extra dials or less weight. - Mike levy|
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