Hygia Elite Carbon brakesWhat it is:
Hygia is a Taiwan-based company that makes bicycle brakes and accessories, and a division of a large Taiwanese metal fabrication company, so one would expect that they have experience in manufacturing precision devices. The Elite Carbon brake we tested is a hydraulic disc brake intended for light all-mountain and cross country use. The $375 Elite carbon (tested) is followed by the $325 XC-oriented SLP and the $260 Aspire DH/Freeride system (prices are for two wheels).
Hygia Elite Carbon Brake Details:
- Intended use: Cross-country/all-mountain
-Aluminum perch with carbon fiber lever
-Caliper uses Shimano XT pads
-DOT-4 brake fluid
-Rotor available in 160 or 180-millimeter diameters
-Weight: 400 grams (per wheel)(claimed: 292 grams)
- MSRP $375 (two wheels)
: The North American distributor's (Renegade Cycle Solutions or RCS
) website waxes rhapsodic that the design is pure elegance
and I would have to agree. Hygia brakes are beautifully polished, designed with curvy lines, and come in the requisite anodized colors - all features that make the hearts of gear whores sing.The master cylinder reservoir is tucked into the lever perch and the lever assemblies are mirror-images, so you can mount them moto-style if you choose. The top-of-the line Elite Carbon uses a carbon fiber lever, which saves five grams and further boosts the brake's coolness factor. Hygia's brake calipers are post-mount and are compatible with Shimano pads. Weights are all over the place. The Elites are advertised as 292 grams. A chart from Hygia puts the weight at 330 grams
, but we weighed them at 400 grams per end with hoses, ready to go.
Hygia sells Elite Carbon brakes with either 160 or 180-millimeter rotors and offers hoses in either 750 or 1350-millimeter lengths. Brake pads are Shimano Deore's XT organic-resin types, so users can upgrade to Shimano's harder-stopping semi-metallic pads should the need arise. All Hygia models use automotive-type-4 brake fluid. Hygia's North American distributor RCS stocks a variety of adapters to mount the post-type calipers to almost any frame or fork. Technical manuals are available at the Hygia website
. The English is good and the manuals do the trick of explaining both installation and bleeding.
Front brake - International-standard to post mount for a 160mm rotor. Utah dust and mud cannot be purchased as accessories.
: Setting up the brakes is relatively easy. Mirror-image lever assemblies allow standard or Moto installations. I ran the 160-millimeter rotors on an XC/trail Rocky Mountain and the 180-millimeter rotors on a Knolly Endorphin set up for all-mountain. If you need to cut and refit the hoses, you can use a readily available Avid kit, as it is interchangeable with the Hygia kit.Our Elite Carbon brakes came firmly bled from the box. Hygia uses Torx hardware for most of the Elite system, which I don't like, but Torx has become the new standard among brake makers, so I would suggest packing a multi-tool with the proper sizes for on-trail adjustments.
On the subject of lever adjustments, Hygia Elite levers are quite long, because the lever fulcrum extends well outboard of the lever perch. I one-finger brake from the outer end of the lever, and I also set my levers close to the bars. To get the Hygia levers to feel right, I had to position the levers quite a bit inboard of the grips. With the Shimano shifters I was using, that meant that I had to reach quite far to get to the shifter while I was braking and sometimes that would put my hands in the middle of, as opposed to outer end, of my grips. To set the lever close to the handlebar, I dialed the tiny Allen screw at the base of the carbon blade inwards as far it would go and fortunately, I ran out of adjustment when the lever felt just right. I suspect that someone with small hands may need to get the lever closer to the grip, so I would conclude that Hygia's brake lever shape is not for everyone. If you are someone with small hands perhaps try the Hygia Elite (as opposed to the Hygia Elite Carbon - the alloy lever of the Elite has reach-adjust and an engagement adjustment, while the Carbon model only has the reach adjustment feature.Performance
: I used the brakes on a Knolly Endorphin (150mm travel - AM ride) for some use in North Vancouver trails and then on a Rocky Mountain Element (120mm travel - XC bike) to close out the Fall riding season with a Utah road trip. Given that the Hygia Elite Carbons were a breeze to install; post-setup they also performed like champs. No drag, no howling rotors (I used the provided Hygia rotors). I didn't feel I needed excessive force on the levers to actuate the brakes and when I pressed the brakes, my bike would stop. Not much to argue with there.
The Hygia Elite Carbon brakes are billed as being for cross country and light all-mountain. I would say that this description is accurate, but I would suggest that they should be confined to XC. The Hygia brakes modulate well so you don't get the jarring lockup endemic to the jackhammer-like braking qualities of the older Hayes Mags or Avid Juicys. Indeed, it is remarkable how similar the Hygia's feel to a Shimano in terms of braking power. Unsurprising since the Hygias use Shimano brake pads and the rotor design is almost identical to early XT items.
Hygia Carbon brakes, the Rocky Mountain Element and a natural rock bridge - St George Utah
Having said all those good things about modulation, I like having some raw power in brakes. Not that every rider necessarily wants to do this, but sometimes I want panic stopping power (like when I've followed too closely to my buddy who chooses to crash in front of me). I'll concede that you don't always need
head-snapping deceleration, but on rare occasions it is nice to have. The Hygia Elite Carbon delivers braking force in polite smooth increments, all the way to the end of the bar. There's good and bad in this; the good being excellent modulation - the bad being a distinct lack of raw panic power.
The Hygia Elite is also prone to quirks on long downhills. They are beautifully compact, but achieve this with small brake reservoirs. I would suspect that this small reservoir was overfilled, or that the lever did not retract far enough to release fluid back into the reservoir because the lever engaged farther from the handlebar on long sustained descents. I never felt like I lost brake power, but I did lose modulation as the lever would engage farther and farther from the grips. This effect was alleviated after coming to a stop and waiting for a bit which presumably, allowed the brake fluid to cool down and take up less space in the system - which then allowed the lever to actuate closer to the bar in its original positions.
Hygia - supplied graph - compares deceleration (Y axis) vs force applied on brake lever (X axis). Nice, but consider the source.
I would suggest trying Shimano's semi-metallic pads to boost braking power and perhaps, assist modulation for extended downhills. Additionally, I would also suggest that those who need more power try the Hygia Aspire brakes. The Aspires are rated for AM/FR, having a slightly bigger piston (24mm as opposed to 20mm) and also having a different-shaped lever which allows the rider to apply more braking force.Pinkbike's Take on the Hygia Elite Carbon Brake:
The Hygia Elite Carbon brake is a good choice for the XC rider who needs a good performing brake at a reasonable price point. The Elite Carbon brake lever's tendency to "pump up" when the calipers got hot was a concern, so I would not advise using them for aggressive all-mountain or freeride. Since RCS is handling Hygia brakes and support, and also distributes X-fusion suspension, Hygia could become a factor the North American market.Hygia's Elite Carbon brakes are what they promise to be; a reasonably priced brake good for XC and light AM (but definitely not for freeride or downhill applications). Questions? Comments? Let's hear it below: