Hygia Elite Carbon brakes Review

May 19, 2011
by Lee Lau  
Hygia Elite Carbon brakes

What 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).

<br><span style='font-size:17px'>Hygia Elite Carbon Brake Details:</span><br><br>- Intended use: Cross-country/all-mountain<br>-Aluminum perch with carbon fiber lever<br>-Caliper uses Shimano XT pads<br>-DOT-4 brake fluid<br>-Post-type mount<br>-Rotor available in 160 or 180-millimeter diameters<br>-Weight: 400 grams (per wheel)(<i>claimed: 292 grams</i>)<br>- MSRP $375 (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
-Post-type mount
-Rotor available in 160 or 180-millimeter diameters
-Weight: 400 grams (per wheel)(claimed: 292 grams)
- MSRP $375 (two wheels)

The details: 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.
Front brake - International-standard to post mount for a 160mm rotor. Utah dust and mud cannot be purchased as accessories.

Set-up: 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
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.
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:


  • + 9
 That actual weight is a bit off from that claimed weight. Maybe they weighed it without any fluid...or bolts...or pads...or hoses...
  • + 4
 or callipers...
  • + 1
 or the actual weight means only the brake, and the 400g what the factory says is with rotor and adaptor
  • + 4
 Pinkbike is late to discovering these brakes, I and others on MTBR were reviewing these brakes and telling others about them two years ago. There is another brake model called the USAGI they left out of mentioning (though its on the hygia chart above) that is essentially the SLP with a different rotor, or rather the SLP is the USAGI with a new lighter rotor design. Also I don't know who's rotors they actually got for the test though probably the ones from the Aspire, because the stock Hygia Elite/Usagi rotors do NOT look anything like any of shimano's rotors, nor do the Elite Carbon/SLP rotors. In fact you'll see the different rotors if you click the links to the Hygia NA distributor listed above, or the Hygia factory website itself. Then compare to the photos in the review and you'll see the difference.

If you search ebay cycling for Hygia, you'll find lots of the brakesets available with different colours and options and prices far lower than the review says. I own SIX sets total now, three of the regular elites (which come with the resin lines, the elite carbons come with braided steel lines), one Elite carbon, and two Usagi's. Also its worth pointing out that the alloy lever blade of the regular elites has a rather sharp tip that many might find annoying. Also Hygia is one of the few brake makers to offer a hydraulic disc that setup with dual calipers operating off one lever (they market for adult trikes, but they work for racing quad/hand cycles and recumbants trikes as well).
  • + 1
 Thanks. I did refer to the MTBR thread to see how the product had been discovered by the NA consumers and it was very insightful. Definitely interesting adoption by the weight crowd.
  • + 2
 i've been riding the elite's and elite carbon brakes for a while now and they've been great, can't beat the price, they look great and opposed to this review i even did a little bit of downhilling with the elites. I just got some aspires and cant wait to try them out too!
  • + 1
 Aspire weight? Actual not what the website states.
  • + 1
 not too sure i havent weighed them
  • + 1
 hucker - did you try them with different pads? The stock pads were unimpressive. I have been told that the newer semi-metallic pads are better but I didn't think it would be good to speculate without time in the saddle on them
  • + 2
 no i havent yet, i plan to try it after the stock pads wear out but i've only got just over a months time on them. I agree that for dh you are left with desire for a bit more power which is why i switched over to the aspires, im continuing to run the elites on my slopestyle/light freeride bike and hardtail though so I'll be looking into trying those different pads for sure.
  • + 1
 hmmm --- actually I thought it was a good product for its intended design. I'm glad that most of you all saw that these brakes offer excellent value for money. Sure I didn't rave about the brakes for AM/FR but I don't know that its a lukewarm review
  • + 1
 I had a set of these in gold on my old bike. They were amazing brakes...I'm actually rebuilding my bike at the moment as it was stolen - and I plan to purchase these brakes again. They look amazing, and they perform well too. I'd say the review is spot on, good brakes at a good price. Everybody needs to stop complaining and try a set for themselves.
  • + 1
 heh - I've actually just ordered two sets from ebay.

$3,100 HK

Gold for me and red for a friend.

Can't wait Big Grin
  • + 1
 I ran aspires on my DH bike last year, super simple to install, feel excellent, 0 issues. Came 3 days after I ordered them from RCS, and I've never been happier.
  • - 1
 The whole reason people complain that there is never a negative review about expensive products is because there must be an expensive product that is not worth the money, or does not perform as it should. Not all expensive products are worth the money, which I think everyone can agree on, but some expensive products are worth the investment.

To solve the problem of never having a negative review, I don't think that reviewing low end products is a good solution, we all know that a falcon rear derailleur is going to be garbage.

The entire reason I think a lot of people even frequent sites like Pinkbike is because usually there is something cool to see, like the Acros hydraulic shifter and derailleur, which is way overdue as a product anyways.

There are many products that are super cool that I have not seen yet which I think Pinkbike should start reviewing, in different areas of cycling as well. Keep in mind that although this is a mountain bike dominant site, it's not only mountain bikers that come here. I mean, the road world has fibre lyte, who makes carbon fiber chainrings, and the BMX world has the WTP C.R.E.A.M frame, which is probably the strongest way to make a BMX frame, or any steel frame.

Maybe my expectations are too high, but if I wanted to see something entry to mid level be reviewed, I would just go ask someone what they thought of it, and Im sure that they would say it's "ok" or "it gets the job done".

Pinkbike Im sure has the knowledge and resources to do some very cool custom builds, instead of just reviewing off the shelf parts, maybe build something custom and cool, and review that. Like Tune hubs with double butted or aero spokes, tied and soldered, with Enve carbon rims? That would be a lightweight wheelset, no one else would have it, and it could even be a two part review. Just an idea but it would be awesome.
  • + 3
 What purpose would reviewing a custom build prove? The sport is based on personal preference and someone reviewing their hand-picked build is meaningless.

This is not so much a "review" than it is an information session, allowing the broad audience of pinkbike readers to be aware there are other choices out there and there is room in the market for more. You don't have to run Avid/Shimano especially on a budget. I'd rather buy a new get of Hygias than a used set of whatever off the classifieds. These serve to bring awareness to the customer and it's hard to find anything on them online so why not use PB as at least a source for the info.
  • + 7
 While it is "cool" to read reviews on ultra high-end, uber-exotic bicycle components, let's face facts, 90% of cyclists are never going to be able to shell out the dough for that stuff. So, to add some balance, let's also get some feedback on more reasonable products for to the working man cyclist. I think doing reviews on products like Hygia is terrific. It provides consumers alternative choices to the 2 or 3 major brands, and increases awareness of the smaller players in the industry, which is good for creating pricing competition, which benefits consumers.

And in regards to pinkbike covering road, NO. There is enough road content on the internet. We don't need it on PB.
  • + 1
 I have set of the carbons on my bike. Great brakes, and I am super picky about brakes too. No complaints at all.
  • + 1
 That's actually a Hope V2 + Avid Elixer CR wannabe..
  • + 1
 Actually it looks more like a Trek.
  • + 1
 Looks great!
  • - 1
 woww imajine to get the pad for this brakes have to order from taiwan...
  • + 6
 Are you naturally this stupid or do you have to practice daily ?!? The pads are the same as Deore XT brakes use !!! Do you have to go order your XT pads from taiwan?
  • + 1
 Sexy Looking Brake!
  • + 0
 yeah, totally does not look like formula ...
  • + 6
 You're right, it doesn't look like Formula at all.
  • + 5
 Its a brake. There's only so many ways you can make them look. 'so yer, stroker aces don't look like m4's....' for example.
  • + 4
 maybe if you switch the master cylinder around 90 degrees, make it longer, change the shape of the lever, change the caliper shape, make it take formula sized pads not the larger shimano ones, make the bore cap larger and more recessed and red or blue or something, then totally change the styling you MIGHT be on the way to making a brake which looks like a formula
  • + 1
 I gotta agree with thresh, first thing i thought when i saw the lever was formula
  • + 1
 I completely disagree. If anything the first thing I thought when I saw the lever was "Tektro".
  • - 1
 Those are ugly as sin
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