Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Testing - Avid Elixir R Hydraulic Disk Brake Review

Out of the box
Well first impressions of this brake are great. It has a nice beefy look and great attention to detail. There is no bulky reservoir, it is nicely integrated into the master cylinder (aka brake lever). I instantly look for features like banjo fittings and pad retaining system. More on that stuff later.
The G3 rotors look great though I wish there was a centre-lock version.

On the trail

This is where the Elixir's really show their stuff. Braking power is among the best I've experienced. Even after some mileage it doesn't seem like they are suffering from rotor glaze at all. They still perform like new with that bitey metallic feel. This could be attributed to the aggressive slotting (or cut-outs) in the rotor. I can't tell yet if this will adversely affect pad life but a new, larger surface area pad should offset any extra wear from the new rotor.
Talk about power! These things are 1 finger braking at its finest. Not too grabby but keep adding pressure and the brake responds with a nice linear power curve with zero sponge (ahem Juicy).

Technical features
Lets talk about banjo mounts. I like em, they are easy to work on and give you an adjustable hose entry angle (no perverted jokes please). The Elixir R doesn't have them which is a bit of a shame. Saving grace is that they actually come on the upgraded CR model so it gives you an excuse to spend the extra $.
The master cylinder has an "easy" adjust lever position dial built in. It adjusts how far the lever sits from the bar, it has nothing to do with lever throw. There was a lever throw adjust on most of the Juicy models which really didn't seem to do much. Back to the Elixir "easy" adjust dial which really isn't easy to turn at all. Seems to get jammed up and mostly has to be adjusted while gloveless. Not a huge deal since you only really need to adjust it once to your liking and never touch it again.
The new pad retaining system uses a bolt like many Shimano systems to securely hold the pad and is waaaaay easier than that crappy Juicy system which sucked. With the Elixir you just loosen and remove the small Torx bolt and pop the old pads out and new ones in. Tighten the bolt back up and go ride.
The master cylinder may look beefy but it actually has a very small footprint on the bar. It does have a fairly long profile, especially for one finger braking, but thanks to its accommodating shape I easily mounted it to the inside of my XT shifters.

I think this brake is my new number one. I'm not going to completely jump to conclusions here since I don't have a ton of hours on it and I have yet to bleed one. I already like it a pile more than the Juicy which was really a sub par brake with a lot of issues. I love how solid it feels with a nice snappy return action and no mush. It is sexy to boot. Specifically the Elixir R is the best brake I've used in the $200 category.

- light weight (Elixir R is actually lighter than the fancy carbon CR model)
- price
- braking power and consistency
- looks

- no banjo mounts on Elixir R caliper
- lever reach adjustment dial is hard to turn
- no Avid centre-lock rotor option

Value - 22 delicious advent calendar chocolates
Performance - 15 feet out of an 18 foot tall Griswold family Christmas tree.

Lever Profile, rather long but mounts inside shifter.

Cool G3 rotor. Great braking.

Pads just drop in. I didn't even have to take the wheel off.

Adjustment Dial. Hard to use, half of it is hidden by the shifter.

New, larger pads don't help with power but do accommodate a larger caliper piston which does increase clamping force.


  1. August 2010 Update:
    I started getting an insane amount of vibration from my back brake every time I went past say 20% clamping power. I switched pads, overhauled the caliper, nothing seemed to work. So today I swapped out the rotor and it seems to have solved my problem. I have been hearing reports of others having the same problem. Perhaps the G3 rotor is only good for a season. Regardless my next set of rotors won't be Avids.
    Everything else about the brake I love. So much better than the Juicy!

  2. Vibration came back again. Swapped my G3 rotor back on and installed new brake pads front and back. Will report on how they are working after my 24 hour race this weekend.

  3. New brake pads work great. Switched from Avid metallics to Jagwire composite. Love the Jagwire pads. They are 30% cheaper and feel better (grabbier, smoother, more quiet).

  4. Great review. I still use them, despite being a weight weenie. I have the 2011 Elixir R with the adjustable banjo and they stop like Shimano Saint DH brakes. Question: I have a bent lever from a crash. How easy are they to change out?

    1. I still think these are some of the best brakes Avid ever made. The stuff they are putting out these days is horrible IMO. So flexy and mushy. I think they only way these could be better would be to make them a 1 piece caliper, but that is just being picky.
      The lever should be easy to change out. Post up some pics if you get stuck.

  5. You know, I was gonna get the new XTR BR-M985 Race brakes - but I could not justify the huge cost, for only a mere 83-gram weight savings total. Also, I don't like how the XTR lever sinks almost 50% before the actual stopping bite occurs. Notice that?

    1. You could try messing with the fluid volume to see if you could reduce the lever throw if you find it is too much. I have not tried the 985 race brakes. I really don't like how the caliper is 2 peice and magnesium. I also find carbon lever blades are flexy and develop play quickly. I mean even if they were the same price as the regular brakes I don't think I would buy them lol.
      I'm sure you would find the system wouldn't feel as good as the regular style brakes (which are absolutely amazing). But I will reserve my final judgement until I actually get to try them in the real world.

  6. Any experience with the Avid HSX rotors? Do they shed heat even better than the standard HS1?

    1. Never tried em. I've been very happy running Ashima rotors for the past 4 years or so. I am less concerned about heat dissipation than I am cold bite.
      Cold bite is how the brake responds before it gets any heat in it. I would say 99% of my braking is cold and in short spurts so how the brake responds to this input is most important to me. The Ashima's tend to have a little more friction to them, due to the sharp cut-outs and smaller braking surface. They are a little harder on pads, get hot on long descents, warp easy, and only last a season or two. But I am willing to put up with this for the light weight and great cold bite.

    2. Also, just so that ya know, I have been running Formula R1 brakes for the past 4 years. Moving over to XTR 985 brakes on my next build.