2012 Avid Elixir Brakes Unveiled – Lighter, Better, Easier

2012 avid elixir 7 and 9 hydraulic brake test rides in santa cruz california

Testing the new Avid Elixir 9 brakes on some wet descents in Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Adrian Marcoux

Avid has heard the complaints from shop mechanics and consumers alike with regards to the sometimes weak-out-of-the-box performance of their Elixir line. Our contributor, Zach, and a few of the rest of us have had to bleed otherwise new Elixirs to get the results we wanted. Once done, the braking performance was solid and predictable with good modulation.

Proof they listened? The new Elixir 7 and Elixir 9.

Avid has redesigned their unique Taperbore master cylinder to make the bleeds even easier. That, combined with a new manufacturing and assembly process that they say more closely mimics a professional “hand bleed,” has given them a new brake that’s light, sleek and works fantastically well. Oh, and they’re lighter!

There are also new rotors with more standardized sizing, lighter caliper mounting brackets and much more to show you.

We had a chance to flog them on some screaming fast and occasionally sloppy wet downhills out in Santa Cruz, CA last month. Check out the pics, performance review and tech specs after the break…

NOTE: If you only want to see what’s new, skip the first two pics and photographs. If you want to know why it’s new, read on from here.

TAPERBORE EVOLUTION

If you look at every other hydraulic brake system out there, they use a similar master cylinder design that pushes the brake lever’s pivot fairly far out from the bar. The Taperbore design allows the pivot to be closer to the bar, which keeps the lever in a more parallel position to your grip as it pulls close. The argument for this design is that it helps prevent your finger from slipping outward on a lever that ends up pointing at the grip as it’s pulled inward. Other brands typically combat this by shaping the levers far more heavily than Avid’s relatively straight levers. Personally, I haven’t had problems with fingers slipping on other brakes we’ve reviewed or ridden, but I do like the feel of the Avid lever.

2011 and prior avid elixir and xx x0 hydraulic brakes

On the old Elixirs (above), the bleed port was positioned about halfway down the master cylinder. This allowed a bit of air to remain in the cylinder during bleeds because it would float above the port. Basically, the distance between the two lines was the margin for error that could result in too much air remaining in there right after a full bleed. And that leads to mushy lever feel and weak feeling brakes. The current XX / X0 brakes compound the potential problem by placing the bleed port all the way down on the Pad Contact Adjust dial, but more on that later. The solution, should not be planning on upgrading anytime soon, is to position the lever such that it’s parallel to the ground with the bleed port straight up and you’ll get good results.

2012 avid elixir 7 9 hydraulic disc brake internal cutaway view

The new Elixirs (above, left) move the bleed port closer to the top of the piston (toward the lever). They also scallop the inside of the reservoir to help bring air bubbles to the highest point, which then feeds them into the bleed port. Click on either image above to enlarge, and the diagram below spells it out:

new bleed port and internal piston shapes improve avid elixir bleed success internal piston scallop shape moves air bubbles in the 2012 avid elixir bleed port to the top

On the left, (B) shows the raised “scalloped” shape inside the reservoir. The back of the scallop is angled down nearly to the very back of the piston, leaving no where for air bubbles to hide. On the right, (C) shows the inside of a lever…click on it to see it bigger and you can see the large inside hole and how close it is to the top of the reservoir.

Unrelated to the design change but discussed below: (A) is the edge of the “taper” in the Taperbore design. As the black O-ring pushes past that, it closes the system and starts moving the pads. The Pad Contact Adjust feature, shown in cutaway below, is a misnomer.

avid pad contact adjust actually moves the taper point where their elixir brakes start to move the pads

In the photo above, the white ring is just behind the black O-ring that seals the system. Turning the Pad Contact Adjust bezel (far left) moves that taper point forward or backward, changing the point in the lever’s travel where the system becomes closed. It has no effect on actual pad position.

The second part of the Taperbore Evolution has to do with their factory bleed systems for testing and assembling the brakes to better remove air and get more consistent bleeds from brakes as they leave the factory. Tyler Morland, our media relations guy for Avid, says the new assembly system more closely resembles hand-bleeding.

THE NEW AVID ELIXIR 9

2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake

The specs:

  • Replaces Elixir CR
  • Intended for XC / Trail / AM / FR
  • Weight 358g (front, post mount, 160 rotor w/ adapter)
  • 17g lighter than CR (375g)
  • Available April 2011
  • Storm Grey Ano or Black Ano
  • New Tool-Free Reach Adjust with nicely detented, easy to grab knob
  • Contact Adjust
  • Full forged aluminum piston body and caliper
  • Levers will be carbon-only for aftermarket, but OE spec will have the option of carbon or alloy lever blades
  • Adjustable banjo on caliper
  • MMX/XLoc and Reverb compatible
  • Lever and clamp design allows for ambidextrous mounting
  • Caliper is slightly upgraded, is very similar to XO but gets different hardware

2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake lever

The Pad Contact Adjust bezel is redesigned with taller ridges to make adjustment far easier, especially with gloves on. The detents feel better, too.

The reach adjust has moved from the bottom of the lever on the front of the piston body to inside the lever, inline with the piston. This feature is standard, and they’ve intentionally designed it to force you to move the lever a bit further inboard from the grip. Morland says this puts it the lever in the proper position (versus having the lever clamp directly against the inside edge of your grip). Honestly, that’s where we run them anyway, but it’s not always how you find bikes set up on the showroom floors. The added benefit is a sleeker looking lever body.

Also, scroll up a bit and compare the old version to the new and you’ll see that they’ve whittled down the area leading to the clamp, making it even more streamlined.

2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake caliper

2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake caliper

The calipers see little change other than hardware.

2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake caliper comparison to elixir 7 2012 avid elixir 9 hydraulic disc brake caliper comparison to elixir 7

The caliper differences between Elixir 7 (silver) and Elixir 9 are the hardware. The 7 gets basic steel and the 9 gets stainless steel, visually noted by the black hardware versus silver.

THE NEW AVID ELIXIR 7

2012 avid elixir 7 hydraulic disc brake

The Specs:

  • Replaces Elixir R
  • Intended for XC / Trail / AM / FR
  • Weight 350g
  • 25g lighter than C (175g)
  • Aero Silver or Storm Grey
  • Otherwise same as Elixir 9 except no Pad Contact Adjust and it’s painted rather than anodized.

new 2012 avid elixir 7 hydraulic disc brake lever new 2012 avid elixir 7 hydraulic disc brake caliper

Yes, you read those specs correctly. The Elixir 7 is a bit lighter than the 9′s thanks to the absence of the pad contact mechanism. It’d be even lighter if they didn’t paint it…

On the models tested and photo’d here, the 7 has the carbon levers and the 9 has the alloy ones.

ADJUSTMENTS, ROTORS & PADS

2012 avid elixir 7 9 brakes pad contact adjustment range at the lever

Pad Contact Adjust - This shows the range of lever travel difference at the extremes of the Pad Contact Adjust. With the levers starting at the same position, the point where the lever is in the pics above is where the system closes and starts to move the pads. Dialing the PCA all the way in simply lets the lever move about 1/2″ before it starts doing anything productive. Some people call this “free stroke,” and it’s the same idea as the Poppet Cam on Hayes’ new Prime brakes, among others.

Put another way, twisting the bezel puts more or less volume in front of the plunger. More fluid volume means quicker pad contact…or, less lever throw to put the pads in contact with the rotor.

2012 avid elixir brakes reach adjustment range

Reach Adjust - This one shows the minimum and maximum lever reach.

2012 avid hs1 brake rotors with new 140 160 180 200 mm sizes

The rotors also get a new look and new sizing. Don’t worry, the sizes are not creating new standards…they’re actually falling into line with others. Gone are the 185 and 203, replaced with standard 140, 160, 180 and 200mm diameters. Avid will still support those sizes with aftermarket rotors and adapters, but all new brakes going forward will be the 20mm incremented sizes.

The new “drilled” brake tracks have a more consistent material surface area than the old slotted G2 rotors. Manufacturing process of this design allows for a more consistently flatter braking surface, too. They’ll be offered in several trim levels:

  • HS1 – shown, will be on XO thru Elixir 3)
  • HSX – XX 2-piece with aluminum spokes 140/160/180 only
  • HSXCL – Centerlock
  • G2 – (current) continued on new Elixir 1 and mechanicals

2012 avid rotors hs1 with new drilled pattern and truer machining 2012 avid brake drilled rotors

Unfortunately, none of the HSX or HSXCL rotors were on hand to photograph.

Lastly, Avid’s ditching their chunky adapters for mounting the calipers to the frame. They had to redesign some of them anyway to accommodate the new rotor sizes, and thankfully they used that opportunity to drop some weight. Look through the photos and you’ll notice some leaner brackets that drop 20g or more from the old designs!

These new Elixirs go on sale in late April/early May for aftermarket in your local bike shop and should be popping up on 2012 bikes this summer.

ONE MORE – NEW AVID ELIXIR 1

The Elixir 1 is a totally new budget model. At just $89 per wheel for a hydraulic disc brake, it’s cheap, but it felt good on the demo setup (I didn’t ride it, just played with it, then forgot to take photos of it!).

Cost savings come from using a fixed clamp (remove grip to install), absence of CPS bolt washers, which are the cupped washers that help align the caliper, but Avid says better standardized frame productions sort of mitigate the need for that nowadays. It’ll have tooled Reach Adjust, a stamped aluminum lever blade and will shares the new slanted bleed port as the others. This could be really good for the commuter segment, too, but the feel was good enough for XC mountain bike use to be sure.

UNRELATED CHANGES TO MATCHMAKER

MMX will now come on XX through X7 (previously stopped at X0) shifters and brakes. MM comes with Elixir 3 and 5 and will work with Pushloc. Standard Clamps for X0 and XX still available and save a few grams if used separately for brakes and shifters, but it’s not as clean looking. (Seriously, we weighed the clamps and you save about 5g to 10g if you run the individual clamps for the brakes and shifters…but that won’t work if you’re running their hydraulic X-Loc push button fork lockout on a Rockshox)

THE FUTURE

There’s no doubt Avid will be introducing new designs for their higher end products, and we’ve got word they’ll make announcements to that effect later this year.

Why start in the middle of the range with these upgrades? Because that’s where the volume sales are, and the Elixir 7 & 9 level is what’s getting spec’d on bikes in the most active price points. So, for the average consumer looking at a new bike or reasonable upgrade, this is for you.

When that happens for X0 and XX, it’ll benefit more than just bleeds. Without incorporating the bleed port, the Pad Contact bezel doesn’t require so much sealing around it. This lets it turn easier, especially with the new ridges and detents, and the hose won’t spin around with it so much.

Comments

Nick - 03/15/11 - 3:15am

Fantastically detailed write-up! I have the elixir CR and love them for trail and xc riding. I have begun to notice a tiny bit of squishy noise coming from the rear lever, so thanks for the bleed tip. Looking forward to those new rotors even though they look not as good in my opinion.

dgaddis - 03/15/11 - 8:12am

So, how many different versions of the Elixers are there now???? 1, 7, 9, XO, XX…geez, is that really necessary?

pk - 03/15/11 - 8:45am

How many Shimano brakes 445, deore, SLX, LX, XT, XTR, Saint

Tyler (Editor) - 03/15/11 - 11:32am

dgaddis, there’s also a 3 and 5.

Rich - 03/15/11 - 11:53am

Will these changes have any effect on improving the piston roll back?

JASONMORGAN - 03/15/11 - 8:02pm

“The solution, should not be planning on upgrading anytime soon, is to position the lever such that it’s parallel to the ground with the bleed port straight up and you’ll get good results.” DO YOU MEAN THE LEVER SHOULD BE PERPENDICULAR TO THE GROUND, THEREFOR THE BLEED PORT POSITIONED STRAIGHT UP?

digger - 03/15/11 - 8:47pm

Hopefully with all these wonder changes, Sram will manage to keep that fantastic vibration and gobble noise they are so well known for ;)

Tyler (Editor) - 03/16/11 - 1:43pm

JasonMorgan – No, I mean if the master cylinder is parallel to the ground, the RIDGE created by the bleed port should be sticking up at the top of the lever body, or as close to the top as is possible. This makes it the highest point and gets the air bubbles to float to the top of the port, ready to go on permanent vacation.

Digger – We were riding in fairly wet conditions and there were a few instances of squeal, but they went away again pretty quickly. Considering the conditions, I think most any brake would have made a little noise. So, it seems like this might be a bit improved, but until we get our long-term test samples in, we won’t know for sure.

Rich – The calipers are virtually unchanged, so probably not.

Chris - 03/18/11 - 9:43am

There is also a new Elixir bleed video on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoaPUw5DliA

Miguel Queiros - 05/21/12 - 11:50am

I’ve just purchased a set of these and to be fair, I’m a litlle disapointed. If you set the reach adjustment at the minimum lever reach setting, the lever will go through the handlebar before the pads start to touch the rotor, even with the contact adjustment at the minimum free-stroke setting. Adjustability was the main reason for me to get these brakes, since I was using a set of Elixir R and was quite pleased. But I found that the adjustability range is actually unusable.

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