When they arrived, it was like Christmas. The box was a sexy matte black. Well thought-out design and color choices (impressive). I was giddy and was just so careful to open the box – just like the time when I got my new iPhone home. With care of a surgeon, I opened the lid to see the goods. The Elixirs did not disappoint. Oh man, these ARE sexxxiiii. I installed them and took em out for a ride immediately.
Bedding in took a few small hills, but once they were bedded in, you could feel that they grabbed very well and that they displayed a fair amount of stopping ability — this impression is also helped by me running 203mm rotors front and rear. My Knolly DT weighed in at a respectable 35.5 lbs at the time with them on, and it appeared to me the brakes were more than the bike needed. But my preference for brakes is that I don’t like to pull on them unless I really have to, (and generally) I wait longer than the average guy, so big rotors provide a big comfort.
Functionally speaking, these brakes are easy to adjust. The big red barrel contact adjustment is nice (just turn it in either direction using the directions printed on the barrel itself) — but one thing to keep in mind is that they only have 2 full revolutions from full open to full contact (they don’t actually make full contact). With gloves on, the reach adjust near the lever hinge is tricky to turn (you couldn’t do this while riding) and still pose a challenge even with bare fingers. Perhaps Avid has corrected this, but from my experience using this feature, I’ll rate them as poor. Luckily, once you set them, you don’t do anything for a while until your pads start to wear.
The levers have a good form factor and feel substantial without being bulky (very comfortable actually). Pulling on them is light and almost effortless on my first few rides. As they broke in, they started to feel better and worked smooth like butta. The Calipers are a sleek, shiny black and mount on without a hitch. Centering them was just a matter of pulling in the levers and then tightening down the 2 anchoring bolts.
I mainly used them for trail riding and light free riding and they did fairly well initially. They were responsive, had a good amount of power. The modulation felt good — I felt pretty confident on them. Although this was all about to change.
All-in-all the honeymoon period lasted about 3 months of flawless use. It was around this time that I started to notice a degradation in performance. The brakes felt hard in terms of feel; the modulation had disappeared. It reminded me of how a set of v-brakes would work. Hell, at one point, I think v-brakes would have been better. I’d been riding a lot of dusty trails and mixed in a few stream crossings; on top of that, I probably hosed the bike off a couple times. So giving them the benefit of a doubt, I figured it was time to service them.
I purchased a bleed kit and proceeded to bleed them. This was fairly easy, even with the myriad of little brass fittings and syringes. After a couple trial runs, I got the hang of it. I spent about 30 minutes to do this and it took me roughly another 30 minutes my first time. I was being careful with them. I figure doing this, I’d be golden. After I bled the calipers and levers, I went to work on the rotors and pads (there was still plenty of material left on them). Using a piece of wet sandpaper, I lightly resurfaced the rotors (and cleaned them with alcahol); then with 200 grit sandpaper I took the glazing off the pads (using a figure 8 motion). Got the bike back together and took it out for a ride. Problem solved…
Indeed, this helped, the brakes felt normal again… uhhh, for a couple weeks. Then, the hard feel along with vibration and howling started to creep in (I’ve also had the very same pattern of issues occur with a set of Avid Juicy 7s on my XC bike). I figure, ok, maybe it’s water on the pads from the streams and so I resurfaced the rotors and pads again. That helped for maybe a couple downhill sections but the problem persisted. I wasn’t willing to give up yet, I rebled the brakes within a 3 week period and no success there either. I went a couple rounds, doing this and that and just came up empty-handed. Now, I’m starting to lose patience. I threw up my hands and decided to just ride them and see if they get better and just to blow it off, since I could still stop. Albeit, not that great. I just had to deal with a little vibration and the ‘effing’ howling.
Fast forward to roughly six months after I put them on my bike and It was time to part ways. The Elixirs in my book are more hype and don’t provide the durability over the long haul and I would rate them similarly with my Juicy 7’s. Based on my experience with these avids, I’m not a fan. There are too many quirks for my liking. For me, time is of the essence. I squeeze in my rides here and there; and am very lucky I can get to my trails without getting in the car. So I’d rather spend time pedaling than fussing with stuff on my bike.
GOOD: Looks amazing. Interfaces well with SRAM Shifters. Lightweight and good stopping power for AM and light duty FR use. They worked as advertised for 3 months.
BAD: So where do I start. Like I said, after 3 months, V-brakes might have been better. They’re no better than my Juicy 7’s. Lost of lever and brake feel after 3 months is unacceptable. Vibrations and howling is a nuisance and a confidence eroder – Grade F.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham