Review: Avid Elixir CR Hydraulic Disc Brake for Mountain Bikes
In product year 2009, SRAM has been making a lot of changes and introductions throughout its brands. Truvativ released the Hammerschmidt…the Rock Shox suspension fork line was almost completely updated…and the Avid brake lineup saw the introduction of the Avid Elixir R and CR hydraulic disc brakes.
The Avid Elixir brakes replace the Avid Juicy Ultimates and become the top of the line, multipurpose brake set for Avid/SRAM. Braking power with the new Avid Elixir’s are claimed to be somewhere in-between the Juicy and Code lineups. With new technologies like Taperbore, tool free adjustment, new G3 rotor and banjo fittings, the Elixir brake lineup brings something completely new to the table for Avid.
Avid Elixir CR Hydraulic Disc Brake Review
SRAM sent me a set of the Avid Elixir CR hydraulic disc brakes to review. The Elixir CR’s are available in two lever configurations (OEM only alloy and carbon fiber) and 3 different rotor combinations (160mm, 185mm and 203mm). The test set was sent with the carbon lever and two sets of rotors…the 185mm and 160mm.
For the exact weights of the rotors and brakes, check out this preview post on the Elixir CR’s. Due to the minimal weight difference between the 160mm and 185mm rotors (40g), the 185mm rotors were installed and that is what stayed on the bikes. For the purposes of this review, the brakes were tested on a Ventana El Terremoto 6.0 and a Rocky Mountain Slayer. Both of these rides are 6″ travel bikes that are taken on everything from shuttle runs to cross country epics. This provided a vast amount of contrast in different riding conditions, and made perfect test mules for this new do-it-all brake from Avid.
Installation – Avid Elixir CR
The install for the Elixir CR’s was quick and painless. The two bolt lever mount (now standard on most brakes) makes install and adjustment a breeze without having to remove any other parts off the bars. Straight out of the box, the lines were the perfect length for my large Ventana, so no cutting was required. Avid’s tri-align caliper positioning system makes caliper alignment easy and for the first time ever with Avid brakes, I was able to use the adjustable banjo fitting to properly align the brake line with the frame. This was a very welcomed change from Avid.
The lever adjustment on the Elixir CR’s is completely new for Avid. These two, tool free adjustments control the pad contact point and reach. A small black dial on the lever body brings the reach of the lever inboard and out. Once you have the reach fitted to your hands and preference, you adjust the pad contact point via the red barrel at the end of the lever body. With the pad contact adjustment, you are able to dial in exactly how much throw it takes to fully engage the pads. If you like to have a lot of throw for increased modulation and feel…that is now possible with the Elixirs (the Juicy 7′s, Carbons and Ultimates used a top mounted dial). You can still adjust the pad contact point close to the rotor and get a minimal throw point for full lockup. These two, tool free adjustments also make trailside changes depending on trail conditions extremely easy. It has a tendency to move under vibration if there is resistance against the brake line. To insure that this does not happen, hold the brake line independently of the pad contact adjustment barrel. This will keep the brake line from moving with adjuster.
Now that I had the Avid Elixir CR brakes mounted and adjusted to my liking…it was time to hit the trail and see if they really were everything that Avid claimed they were.
On The Trail – Avid Elixir CR
Like I mentioned before, I put these brakes on bikes that I knew I was going to take anywhere and everywhere. In the past, I have not been a fan of the Juicy lineup due to their on/off feel (not much modulation), noise and overall lever feel. I normally run brakes from Hope and Formula on my personal rides due to their incredible modulation and feel. This is what the Avid Elixir CR’s were going to have to compare to.
On the first ride with the Elixir CR’s, I could tell right away that this was going to be a different brake than I was used to out of Avid. The first thing I noticed right off the bat…the Elixir CR’s were quite. I wasn’t getting any howling or the infamous Avid turkey gobble…they were just working. This was a very nice change from the typical Juicy noise. I noticed that the new Avid G3 rotor was also more stable under breaking with no high speed lever chatter. The newly designed rotor cut down on many of the complaints Avid users have had in the past.
Overall modulation feel was very progressive throughout the levers stroke. The typical on/off feel that I was used to from the Juicy lineup was gone, and progressive braking took it’s place. Avid’s new Taperbore master cylinder provided a much better overall lever feel than previous Avid brakes. When you combine this modulation with the strong feel of the wide carbon lever, it made for a great feeling brake on the trail. As mentioned before, I was able to dial in exactly how much lever throw there was until lockup on the side of the trail. On most rides, this would not be necessary…but on longer, diverse rides…this was an added benefit.
Note: Action shot by Laurie @ Life On A Bike
Avid claims that the Elixir brake lineup falls in-between the Juicy and Code brakes. This is accomplished by larger pistons in the caliper body, so I would expect them to deliver enough power for shuttle/dh runs without being overpowering for the weekend warrior or xc racer. Avid delivered just that with the Elixir’s and I give all of that credit to the increased modulation with this line. I did not experience any brake fade or overheating…even during several mile long, technical descents. The brakes were just there every time I needed them and they provided adequate power…that was controllable…under all conditions.
Bleeding on the Avid Elixir’s is pretty straight forward by using the Avid bleed system you might already be used to. They are not as easy as the comparable models out of Hope. I would like to see more brake manufacturers adopt a conventional bleeder system (automotive style), but in the meantime…the Avid system isn’t too difficult. If you feel uncomfortable working on brakes, have your local bike shop do the bleeding for you. Just remember that these brakes specify DOT 5.1 fluid.
The new top loading pads on the Avid Elixirs make pad change outs much easier than it was in the past. Now, you don’t even have to remove the caliper! Spread the pistons back out using the supplied red pad spacer, remove the pads and reinstall the new pads all through the top of the caliper. It doesn’t get much more user friendly than that.
It’s Not All Good News…
Pad Contact Adjustment - As mentioned before, the pad contact adjustment barrel can move under heavy riding vibrations if there is resistance from the brake line. You get a coiling effect if you do not move the barrel independently of the brake line. Mine might have been a little bit stiffer than some others, but this issue is easily remedied by insuring there is no resistance between the pad contact adjust barrel and the brake line.
Replacement Pads – The replacement pads will be available through online retailers and your local bike shop, but they aren’t as readily available now as they will be in the future. Your Juicy and Code replacement pads will not work in these calipers.
Bleeding – While the bleeding process is straight forward with the Avid kit…it does have to be purchased separately and it still isn’t as simple as a conventional bleeder system.
Price – MSRP is just over 200 dollars US (204.00) each for the 160mm rotor version. You are paying for the performance, but it is well worth it.
Alloy Lever – The alloy lever is only available to Avid’s OEM customers and not the public. Those of you that don’t want the carbon lever can step down to the R version, but you lose the pad contact adjust.
Avid Elixir CR Disc Brake Review Summary
Finally, an Avid brake that I can really get on board with. It seems that all of my previous complaints have been answered. You now get a noise-free brake that modulates, has plenty of power and looks good on your bike. If you are looking for a do-it-all brake…this just may be the one you are looking for. From what I hear…pro dh riders are using these along side pro xc racers on their rigs. That says a lot for a set of brakes.
Note: Action shot by Laurie @ Life On A Bike
Good Avid Elixir CR
- Adjustable banjo fitting on the caliper for easy brake line alignment
- Progressive modulation throughout the lever/piston stroke
- Plenty of power for all applications
- No more Avid turkey gobble!
- Easy, tool-free reach adjust
Bad Avid Elixir CR
- Brake line moves with pad contact adjustment barrel (move line and barrel independently)
- Avid Bleed System required for bleeding brakes
- No alloy lever available retail
Using the Avid Elixir CR’s? Submit your review by clicking here.
Where To Buy The Avid Elixirs…
What do you think?