When the Elixir line from Avid debuted four years ago, replacing the company’s Juicy line of hydraulic brakes, it represented a new era in braking for parent company, SRAM. An innovative “taper bore” master cylinder promised a consistent lever feel and improved modulation over its predescessor. It was an instant hit, so good that nearly every major bike company decided to spec the brake as original equipment on production bikes.
For a season or so, it all worked great. Floor bikes had solid braking components on their upper tier mountain bikes and SRAM continued to consolidate its burgeoning market share in the component game. Unfortunately, the flood in demand for their product led to an absurd amount of production irregularities and nightmare maintenance scenarios for customers and service technicians alike as SRAM struggled to keep consistent quality.
It’s with this backdrop that that XO trail brake was released, an attempt to right previous wrongs and bring the company’s promising start back around to a reliable, high performing product. A four piston design, improved internals and details like cartridge bearing pivots all combine for a renewed push toward braking excellence.
First impressions are definitely favorable. A solid lever feel through the smooth pivot bearing and carbon lever make a good start, but the really impressive qualities come out on the trail. These new brakes modulate like no other Avid brake in history and the ensuing confidence is addictive. The new four piston design improves power dramatically over the standard XO brake, allowing perfect speed control.
On high speed descents and twisting singletrack, these brake shine and have provided consistent and reliable braking for the last several months. Missouri doesn’t have the kind of extended downhills that would allow a reliable test of heat management or brake fade, but they have been solid throughout the test period.
Granted, most of the issues with previous generations of Elixir brake have shown up after a more extended period of riding. While these brake have been excellent in terms of performance and reliability thus far, the real test is in the long term. Hopefully, Avid has finally put the persistent issues it has had in the rear view mirror and has a design that delivers on the company’s potential. The four piston design is trickling down to the Elixir 9 and 7 line for 2014 so look for big improvements across a variety of price ranges.