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Words by Brandon Turman
Photos by Adrian Marcoux

A few weeks ago, Avid invited me to take part in the unveiling of their new 2012 Elixir disc brake lineup, which includes the Elixir 7 and Elixir 9.  What follows are my initial impressions gathered during two full days of riding in the mountains of Northern California.

For more technical details, be sure to catch our Avid Elixir Feature Slideshow with Avid's Brake Genius, Paul Kantor.

Following the second day's ride on the Elixir 7 equipped Devinci Dixon.

The Test Bike
Upon arriving at the Avid test camp headquarters (aka a beach house), I was greeted by a new 145mm Devinci Dixon trail bike for use over the next two days. After some initial setup adjustments to suit my riding style and preferences, the bike was ready to roll. For the first day of riding, I used a previously ridden set of Avid Elixir 9 brakes (MSRP $215 per wheel). On day two, I swapped them out for a brand new set of the more affordable Elixir 7 brakes (MSRP $179 per wheel). This change would allow me to draw direct comparisons between the two models.

Dialing in my setup for two days of brake tests.  Note the reach adjustment knob, which is the one pointing toward the inner grip lock ring.
Looks and Feel
Avid claims that the look of the brakes was driven by function, not form. Well, in this particular case function happens to look really good. The lever bodies and calipers are compact, have no sharp edges, and the lines flow together which really adds to the aesthetic appeal. The Elixir 7 is painted and the Elixir 9 has a smooth, glossy anodized finish which will surely boost any bike's wow factor.

One of my favorite features was the MatchMakerX (MMX) system, which allows seamless integration with SRAM's shifters and the Rockshox Reverb seatpost, reducing clutter on your bars. This system also lets you easily adjust your shifter position both side-to-side and up-and-down, which is allowed me to get the shifter exactly where I wanted it. For 2012, the MMX system comes on both the Elixir 7 and 9.

Avid carried their tried and true lever shape over from previous generations, so they continue to feel comfortable and will be familiar to current and past Avid owners. Because the pivot location is close to the bar, when squeezing the brakes hard my finger did not want to slide off the ends of the lever unlike some of the offerings from other manufacturers. The perch also felt slightly stiffer than previous models.

All smiles as we prepped for the first ride.

Avid's Contact Adjustment, which is found on the Elixir 9, but not the 7.
Adjustments
One major difference between the two new models is the contact adjustment. The 9 has it, the 7 doesn't. If you are particular about your brake setup, you'll want to strongly consider the 9 for that reason. Turning the contact adjustment from one extreme to the other noticeably changed when the brakes activated. The contact adjustment now features better detents to help prevent barrel rotation, which eliminates a common complaint with older models. Simply put, the adjustment works as intended. When I was running the 7's on day two, my brakes weren't able to be set up exactly like they were with the 9's, which required some minor getting used to.

Another improvement from last year's Elixirs is a upgraded tool-free reach adjustment, which is spec'd on both models. The adjustment knob is easy to turn despite being in a new location (even when wearing gloves) and is also detented. The knob was intentionally made long not only so it would be easy to get ahold of, but also to ensure that users run space their brake levers away from their grips, though this may be an issue for Grip Shift users.

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Side-by-side, these two images show the internal differences between the Elixir CR and the new Elixir 9.
Internal Improvements
As the images above show, it's a whole new ball game inside the updated Elixirs. The internals have been completely reworked in order to address inconsistent performance issues occasionally seen with the older models. Previously, inconsistencies were caused by the brake's tendency to trap air during the bleeding process. The new internals have been reworked to reduce the need for repeat bleeds. If there is any air in the system (up to a certain amount, mind you), it will now be trapped near the bleed port which will still allow the brakes to function as normal and make it easier to remove air bubbles.

Speaking of the bleed port, it has been moved to the lever body. This switch should increase the life expectancy of the main seal/o-ring, simply because it is no longer being repetitively dragged over the bleed port every time you squeeze of the lever.

Bleed Improvements
We were told that Avid took 6-7 months to rebuild every one of their bleed machines as a further measure to ensure OE bleed consistency. Their new process closely resembles a professional hand bleed, and all brakes are now subject to a more accurate test for air bubbles prior to leaving the factory. Both sets of brakes that I used had a good bleed, though I suspect they were double checked ahead of my arrival.

See the mud and grime?  These were the conditions we faced while testing the brakes.

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New Rotors
Also new for 2012 are an updated line of rotors, dubbed the "HS" series. Aside from some sizing updates to bring them in line with standard diameters in increments of 20mm, the new rotors feature a drilled braking surface. The new process is claimed to produce a more consistent braking surface. During the two day test, I never experienced the dreaded "turkey gobble" or pulsing brakes, which would indicate that the braking surface is likely flatter than the old G2 rotors which were occasionally subject to those problems.

I felt right at home on the often steep and twisty trails, and trusted the brakes to stop or slow me down when needed.
Short-Term Performance
I was impressed by both sets of the new Elixirs. The adjustments worked as intended, and they delivered consistent, useable power throughout the lever stroke, which made me comfortable even on the steeps.

There was only once time I felt like the brakes were underpowered. This came on the second day of testing and was due to the fact that I was using brand new pads that needed to break in. Once I had them properly worn in (which was about 4-5 turns into our descent), the brakes were instantly reliable.

Due to the short-term nature of this test, I can't really weigh in on long-term durability just yet, but I'll update you in the future. My initial impression is that these brakes are both keepers.

Both days there was a mandatory post ride hose down back at base camp.  It was that mucky.

For more details about the new Elixir brakes, visit www.sram.com/avid.

Thanks to everyone at SRAM/Avid for hosting the press camp, keeping things fun, and picking me up off the ground when I got a little too zesty on the trail (Watch out for stray sticks, everyone. You've been warned!).

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