Avid Elixir 9 Trail and Elixir 7 Trail brakes – first look and ride

By Josh Patterson | Tuesday, April 16, 2013 2.00pm

Avid is offering two new all-mountain oriented brakes - the Elixir 9 Trail and Elixir 7 Trail - that share the same four-piston caliper design as parent company SRAM's XO Trail brake, but at more affordable price points.

The “Trail” tag ling, along with the accompanying technology, has trickled down to the new Elixir 9 and 7 Trail models. The new brakes share the same second-generation Taperbore master cylinder design of the XO Trail model along with the same four-piston caliper.

Likewise, their intended range of use is the same as the XO Trail, spanning the range from cross-country to gravity riding.

The only things separating these three brakes from one another are a few grams and some creature comforts. Compared to the XO Trail, the Elixir 9 Trail lacks the cartridge bearing at the lever pivot, while the Elixir 7 Trail lacks the Contact Point Adjustment feature, which allows the rider to fine tune the point in the brake lever’s throw where the brake actually engages. The Elixir 7 also has an alloy lever blade in place of carbon and a cast, rather than forged lever body.

The trail family of brakes is aimed at meeting the needs of many different types of riders: the trail family of brakes is aimed at meeting the needs of many different types of riders

The Elixir 9 and 7 Trail brakes are new additions to the Elixir family, spanning a broad range of uses

SRAM and Avid Trail brakes: specifications, weight and price

Model XO Trail Elixir 9 Trail Elixir 7 Trail
Weight 340g 350g 355g
Body construction Forged aluminum  Forged aluminum  Cast aluminum
Caliper construction Forged aluminum  Forged aluminum  Forged aluminum
Lever material Carbon Carbon Aluminum
Lever pivot Cartridge bearing Bushing Bushing
Rotor sizes 140, 160, 170, 180, 200mm 140, 160, 170, 180, 200mm 140, 160, 170, 180, 200mm
Reach Adjust Yes, tool-less Yes, 2.5mm allen Yes, 2.5mm allen
Contact Adjust Yes Yes No
MatchMakerX Compatible Yes Yes Yes
MSRP (per wheel) $234/£225/€260 $169/140£/€151 $169/£100 /€113

What makes four-pistons better than two?

The XO, Elixir 9 and 7 Trail brakes can be thought of as downsized versions of Avid’s Code brake, which is designed to withstand the rigors of downhill and freeride. The Trail brakes use 14mm and 16mm pistons, slightly smaller than the 15mm and 16mm pistons used on Code.

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The new Elixir 9 and 7 Trail brakes feature four-piston calipers for more power and better modulation

Four pistons allow for the use of a longer brake pad, which can apply force over a greater area of the rotor’s braking track than a two-piston brake. Increasing the amount of surface area used for braking increases power and improves modulation. These days, most hydraulic disc brake systems provide more than enough stopping power. "We're focused on providing more usable stopping power, rather than outright braking force," said a SRAM brake engineer.

First ride review

We spent several days riding a pair of Elixir 9 Trail brakes mounted to a Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc in Sedona, Arizona, and found the new brake to be a great fit for a 29er trail bike. Our bike was set up with 180mm front and 170mm rear Avid HS1 rotors—a good combination for 29in trail bikes.

The Elixir Trail brakes share the same ergonomics as other brakes in the SRAM/Avid family, so if you’ve found they suit you in the past there will be no surprises here.

Power and modulation were (not surprisingly) directly comparable to the XO Trail model. The Elixir 9 has a progressive lever feel that ramps up sharply toward the end of the stroke, the first half of the lever’s stroke allows for nuanced braking to check your speed coming into corners, while the last half of the stroke provides enough bite to lockup the wheels when needed. 

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Lever feel is good, as is braking performance

As mentioned above, the Elixir 9 Trail lacks the cartridge bearing at the lever pivot. It turned out to be a piece of hardware that was not missed. The lever feel is almost as smooth as the XO Trail with minimal bushing slop.

Despite the dusty conditions and several steam crossings, the brakes remained silent. There was nary a hint of gobbling, squealing or other not-so-pleasant noises that have plagued past Avid brakes—just quiet, controlled braking.

Related links

The only thing lacking on the rough and rocky Sedona trails are extended downhill runs long enough to test brake fade. That said, the fact that the new brakes use the same brake pads and internals as the X0 Trail, which is now being used by weight-conscious World Cup downhill racers like Aaron Gwin, mean heat buildup issues are not likely to be much of a concern with a properly bled system and prudent rotor choice

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The Elixir 9 and 7 Trail brakes are available now.

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