The Avid Elixir 9 Trail brakes are SRAM's answer to the ever-increasing speeds of today's enduro-style bikes. These bikes are more of a compromise than ever before and demand consistent, powerful stopping power from brakes dinky enough to not offer a huge weight penalty, yet tactile enough to offer cross-country levels of feel.
The biggest news is the Elixir 9 Trails' four-piston design which, up until the release of the pricier X0 Trail version, was always reserved for bigger downhill and freeride type bikes.
The Avids went on the bike easily and even trimming the skipping-rope length rear hose wasn't too much of a faff. Avid's threaded cable barb negates the need for messing about with pliers and hammers. At 247g (per brake, without rotor), the brake weighs a smidge less than the equivalent two-piston Shimano XT brake.
Right from the first pull of the lever, the power on tap is incredible. It isn't the close-to-the-rotor immediacy offered by an oval-padded Formula, it's the kind of solid feel more inherent with Avid's Code brake. It took a couple of rides to bed the Avids in fully but once there we were blown away.
The 'four-pot' feel is superb and most noticeable on really fast corner entries when scrubbing off a lot of speed right on the edge of locking a wheel.
There's a slight build-up feel in the lever on these harder stops but this is helpful in the communication stakes and is gone on the next pull. Once used to the power at the end of the lever, we could really get to work pushing the braking points right back on our favourite trails.
The Elixir 9 Trails aren't all about ham-fisted power though. On slower, techy trails they offer plenty of early and mid-stroke lever feel where we feared they may prove grabby. There wasn't a trace of rattle from the top-loading pads either and aside from needing a couple of normal calliper realignments, they remained fault-free over a whole summer's worth of nearly daily riding.
That said, there's also plenty more meat left on the steel-backed organic pads and we never needed to break out the disc brake cleaner to melt off excess dust either. Those who'd prefer an alloy over a carbon fibre lever should look to the Elixir 7 Trails, but for us, the Elixir 9s took on a big technical ask and came up with some superb answers.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.