Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Avid Elixir 5 disc brake review

Posted by Matt | October 23, 2009 | 10 comments so far

Avid Elixir 5 disc brake kit
Yesterday I mentioned I was planning a ride to work on my rejuvenated Inbred singlespeed. Part of that process of bringing the Inbred up to date has been replacing the old skool Hope Mini brakes with new Avid Elixir 5 disc brakes.

Avid Elixir 5’s? I hear you ask. Yes indeed, the Elixir technology that first appeared in their top-end and spendy CR and CR Mag flavours has filtered down through the range.

This means you get Taperbore technology, where the reservoir and piston are now inline for a more streamlined effect and reach adjustment, albeit with the need to get an Allen key out rather than turn a dial. The benefit is a sleek lever design and if you have smaller hands (or perhaps are fe-mole) you have the opportunity to get the lever reach just so.

There’s no means to tweak the pad clearance though, but personally I think that’s a solution I have no real need for.

My reasons for swapping brakes were several. First of all, my old Mini’s have done their time. In need of a decent bleed, I’ve put that job off for ages and found the performance has inevitably dropped off to the point where they offered limited braking power. I know, a decently set up Mini is pretty effective but I just felt the time was right for a change.

Another reason was I’ve just replaced my 2003 Marzocchi Marathon coil fork with a Rock Shox Reba which requires a post mount adaptor. I didn’t really fancy the idea of an adaptor and a 203mm disc on a singlespeed – far too much overkill for me.

Finally, Merlin Cycles are currently offering the complete Avid Elixir kit (front and rear callipers and levers, fully bled, ready-to-fit with 160mm discs) for just £135. Yes, that correct, £135 or just £67 per wheel. That’s a bargain in my book; throw in the not insignificant fact that these brakes are white and I just couldn’t resist!

So, a day later I had myself a nice parcel arrive from Merlin. Over the course of the weekend I removed the fork, replaced it with the Reba and took the old Minis off before fitting the brakes. Despite having everything I needed in the kit and despite needing to tighten only 10 bolts in total (4 for the two lever mounts, 2 for the front post and 4 for the rear IS adaptor and post mount) it still took me nearly 2 and a half hours to do this simple job.

I don’t know why that was either. Probably my garage works to a different time zone to everywhere else – you go in there and while only an hour passes in your world, up to half a day can disappear elsewhere. It’s quite a problem.

Honestly though, despite the time I spent, this was a really simple job that even someone with my unique skill set can accomplish. If anything the rear hose is a touch too long (probably ideal for a full-sus machine) but it’s not a huge issue which can be sorted out when I eventually bleed the brakes in about three years time. Finally, the brakes were fitted and ready to roll.

In use these brakes are quite different to my Minis. The lever is, if anything a bit chunkier with a broad, flat blade but you do notice it’s not got the hewn-from-solid-aluminium feel to it that Hope specialise in. But it’s perfectly acceptable and once I’d got a few hard stops under my belt it felt very comfortable to me. The reach adjustment I’m sure is very useful to riders with smaller hands but my hands are quite big and the levers felt fine as they were.

As for braking performance, this is significantly ahead of the Minis. Smooth, well modulated, powerful and other subjective terms spring to mind with the added bonus of no noise! My goodness Minis can squeal when they’re not spot on and on a singlespeed that noise can really mess with your zen!

As the pads bedded in during the course of the ride I could really feel their braking performance increasing. By the time I came down off the chalky descent at Colley Hill (near Reigate) this morning, slick with damp and debris washed down from recent rains I felt completely comfortable with the feedback and stopping power these brakes were providing. It’s enough of a workout to realise that these brakes are going to be very effective partners to my winter singlespeeding.

If you’re looking for an effective disc brake at a bargain price then this could be the brake for you. They’re lighter than my Hope Minis and certainly lighter than the Hope Mono M4s I run on the Five yet they offer strong performance. Most other brakes are considerably more, I looked at the (pink) Hope Monos but they were £110, plus £30 for a rotor per end! I just couldn’t justify that cost.

Anyway, these brakes are in white. Did I mention that!!?

Filed under Brakes, Reviews in October 2009


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 10 comments on ‘Avid Elixir 5 disc brake review’

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  1. Colin says:

    Quote: […my garage works to a different time zone to everywhere else – you go in there and while only an hour passes in your world, up to half a day can disappear elsewhere…]

    Eureka – that is the explanation/excuse I’ve been waiting for – its a massive problem for me too.

    Crazy bargain and you could always use some of the saving to get them painted pink ??

  2. jez says:

    dey is well pimp, innit.

    I have an Avid bleed kit should you need one.

  3. LordOnOne says:

    Elixir 5’s came on my Paragon. The front brake works perfectly but there’s a major vibration/buzzing issue with the rear brake that makes it almost completely unusable. So far I’ve fiddled around a bit but haven’t properly looked into the issue yet, got a few ideas to try. The good news is that these are still much better than the exhibition of awfulness that was my Juicy 5 brakes.

  4. Matt says:

    LordOnOne, keep me posted. Would be interested to hear of any potential issues and how/if you manage to resolve them.

    Very impressed with the power, might have to tweak the lever reach after all… managed to lock my rear brake at one point on the ride home quite unexpectedly, not something I normally do at all.

    If you’ve experienced issues it would interesting to hear about them. I’ll keep an eye out on your site (nice site btw, good standard of content if you don’t mind me saying).

  5. Dave M says:

    Cheers for the review Matt. My wife bought these (with a little persuasion) for me for Christmas. Untill lately, I have been riding my singlespeed throughout the winter, fitted with 2006 Shimano XT stoppers. I was getting tired of having to maintain, bleed & set the pistons/pads in the XTs after almost every ride as they struggled to cope with the good old Brit winter. Used your review to make my choice & got a great deal on these brakes from Merlin too. (or al least the Mrs did). £121.00 all in!!! Fitted them in about an hour. Even if the mounts have uneven painted surfaces, the mounting kit negates the problem easily. Three long rides later and the brakes continue to perform flawlessly. Smooth modulation, no loose lever rattle, no brake squeal and good pad/rotor clearance to prevent that mud n gloop binding and grating. They look pretty cool in white too. I’m so impressed I now intend to pop these on my trail/AM bike in the spring. Cheers Matt, you should get-a-hold of Avid & ask for commission.

  6. James says:

    I just bought a set for $120 a pair. I also purchased a fox 32 vanilla fork as well to put on my gt force 3.0. The brakes that I’m replacing were horrible. Tektro Algura, or something rather. I can’t wait to give these brakes a go, I”m still waiting for my new fork.

  7. Matt says:

    @DaveM and James – great to hear my review has been helpful to you.

    I remain very impressed by the brakes considering the cost. I’ve just fitted some new non-Avid pads to the rear which are slightly thicker and show a brake bleed is necessary and the standard hoses are extravagantly long but those are my only (easily rectified) niggles.

    DaveM, have been thinking along the same lines as you, do I really need Hope M4s on my Orange?

    James, good choice Fox Vanillas… should by a good combo.

    Wish I was on commission…

  8. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Wednesday 17 February – White Downs clag

    Another winter’s ride across the North Downs to White Down where heavy going seemed to create a temporary hell!

  9. DaveW says:

    Last year I set about lightening up my Orange 5 and one obvious target was the M4 brakes, which looked lovely and were incredibly reliable (3 years year round use and never had to be (re-)bled), but squealed horribly when there was any moisture in the air and never seemed to have a huge amount of power. So, onto Merlin I went and got a set of Elixir Rs.

    They are certainly a lot lighter and I echo all the positive comments above on their effectiveness, but I do have one gripe and that is bleeding them.

    The hoses were way to long, so I cut them down to size. The bleeding is much more complicated and long winded than the XTs, but I got them done eventually (2 attempts were required to get the rear one done).

    However, after a couple of rides it became evident I still hadn’t got all of the air out of the rear one. So I tried again. Another painful and long winded operation, but at the end they worked nicely again. Thinking I’d get used to this ‘feature’ and being impressed with all other aspects of the brake I bought a set of Elixir CRs for a bike build I was working on…

    Then the initial set of Elixir Rs went spongy again on the rear wheel and during a ride stopped working completely (even with vigorous pumping).

    Unable to bear the lengthy bleeding process, I gave up and took them into the shop (Head for the Hills, Dorking). They came back fine and have been fine ever since.

    After this experience, I decided to also take the new bike into the H4TH and get them to complete the bike build, including shortening the hoses and bleeding the new CRs. They came back fine, but after a few rides the rear one went spongey.

    So I got that one bled again (by Biketech) and it has been fine since.

    So what is the problem? I used a pattern bleed kit and not the £30 Avid one (£30 quid for a couple of syringes, a couple of plastic tubes, plastic clips and adaptors?), but most of the people I’ve spoken with about this have struggled to bleed these using the Avid kit. And I don’t have any problems bleeding my XTs in a fraction of the time.

    Would I buy more Elixir’s? Well they are very effective and light, but if I wanted something I could maintain myself I would get XT’s.

  10. Related: Ride report: Wednesday 17 February - White Downs clag | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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