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  1. #1
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    Avid BB7 vs Elixir 3

    Looked around the forums but I can't see anyone asked this before: mechanical vs hydraulics.

    On the one hand, mech has less maintenance, but on the other, hydros have better stopping power. I have read horror stories and much praise about both systems which is probably why I'm undecided.

    Question is, which one is right for me? I'm about 175lbs including gear, so I don't need amazing stopping power. Mostly trail with some rocks. It's a 2011 Niner EMD frame I'm using, but I don't know if that is more suited to one system or the other.

    Hoping that an open discussion will help me make a decision.

    Thanks!
    Current Stable: 2011 Niner EMD, 2011 Vassago Jabba

  2. #2
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    I find it curious that people generally think cable brakes require less maintenance. My experience has been just the opposite: BB7s require a fair amount of fiddling to keep working right; adjusting pads and contact points. It's all really easy and quick to do, but it's not really required at all on any hydro I've used.
    Cable brakes work best with new cables and housings; dirt will get in there, and performance will suffer. Full length housings minimize this, but the housing still has 2 ends that are going to get dirt in them. I found I was replacing cables a lot more frequently than I bleed my hydros.

    I guess what I'm saying is at best bb7s are going to require at best the same amount of maintenance, I think the belief that it's less comes from the fact that it's working on cables and adjusting things that are familiar, where bleeding a hydro brake used to be a foreign concept to bike mechanics. These days it shouldn't be.

    Now, elixers aren't great brakes, and I'd certainly recommend other hydros over them. If it really was between bb7 and elixer 3... I can't say there's a clear winner. If you were talking bb7 vs, say XT; XT wins hands down in my book.

  3. #3
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    Here we go....

  4. #4
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    I used to be a bb7 user. They are the best cable brakes in my opinion. Compared to Hydros though, they are pretty weak. In my experience, Avid hydros are not that good, so I would be looking at something else.

  5. #5
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    Looks like I'm going XT then
    Current Stable: 2011 Niner EMD, 2011 Vassago Jabba

  6. #6
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    I've been using BB7 for years on my bikes and wife's bike. I'm 175lb, trail rider. I never feel like I need more stopping power. The thing I like about BB7 is I can fiddle with them myself if needed and get them back to proper functionality with ease. I hardly ever need to to do anything with them. I don't think I've touched them at all this year. They work perfectly. For me, why mess with a good thing, especially because I don't need more stopping power and the functionality has been stellar. I've seen so many people messing around with their squealing disc brakes and *****ing about them.

  7. #7
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    I have BB7 on my bike and I was interested in trying XTs for comparison. At a Niner demo day recently I got the chance while on a Air 9 RDO. The difference was startling. The front brake was almost lethal, but I'm going to be able to adapt. I am setting up for the longer trail levers.

  8. #8
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    I have Elixir 3s and they brake very, very well. There is the howling issue once the pads are bedded in but if you don't care about some noise the are pretty good.
    I've had them for over a year now and never had to bleed them despite changing pads. Only thing I needed was to adjust calipers on the mounts to make sure that they don't drag but after couple of hours of fiddling with them I was set.

    Would I go XT for lack of noise? hell yes, but it's hard to justify all the cost just to get rid of some noise.

  9. #9
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    Keep in mind, I ride long distances (single day rides of 40-100 miles all on trails) so I'm more biased towards reliability than some other people.

    I have run:

    Hayes Nine. Bleeding problems. No power. OK modulation. Weak hoses. Failed midride. Sold. 1500 miles.

    Shimano XT. Expensive. Pistons get stuck. Good power. Good modulation. Failed midride. Sold. 2200 miles.

    Avid Juicy 5. Squeaky. Leaky master cylinder. Failed midride. Sold. 500 miles.

    Avid Elixir 3. Leaky fitting. Failed midride. Sold. 750 miles.

    Avid BB7. Finally. No leaks, no bleeding, has never failed midride. Tons of power. Setup takes a little work. Good modulation with SD5 levers. Only 30 grams heavier than hydros. Doesn't have the completely frictionless feeling of hydros. No fluid to boil, no fluid to gel up in the cold (I ride in -20F weather), can't leak. Easy to fix if they ever did fail. Cheap. 4600 miles so far.

    I've switched all disc bikes in the house over to BB7s from various other mechanical discs and hydros. BB7s have been around for 10 years.

    They are the Kalashnikov of disc brakes - not the slickest and best, and your friends will not drool over them, but they always work and work well, and if you crash and break them you can fix them in the field with common tools and common parts.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by when View Post
    Keep in mind, I ride long distances (single day rides of 40-100 miles all on trails) so I'm more biased towards reliability than some other people.

    I have run:

    Hayes Nine. Bleeding problems. No power. OK modulation. Weak hoses. Failed midride. Sold. 1500 miles.

    Shimano XT. Expensive. Pistons get stuck. Good power. Good modulation. Failed midride. Sold. 2200 miles.

    Avid Juicy 5. Squeaky. Leaky master cylinder. Failed midride. Sold. 500 miles.

    Avid Elixir 3. Leaky fitting. Failed midride. Sold. 750 miles.

    Avid BB7. Finally. No leaks, no bleeding, has never failed midride. Tons of power. Setup takes a little work. Good modulation with SD5 levers. Only 30 grams heavier than hydros. Doesn't have the completely frictionless feeling of hydros. No fluid to boil, no fluid to gel up in the cold (I ride in -20F weather), can't leak. Easy to fix if they ever did fail. Cheap. 4600 miles so far.

    I've switched all disc bikes in the house over to BB7s from various other mechanical discs and hydros. BB7s have been around for 10 years.

    They are the Kalashnikov of disc brakes - not the slickest and best, and your friends will not drool over them, but they always work and work well, and if you crash and break them you can fix them in the field with common tools and common parts.
    I agree with pretty much everything said here except the weight issue - I swapped from BB7s to Elixir CRs, same rotor sizes and adapters - the difference was more like 200 - 300 grams per brake, not 30. I lost about a pound going to the hydos.
    When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

  11. #11
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    I'm curious what exactly is meant by 'failed midride'.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by norton05 View Post
    I'm curious what exactly is meant by 'failed midride'.
    I noted which things failed in my original post.

    To wit:

    Hayes Nine. Bleeding problems. No power. OK modulation. Weak hoses. Failed midride (hose broke). Sold. 1500 miles.

    Shimano XT. Expensive. Pistons get stuck. Good power. Good modulation. Failed midride (stuck piston). Sold. 2200 miles.

    Avid Juicy 5. Squeaky. Leaky master cylinder. Failed midride (master cylinder seal failure). Sold. 500 miles.

    Avid Elixir 3. Leaky fitting. Failed midride (fitting blew out). Sold. 750 miles.

  13. #13
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    Now I see what you are saying, you've had some really bad luck! I'm pretty sure you'll never have those problems on your BB7s, enjoy

  14. #14
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    Now try some formula's and let us know what you think.

    I had bb7 for many years and always was convinced it was the greatest brake in the world. Bought a new bike with formula rx on them.

    Not quite night and day, the BB7 is a great brake but much better stopping power.

  15. #15
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    Are you on an specific budget?

    Elixir 3 are pretty powerful for the price and the modulation is nice too but I have heard they're not very reliable after spending some miles on them

    Shimano's are more set it and forget it

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Learux View Post
    Now try some formula's and let us know what you think.

    I had bb7 for many years and always was convinced it was the greatest brake in the world. Bought a new bike with formula rx on them.

    Not quite night and day, the BB7 is a great brake but much better stopping power.
    BB7s are already one finger brakes for me. If I have the opportunity to try a bike with formulas I will def do so.

  17. #17
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    I have a set(F and R) of Elixir 5s you can have for $100. Pre-bled with 185mm adapter on front. Came off my 2011 hifi deluxe.

  18. #18
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    I think you would be happy with either one. I currently have both BB7 and elixir 3 in my cross country and AM bikes. I have been very satisfied w/ the BB7 which I've used for 8 years. Never had any issues. Great stopping power and 1 finger braking on 160 mm rotors. If you take off your wheel, you may sometimes need to adjust the caliper which takes a couple of minutes at the most. I recommend using quality brake cables to go with it.

    The elixir 3 came w/ my AM bike I bought a few months ago. No issues other than a minor brake squeal. Feels stronger but that then it had 185 mm rotors. No need to adjust calipers when reinstalling the wheels but that may be partly due to the thru axle which more or less help keep the wheels centered/aligned.

    They both modulate well but have a different feel.

  19. #19
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    A lot of this feedback is not meaningful without knowing the type of riding and terrain that goes with the review.
    BB7's are not powerful enough? Well are you in Colorado descending from 12,000 ft to 6,000 ft? Or are you in Kansas riding on a flat dirt road? Y'all get the point.

    I'm sure there are hydros more powerful than BB7's, but I'm also sure that BB7's are more than powerful enough for a lot of folks.

    The same goes for V brakes

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    A lot of this feedback is not meaningful without knowing the type of riding and terrain that goes with the review.
    BB7's are not powerful enough? Well are you in Colorado descending from 12,000 ft to 6,000 ft? Or are you in Kansas riding on a flat dirt road? Y'all get the point.

    I'm sure there are hydros more powerful than BB7's, but I'm also sure that BB7's are more than powerful enough for a lot of folks.

    The same goes for V brakes
    I'm in the Rockies and my BB7s do just fine.

  21. #21
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    Pricepoint has 160 BB7s right now for 39 per wheel if that matters.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by when View Post
    I'm in the Rockies and my BB7s do just fine.
    Now we just need the customary post from some guy in a pancake state telling you that BB7s are terrible ...

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by SS Hack View Post
    Now we just need the customary post from some guy in a pancake state telling you that BB7s are terrible ...
    I love pancakes.
    Ghisallo Wheels

    I'm really good looking.

  24. #24
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    Liberal Kansas/Olney England Pancake Festival. Perfect.

    International Pancake Day

  25. #25
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    Thought I'd post a link to how to set up BB7s properly:

    Avid BB7 Disc Brake set up and tuning. | Two Wheel Blogs

    Looking forward to my XTs being delivered and installed!
    Current Stable: 2011 Niner EMD, 2011 Vassago Jabba

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