Just like may of us on here, I was enamored with the XT Icetechs as they were so much better than anything I had used and the power was substantial if not a little immediate at times. I thought after putting them on my last bike that I'd never try anything else. But some friends of mine had been going on and on about the new X0/X9 trails and I got a smokin' deal on a new set with rotors so I figured I'd try them out. If I didn't like them than I'd sell and buy XT or XTR's for the new bike.
Well, I like them, allot, and I think I'll keep them for a while. Its a little hard to describe as there is no way to talk about them without comparing them to something else like the XT's. But both brakes are great in their own way, with their own strengths and weakness. Its like trying to pick your favorite child "I love both of you the same, but in different ways!"
First things first, forget whatever you knew about the older Avid Elixirs, these are nothing like those so far. Gone is the turkey warble, they are actually quieter than the XT's I ran previously. And also, the CPS washer system has been ditched and they are just fine for it. I have a really good LBS with allot of experience with Avid brakes so I let them trim the line and bleed them after I put it all together.
The Shimano XT Icetech is a fantastic brake, but not perfect for everyone, and I'll explain why. When the shop trimmed the lines and bled the XT's for me, before I left the shop the tech warned me about the immediate power delivery of the brakes, be careful until you get used to it. I can respect that and while I did heed his warning it still was a fairly dramatic first couple of high speed braking sessions. And while I did get used to the immediacy of the brakes and the endless power I also had to change my riding to accommodate them. That kind of bothered me a bit. I think of a mod or upgrade as something to accentuate my riding, not something that forces me to change my riding style to keep from killing myself.
But the power, man its awesome, nothing else like it out there, right?
I really didn't think I'd like the X0 trails that much, I mean the Icetechs are awesome, but I'd try them for a change. Once the pads were bedded in the brakes felt familiar, like previous Elixirs I'd used but better and with no noise. The lever feel is great, the feedback is fine, and the modulation is subtle, but almost unnecessary by the way the brakes work.
The braking action is buttery smooth, no drama or "oh crap" moments were you have to back off. The way I would compare it in automotive terms would be in comparing a car with ABS to one with out. In the ABS car you just slam the brakes and they are smart enough to figure out how to stop you the quickest without locking up. That's the way these X0 trails feel. You don't have to think about anything or prepare your body position for quick braking, you just squeeze and let them work it out.
These are light years ahead of the Elixirs of old, the ones that came stock on your run of the mill $1k hardtail like the 3's and 5's. The dual piston set-up provides as much power as you need but in a very smooth and linear fashion. Once the pads were bedded there were no spikes in power delivery, just smooth braking. But that's were its a little un-nerving, as the amount of feedback and reduced need to modulate your input makes them feel weak when they really are not as all weak. These brakes are sneaky powerful. Just because you can't lock them up as quick as you can with the current XT's and XTR's isn't a bad thing.
After my ride today I feel like I've gotten a good well rounded experience and I really like them. I've had very little need to make adjustments beyond the first ride but I have them at my disposal if I need it. The lever is very comfortable and the whole package looks great. And another side benefit is the weight, they are lighter than XT's and pretty damn close in weight to the XTR trails but the HS1 rotors are substantially lighter than the Icetechs. I'd guess the complete brake package as it sits on my bike is within a few grams of what an XTR trail kit would weigh. And in my opinion the HS1 rotors are the unsung hero of the new Elixir trail brakes. They are light and noise free, something you couldn't have said about the previous Elixirs unless you had your shop spend extra time bleeding and adjusting them until they were good.
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