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  1. #1
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    Swapping out Avid Elixir brakes for Shimano brakes

    I'm seriously considering swapping out the brakes on one of our bikes. I knew that having to do it was a distinct possibility when the bike was purchased, but I'm a little taken aback by how quickly an issue has arisen: it was purchased last Saturday and has been ridden twice.

    The bike is a 2013 Kona Kahuna. The issue (squealing) is presently with the front brake, but I imagine that issues with the rear will quickly follow suit. I've read enough to realize, and have been warned by eb1888, that changing out the brakes all together is probably the best way to save my sanity.

    It has:

    • Avid Elixir 1 calipers
    • Avid Elixir 1 levers
    • Avid G2 180mm front rotor
    • Avid G2 160mm rear rotor

    Our other bike has Shimano Deore M446 hydraulic brakes, and I'm satisfied with them after very limited use: despite the fact that those brakes are bottom of the barrel when it comes to Shimano hydraulic brakes. I like the fact that Shimano uses mineral oil in their hydraulic braking systems, too.

    I had no experience with disk brakes (hydraulic or not) until a week and a half ago: when I purchased the first of our two new bikes. I don't know what works with what, or even how to open the reservoirs or change the pads at this point in time.

    I'm considering three possible brakesets:

    • Shimano Deore BR-M486 (they're inexpensive, and there are multitudes of great reviews on them),
    • Shimano SLX M675 (there is a good sale on them right now, and while the reviews are limited in quantity they're positive), and
    • Shimano XT M785 (the priciest option . . . but there are loads of great reviews on them).

    I'm wondering:

    • Can I replace one brakeset at a time (to spread out the expenditure of funds . . . I'm 3.5k into cycling stuff in two weeks and it is starting to get uncomfortable)? The only real complication I see with that is having two different types of brake fluid in use on one bike.
    • Can I keep the rotors that are on the bike?
    • What kind of adapter will be required for a Shimano brakeset (eb1888 has indicated that one will be required in the "Diary" thread I have in my signature, but I'm too big a noob to these brakes to know what kind)?
    • Are there any special tools required?
    • I have the latest edition of "Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance" (it is quite a bit thicker than the edition I bought in 2001!) . . . will it be enough to guide me through the process, or is there a better reference?


    Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thx.
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by neacail View Post
    It has:

    • Avid Elixir 1 calipers
    • Avid Elixir 1 levers
    • Avid G2 180mm front rotor
    • Avid G2 160mm rear rotor


    I'm considering three possible brakesets:

    • Shimano Deore BR-M486 (they're inexpensive, and there are multitudes of great reviews on them),
    • Shimano SLX M675 (there is a good sale on them right now, and while the reviews are limited in quantity they're positive), and
    • Shimano XT M785 (the priciest option . . . but there are loads of great reviews on them).

    I'm wondering:

    • Can I replace one brakeset at a time (to spread out the expenditure of funds . . . I'm 3.5k into cycling stuff in two weeks and it is starting to get uncomfortable)? The only real complication I see with that is having two different types of brake fluid in use on one bike.
    • Can I keep the rotors that are on the bike?
    • What kind of adapter will be required for a Shimano brakeset (eb1888 has indicated that one will be required in the "Diary" thread I have in my signature, but I'm too big a noob to these brakes to know what kind)?
    • Are there any special tools required?
    • I have the latest edition of "Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance" (it is quite a bit thicker than the edition I bought in 2001!) . . . will it be enough to guide me through the process, or is there a better reference?


    Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thx.
    Any one of those brakes will work fine. Each one is an improvement over the other but won't guarantee one is better than the other.

    You can replace 1 brake at a time.
    You should be able to bolt the Shimano caliper to whatever adapter is there now because it's already set up for 180 mm rotor.
    No special tools required, just the metric allen wrenches.

    Remove the old system (cut ties holding hose down, remove caliper and lever).
    Install new caliper, loosely over rotor (make sure you get the spacers oriented correctly between the adapter and the caliper.
    Route line to front, if this is full suspension bike, make sure there's no binding or pinching.
    Install lever on to handlebar.

    Turn handlebar around to make sure there isn't any binding for the house. You will probably have lots of line and need to trim some later.

    Good luck with that.

  3. #3
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    i made the switch too. The shimano xt brakes were around $210 from bluesky and I sold my elixir 5's for $100.

    when you take the avids off, pay close attention to the cable routing.

    There are youtube videos for how to shorten the hose on the shimano brakes. It does not require a bleed kit to do it.

    Im still using avid rotors and the brakes are totally silent.

  4. #4
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    Thanks! This is a huge help.

    After checking out the in-stock options from two retailers (I want the new brakes pronto), I've ordered the front and rear SLX brakes from Bluesky. I'm 90% sure that I've ordered the correct items. I'll find out when they get here. If I didn't, it is another lesson learned the hard way (which is how I learn best. ).

    To save on shipping, I ordered front and rear at the same time. Also, as I wasn't able to choose RH/LH lever options (and I need to 100% ensure that RH is rear), I may need to switch the levers . . . which I won't be able to do if I only have a front brake. I expect the levers to be fine as they're coming from the US, but I've opted to be prepared just in case.

    I read through all of the disk brake information in "Zinn & the art . . . " last night, and I don't think I should have too much of a problem.

    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  5. #5
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    Good luck with that, yes, I've learned a lot from experience. Keep us posted. Always exciting new parts arrive and you get them on and get them working.

  6. #6
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    Before I start taking things apart . . . is there anything I should know?

    The new Shimano brakes have been here for over a month, but I keep chickening out on doing the swap. I'm inspired to do them today.

    I've read several sets of instructions on how to do it, and I know that it should be really easy. However, I often find that "should be" and "will be" are two very different things.

    Are there any tips and/or tricks that I should be aware of before I start? Are there any weird difficulties that could arise, or anything I should double check?
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  7. #7
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    I got off my backside and got the front brake installed. I don't know why I was practically hyperventilating over doing it. It may be the easiest component install I've ever done on a bike.

    The squeal is now gone! In looking at the Elixir pads, it looks like they've got some metal shavings on the edges of them, and it looks like they may have an oily substance on them. I'll dissect them later.

    But, there is one spot on the disk where it is rubbing against a pad. The rub is bugging me. I adjusted the brake three times (by squeezing the lever as I tightened up the screws), and all three times the result is the same. The wheel is a bit out of true, but it appears to be installed correctly.

    Is this something that will resolve itself once the brakes are bedded in? Or, is it a symptom of a larger problem?
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  8. #8
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    I got the rear done yesterday, too. It was very easy to install everything.

    I am dealing with a bit of rub on both the front and rear brake. I think the issue is that I don't have them adjusted quite properly, yet. I need to find something to shim the pads when I'm adjusting them, I think.
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

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