SRAM XX was developed as a top level World Cup level group set to give its premium riders and athletes every advantage when it came to weight, strength and performance.
Developed in conjunction with their Pro level Black Box program it resulted in some of the world’s lightest components. For World Cup cross country racers, weight is a big big issue. Racers have been known to ride with three instead of six bolts securing their disc rotor (not recommended!!!) in the pursuit of saving those few precious grams.
Every aspect of weight saving has been looked at. The Avid Caliper Positioning System (CPS), the cup and ball washers which allow for fine tuning of the caliper position, do not feature at XX level, which I think is no bad thing given that most brake manufacturers don’t bother with them either. The TaperBore system has been tweaked (more on this later) and every aspect of weight saving has been utilised including a carbon fiber lever blade and magnesium calipers.
For the World Cup racers even that was not enough. Take a 288 gram Avid XX brake and make it lighter? Really?
First up take away the pad adjustment. You don’t need it if you have a mechanic in the pits adjusting your gear for you after every ride. You have now saved a whopping 11 grams. Next use titanium bolts where possible, such as on the matchmaker clamps. The full system weighs in at a svelte 277 grams.
For 2012 Avid tweaked the technology in both its XX level brakes. The new Avid Taperbore (the fluid in the lever is compressed into a tube that tapers as you get into the stroke) has a clever airtrap which traps air in the event of some getting some into the system, reducing the need for bleeding. Also there are new o-rings integrated into the assembly and the system has been refined to allow for better modulation through the lever stroke. You want to scrub speed quickly without locking up and going into a skid at this level.
This is really noticeable on the trail and feels very tuned. The brake is never squishy or soft under braking; rather you are aware of having more power available if necessary. I felt like I was able to hold my speed better because I was braking more precisely. This is a big plus.
The brake fluid reservoir is integrated into the lever. For a World Cup racer with a mechanic on standby this is no big deal, but in the real world it is a bit of a pain requiring syringes etc. However the bigger problem concerns the lack of pad adjustment, something that is available on regular XX brakes. Bleeding the system is actually fine once you are confident in your abilities and have the right tools. Avid have a really good video that shows you how to do it.
Looks wise it is great, a nice stealthy black as opposed to the standard XX grey. The lever feel is really natural and doesn’t feel plastic like some carbon levers can. Reach adjustment is via an Allen key under the lever and is fine. The caliper is really nice and neat with great power transfer. Pads are now top loading on all Avid systems, making them easier to replace, although our set lasted really well despite an autumn’s abuse in totally mixed conditions and terrain.
How do they compare to the competition? Well, brake feel is a highly individualistic thing (this is not a cop out). I personally like brakes from a number of manufacturers for different reasons. Shimano are so bomb-proof and easily serviceable. Magura’s new MT range have awesome power, low weight and a great feel, and Hayes are really getting their act together with their new Prime, while Hope and Formula have downhill strength power at XC weight.
So where does Avid XX WC fit in? It is definitely in the ballpark in terms of weight and it has one of the best lever feels and modulation. Fit for purpose is how I would describe them – a really great choice for the high level cross country racer.
Overall this is a really good brake but I wondered was it really necessary for anyone but a top level cross country racer and SRAM would probably agree. Check out the regular XX brakes or opt for the 50 gram heavier X0 series which is very similar. You will be glad of the pad adjustment and probably not too worried about the extra weight.
Ben combines work as a qualified mountain bike guide with reviewing and rating products for Singletrack.com as well as Outsider magazine and Spoke.ie and is also working on a PhD in tourism and entrepreneurship. With 20 years of mountain biking behind him, Ben remembers the Girven Flexstem, U-brakes and the first time he saw a suspension fork with a 1-inch piece of elastomer in it. He has ridden bikes on four continents and has covered events as diverse as the 2007 mountain bike world championships, the Giro D’Italia and the Single Speed World Champs and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is happiest riding technical singletrack and was an early adopter of the 29er… for a European. Find him on Twitter: #spoketweets. Check out all of Ben’s stories.