TRP is currently known for being the disc brake of choice used by Aaron Gwin, a testimony to TRP. A rider of his level riding the product reflects considerably on the performance, so when an opportunity to try the TRP Slate T4 disc brakes presented itself I was looking forward to it.
TRP brakes have been showing up in the showrooms of bike shops all over the place, with a heavy spec on cross and gravel bikes. The brand isn’t exactly new to the braking game, having been around for over 20 years. Long timers may be more familiar with the parent company Tektro.
Tekro product has traditionally been a price based OEM line. TRP (short for Tekro Racing Products) on the other hand, is focused on high performance, though the line continues the tradition of high value for the dollar.
During my stint as a shop mechanic, I’d set up hundreds of Tektro brakes. I can’t say I ever was interested in running a pair on my personal bike, but the Slate doesn’t resemble the mass produced lower end models in both look or performance. The TRP brake is a different beast altogether.
The Slate T4 brake features a 4 piston forged caliper designed for power and modulation.
Many of the design element appear inspired by Shimano XTR including the dimples on the lever. It is even Shimano I-Spec compatible. Designed for XC, trail and all around riding, the Slate T4 is as light as two piston models but features 4 pistons worth of stopping power.
- Four piston forged caliper
- Reach adjust with 2mm allen
- Top loading semi-metallic pads
- Available in black or canyon silver
- Adjustable banjo fitting for optimal hose routing
- Split hinged handlebar clamp
- I-Spec compatible
- Ergonomic dimpled alloy lever
- Weight: 270g (front)
On the trail
I found installing the TRP brakes a simple, as they’re similar to Shimano models which I’m already quite familiar with. The hoses come quite long so they do require a bit of trimming. As you can see on our initial test rig, a Kona Raijin 29″ hardtail, I keep hoses long in order retain the option of swapping them between various test bikes.
How do they work? Set up on the bike, the Slate has a feel at the lever more inline with SRAM brakes than Shimano XT. That said, it is a bit of a trade off as the Slate offers more modulation than the Shimano brakes of old but don’t match them in terms of pure stopping power. Pushing two additional pistons takes more force at the lever, and the consensus was to run bigger rotors to dial in the brakes with the proper stopping power. Once paired with larger rotors the Slate comes into its own, with adequate stopping power but maintaining modulation without a dramatic on-off feel.
It comes down to personal preference, as I recently enjoyed a fun ride on a borrowed cross bike equipped with TRP Hylex (hydraulic road specific caliper) and thought the two piston Hylex felt amazing and had more than ample stopping juice. Of course, that was with 40c tires, so we’re talking apples and oranges in terms of setup.
Who’s it for
I’ve spent the last several seasons on Shimano brakes, and being familiar with the ins and outs of Shimano brakes, working on the TRP Slate was intuitive, with similar features and adjustments. The consensus amongst our crew was the T4 was best paired with 7″ and 8″ rotors for the best combination of “stop” and modulation. We didn’t find them to be quite strong enough for DH bike use, but suitable for budget minded riders running heavier builds that often find themselves over braking or locking their wheels.
My favorite aspect of the T4? The drilled and dimpled lever blade, which has a great feel. Swaps between bikes has been simple as well, with the split-hinge clamp facilitating installation and removal.
At $120 a brake, the Slate represents a good value, especially considering each brake includes it’s own bleed kit. (Its $15 if you purchase one separately.) While rotors aren’t included, the basic rotor sells for $30 with the lighter, two piece rotor running $50. Our test set included standard rotors, which felt on the heavy side of the spectrum. Like the rest of the TRP line, the compatibility with Shimano products makes it easy to find parts and mix and match. My test brakes worked just fine with the Shimano compatible rotors I already had set up, which I stuck with as they were lighter than the less expensive, stamped rotors.
Who’s it for? If you’re already familiar with the Shimano system running mineral oil (over the more toxic dot fluid) looking for a value packed brake with SRAM-like modulation, check them out.
Learn more at TRPbrakes.com