Probably like most riders up until a few years ago, I would have never considered TRP brakes. In fact, I was keenly aware that TRP was just a snazzy label on Tektro which had cemented a place in my brain as the brakes of the sub $500 bike. Then, the Gwinner got involved. He blessed TRP with a special edition model and started showcasing them on the world stage. Like most riders, my interest was piqued. After doing a little more research and finding out they pumped mineral fluid as opposed to DOT fluid and they accepted Shimano Saint / Zee brake pads I knew It was time to give these a shot.
The setup I’m running for this review is what I would call the “working class setup”. What that means is, I purchased the base model brake (not the g-spec) and I didn’t buy TRP rotors or adapters. While this may not be the fully intended eco system of brake that many reviews will employ, I do believe it’s a bit more realistic of how the average joe will try these.
Four hybrid piston caliper (Composite/Stainless)
CNC cooling fins on the caliper
Split hinged handlebar clamp
I-Spec b, I-Spec ll (XT and XTR only) or matchmaker compatible with correct TRP adapter to match shifter
Ergonomic dimpled and drilled alloy lever designed by Aaron Gwin
Weight: 323g (front)
MSRP: $149.99 per wheel
For Rotors I chose (had on hand) a 180mm rear and 200mm front SRAM centerline rotor set. In my past experience, these rotors brake smooth and I am particularly smitten with SRAM’s decision to make the large front 200mm instead of 203. This makes adapter cross-compatibility much easier.
One of the distinct features of these brakes is the lever shape and size. Many riders will describe them as “moto-like”. I would agree. They are large, thick and long. Typically I like a more rounded lever profile like that found on Shimano or the new Hayes Dominions. Since the OG Hayes back in the early 2000’s, I haven’t liked the squared-off edges as I find they dig into my fingers. These, however, I came to appreciate and I think here’s why; The lever is particularly tall in profile. This keeps the edges planted in the corners of my finger formed by my first and second knuckle. It’s important to note that I use my middle phalange to pull the brake lever. A rider that prefers to pull with their distal phalange (fingertip) may have a different feel. In short, I thought I wouldn’t like the lever shape. But, in practice, I warmed right up to this blocky lever blade.
While the profile of the lever is pleasant I found the length to be a bit problematic. The length, unfortunately, placed the lever clamp in a conflicting location with the SRAM shifter. It was a goldilocks situation of being in the wrong spot. The compatibility issue was further exaggerated by the bulge on the lever band clamp for the direct-mount provision. I ultimately got this combination to be tolerable by using a Matchmaker clamp to get a little more clearance for the shifter. It was, however, an irritant.
I did briefly try the direct mount clamp offered by TRP, but the interface was not a tight fit and the shifter was able to squirm under moderate load, so I quickly removed the clamp. I would have liked TRP to forego the direct mount provision and simply have a lower profile band clamp that would nest closer to the shifter.
So first I would say I fully understand that every brake company has a bleed procedure. Well, I am set in my ways. I like the Shimano bleed system. Specifically, I like the Shimano bleed cup. So, in this case, I simply used the TRP lever fitting from their bleed kit and a small piece of hose and used a Shimano bleed cup. No issues, worked great! I would also like to note that I recently discovered that the Quadiems have been updated from having a bleed nipple at the caliper to having a threaded bleed cap. This makes the bleed slightly more difficult, however, the “Shimano” bleed technique is still fine. The user will simply need to use both bleed nipples from the kit.
*Pro-tip. When bleeding a brake with a bleed nipple, when you are done, roll a tiny piece of paper towel to wick out the remnant brake fluid out of the bleed nipple hole. You will need to do this a couple times to wick it all out. This will avoid that little bit leaking out after you are done and avoid making you question if you have a caliper leak in dusty conditions.
One more small thing to note. When trimming the line on any hydraulic brake, the next step is to reinstall the barb and olive. Every brake company has their own unique design. I have a personal irritation when trying to tighten the hose and towards the end of the tightening rotation, the line itself starts to want to rotate with the nut. Some brake systems do this and some don’t. The Quadiems unfortunately do. I think this a very nuanced phenomenon related to relative material harnesses, bearing surface sizes, and surface finishes. It isn’t a big deal, but as a home mechanic, it bugs me.
The hose diameter is also worth noting on these brakes. A Shimano brake or a Sram brake has lines with an outer diameter of about 5mm. The TRPs are 5.5mm. While this is normally not an issue but it does fit snugger on some fork hose route provisions or on some types of frame guides. This may or may not apply to you but its something to keep in mind.
The Quadiems, unlike some other top of the heap brakes, only have one degree of adjustability. The lever blade position can be adjusted but not the free stroke. This means the stroke of the lever can be subject to variances in bleed quality or differences in pad wear. I ran into this very issue when replacing the rear pads only. In this instance, the rear had a shorter stroke than the front. I was able to tinker with this a little bit by bending the pad retaining spring which drives the pads back more on each pull. It worked this time but this technique is a little art and some luck. In an ideal world, a brake lever would have both adjustments but I was able to live with just the one. From a “top of the line” standpoint, this is probably the largest shortcoming of the brake. For some, this could very well be the deal-breaker. For me, it is tolerable.
When it comes to how they feel when riding, let’s have a little reality check here. These brakes are used by pro riders. Most notably Aaron Gwin. There is nothing about the feel and performance of these brakes in a riding condition that will likely sway you to one direction or the other. They hold up to the Gwinner. Also, there have been a number of other reviews on the feel of these brakes with many opinions. That aside here are a few of my thoughts on my ride time on these.
During most of the test, I used Shimano non-finned metallic brake pads. These pads did not come supplied with the brakes. I have long held the opinion that metallic brake pads work better for my needs. They don’t initially have as much bite as semi-metallic pads but to hold their power for longer duration braking. For myself, I do find that I’m in need of braking help later in a hard pull than in the beginning. I did, however, try the stock pads that came with the brakes. My convictions on metallic pads were confirmed. The organics seemed to bite a bit more in the beginning but fade on long hard braking. I wouldn’t use this as a marker of the performance of the brake itself but a reminder that pad and rotor choice can be big drivers on the performance of the braking system offering a wide range of tuning options.
I (like many riders) are likely accustomed to the way the Shimano brakes “hit”. By hit I mean there is a clear contact point when the pads come in contact with the rotor. The Quadiems do not have this characteristic. They gently come in contact with the rotor and the more you squeeze the more power they begin to deliver. SRAM brakes tend to have a similar trait. Most would call this modulation. Sometimes the flip side of modulation is a lack of brute ending power. This is where I would agree. While the Quadiem brakes have great modulation the end brute power is a little short. Long steep sustained DH’s are where this becomes apparent. While I wouldn’t call this a deal-breaker, it’s a reality. The positive side of this is that light braking to control cornering is fantastic.
After using these brakes for a while here is where I would stand. I like em’. They are simple and easy to work on. They have enough power for me to race amateur enduro on. If I am in a pinch there is a good chance that there will be some Shimano Saint / Zee pads around somewhere nearby. They also run mineral oil and have a removable cover. This means again, if I’m in a pinch I could bleed them with stuff from Rite Aid (a little bit of tubing from something and some baby oil). When spending my own money (and for this review I did) I would absolutely choose these again for their great serviceability. What I tell my friends is if you are looking for a hydraulic trail/enduro brake and reliability and simplicity are your top priorities, the Quadiem is my current recommendation.
For reference here is a quick rundown of some pros and cons of other brakes I have tried for comparison.
Shimano Saint – I love the lever blade feel. I dislike the servo wave lever motion, the leaky levers and vapor leaking through the ceramic pistons over the long term. I would not personally buy it.
SRAM Code – Great power. The RSC has a solid two-degree lever adjustment. Not a fan of the firmness it takes to get the lever to the contact point. Not a fan of the lever blade shape. I would not personally buy it.
TRP Quadiem – Decent power. Not quite as light of a lever-action as I would like. Easy to service at home and in the field. Only one degree of lever adjustment. For traveling reliability and solid performance, this is my choice to buy.