Words By: Colin Reed
TRP might be one of those brands that you look at and say, “I think I had something like that on my bike as a kid.” And you might be kind of right. TRP is the high-end division of Tektro, which you probably did have on your bike as a kid. But like you, the brand is all grown up and matured in ways that your mother never thought possible (or at least that’s what mine tells me). TRP really made a name for themselves when they got Aaron Gwin on board, and since his arrival to the brand, along with his development input, TRP has been producing some really great brakes. After TRP's first iteration of Gwin brakes a few years ago, most of us at the shop have been big fans. Their latest brake, the DH-R EVO, is the latest evolution (duh, it’s in the name) of their downhill stoppers, and they go well beyond being just a great set of brakes.
The DH-R EVO is practically a complete redesign. The lever blade, mineral oil formulation, brake pad compound, hose system, rotors, adapters, master cylinder piston, oil flow pattern in the caliper...it really is a brand new brake. And I have to say, they really knocked it out of the park. The DH-R EVO is a fantastic brake. From the modulation to the power to the consistency, TRP gets high marks pretty much everywhere.
TRP claims the story of the DH-R EVO began with a set of eMTB brakes that DH racer Neko Mulally was interested in. His teammate Gwin caught wind of it, they raced them in World Cups, and TRP magically had a set of downhill brakes on their hands. Now all of their sponsored riders have a set at their fingertips. It makes sense when you think about it though because e-bikes are ridiculously heavy, so they need ridiculous braking power. Well, downhill bikes are getting faster and adopting bigger wheels, so they have the same needs.
I’m a big Shimano brake fan. I love the on-off feeling, since I usually tend to dump speed at the very last second. I don’t dislike the extra modulation of SRAM brakes, but I always feel my hands and arms getting tired when I have to squeeze the brakes harder and longer (maybe I need to hit the gym). TRP sits right in the middle of that. The DH-R EVOs definitely have more modulation than Shimano, but not quite as much as SRAM. When you apply pressure to the brake levers, you can feel them engage instantly, whereas SRAM tends to be vague enough that you really have to give them a good squeeze before you feel them really working. Unlike Shimano though, when you feel them engage, that doesn’t mean full stop, brain hitting skull, throw you off the bike forces. Don’t think of it as the brakes biting; it’s more of a nibble.
What this “momma bear” sensation of modulation resulted in for me was way more control over my speed than I thought achievable. I should mention that I’m a big guy, with just over 220lbs. of muscle and beer...I mean fat...on top of a rather heavy specced Yeti SB150. Normally I run Shimano Saints, which I absolutely love because they stop my foolish riding rather quickly. The DH-R EVOs however, allow me to have more controlled descents, especially on the slower, technical stuff. Being able to modulate the brakes without my forearms on fire lets me roll through some of the steeper, trickier stuff without fear of throwing myself OTB.
The power is there, too. After all, these brakes were originally developed for e-bikes and then adapted for guys like Aaron Gwin and Brendan Fairclough. If it can stop them, it can stop me. Compared to the Saints, I think they are possibly just a hair less powerful feeling, but if I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell in a blind test. Is the power enough for me and enough for you? That’s an unequivocal yes.
Ok, well what about brake fade? That can be a problem sometimes, especially when the trail or track is especially long. These have none. The DH-R EVOs are some of the most consistently performing brakes I’ve ever ridden. The rotors might start to squeal a little at the end of a long run, but that’s about it. And that’s a trade-off I’ll take any day of the week if it means I can go from top to bottom without needing to worry about stopping at the end.
I don’t normally comment much on how easy it is to install or maintain parts in a review, but I feel like brakes are one of those categories that people tend to give completely up on (I’m talking about me). The DH-R EVOs are just as easy to install as any other brake on the market, but the ease of bleeding them sits somewhere in between SRAM and Shimano. In fact, it takes one part from SRAM, the syringe, and one part from Shimano, the bleed cup, and combines the two. I cannot overstate how big a fan I am of how easy it is to do a quick bleed on Shimano brakes. It’s actually one of the reasons why I buy Shimano in the first place. TRP complicates the process, but only slightly. To bleed the DH-R EVOs, you hook a syringe full of mineral oil up to the caliper and then screw a bleed cup on to the lever, and finally just push the oil through to the top. It’s a fairly straightforward process, but it misses the dead simplicity of Shimano’s system.
I’m a believer. I’ve tried previous TRP brakes before and thought they were good, but they never really had the power or feeling that my fat ass really wanted/needed. My days of being a diehard Shimano fan are in the past, I think. Now that I know what it’s like to have really powerful brakes that actually can modulate without killing my forearms, I’m kind of hooked. That’s not to say I won’t ever buy Shimano again, but after riding the TRP DH-R EVOs, I know which brand I’m going to look at first.