TRP Spyre disc brake: Long term review



It's been a little while since my first impressions of the TRP Spyre disc brakes, and I've put on a fair bit of distance (approximately 3000km) on them in many  different scenarios, through thick mud, heavy rain as well as warm and dry.  So far they have served me quite well with no real problems apart from the inconvenience of the recall at the end of 2013.

Epping forest where I got these brakes nice and muddy...





If you're reading this review you're probably already convinced about disc brakes.  Despite being used on pretty much all high performance wheeled vehicles and being standard on MTBs for a decade or more there still are a lot of cynics.  Most of the same arguments are brought up again and again against discs.  One of the most common arguments is:

"Discs have too much power and they will overcome the grip of a skinny road tyre"

If anything the factor that limits braking on upright bicycles is the bike overturning, easily achieved with rim brakes and 23mm tyres on dry asphalt.   Disc brakes are not necessarily about more power, but more about more consistent and better control in all conditions.  Now that I have that off my chest, let's get on with the review...

Installation

Basically my opinion of this hasn't really changed.  The initial installation was quite straightforward, with no problems encountered.  I have a suspicion that the Campagnolo levers I have are a little on the short side for cable pull, to get a good lever engagement point I had to true the rotors and centre the callipers.  The current crop of Shimano STI lever pulls a little bit more cable.  However this is a general characteristic of road levers with discs, compared to MTB levers which typically have a much higher cable pull; and thus less cable tension for the same braking force.  I would thoroughly recommend using compressionless brake housing which not only improves the brake feel, but also increases the power and gives an earlier engagement point.


Setup

Levers:
Campagnolo Athena 11s 2010 year model

Cables:
Jagwire Road pro compressionless brake cable set.  Full length cable to rear.

Front:
180mm Shimano RT81 Ice-Tech rotor
EBC Gold metallic pads

Rear:
160mm TRP Rotor
Factory TRP Pads

The setup is not completely stock,  the Shimano dynamo hub I chose only came in centrelock and the price of a centrelock to 6-bolt adaptor was about the same as an entirely new disc.  So I decided to upsize to 180mm and get an Ice-tech rotor, these have a layer of alloy sandwiched between the outer stainless steel layers which increases heat loss.

I covered the break-in process in my previous post, and this hasn't really changed.  The stock pads were a little worn and I was a bit concerned at how fast they wore in wet or muddy conditions.  I switched to EBC Gold metallic pads a few months ago and they have required very little adjustment due to wear despite being ridden in quite poor conditions.  Other than wearing quickly the stock pads give good bite and stay quiet.

What I have found though is that on the revised Spyre calipers, the new pad adjusters aren't too great, as once they are set they screwed in to set a pad position, they don't hold their adjustment.  The screw must be loosening itself under use and resetting itself.  I now compensate the brake for wear by using the cable adjuster and leave the pad adjusters wound all the way out.  I suspect the problem is with the design, they are grub screws with a layer of thread lock on them, however I suspect under usage the heat renders it useless which causes it to reset.  This seems like a poor workaround instead of locking it mechanically with a ratchet system like on Avid's BB7 calipers.

The Spyres are unique in that they are so far the only cable operated disc on the market that is dual piston, most other brakes have a fixed pad inboard and an outer pad which is worked on by the piston and lever.  Typically these brakes are setup with the inner fixed pad 1mm or so away from the rotor, the outer piston comes in and the rotor is deformed slightly which creates the braking force.  What are the advantages of dual pistons?  Firstly the power and rotor clearance is identical to a single piston setup, however adjusting pads due to wear is as simple as using the barrel adjuster, it's a little tricker with a single piston setup.  The other is that possibly the pads would wear more evenly.  I can't really say for sure as I have only ever owned one other disc setup and that was a dual piston hydraulic.



Performance

If you are used to riding a rim braked bike you will find that discs are grabby at first, but your brain naturally adjusts to the lower hand effort required.  This makes the brake quite good on longer descents where hand fatigue can come into play.  Stopping happens generally quite quickly, modulation is quite good however not quite on par with a hydraulic disc setup though. The compressionless cable outer certainly helps here which removes most of the spongy feel you typically get with cable discs.  It's quite easy to lift up the back wheel when braking from the hoods at slower speeds, which is reassuring as this isn't always possible with rim brakes, typically you need a lot more hand effort which means braking from drops; you don't get full braking power from the hoods.



I've truly tested these brakes in possibly some of the worst conditions possible, when I was in the Lake District recently I descended Hardknott and Wrynose passes in heavy rain.  This ride consisted of many descents down very steep, narrow and slippery hairpin roads, some of which were in complete darkness apart from my headlight.  Often at gradients exceeding 20%, so steep that you had to constantly drag the brakes otherwise you would most likely skid and run off the road if you tried braking just before the hairpins.  This really tested the brakes, enough that several times at the bottom of the descents you could hear the raindrops hitting the rotors and sizzling on contact.

Despite this torturous test, the Spyres were dependable and braked consistently, the good modulation of the brakes let me brake quite hard but avoid skidding, you can very precisely control the braking force.  Those descents done in heavy rain would not have been particularly fun, or particularly safe on rim brakes.   Even towards the bottom of these descents I did not feel any fade or any change in braking power.  I am yet to try these out on long alpine style descents though.




I've also ridden them in lots of mucky conditions, several times now in Epping forest which has a fair bit of mud.  When mud and/or water gets in the Spyres there is some grindy noise as well a very slight reduction in braking power intially with a slight squeal.  However the rotors have to be very wet or completely covered in mud for this to happen, they clear within a few rotations and quieten down as well.  As far as I'm aware this is quite normal for most disc brakes.

They don't tend to catch too much mud either as they are pretty low profile and they are reasonably easy to wash as well.  The finish has held up quite well as they are an all metal design unlike the Avid BB7.  The only thing I would mention is that to make sure you don't wash off all the lubricant between the piston and the backing of the pads, as when it was completely dry I experienced shudder under heavy braking.  This went away with a very thin layer of copper grease applied to the backing plate of the pads.

Conclusion

Overall I'm quite happy with the TRP Spyres, despite having gone through the initial recall and not having had any of the reported problems.  They're very low profile and sleek and are unique in having a dual piston design which simplifies adjusting pads for wear, something that is peculiar to cable operated discs.  The pad adjustment system does not really work particularly well however, as the grub screws always manage to reset themselves, I'd advise TRP to look into making some kind of locking system for this.  However I think that is really their only real flaw, they offer a decent amount of power and good feel for a cable disc brake.






23 comments:

  1. As I sit here eating my kimchi pork and rice, I wonder to myself if my good friend the smut peddler would be so kind as to build me one of these wonderful bikes. Then send it back to the land the dropbear, at no cost for parts, labour and shipping?

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  2. Hehe, Hugh I think these bikes might exist in the same dimension as drop bears. I'd be happy to help you build something though!

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  3. Hello there. First - a general thanks-for-writing-your-blog. You cover some interesting subjects and you take great pictures. And second, a question for you - when you were looking for drop-bar disc brakes, did you consider the Hylex hydraulic ones? I've tried out Avid BB7s & BB5s and wasn't that impressed. So I went back to short Vs. But now I'm looking at buying a Soma Wolverine (perhaps for similar reasons that you bought your Genesis) but it's disc only. So the Hylex brakes look good, but I haven't read any reviews and I wondered if you had an opinion. Also, if you want to catch up with some cycling stuff in the southern hemisphere, I'm over at http://aucklandbikeslob.com. Cheers

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  4. Hey there, sorry for the late reply. I do know of the Hylex, however I needed a combined gear/brake lever so couldn't go with them. There is also the Hy/Rd which I did look at, however I don't really like the idea of hybrid hydraulic/cable systems. I did briefly consider going with a full hydraulic SRAM setup, however that would have meant an entire groupset change which was out of my budget.

    Great blog btw, nice photography and looks like we do a lot of similar riding!

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  5. I've had exactly the same problem with the grub screws coming loose on my TRP Spyres. It's seriously annoying! I've tried using the cables to move the pads closer to the disc, but found that the levers became uncomfortably stiff. Is this the same with yours, or have you found a better way around this?

    As an aside, I'd also be interested to know whether you ever applied rust inhibitor to your frame. I've got the new Croix de Fer frame and recently found a bit of rust down the seat tube. It's probably from when I decided to be lazy and used a hose to wash it down after a muddy ride on the Souh Downs way...

    Many thanks for your blog, it was invaluable when I was building my bike.

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  6. Hey there, I don't think there is any real long term solution to the grub screws. I found just adjusting the cables to move the pads closer does the trick, I don't get any increase in stiffness. Are you running the updated version after the recall?

    I had some minor problems with rust inside the frame, however this was due to leaving the bike outside in heavy rain which allowed it to enter into the seat tube and come out the bottom bracket. I now leave a plastic bag over the saddle and seat tube if I am going to leave it outside, as well as regularly check and dry it out if needed. Also I have sprayed some rust inhibitor into the seat tube as a precaution.

    Cheers

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  7. Very well written blog, sold on these calipers now and can't wait to rid my self of those horrid BB5s.

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  8. I recnetly upgraded from Avid BB5s to these and as much as I want to like them I'm disappointed.l


    The lever feel is weak, they feel like my Avids when they are fully worn out, modulation is very poor compared to Avid since I can't break gradually.

    I'm thinking maybe changing the cheap resin pads into a metallic ones will improve power and modulation. Anyone can some tips/advice because I want these to work but I have a feeling I will be going back to the Avids sooner than later.

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  9. Great blog post, thanks for writing such a very thorough review; this caused me to buy one of these to replace a BB5. As with all long term reviews, I'm wondering how these will fair with a winter's salt thrown at them.

    In your last paragraph when you talk of washing off the lubricant, it would be great if you could show a show a photo of how you serviced these with copperease.

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  10. I have the same problem with the grub screws. Only recently purchased a Genesis CdA with spyres and two rides (260 km) after my initial setup the screws came loose completely. No more brake power, so very very disappointed. (would the low temperatures have anything to do with it?)
    Yesterday I removed the grub screws to find out that there was only a tiny bit of blue loctite on them. Even without pad wear they retreat to far from the disk to compensate with the barrel adjuster. I'm thinking of locking the inner screw completely and fabricating a kind of AllenKey hook that connects the screw to the actuating arm. Not sure whether that will work.
    Have you ever communicated with trp about this problem, because I think this is so dangerous a recall would be nothing more then fair.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I've just backed mine all the way out and adjust using the cable adjuster. The loctite will hold for a little bit but they will always end up going back in due to heat.

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    3. I've received this reaction:
      "We have seen a few cases like yours, but not usually as severe. Our engineers have tested several compounds to find the better option and have found that the following is the best solution:
      https://www.vibra-tite.com/products/threadlockers/vibra-tite-vc-3-threadmate/
      We are making the change to this compound at the factory. "
      They are sending me this stuff to fix the problem. I'll report back after some riding.

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    4. Any updates Erik? I am interested to learn if this solves the problem as I am experiencing the same.

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    5. I got the vibra tite package sent to me by tektro free of charge. I cleaned the screws prior to applying the product and followed the manual. (the product needs be dry before installation). When I reinstalled the grub screws some of the product came off but a part remained on and made turning the screw feel a bit sticky. Screwing up and down I had the impression the initial stickiness got less, but it remained better than before. (I haven't done a test to see how long it would work.)
      However, I was able to buy second hand TRP hy/rd's at a really good price and as I had a non-stop 400k ride planned, the spyres are now gathering dust. I just didn't trust this system when doing steep decents in the dark and rain.
      I notice that more people are reading this blog than I suspected (including TRP Katie) so I will see whether I find the time to reinstall the spyres and get some miles/kilometres on them.

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  11. Good write up, it seems hard to believe that these are the same brakes I have on my bike I have to say!

    I've found with these that I simply can't squeeze them on hard enough to lock my rear wheel up, even in the frost of my ride yesterday.

    I've followed the videos, even clamped onto the cable with the actuating arm raised up a little so I get breaking even sooner, but it is all still the same, a little terrifying!

    Can you offer any suggestions please?

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  13. Hello All,

    I would like to address a couple of concerns:
    1. Pad-Adjustments. Yes, this is an issue we have seen and recommend a couple of fixes. You can add more thread locker (We're still interested in Erik's outcome). TRP doesn't recommend this, but I've also had a good amount of luck marring the threads slightly.
    2. Lack of power. These are disc brakes, which means they are subject to glazing if they have not been properly bed-in, and contamination. Remember that time you washed your bike and got soap all over the pads and rotors? Or maybe you got a little carried away with your chain lube? Or maybe your toddler got a little too close to your rotors with chicken nugget fingers? In any case, pads and rotors get contaminated sometimes, which reduces friction, therefore reducing braking power.

    We're always here to help, so if you have concerns, please send an email, or give us a call.

    Cheers!
    Katie Teubner
    Customer Service and Warranty Representative
    TRP Brakes/Tektro USA
    688 W Amidan Dr
    Bldg 4X-1
    Ogden, UT 84404
    General: (877) 807-4162
    Direct: (801) 648-7582

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  14. Hi where do you get those ERP Gold metallic pads? I've had the Spyre brakes a couple of months and ridden about 700KM in all weathers and of muddy/gritty terrains and I think the stock ones are worn already. Being new to disc brakes I'd expected more out of the pads, however a bike mechanic told me you can wear through pads in a 3 hour session and advised I get metallic ones but I can't find where (UK) and what ones to get?

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  15. Hi thank you for posting this blog and raising the issue with the grub screw. Your work-around, using the barrel adjuster, is contrary to TRP's advise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8WrWis_JGs). I'd like to know TRP's reason for this advise, I'd guess it's because the shortened brake arm/lever pull is inhibiting the bite force on the rotor? Further, what happens when the pad's wear, you have already maxed out the barrel adjuster so you would need to pull more cable through and reset the barrel adjuster or "preload the arm to reduce the lever pull". OK, that's a 10 second fix off the bike.

    There is no alternative I can think of so I'm going with it, but the flaw bugs me. Also, I can't find a supplier of that Vibra-Tite thread lock in the UK, does anyone know an equivalent thread lock (assume standard Loctite is no good)? Another blog suggested PTFE (I think anyway, plumber's tape), but all seem to be short term bodges on a critical component impacted by heat and vibration under load. It is a disappointing design, I would expect TRP manufactured the grub screw to lock in properly, and would guess that they are working on this right Katie?

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    1. J,
      Sorry for the late reply - I don't keep close tabs on all of the forums. :)
      I do have replacement pad-adjuster screws that I am more than happy to send out, with the latest-greatest thread compound!
      Feel free to contact us.
      Katie Teubner
      Customer Service and Warranty Representative
      TRP Brakes/Tektro USA
      688 W Amidan Dr
      Bldg 4X-1
      Ogden, UT 84404
      General: (877) 807-4162
      Direct: (801) 648-7582

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    2. Yep I saw that TRP does not recommend that the barrel adjuster is wound out too far, the early version apparently had a flaw where it would fail if you did this. I haven't had any problems with this thus far as there is still a fair bit of space for the lever to move before it bottoms out.

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  16. Great review, really helped me when I was choosing which brand and model of disc brakes to purchase.

    I've been running TRP spyres on my winter/training bike for the past 6 months or so. I always wanted to give discs brake a try since they became available for road bikes. I converted my old alloy Giant Defy using a later disc model Giant fork and A2Z Dm-Uni adapter at the rear. The change if stopping power and performance from caliper rim brakes (shimano 105 5600 and shimano ultegra 6800) is night and day.

    I had two issues with ,y trp spyres. The first issue is that the stock resin pads are soft and wear reasonably quickly. Easy fix is sintered pad and new rotors that are compatible with sintered pads. The second issue is the 'Turkey Gobel' / vibration experienced under high load conditions.TRP have a video on youtube regarding this issue and possible solutions. I tried multiple attempts to centre the caliper by loosening the caliper mount bolts, then fully depressing the brake lever to engage the pads on the rotor and then re-torquing the bolts as per spec while keeping the brakes fully engaged. I have since changed post mount adaptor and used concave/caonvex when remounting the caliper. This seems to have rectified the problem thus far.

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