Mountain Bike Action Product Test: TRP DH-R Evo Brakes
TRP DH-R EVO BRAKES
By Traece Craig
TRP has been spending time developing new brakes to meet the goals of the modern trail ripper. They’ve been working alongside elite riders such as Aaron Gwin, Brendan Fairclough, Thomas Estaque, Bruce Klein and Luca Cometti to move forward and stay ahead of the competition. Neko Mulally, one of their downhill riders, kicked off the development endeavors by experimenting with TRP’s e-bike brakes on his downhill bike. Since e-bikes typically require more robust and durable components, Neko figured the beefier brakes could be beneficial on bikes without motors as well.
Inspired by Neko’s feedback, the TRP R&D team got together with more of its riders for results and soon launched the DHR brakes for the 2019 season. No rock garden was left untouched by the TRP test team. After over seven months of intensive work, the team completely redesigned the first-generation DHR, turning it into the DH-R EVO. The EVO has several changes that increase stopping power and improve consistency and lever modulation. Although designed with input from some of the heaviest hitters in the sport, the brakes are not just intended for downhill race runs. With crucial feedback from testing, how did TRP tackle what riders need with the DH-R EVO?
TRP’s four-piston DH-R EVO brake caliper and levers are CNC-machined from a forged alloy that has some major changes compared to the first iteration of the DHR. Both the caliper and lever have been engineered for better oil flow, heat transfer and ease of maintenance. The most notable change is the redesign of the calipers to be used specifically with 2.3mm-thick rotors in diameters ranging from 160–223mm. These rotors run $34–$54, depending on the size you want to run. As TRP claims, this extra width/overall size creates an 8-percent increase in heat stability and a 47-percent increase in lateral stiffness compared to traditional 1.8mm-thick rotors. To further meet the need for increased power, TRP used a new 9mm piston at the lever to change the leverage ratio and reduce arm pump.
TRP decided to take the brake lines and even the mineral fluid into consideration. Across its lineup, TRP moved from 5.5mm to 5mm hoses. The slightly thinner hose provides greater stiffness for improved hydraulic pressure and smoother lever actuation. Ultimately, the thinner option helps routing the brake lines within a bike’s frame. Adding pressure to the system is TRP’s new mineral oil, claimed to be less viscous with a higher boiling point. During testing, riders found it performed better under continued heavy braking on the trails than the previous mixture.
Another detail to mention is the new set of resin pads. This new pad formula is claimed to offer an increase in heat stability and a shorter bed-in time with the rotor. For comfort, there is also a new ergonomic lever blade. It is machined with tiny holes for added grip, and the reach is easily adjusted with a tool-free knob. All this updated tech put the front-brake assembly (lever, trimmed-housing and caliper with pads installed) at a weight of 310 grams. Front and rear brakes are sold separately at $229 each. Eager to have our wrecking crew test TRP’s latest engineering, we began with the installation process.
Installing upgraded braking performance can sometimes be a major pain; however, the DH-R EVO brakes have a simple system to get a rider on the trails sooner. Typically, when setting up brakes you have to disconnect the line from the lever before measuring it and cutting it. When those steps are taken, you end up losing a little fluid from the lever, but not with the DH-R EVO install!
TRP’s solution is a brake that comes pre-bled from the factory but is split apart at the lever. This allows a mechanic to route the hose through the frame and cut it to length. We found that the Easy Plug System makes it easier to route hosing internally and mark your cut line. From there, the lever is taken off while being kept upright and then connected to the brake line. This simple step helps eliminate fluid loss. During setup, there is a slight chance you could get air in the line as we did; nevertheless, it was hassle-free to remove air from the brake system by performing a basic lever purge. With a quick setup, we were able to secure a wheel into our frame, align the caliper over the rotor and get after the dirt.
Field test results:
Our crew has put in the trail hours to truly get a feel for TRP’s system. We ended up mostly running these on our latest custom-built Giant Reign (see page 26 for further details). The Reign is an enduro bike, which gave us the advantage of putting more miles on the braking system than we would with a shuttle-run downhill bike. No matter the style of riding, brakes need to perform well and feel great.
Honestly, previous versions of TRP’s brakes had the tendency to feel short on power. That is not the case with the new updates packed into the DH-R EVO. The brakes have ample power when the trail demands it, but it took a while for our hands to adapt to the lever modulation and engagement. The levers don’t have the same quick, on/off grab as Shimano’s current brake systems; however, a full-skid lock-up can be initiated faster with TRP’s new brakes than with a SRAM four-piston brake system. Regardless, the braking power from the DH-R EVO system was easy to modulate, allowing us stop effectively while avoiding unwanted skids. The brakes offer high-power performance, consistency in all conditions and an adaptable feel for lever modulation.
Some riders might think the DH-R name prevents them from utilizing these brakes on their trail rig. Despite the DH label, TRP says that the DH-R EVO brakes should be thought of as a higher-end line to maximize braking power rather than one made only for downhill. If you are looking for a power upgrade, this is a noteworthy option to add to your list. After all, few of us are anywhere close to pushing the limits the way Aaron Gwin can, and he currently runs the DH-R EVO on his downhill bike.
• Consistent feel when pulling levers
• Very easy to install and make lever adjustments.
• Uses non-toxic mineral oil
• Pulling tight results in some flex of the levers
• Ergonomics took some time to adapt to
Interface: Direct mount
Rotor sizes: 160/180/203/220/223mm
Weight: 310 grams (front, no rotor)
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.