Perhaps you've ready my review of the Shimano BR420
, centered around affordability and function in an otherwise unremarkable package. Get ready for something completely different.
Trickstuff occupies a special tier at the top end of the brake market, with price and rarity that border on mythical. While their Maxima downhill brakes get most of the attention, the more XC-focused Piccola model stands to be an equally impressive creation, boasting the lightest weight of any disc brake on the market.
Trickstuff Piccola C22 Details
• 2 piston caliper
• Carbon lever
• Sram and Shimano shifter mounts
• Made in Germany
• Weight: 157g (front), 167g (rear)
• MSRP: €1,100
• Current lowest price
Weight is one thing, but it's all for naught if they can't keep your speed in check. I've been hammering a set for a few months now, treating them as if they didn't cost as much as my car, and the results have been mostly impressive.Technical Details
Clocking in at the staggering price of €1,100 for the set, the Piccolas are clearly not a value proposition, but that's really not the point. This world is full of expensive objects - more on that later.
As you'd hope of a top-tier component, every detail has been well considered on the Piccolas, though I wouldn't necessarily describe them as user-friendly. The tiny overall package requires defter fingers than other mechanical tasks, as I found the assembly to be a bit fiddly compared to more standard brake layouts. That said, once you get a hang of the bolt-and-band clamp, you realize just how impressive the minimalism Trickstuff achieved here really is. It feels like every gram has been earned, with every bit of material serving a purpose. The integrated shifter mounts are the best I've encountered, with ample adjustment and a very clean look.
The carbon lever is well shaped for single-finger braking, and the action is quite light and smooth thanks to the four bearings the mechanism rides on. The shape seems to be best suited to people who run their bite point with the lever parallel to the grip, about 20mm out. Tucked into the the face of the lever is the reach adjustment bolt, which I only readjusted a couple of times to change the feel of the levers after bleeding.
Speaking of bleeding, the procedure is fairly simple and clean, thanks to a two-syringe method very similar to the SRAM bleed procedure. The Trickstuffs use Bionol, a very thin and temperature stable vegetable-derived oil. It's nontoxic and biodegradable, and has a much higher boiling point than DOT or mineral oil. The Trickstuff bleed kit comes with everything you need to take care of the brakes, as you'd hope for such a precious system. There is one tricky element to the Piccola bleed that isn't communicated very well in the Trickstuff bleed procedure, revolving around the sniffer valve on the master cylinder.
The sniffer is that little hole in the smooth flat face.
After going about the major steps in the bleed, you have to do a small sub-bleed of the equalization chamber around the sniffer valve - this requires you to depress the lever a certain amount and pull a vacuum while covering the valve, then opening the valve to take in air. Sounds confusing, but the process is well displayed in this video
, where a Trickstuff mechanic goes through the entire bleed step by step. The Piccolas felt particularly bad if bled poorly - while this holds true for just about any brake out there, I think the extra-small architecture enhanced any inconsistencies.
I carried out this test running the stock Trickstuff Power pads, which proved to be excellent in the wet and the dry. They have a slightly more tacky bite than a typical metallic pad in the dry, and perform well in the wet once the system has heated up a bit - this usually takes a couple hard braking points then they're off to the races. Clamped between those pads were the 180mm Trickstuff Däche UL rotors, which were pleasantly unremarkable, save for one smart detail. The outer edge of the rotors is chamfered, giving it a leading edge when you're installing the wheel in the bike. It's a small detail that makes life a little easier, which is always welcomed.
It's worth noting that the Piccolas fit the ubiquitous SRAM 2-piston brake pad, so finding replacements shouldn't be too hard, even if you're out in the boonies. Fixing more integral parts of the brake is rarely a field-serviceable procedure, but the Piccolas have been well designed to make service fairly easy and repeatable. Even shortening the lines is a relatively painless event, as they don't use the standard barb and olive connection, just a simple compression nut fitting. Performance
They may weigh about as much as a hummingbird (or 10, apparently those guys weigh about 15 grams), but Trickstuff claims the Piccolas pack as much power as some of the more common big dog downhill brakes out there. Bold claims, but in this case you kind of get what you pay for. The power on tap with these little brakes is very impressive, but the way you get to max power is a little unique relative to other options on the market.
The lever pull of the Piccolas is far more linear than other brakes I've used, which took some time to adapt to. Where other powerful stoppers like the Hayes Dominion, TRP DH-R Evo, and even the SRAM Code have a fairly sharp bite point that provides something close to full power when set up well, the Piccolas don't really start locking up until you've pulled past the initial bite point. This felt a bit odd at first, but in a way it benefits the use cases that they're meant to cater towards, where scrubbing off speed is more typical, as opposed to slamming on the brakes for quick braking points.
The very light lever action makes actuating the brakes easy and controllable, with no wander in the bite point once the system heated up - there's a little pump from a cold start, but they stay consistent once at operating temperature. As I mentioned earlier, that feel is highly reliant on a good bleed, more than other brakes out there. I feel like a $1,100 brakeset should come with a little brake elf who sets them up for you, but since that accessory is missing you'll just have to be diligent and make sure it's done right.
I had the Piccolas mounted to my Staff Ride Tallboy
, which is currently more of a trail bike than an XC whip. The brakes felt appropriate for the little Santa Cruz, even when ridden well outside the bike's purview. Taking it down steep sustained tracks (think thousands of feet in less than a couple miles), the feel at the lever remained the same top to bottom, without any fading or pumping-up. I've ridden this trail on plenty of different brake systems at this point, and even with 180mm rotors front and rear the Trickstuffs outmatched any other XC-ish brake I've taken down the track.
It's hard to quantify the subjective feel of braking power, especially given the variables in pad compound, rotor size, and overall setup/wear, but I'd place these high on my list, even as a 2-piston brake competing with the wide field of 4-piston options out there. They even have an auditory tell when the brakes are working well, in the form of a strong warbling when things are locked up. Some might mind the noise, but I found myself enjoying it.The Economics of Jewelry
It's easy to be critical of the price of these brakes, but for the sake of argument let's look at it a bit more abstractly. There is a budget-perfect alternate reality where we all consume the perfect priceline things that satisfy our needs: single-ply toilet paper, beige box generic cereal, the normcore beauty of the Monobloc chair (designed by a Canadian!), simple and functional objects devoid of panache. But that's not the way of the world, as we all like shiny new things. Consumerism is gross, but within it there is room for special objects that hold value beyond their function. I'd place the Piccolas in this camp; they do a job, but they're also just very nice to look at, a small and precious totem to industrial design and efficiency.
Along the same lines is the Balmuda toaster, a $300 monument to the ever-elusive goal that is the perfect slice of charred bread. I've lusted after one of these for years, but simply can't bring myself to expand my toaster budget 30x its current scope. Until I figure out how to convince Balmuda to send me one for a review period, I'll continue to burn my bread like a peasant. For the right person though, this is a logical and sensible purchase that may very well improve their daily life - that's the beauty of all the choices we have. I'll continue to use the Shimano BR-MT420 of toasters, and some oil sheik will enjoy his Trickstuff Piccola humidified bread oven.How Do They Compare?
The Piccolas and the Dominion T2s
are the best 2-piston brakes I've ever used, but the feel is quite different between the two. The Hayes are snappier, with a sharper bite point and quicker full-power pull. The Trickstuffs have more power on tap, but it's a bit harder to get there in typical trail situations.
Bleeding is easier and more consistent on the Hayes, meaning they're more likely to have a robust setup regardless of use or how rushed you were in the garage. Replacement pads are definitely easier to find for the Trickstuffs, which is ironic considering how hard it is to get a pair of the brakes themselves.
The Dominions weigh about 250 grams per brake, more in line with the less-powerful SRAM Level Ultimate - the Piccolas are only matched in weight by Shimano's XTR 9100 brakes, which don't match when it comes to power.
If I had to choose one set right now, it would be the Dominions, based mostly on the lever feel. I'm more used to brakes that have a progressive pull, and although the Piccolas are possible class-leaders in terms of power and fade resistance, they were a little less intuitive for me.Pinkbike's Take