Love 'em or hate 'em, e-bikes have inspired the development of products that are also well suited to downhill or enduro applications. Heavy-duty tires, burly forks, brakes with oversized rotors – there's a growing list of items built with durability in mind that work just as well with or without a motor.
TRP's new four-piston DH-R EVO brakes are a prime example. Back in 2018, Neko Mullaly began experimenting with TRP's e-bike brakes on his downhill bike, which lead to the development of the first generation of DH-R brakes.
The EVO brakes are an updated version of that model, with several changes intended to give them more power, consistency, and improved lever feel. They're not just for DH bikes, though; the range of rotor sizes (from 180mm all the way to 223mm) allows them to be adapted to everything from trail bikes to big-wheeled downhill sleds.
TRP DH-R EVO Details
• Tool-free lever reach adjust
• 4-piston caliper
• Mineral oil
• 180, 200, 220, and 223mm rotor options
• 2.3mm thick rotors
• Weight: 311 grams (actual, front caliper w/pads, hose, and lever)
• MSRP: $229.99 USD per wheel w/o rotor
The DH-R EVO brakes weigh in at 311-grams for the front lever, caliper with pads, and brake line. Price? $229.99 per brake without a rotor – those go for $34.99 - $54.99 depending on the size. Details
The DH-R EVO brakes use mineral oil to push its four stainless steel / composite pistons. The caliper is specifically designed for use with 2.3mm thick rotors; according to TRP that extra width creates a 47% increase in torsional stiffness and an 8% better cooling capacity compared to the usual 1.8mm rotor. Of course, more material does come with a slight weight penalty – for comparison, TRP's 203mm rotor weighs 244-grams versus 186-grams for a SRAM 200mm rotor.
Updates from the previous version include a 9mm lever body piston, which changes the leverage ratio to increase the amount of power available at each finger. The hydraulic line diameter has been reduced from 5.5mm down to 5mm in order to make it compatible with internally routed frames, and it's said to be stiffer, too, for improved hydraulic pressure.
Other details include a trimmed down lever blade shape, complete with dimples and holes for a little extra traction, a tool-free reach adjust, and TRP's new 'Performance Resin' pads that are claimed to have a relatively short bed-in time and increased heat stability. TRP also offer metallic pads, and the shape is identical to what Shimano uses for their four-piston brakes, which increases the chances that a shop will have replacement options available in a pinch.
Even the mineral oil received an update – the new oil is less viscous and has a higher boiling point for better performance during sustained, heavy braking. Installation
Getting the DH-R EVO brakes up and running was no trouble at all. The fact that they use mineral oil is appreciated – in a world full of gloves and face masks, it's nice to know you're not getting a toxic chemical on your hands or bike frame.
The bleed procedure is extremely simple, and in most cases installing the brakes will only need a quick lever bleed. A full system bleed doesn't take much longer – it's as easy as pushing fluid from the caliper out of the lever body, closing the port on the caliper, pulling the lever a few times to get rid of any stubborn bubbles, and then removing the thread-in funnel from the lever. Performance
I've spent the last two months with the DH-R EVO brakes mounted on a Norco Optic. No, that's not a downhill bike, but the fact that I don't need a chairlift or shuttle truck to get me to the top means that I've been able to get in a bunch of miles on these brakes, including plenty of steep, rotor-toasting sections of trail.
How do they feel? Well, there's no shortage of easily accessible power, and the good news is that it's easy to control. That ramp-up from when the pads first hit the rotors to full lock-up happens more quickly than it does with SRAM's Code brakes, although it's not quite as immediate as Shimano's Saint stoppers. The modulation medal still goes to those Codes, but I didn't have any trouble staying on the right side of the line between slowing down and unwanted skidding on slippery trails with the TRP's.
In previous reviews of TRP's brakes, the amount of sheer power tended to be a little less than expected – that's no longer the case, and these new stoppers can easily go head-to-head with the strongest brakes out there.
One trail that I often use for testing equipment drops 2,000 vertical feet in 1.5 miles, and includes plenty of sustained sections where fully letting off the brakes simply isn't an option. It's the type of run where a bad bleed or underpowered brakes are immediately noticeable. The DH-R EVO's passed that test with flying colors – the feel at the lever remained unchanged from top to bottom, and even on the steepest sections there was still power in reserve. I was running a 200mm front and a 180mm rear rotor and there was more than enough power to slow the Optic down, no matter the speed or steepness.
I'm usually not a fan of organic pads – in my experience they tend to fade quickly and perform poorly in wet conditions – but TRP's new compound has been working well, and I haven't been tempted to swap them out for a set of metallic pads. They didn't take long to bed in, and they have a strong initial bite without being too
Personally, I prefer the wider lever blade shape found on SRAM's brakes, but I'm well aware that there are lots of riders out there who'd choose the thinner lever profile that Shimano uses. TRP's lever shape falls somewhere in between the two; if anything, the feel is closer to a Shimano lever than SRAM. I did notice that the levers don't snap back to position quite as quickly as they do on a set of Shimano or SRAM brakes – there's a little less resistance at the beginning of the stroke before pad contact occurs. It's a tiny difference, and I rarely found myself thinking about it out on the trail, but it's worth a mention.
Very consistent lever feel+
Lots of controllable power+
Powered by mineral oil
Lever ergonomics are decent, but not the best-
No pad contact adjustment