TRP Brakes have a history steeped in racing. Their highly sought after cyclocross brakes, popular among racers way back before disc brakes were even a thing on drop bar bikes, were some of the best out there. Frankly, they were some of the only brakes that worked at all in poor conditions, and they chalked up a slew of victories over the years.
More recently, TRP has increased their focus on mountain bikes. With the signing of Aaron Gwin and others, the company is pouring resources into developing brakes that can compete with the likes of Shimano and SRAM, giving riders an additional option at several different price points.
TRP Slate T4 Details
• 4-piston trail/all mountain brake
• Mineral oil system
• 160, 180, 203mm rotor options
• I-Spec B, I-Spec II (XT, XTR) and Matchmaker compatible with TRP adapter
• Weight: 306g. lever, hose, caliper (single)
• MSRP: $119.99 USD (per brake)
TRP's Slate T4 brake is their 4-piston all mountain/trail offering, which sells for $119.99 USD/wheel. In addition to being available at retailers and from TRP's website, it is spec'd as OEM on a number of bikes from brands ranging from Specialized to Fuji.Details / Installation
According to TRP, the Slate T4 was designed to be affordable and low maintenance. At $119.99, it certainly falls into the range of more affordable brakes. As far as maintenance goes, a lot of the design seems to have simplicity in mind. The brake ships with TRP's own semi-metallic pads, but TRP also makes a metallic pad, and the 4-pot brake is cross-compatible with Shimano Saint and Zee pads. The T4 also uses mineral oil, which is much friendlier on skin and paint than DOT fluid. The bleed fittings are also the same as Shimano, so you won't need an all new bleed kit, although the brake does use a TRP specific olive and barb.
TRP sells the brakes without rotors, allowing users to choose their own size and type per desired application. They recommend using their own rotors, although, according to TRP, most other major brands will work as well.
The 4-piston brake uses two different size pistons. The idea behind it is to create an effect similar to "toeing-in" a rim brake. Having the pads contact the rotor at a different speed helps create a bit more of a gentle actuation. TRP compares it to the way someone tunes a spring rate in suspension, allowing the braking power to essentially ramp up before being full on and giving a little more modulation rather than an "off-on" feel.
The body of the T4 was designed before Gwin came on to the TRP team. The lever, however, is the same as the Quadiem G-Spec, which was designed with input from Gwin and has a tool-free reach adjustment.
I had the pleasure of doing a classic dirt parking lot set-up with these brakes the first time I rode them, with limited resources to make things "proper." The system comes pre-bled, which is nice, but the lines were long so I needed to shorten them a good bit. I cut them down at the lever, put on a new olive and barb, and did a basic lever bleed just as you do with a Shimano brake. The set up felt solid pretty quickly and the biggest hiccup was struggling to find enough zap straps to secure the hose to the frame. For rotors, I chose to run TRP's 180mm TRP-29.Performance
At first, I was skeptical of these brakes. The lever initially felt bulky compared to a Shimano or SRAM Guide and it looked very much like a Tektro (they are made in the same factory, after all) but with reach adjust and a better caliper. As soon as I finished bleeding the lever, my opinion started to evolve.
The brakes felt very solid, with no sponginess or softness to speak of. The lever initially felt a little overbuilt, but, once I adjusted the reach to my liking, it was quite comfortable. It does feel a bit more like a moto lever than its smaller SRAM or Shimano counterparts, but that's ok, it feels powerful and offers a little more leverage, which isn't a bad thing in my mind.
On the trail, the brakes performed flawlessly. The power was consistent at all times and the only hint of fade I experienced occurred at the end of very long and sustained descents, places where brakes twice as expensive would show a little fade as well. I rode the brakes in wet, dry, warm, and cold conditions and felt that at all times I had plenty of power and consistent, predictable braking. As a XC or trail option, the brake seems to hit the mark. However, on a DH bike, I would likely opt for a little bit more power. The T4 could get the job done, but it may be a little underpowered if you're consistently riding sustained higher speed descents or doing top to bottom bike park laps day in and day out.
As far as the modulation goes, I'd place the T4 between a Shimano Zee and SRAM Guide. The T4 has a bit of the feel of the gradual engagement that SRAM Guides tend to have, crossed with the strong initial grab that Shimano brakes deliver. Where some brakes can get inconsistent due to conditions or heat, the T4's stayed the same, time and time again for several months on end. Aesthetically, I don't think the Slate T4 is the best looking brake out there, but although it may not appear as refined as some of its high end rivals, its performance was commendable, delivering predictable power in all conditions.Pinkbike's Take