I'm willing to bet my last donut that your mountain bike is running a derailleur from one of two brands, both starting with the letter S and both sharing the high-end mountain bike drivetrain market between themselves with essentially no one else in the picture. But if you take one more step along the alphabet you'll find TRP, the Taiwanese brand that's had its toes in the water since 2020 with their first-generation DH7 and TR12 systems. While both worked well enough, they didn't make much of an impact beyond the odd person saying, "Huh, what kind of derailleur is that?"
TRP is hoping to change that with their new EVO12 and EVO7 complete drivetrains that, aside from using a KMC chain, are manufactured entirely in-house. That includes the two new derailleurs, two shifters, their first carbon and aluminum cranks, and two cassettes, all of which are intended to compete against the best mechanical options from Shimano and SRAM.
Their three-letter acronym is short for Tektro Racing Products, the high-end division of the Taiwanese brand that was founded back in 1986 and has since grown to be the second-largest brake manufacturer in the world. How many brakes, you ask? There are 6.5 million bikes made each year that use Tektro stoppers, which adds up to a whopping 13 million brakes and roughly three zillion brake pads, all of which are also made in-house. While the majority of those aren't used on high-performance mountain bikes, their DHR brakes impressed a lot of riders when it was released, including us, and their EVO range has proven to be just as good.
Now they're aiming to do the same thing with their new 12 and 7-speed drivetrains, and we got an early look at both during a visit to their Taichung factory, as well as a quick ride for some initial impressions. Stay tuned for an upcoming photo tour of their factory, and learn more about their drivetrains below.The EVO12 and EVO7 Derailleurs
The derailleur is probably the most eye-catching piece of the new EVO series components, especially in the gold color option everyone should choose. There are two versions, both with carbon outer cages; one is a 12-speed unit and another is for TRP's 7-speed downhill drivetrain and uses a stubby cage. Both can be had in gold or silver.
Have you experienced floppy derailleur syndrome? FDS is caused by a tired clutch or one that wasn't strong enough to begin with, and the result is usually too much noise and maybe a few dropped chains. TRP said that they put a big focus on putting a stop to that, and their solution is the Hall Lock, which is basically a lever-operated cam that applies pressure onto the B-knuckle pivot. This isn't a new feature – they used it back in 2019 – but it is an effective one. The name comes from John Hall, Aaron Gwin's mechanic, who came up with his own way to lock the B-knuckle in place on Gwin's race bikes, and we've also heard rumors that other mechanics were doing similar things to different brands' derailleurs as well.
The cam is a wear item so TRP has also employed a small set screw that lets you adjust the Hall Lock tension, although they also say it shouldn't ever need to be replaced. You'll need to unlock it to make wheel removal easier and definitely remember to do the same if you're installing or removing it.
There's also a clutch, of course, with TRP saying that it weighs less than the previous version while still being serviceable. With a lever and a button to push, it's a bit more finicky to release than SRAM's single push-button design, but I had it down with one hand after a few tries.
The other thing TRP did in their search for a quiet drivetrain was to rotate the parallelogram by a few degrees so that it moves more side to side than on an angle to follow the cassette, which makes plenty of sense when you think about what's going on back there while you're taking terrible lines through rock gardens.
The 12-speed EVO derailleur weighs 301 grams and costs $239.99 USD in gold and $229.99 in silver, while the DH version goes for $229.99 and $219.99 USD. EVO12 and EVO7 Shifters
The matching 12 and 7-speed shifters feature relatively light action, a thumb paddle that's easily adjustable, and "MatchMaker compatible mounting," but it's the nearly hidden switch on the underside that's most interesting to me. This little guy allows you to choose between being able to make five upshifts with one full sweep of the thumb paddle, or you can limit the movement to just a single shift with each push. It's basically just an internal stop that you're moving, and a small magnet holds it in place.
This makes a lot of sense for e-bikes where, if you're not being careful, you can damage your drivetrain by shifting through a bunch of gears while the motor is also putting the power down, but TRP says that it was actually a feature requested by their non-motorized downhill and enduro racers.
Picture yourself ten minutes into a rowdy enduro stage and, if you're anything like me, breathing through your eyeballs while just trying to hold your shit together when you come up to a short, punchy climb near the end of the stage. This is precisely the kind of situation where I'd grab too many gears, lose all my speed, and probably fall over right in front of spectators. With the Shift Mode Switch, you can make your gear selection much more deliberate in those situations by locking it to just a single click. There have been single-click shifters before, but none that can change between that and a multi-shift mode.
Other things to note include improved routing that sees the cable sit more in line with the handlebar rather than looping out, gold or silver color options to match the derailleur, and a cable-pull ratio that's unique to TRP. Actual weights are 139 grams with the clamp or 125 grams without.
Both the 12 and 7-speed shifters retail for $99.99 USD in silver or $109.99 if you prefer gold highlights. Carbon and Aluminum Cranks, Wave Chainrings
It's not a drivetrain without a set of cranks, of course, which meant that TRP had to design and manufacture their own. First up are the new carbon arms that TRP said, "Aren't the lightest but are definitely the strongest," a bold claim in a time when more and more riders seem to be questioning where they use carbon on their bikes. While ISO load testing requires 50,000 cycles, TRP tested to 100,000 cycles without any issues and even went as far as 500,000 cycles before seeing a failure. Their exact words were, “It's stronger than any other crankset on the market.”
They come in at 504 grams without the chainring or about 82 grams more than XX1 arms and 52 grams more than XTR, but TRP is obviously quite confident in the carbon layup and happy with the minor weight tradeoff. They come in 165mm or 170mm lengths and use a 30mm diameter aluminum axle that's compatible with many bottom brackets. Speaking of that, there are threaded, PF92, and PF30 options from TRP as well. The forged aluminum crank also uses a 30mm spindle, and they can be had in 165, 170, and 175mm lengths.
For chain retention, TRP licensed MRP's Wave technology that uses an alternating left-to-right pattern when viewed from above. The Wave design has certainly had some mixed reviews over the years, but TRP says that they've optimized the design to play nice with KMC's chains for the tightest tolerances and maximum retention, with slightly thicker teeth than other brands have been using. That means that if you're buying an entire EVO12 or EVO7 drivetrain, it'll come with a KMC chain for, "The best performance possible." That said, they also stressed that there's nothing proprietary going on and that other brands' chains will work as well but you won't get quite the same retention abilities. Also worth mentioning is that the DH chainring employs a thicker spider for added strength.
The carbon arms cost $349.99 USD while the chainrings go for either $74.99 or $79.99 USD depending on the finish you want. If you prefer aluminum, they'll cost you $149.99 USD, and the bottom bracket goes for $41.99 USD. EVO12 and 7-Speed Cassettes
Just like everything else except the chain, TRP's new cassette is manufactured entirely in-house at their Taichung factory, and they were happy to admit that it was the most challenging aspect of designing the new drivetrains. Cassettes are crazy complicated, with the shape of the gates, ramps, and teeth having a massive effect on shifting performance, and TRP says that it took a lot of time and effort to get theirs to perform to the level they were looking for.
It's a two-piece design, with the first ten cogs being machined from a single piece of forged steel and the two largest cogs getting the same treatment but in aluminum. Steel torx bolts hold the two pieces together, and the result is an impressively light 10-52 tooth cassette that comes in at 372 grams. That's right in the same ballpark as high-end cassettes from SRAM and Shimano. The spread runs from 10-11-13-15-18-21-24-28-32-36-44-52 teeth. The 7-speed downhill version is all steel aside from the aluminum spoke protector, and gets an 11-13-15-17-19-21-24 spread.
Both cassettes will fit onto Microspline freehubs only – they're not compatible with XD drivers due to patents. First Ride Impressions
I spent a grand total of about one hour riding the new EVO12 drivetrain, which is at least a few months short of what I'd need to call this a review but enough time to gather some early impressions of how the group performs. It was all bolted onto a new Commencal Tempo (side note: holy crap, what an impressive bike) and the ride consisted of a short climb with a few steep walls before a flowing descent that had a few rough spots for good measure.
I found the shift lever action to be light-ish, and the chain moves from one cog to another with a very positive 'ka-chung' feel in both directions. I made sure to shift like a meathead under while working hard up those steep pitches and had zero issues. I also tinkered with the Shift Mode Switch and have to admit that I'm surprised that I found myself preferring the single-click mode far more than being able to run through a bunch of gears at once.
So, what does all this add up to? I'm not sure quite yet – I'll need much more time before I make that call – but initial impressions are positive. My main takeaway was how quiet the drivetrain seemed; there was little to no chain noise and zero derailleur clunking or banging happening while I was pinballing through the rocks and trees. While a new electronic drivetrain has just been released and more are on the horizon, TRP's chosen a more conservative approach for their first group that makes a lot of sense. This was only intended to be a brief look at the EVO12 and EVO7 systems, with a proper release – and much more saddle time – to come in about a month. Stay tuned for more riding impressions and all the tech info, as well as a tour of their factory.
If the EVO12 system proves to be as consistent as their brakes, would you consider it over a mechanical drivetrain from one of the two major players? Or are you more likely to stick to what you know?