Edit Dec 7 2013: TRP “has identified a potential safety issue in the lab with the Spyre and Spyre SLC mechanical disc brakes and, as a responsible company, has issued a “stop sell” notice to our OEM customers and distributors until we have a solution in place. We are working hard on the issue and anticipate a solution very shortly. More information will be forthcoming as soon as possible.”
I’ve removed my Spyres from the English for now. Back to BB7 hell.
This summer has been tough. Lots of work and travel, and not enough time on the bike. I like to put in a minimum of 15 hours a week on the bike, but I’ve been in more of the 10 to 12 hour zone, and a lot of that hasn’t been quality time—just quick dashes around the neighborhood. Good for exercise, but not a lot of fun.
A bright spot, though, was the delivery of my English 650B bike in June. Since June 20th, I’ve put 1375 miles on the bike, and it has revolutionized my back-road riding experience. It handles precisely like a road bike, it is much more comfortable on the rough stuff and no slower on the flats. An unexpected bonus has been being able to descend more quickly. Instead of panic braking and hopping over obstacles—and slowing down because that shadow on the road might be hiding a pothole, I just sail over everything.
Have doubts? Just try a 650B bike, if you can. The only thing that might be difficult is that most are built as vintage reenactment machines, so if you’re used to a modern road bike, it’s a different experience. (I want to note that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with vintage reenactment bikes—I have a few myself and love them. But I realize they’re not for everyone, or even the majority of riders).
Anyway…this wasn’t supposed to be about my English. Instead, I’d like to tell you about my experience with TRP Spyre brakes. Keep in mind that this is an honest, unbiased review–I’m not paid for posts, nor do I reprocess press releases like so many other bike blogs do.
I’ve always been of the opinion that disc brakes confer no benefits on a road bike. As many have argued before, the rim of a wheel represents the largest possible rotor, and thus offers great braking performance. I support that position: there is no rational need for disc brakes on a road bike. At least not mechanical disc brakes.
However: If you’re riding a nontraditional road bike—say something with fat tires, like my 650B, or even a cross bike with 32s or 35s, disc brakes are a handy solution. The long-reach brakes that are available now are heavy and not very high quality. Thus, disc brakes represent a reasonable option.
My previous experience with disc brakes was with mechanical Avid BB7s on my winter cross bike, a Lynskey Procross. Awful. Truly awful. They went out of adjustment every other ride, they shuddered and shook, and squealed like crazy when they got even a little bit wet. I guess if you’re a professional mechanic they would be okay, but I don’t have the time or skills to adjust my brakes every few days. Like many other mechanical tasks on a bicycle, I can adjust the brakes to perfection, it just takes me forever. I’d rather be riding my bike, y’know?
Enter the TRP Spyres. After some initial frustration getting them set up right—I like my brakes relatively “stiff”—they have performed admirably. They are simple to adjust, and they do not squeal even when wet. They offer at least equivalent braking performance to BB7s; in fact, on average they offer better braking performance because they don’t require continuous readjustment. Keep in mind that this is from the perspective of someone who flies down mountains almost daily, often in inclement weather (a blessing and a curse, because I also have to climb up those mountains!)
One word of advice: Toss the rotors they come with, or at least hold them in reserve for an emergency, and buy some Shimano Ice Tech rotors. The braking performance is improved considerably and there is little to no squeal. With the Ice Tech rotors, the braking performance is, dare I say it, even better than well-adjusted rim brakes. Again, I’m riding in extreme conditions, the stock rotors may very well be okay for regular use.
The best part? The only adjustments they require is an occasional tweak to make up for pad wear. A matter of a few seconds.
The “power curve” for these brakes is different from rim brakes. I’ve now had a chance to ride this bike, with the Spyres installed, in a paceline with people using conventional rim brakes. I’m happy to say that the modulation is good enough for the occasional feather touch when soft-pedaling or sitting up won’t do. Don’t run out and ride in a fast paceline the day you install the brakes, though.
So…have TRP Spyres made me change my mind about disc brakes on a road bike? No, not really. If you’re buying a new conventional road bike, you don’t need them and, even though the Spyres are low maintenance and perform well, they are still more trouble than a rim brake for not a lot of additional benefit.
If you’re buying a cross bike or any other type of bike that may not fit regular road brakes without going to long-reach calipers, they are an acceptable alternative. If you insist on ordering a bike with mechanical disc brakes, insist on Spyres. OEMs would be crazy to specify BB7s instead of Spyres–they are that much better!
I’ve purchased a set of the HY/RD hybrid hydraulic brakes for my winter bike to replace the god-awful BB7s. I’ll report on those later in the year.