TRP Slate T4 Brakes
REVIEW

TRP Slate T4 Brakes

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Jun 13, 2018

In 2016 Aaron Gwin surprised us when he chose TRP as his brake sponsor. Before then many riders hadn’t heard of the brand and more questions arose when they learned it was a branch of Tektro, which is most well known as a bargain brake brand. Since then concerns were put to rest with the Quadiem downhill brake proving that its reliable. TRP continues to grow and the brakes adorn the bikes of other big names like Brendan Fairclough and the Scott/Velosolutions team.

The Slate T4 trail brake has been in TRP’s range for roughly five years. They’ve seen some changes since Gwin began working with TRP, but the brakes tested here aren’t part of the G-Spec range*. Aside from the paint and G-Spec logo, the differences aren’t visible to the naked eye. The Slate T4 brakes feature a steel piston, while the G-Spec version features the steel/ceramic hybrid similar to the Quadiem. Tool-free reach adjustment is included but isn’t indexed on the T4.

*G-Spec is TRP’s label for their premium brakes which include Gwin’s input in the features.

Fewer features and no pro name emblazoned on the brakes mean the regular Slate is cheaper, retailing for 119.99 USD/end or 239.98 USD for a set. The G-Spec version of the brakes cost 30 USD extra at each end and 60 USD more for a set.

TRP Slate T4 lever/master cylinder

TRP's Slate brakes have a similar appearance to Shimano's brakes, but we're assured that TRP does not manufacture Shimano brakes and Shimano does not manufacture any of TRP's brakes.



TRP’s Slate T4 brakes feature a four-piston design, tool-free reach adjustment, a dimpled lever blade designed by Gwin, and pads that are top loaded into the calliper. Similar to the Quadiem downhill brake, any non-finned Shimano Saint pad will work with the Slates, great for users thanks to readily available Shimano pads. Those discouraged by DOT fluid will be pleased to learn that the Slates push mineral oil.

As with the Quadiem brakes, the Slate T4 features a simple push rod system rather than the magic of SRAM’s Swinglink or Shimano’s Servo Wave. While the SRAM and Shimano technology allows for a simpler setup process, it doesn’t always result in an optimal one. TRP notes that the Slate architecture uses fewer parts which leads to a more efficient and inexpensive manufacturing process and, they claim, more reliability. The lever is longer and provides more power and control without the big brands' more complex systems. TRP’s master cylinder design produces a more linear feel and they claim the longer lever delivers improved modulation.


“I think that the biggest thing is the modulation that it allows us to have without having to make an expensive brake.” Cody Phillips – TRP’s Marketing & Technical OEM Sales Coordinator
TRP Slate T4 Caliper

The Slate T4 features a four-piston caliper that will take Shimano Saint brake pads. The pads can be top loaded, making them easier to work on. 

Setup and Trail Time

Fitting the Slates was easy and after trimming the lines, a quick bleed with a Shimano bleed kit had everything feeling great. If you don't already have a bleed kit, TRP offers one for 14.99 USD. Coming from old SRAM Codes, the longer, different shaped lever took some getting used to, but by the time they bedded in everything felt fine.

The lever felt great and I prefered it to the current wave of SRAM brakes. The girth of the Shimano lever blade is smaller than the Slate but has a similar, comfortable feel. There's more throw than I prefer but once I got used to the long lever there were no problems and overall they feel great on the trail. 

The Quadiem’s have been touted for their modulation and the Slates share this attribute. There’s an exceptional amount of control offered and at no point do they ever get catchy, even when a slip causes an accidental, aggressive pull. They’re incredibly consistent throughout the throw of the lever, providing tons of control but I found myself seeking more bite. After some hard rides the organic pads were swapped for metallic pads and the front rotor was increased from 180 to 203mm.

TRP Slate T4 Caliper and 203mm Rotor

A 203mm rotor was subbed in for the stock 180mm rotor up front. It provided more stopping power and allowed the brakes to run for longer before showing signs of overheating. 

TRP Slate T4 Caliper and 180mm Rotor

The stock 180mm rotor performed admirably on the rear but a 203 would have helped when the brakes went beyond their comfort zone. 


As one would expect, braking improved with the larger rotor and metallic pads. The initial bite that I was after still wasn’t there but the brakes remained consistent, never becoming vague or showing any signs of fade, even on trails that consistently cause issues with DH-grade products. They did overheat in the most extreme scenarios but even in such situations, the feel at the lever remained the same. It was at the calliper that the issue presented itself, with the rotors starting to rub consistently.

Once the brakes had a chance to cool down, which took a few minutes, it was back to sliding down the side of the mountain. It wasn’t long before they began to rub again but I was impressed that lever feel remained consistent throughout, despite the expansion of fluid in the system. This ride resulted in the pistons needing to be reset, but these trails have caused the same issues with DH brakes, which also required post-ride maintenance

I spoke with TRP about the experience and was reminded that the brakes were being used above their pay-grade. The Quadiem would be better suited to the type of riding I was doing because these are a trail/xc brake. They also reminded me that Slates are SLX level brakes that offer the benefits of four pistons.


TRP Slate T4 Master Cylinder

The shape of the master cylinder differs slightly from the competition and the lever position to the hand is altered as a result.

TRP Slate T4 Lever Blade

The lever features drillings to improve grip. I'd like to see the position of these out around the bend like on the other levers in their range. 


Nevertheless, the performance of the Slate T4 is impressive. It took riding sustained steep decents in hot weather to get them to show a weakness, despite them being a low-price trail brake. There’s plenty of braking power in 90% of riding situations and for the 10% there’s not, only a well setup DH brake would calm the nerves. Compared with the competition, there’s equal power and greater feel than the equivalent Guide brake and while the SLX offers more bite and stopping power — the Slate offers greater consistency.

With the G-Spec Slate having the hybrid pistons I’m curious if for just shy of 300 USD you can have a trail brake that works with more consistency than a number of DH brakes. Judging by the consistency of the Quadiem’s, which feature the same piston design as the G-Spec Slate, it’s entirely possible. If so, these would surely be one of the most consistent feeling brakes on the market and at a great price.

A legitimate issue I experienced with the Slate T4 concerned the lever reach adjustment. The tool-free adjuster is excellent but the reach would shift during rides. Blue thread lock is used in place of index positions and it didn’t take long to wear out. Once worn the adjusters would back themselves out and eventually I found myself resetting the reach, threading the adjusters in after every trail. It’s easy to do but it would be much better if they stayed where I set them. Re-applying thread lock cured the problem only for a short time.

TRP Slate T4 Tool-Free Reach Adjuster

The Slate T4's tool-free reach adjuster isn't indexed like the G-Spec Slate…

TRP Slate T4 Tool-Free Reach Adjuster

Blue thread locker is supposed to keep the levers in place but once it wears the adjuster would wind out on the trail.


It’s worth the extra 60 USD for a set of the G-Spec Slates, which include an indexed reach adjuster. The extra money also gets you the steel/ceramic hybrid pistons, which will also benefit the brake’s consistency; a no-brainer. On the other hand, anyone seeking a trail/XC brake capable of punching above it’s weight will be happy. Add the incredible modulation, consistency and reliability, and you’ll be over the moon with the performance of the Slate T4.

Head to the TRP website for more information on the Slate T4. 




Comments

Cheez1ts
+3 AJ Barlas Cam McRae Andrew Major
Garrett Thibault  - June 13, 2018, 12:30 a.m.

I bought the TRP Downhill brakes after Andrew's review. They replaced my "floating bite point" XTs that I learned couldn't be fixed in the comment section of his article.

I mounted them on my enduro bike and then realized I hadn't bought all of the parts I needed to get it running again. Then I couldn't find a 10spd SRAM direct mount narrow wide ring, and ended up taking my hardtail out for a ride.

I then learned my front Guide on my hardtail isn't working so hot either (very little power, couldn't make it to a skid). I still need to investigate, but I assume it's also unrepairable and I'm either going to put the front XT that was still sort of working from my enduro on my hardtail, or just buy these.

Thanks for populating my shopping cart NSMB

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Garrett Thibault
Andrew Major  - June 13, 2018, 7:31 a.m.

The Guides actually are fully rebuildable:

https://nsmb.com/articles/sram-guide-ultimate-tear/

If you have good pressure at the lever but no bite the issue is friction (pads / rotors).

If the issue is pressure start with a bleed and if that doesn’t work every small part should be available without too much digging.

If you do decide to replace and aren’t going with another set of Quadiem brakes I’d highly recommend checking out the Formula Cura before pushing the button.

Reply

wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - June 15, 2018, 10:05 p.m.

I'd pull the trigger on some Cura's right now, but the seem to be out of stock at all the normal places I would buy from.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 15, 2018, 10:09 p.m.

Hi John,

Where are you based?

Any shop in Canada can get them from Alba Distribution, or if you prefer you can order them directly: https://albadistribution.ca/collections/formula/products/formula-cura-brake-system

Hope that's helpful.

Reply

wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - June 15, 2018, 10:12 p.m.

I'm in the US in California. I think BTI is the distributor, but they are out of stock, and I'm not a shop so I couldn't order from them. (My shop might be able to though if they were in stock...)

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 John Keiffer
Andrew Major  - June 15, 2018, 10:16 p.m.

Unfortunately FormulaUSA is no longer an entity, they were always really helpful. 

I don’t know how their distribution arrangement works but if BTI isn’t carrying inventory I’m sure your shop can order through Alba. The border isn’t that hard to deal with. 

Cheers!

wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - June 15, 2018, 10:26 p.m.

All sold out of front brakes either color. LOL

But the link is helpful!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 15, 2018, 10:37 p.m.

Rears are the same price as fronts and levers flip-flop (keeps production costs down) :-)

aj@nsmb.com
+1 Garrett Thibault
AJ Barlas  - June 13, 2018, 9:14 a.m.

Hey Garrett, you're welcome! ;)

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the experience you're having with the Quadiem brakes. It seems many are impressed with them and I'm interested to learn if they provide the experience that you were after too. 

I was actually going to say what Andrew just said as well. These are excellent, even more-so when considering value, but the Cura would be worth considering too (though at $420 USD for a set, they're in a different price bracket altogether). If you're on a budget though, it will be hard to beat the Slate brakes and with the Quadiem on your other bike, you know what to expect in regards to feel when switching bikes. 

Lots of great options available these days!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Garrett Thibault
Andrew Major  - June 13, 2018, 12:43 p.m.

I haven’t ridden the Slate, but my thinking based off my experience with your comparisons is that the 2-piston Cura would be the comparable.

They sell for ~$300 USD per set ($185 CAD per wheel).

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
+1 Garrett Thibault
AJ Barlas  - June 13, 2018, 1:14 p.m.

Woops. The price I mentioned was including rotors, Garret. The Cura's are very comparable in value to the higher value G-Spec Slate.

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - June 13, 2018, 6:58 a.m.

Just clarifying: you think 2 piston SLXs have more stopping power than these or just more bite?  In what scenario would you recommend these over Zees? For folks who want more modulation and don't like the Shimano on/off feel?

Thanks!

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
+2 Pete Roggeman Agleck7
AJ Barlas  - June 13, 2018, 9:22 a.m.

Hey Agleck7. There's definitely more initial bite with the SLX and I feel like that makes it seem like there is more power. On trails that DH brakes have left me a little underwhelmed, these provided less in all-out power, but the fact they always felt the same granted loads of confidence to let her rip and yank harder when needed_._ If brakes remain consistent I find there's less worry about power, because you don't get in the same shitty situations as a result. 

That said, Zee's will offer more power but with, as you say, the on/off feel. They're usually more expensive too but can be found for a similar price to these at the moment.

Reply

agleck7
+1 AJ Barlas
Agleck7  - June 13, 2018, 9:24 a.m.

thanks!

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - June 13, 2018, 2:16 p.m.

Dear Shimano, 

'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'.

Love,

TRP

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.

Trending on NSMB