TRP 960 Brake Review

TRP 960 caliper (image from TRP web site)

TRP 960 caliper (image from TRP web site)

This post is part of our Lightweight Brake Review.

TRP 960 at a glance:

  • Weight: 248g for both calipers, with all mounting hardware and Swiss Stop pads.
  • Cost: $399 MSRP
  • Materials: Mostly aluminum with titanium and aluminum hardware. A touch of plastic for the QR and barrel adjuster.
  • Colors: Black or Red
  • Brake pads: SwissStop black pads included (Shimano style)
  • Quick Release: Yes (on/off, not variable)
  • Weight restrictions: none
  • Manufacturers web site: http://www.trpbrakes.com/r960.html

TRP 960 calipers on digital scale (248 grams with pads and mounting hardware)

TRP 960 calipers on digital scale (248 grams with pads and mounting hardware)

Weight: 248 grams with pads and hardware

If you don’t care about weight then why are you reading this? Just go buy some Dura Ace, SRAM or Campy brakes and move on.  But for those of you who do care about weight, these TRP 960 calipers tip the scales at 248 grams, including pads and mounting hardware, which is 65 grams less than my 313 gram Dura Ace 7800 calipers. Again, this is actual weight according to my digital scale, not the difference between manufacturers claimed weights.

That’s significant, if you’re a weight weenie, but it’s not a huge weight saving considering that some of the lighter brakes that I’ll be testing soon will save almost 150 grams over Dura Ace. I should also mention that the new Dura Ace 7900 calipers are claimed to be 30 grams lighter than the 7800 calipers.  So assuming Shimano isn’t exaggerating that figure, this means that these TRP 960s are 35 grams lighter than the new Dura Ace – an even smaller weight savings. I did intentionally start by testing the heaviest of the lightweight brakes, and it will be interesting to see the lighter brakes fare.

Installation: As easy as it gets

TRP 960 brake caliper with quick release open

TRP 960 brake caliper with quick release open

I’m the type of guy who generally resorts to the instruction manual only after I’ve managed to break something, or in the case of assembling Christmas presents for my kids. In this particular case, however, I couldn’t have read the instruction manual even if I had wanted to – the brakes I was given were pre-production brakes and they came with no manual whatsoever. I looked online at the TRP web site and didn’t find any downloadable instructions there either, so I can’t evaluate the quality of their technical writing. But the good news is that these brakes are so simple to install that as long as you’ve installed brakes before, you won’t need the instruction manual. They practically fell into place on my bike – the pads were easy to adjust, centering them was a no-brainer, it was obvious how to clamp the cable, and the included hardware all worked – I really couldn’t ask for a simpler brake to install. One thing that struck me while installing the brakes was that they feel solid. When clamping the cable, for example, the brake caliper arms didn’t flex much at all. When I clamp the cable on my KCNC brakes, on the other hand, the arms flex in a not very confidence inspiring way. My only complaint with the installation process is that it took me awhile to figure out how the quick release worked. Now that I know, I feel like an idiot for not figuring it out, but without any instructions, and having never seen a QR like this, it did take me some time. But with a good set of instructions, which I assume are included with the production brakes, this won’t be an issue. (See photos of the QR and you’ll immediately see how they work) It’s also worth mentioning that the brakes don’t offer much tire clearance with my 23c tires. This is partially due to my Ritchey frame having a low brake bridge, but also due to the angled caliper arms on the TRP 960s being angled on the inside rather than curved.

Power: Awesome

TRP 960 with quick release closed

TRP 960 with quick release closed

Okay, to me the most important thing about a brake is the power, or maybe I should say the stopping power. I’ve always held the belief that if you start out with Dura Ace as the gold standard for stopping power, everything else that is lighter will be so at the expense of stopping power. I was wrong. These brakes inspired just as much confidence in stopping as my Dura Ace 7800 calipers. I can’t say they are better or worse, and maybe if I had that million dollar lab I’d be able to measure miniscule differences in the leverage, but in my real world lab they just felt the same to me as my Dura Ace, and that’s about as good of an endorsement as you can get.

Modulation: As good as Dura Ace

In short modulation is the quality of being able to apply the brake in a controlled manner. If you squeeze your brakes a little harder because you want to bleed off a little speed, and then you inadvertently flip over the bars, you’ve got bad modulation. And if, on the other hand, it’s easy to get exactly the amount of braking power you need, be it just a tad so you don’t touch wheels with the guy in front of you, or enough to come to a complete and controlled stop in a panic situation, you’ve got good modulation. Once again, as with the stopping power, the modulation felt to be just as good as Dura Ace. The steep roads I ride were recently sanded after an early fall snow storm, which can make descending treacherous, but the combination of power and modulation delivered by these new TRP 960 calipers was excellent and made me feel in control and safe.

Price: $399

The MSRP on the TRP 960 brake calipers is $399. That isn’t cheap, but it’s not outrageous either. The brakes did just recently become available so the street price will likely drop in 6 months or so. ExcelSports.com has them in stock right now, and they are great people.

Overall impression: No performance sacrifices, good value, not as light as some of the others

Bottom line — I love these brakes. If you want to shave some weight at a reasonable price, and don’t want to sacrifice anything in terms of performance, then the TRP 960 is a great option. The only downsides I see are the “on/off” quick release (sometimes it’s nice to be able to have your QR partially open to account for a wider/narrower rim) and the limited tire clearance.


Lightweight brake reviews

I’m a self-confessed weight weenie. I’ve admitted I have a problem, and although that’s the first step toward recovery, the severity of my illness seems to be intensifying with age. Another side effect of aging, however, is the desire to keep on aging (read — stay alive). This brings me to the paradox of lightweight brakes — at what point does shaving grams off of the bike equate to shaving years off of your life?

In the interest of answering this question, I’ve decided to test out several aftermarket lightweight brake calipers and report back to the weight weenies of the world. The brakes I’m going to test are (from heaviest to lightest):

  • TRP 960
  • Zero Gravity Negative Gs
  • EE Brakes
  • Zero Gravity Zero Gs
  • KCNC CB1s

I might test more brakes in the future, like some of the more exotic brakes from AX-Lightness or THM, but for now these are the brakes I have, and they represent some of the more popular and affordable choices. The TRP 960s and EE Brakes are of special interest to me because they have just become available and not too much has been written about them yet.

How do I plan to test the brakes? I don’t have a million dollar lab with fancy equipment, so I’ve decided to test the brakes the old fashion way — by installing them on my bike and then using them for a few weeks. I live in Colorado and I train on some very steep mountainous roads, so I figured that I’d use my daily training routine as my lab. One of my rides has about 8,000 vertical feet of descending, with sections of 16% grade, and when the road gets that steep it’s easy to separate the good from the bad.

First, a few things about the testing setup:
I weight 150 lbs. Keep this in mind — if you weight 200 lbs you’ll likely want/need stronger brakes than I.

  • All brakes are being tested on my Ritchey BreakAway Ti/Carbon.
  • All brakes are being tested with new SwissStop black brake pads.
  • All brakes are being tested on DT Swiss RR 1.1 rims.
  • All brakes are being tested with my Dura Ace 7800 levers.
  • While I’m not specifically testing Dura Ace, Campy or SRAM brake calipers, I’ll compare the lightweight brakes with my Dura Ace 7800 calipers, which I believe are the industry standard for power and modulation. I might change a few things in this review once the new 7900 calipers are available.
  • All weights I list are the weights from my digital scale, not the manufacturers claimed weight.

Okay, on with the test! First up is the TRP 960… Check it out!