TRP G-Spec Slate Brake Review
Words & Photos by Drew Rohde
The brand responsible for slowing down one of the world’s fastest mountain bikers has gone from relative obscurity in the mountain bike world to spotlight-worthy attention. Aaron Gwin joined the TRP program in 2016 and has been helping them improve what were already strong performing brakes ever since. While the masses clamored around the introduction of Gwin’s signature G-Spec Quadiem brakes, we chose to see how TRP’s more affordable, everyman brake would perform for the rest of us mere mortals on a budget. With a price tag of $149.99 (per brake, excluding rotors), we were curious to see just how well these four-piston stoppers work.
Built out of cast aluminum then treated to a flashy silver finish, the G-Space Slate may be TRP’s more affordable option, but still prioritizes performance and appeal. These brakes ooze refinement and style.
Calipers Hybrid ceramic/steel pistons work to better dissipate heat and ensure smooth actuation. In fact when we first installed the brakes, we immediately noted the even and buttery movement of the pistons as they pushed towards the caliper. TRP uses two different sized pistons to control modulation and power. Brake pads are easily changed thanks to a top loading design, which was handy since we ended up changing the stock pads to a metallic set for a bit more bite.
Levers TRP revised their levers, based on a lot of feedback from Aaron Gwin, and they now feature a dimpled and drilled design. The drilled holes give a very race-inspired look but also improve the tactile feel at the lever. Increased grip means less finger-slip on the lever blade. A tool free indexed reach adjust lever helps riders fine-tune their preferred lever reach. The adjustment lever is a very nice size, has smooth, reliable actuation and affirmative detents, however the placement makes it our second favorite behind Shimano. TRP offers adapters that will mate their brakes to Shimano XT/XTR or SRAM Matchmaker bar mounts. It’s good to see a company that is willing to make their parts work with other commonly spec’d components.
Rotors Several rotors are available through TRP however, we were recommended their new TRP-29 slotted rotors. Six recessed slots are machined into the rotor to create channels. In inclement weather, debris, muck and water can get trapped between the rotor and pads, greatly reducing power and consistency. The goal of the channels is to improve the rotor’s ability to shed debris. We rode in some minor rain and muck and while it was far from a mud bath, they did seem to keep marginally cleaner and quieter than other brakes in similar situations.
Alright, time to get down to the nitty-grity. TRP designed the G-Spec Slates to be an aggressive trail brake at an affordable price point. Right off the bat we set ‘em up for trouble as they went on an extremely capable 160mm enduro-ready 29er, but we figured, what better way to see how they hold up. Not surprisingly, they got overwhelmed in terrain that was above their pay grade. Super (we mean super) steep, extended descents tired our hands out more than other brakes. The Slates have a very linear and smooth power curve. This is mostly good, especially for their intended purpose.
On terrain more commonly ridden by bikes in the 120-150 mark, we were constantly impressed with the control the brakes offered. Control and power are different, and if you’re coming off other brand’s brakes you will notice a difference. Modulation was one of TRP’s main goals. Being able to consistently apply the lever and know how much power and the way in which it would come on did make these brakes some of the easiest to use. Unintentional skids or terrifying full lever pulls were not issues we experienced with the Slates. However, after coming off a pair of Shimano XT brakes, we did feel the brakes were a bit less powerful initially. The plus side was the Slates didn’t feel like they were full on or full off when we squeezed the lever. As the terrain got steeper, and the speeds got faster, we needed to pull the lever harder. Smooth, even power meant we could scrub just enough speed and not too much. However, as we said above, if you put these brakes outside their intended purpose, that harder lever pull will lead to arm/hand fatigue as the brakes are a bit underpowered and will feel like you need to squeeze the levers very hard to stop.
The Wolf’s Last Word
TRP’s G-Spec Slate brake is definitely a solid choice for an all-around four-piston trail brake. The finished product looks impressive and oozes style. Modulation and power control are better than anything we can recall riding in recent years however, they lack the all out power of Shimano’s XT or Zee brakes. Reliability, consistency and features like the top-loading brake pads and tool-free lever adjust add to the complete package that make these refined brakes a solid recommendation from The Wolf Pack. If you spend a lot of time on extended, very steep descents we recommend checking out the G-Spec Quadiem as they pack a bit more punch. If the terrain you’re riding on your 120-150 bike is pretty average in the mountain bike spectrum and you want more reliability than a SRAM brake with less On/Off feel compared to a Shimano, the G-Spec Slate should be a good fit for you.
Price: $149.99 (per brake), rotors $39.99;
Weight: 838 grams;
Looking to buy? Head over to our friends at World Wide Cyclery
Underpowered on Steep DH
Placement of Lever Reach Adjuster
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