Real World Reviews: TRP Euro-X Brakes
Since I got into cyclocross…
I’ve been reading reviews on potential upgrades. Wheels of course are a good way to start, and manufacturers are offering more CX-specific wheels all the time. However, the cost puts them lower on the upgrade list for me than other pieces. I wasn’t super happy with the race performance of my brake pads, so I popped into the Bikeway Source in Bedford, MA to pick up some (highly-touted) Kool-Stop Salmon brake pads. Chris at Bikeway Source offered me the Kool-Stops, but took one look at the stock brakes on my Crux and told me I was better off upgrading the whole brake setup.
He offered me a set of new TRP Euro-Xs at a price I couldn’t refuse, (more on that later) so I had to take it. Now at this point I should mention that a lot of upgraded cantilever brake reviews mention that “Yes, these brakes are better than the stock brakes, but they didn’t improve performance much”. How can it be, I thought, that an upgraded set could obviously be better than stock but not offer a substantial benefit in performance? I raced three races on the stock Crux brakes, and two races with the Euro-x setup, and learned a little bit about how this could be true.
Back to the Euro-Xs… once these were installed, there was an immediate, huge difference in the stiffness of the canti arms. The Euro-X arms might as well be chiseled out of solid granite. In fact, once I rode with these a bit I realized that a significant amount of what I thought was brake fade was really just flex in the arms of the stock canti arms. Around town riding, I noticed that I gave up a bit of modulation from the flexy arms but got stiff, fast braking in return.
During the races I did with the stock brakes (including muddy Gloucester) I noticed substantial brake fade after the second lap or so. Once wheels start gunking up with mud, the brakes offer significantly less stopping power and the grit can be heard just grinding away on the brake track. During some of the downhills in Gloucester I had barely any braking at all towards the end. Obviously this is why disc brakes are becoming such a big deal in ‘cross, but seeing as how I just bought a CX bike I won’t be on that upgrade path for a long time (and maybe you won’t either).
So on to racing – how did the Euro-X perform when it really mattered? On a drier course they put in an admirable performance, with less hand fatigue (the stock brakes tend to tire your hands out after trying to crush the lever to stop every lap). With the stiffer arms, riders will get much quicker, direct feedback from the brakes on how much you can slow down, but being caked in mud really put a dent in how much speed I could scrub off. For example, in my final race of the season (Shedd Park in Lowell, MA.) there was a fairly wet back straight that coated rider and bike in dark gritty mud. Going into lap 2 I was already wearing a dark brown polka-dotted kit thanks to that section of the course, and my wheels were covered in it too. Once this happened, the performance of the Euro-X dropped, and I didn’t feel it was immensely better than the stock setup – but this is really due to the limitations of cantilever brakes in general, and not any lack of design on TRPs part.
The final verdict for me is that yes, I would buy these again as they do offer performance gains in the right condidtion – not every CX race is going to be a New England slopfest. On dry courses, these will bump up your braking and save your hands from cramping. In the wet, you’ll see a bump in braking performance but maybe not as much as you’d expect.
Final Points Review:
As I mentioned, the arms on this are exponentially stiffer than my stock Crux brakes were. In the dry and during commuting I found the performance to be excellent, with a drop in performance during mud that’s more a limitation of cantilevers than poor design by TRP – but since I haven’t tried an even higher end canti it’s hard to say how much better they get.
Let’s be honest – these look Euro as hell, and what else could you ask for? If you’re like me or the other 95% of cyclists with a white/red/black paint scheme, then these brakes are for you. The red anodizing is a nice touch that really make these stand out. I’m a junkie for all things carbon, and if they’d found a way to get a little bit on there I’d have given these a 10.
Price: 7 (at $90, a definite 9. At MSRP, a 5)
Chris at Bikeway Source cut me a great deal on these at $90 installed. At that price, you’d be kicking yourself if you didn’t take advantage of these. However, if I’d paid full MSRP ($149) + install it would’ve been a different story. You can find these only hovering slightly above $100/set, and if you have the means to install them yourself, go for it. On the other hand, you know how bike shops feel when you show up with Amazon parts looking for a bike mechanic.
More from my site
- New to Cycling? Cross Bike vs Road Bike - Part 2 | Not Quite BelgianNot Quite Belgian
- So You've Got a Cross Bike. Now What? Cyclocross Upgrades! | Not Quite BelgianNot Quite Belgian