The TRP Slate T4, with a 4-piston caliper, is aimed at cross-country, trail, and enduro type riding. The brake set is constructed from cast aluminium with a sleek black finish. The brakes lack the polished look of its competitors but on the bike, they tend not to detract from the overall look. The lever reach can be adjusted tool-free using the dial found at the base of the lever. The brake lever clamp supports I-Spec mounting system for tidy integration with Shimano shifters.
The Slate T4 arrives with semi-metallic pads fitted and is also compatible with full metallic pads. The caliper can support finned pads for additional cooling. The pads are replaced from the top side of the caliper for easier access.
The Slate is designed with affordability and low maintenance in mind. It will depend on your local bike shop’s pricing but the Slate T4 brake set is sold for around R2,500. This places them well below SRAM’s Guide range and Shimano’s XT brakes while being in the ballpark for SLX and Deore.
The Slate T4 uses mineral oil which TRP say is more environmentally friendly and improves performance as it less likely to absorb water than DOT based oils. The brakes arrive fully bled with a generous length of hose that was a good fit for my extra large bike but smaller frames may need to trim the hoses for a neat look. The hoses connect to the caliper via a banjo fitting to accommodate the various angles that frame manufacturers route the hoses.
Our test brakes arrived with a set of TRP rotors (usually not included with the brake set). A 180 mm and 160 mm combination. While TRP does say that the Slate brakes work best with their own rotors, they are compatible with other rotors.
On the trail
The Slate T4 brakes were fitted to my Pyga Stage for around six months. While the 100mm Stage is far from a trail bike, I don’t let that hold me back on the trails, with a capable front tyre and dropper post fitted for good measure. The brakes saw proper testing on the rougher trails in Tokai and Jonkershoek, including some stage racing in the rugged trail kingdom of Lesotho.
The Slate replaced a set of Guide RS brakes which I had been riding on the bike for well over a year. I like Guide brakes and as a compliment to the more affordable Slate brakes, the switch made little practical difference to my riding experience.
The Slate brakes borrow from the input from Aaron Gwin using the lever he designed for the beefier Quadiem brakes. The lever feels bulky at first, especially compared the slim Guide lever it replaced on my bike, but it fitted well in my fingers. I found myself locking my finger into the bend of the kinked tip on rougher trails, where they felt comfortable and confidently secure.
The brakes performed consistently and reliably throughout testing. During the six months of use, I have felt little variation in the feel and performance with no need to bleed the system. Riding through winter, I had more than enough opportunity to get the brakes muddy and wet, where they continued to function reliably (but not without some squabbling, which can be excused in such conditions).
In terms of braking feel, the Slate applies power gradually through the lever pull with the full force arriving later than Shimano brakes but a bit earlier than Guide brakes. Almost a medium between the two. There is room in the lever stroke for good adjustment of braking power except under the hardest braking, where there is not as much feedback on the lever with less room for fine adjustments. That’s not to say that the Slate struggled for power, I never felt under gunned riding the Slates.
The Slate’s consistent delivery of power is impressive. Every ride, in a variety of conditions, the Slate performed with consistency providing the rider with a predictable platform to enjoy the ride. Even when slipping on the lever or panic pulls, there were no unexpected bites. The Slate brakes punched above their price point in terms of brake fade only showing minor signs of fatigue on the longest descents.
The TRP Slate T4 brake set offers reliable, powerful braking with a good feel at a reasonable price. The Slate T4 is well worth consideration for your next price-sensitive upgrade or bike build.
What about the TRP Quadiem?
The Quadiem brakeset is TRP's gravity offering which was developed with direct input from Aaron Gwin. It's a four-piston design with a finned caliper for cooling with a similar dimpled lever as the Slate 4 and I-Spec compatibility. The Quadiem brakes retail for around R3,500.
We did not ride the Quadiem brakes for as long as the Slate T4 brakes. Here is Iwan Kemp's impression after a few weeks of riding the Quadiem brakeset:
I spent a couple of weeks riding the Quadiem brakes on a trail bike. On the first couple of rides, the lever feel was spongy and it took some proper force to get these to bite and slow the bike down. After a handful of rides, they began to bed in well and from then on the performance was on par with what one would expect from a four-piston brake.
There were no signs of excessive heat build-up that hampered performance and the overall feel stayed controlled and consistent. The shape of the levers was spot on for me and allowed one or two finger braking