Meet the new boss: TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes are the best non-hydraulic road bike and cyclo-cross stoppers we've used.
TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes are cable actuated, but benefit from a dual piston design. This means that both pistons move equally against the rotor, as opposed to the single piston design of the Avid BB7 and Shimano CX75 mechanical disc brakes.
As you will no doubt have read, Dave reckons the TRP Hy/Rd mechanical->hydraulic disc brakes are the current best of the crop.
If your budget will stretch that far, and you have no issues with a design that combines cable actuation with hydraulic piston action, then there's no reason to read on. Just buy the Hy/Rds.
If you want to know how TRP Spyres compare against Avid BB7s, which were long held to be the best bet, read on.
So, that dual piston design, what are the advantages? Not more braking power per se; the force applied at the lever is split between both pads. Nor more clearance, for the same reason. What you do get is the ability to adjust the brake pads with a simple barrel adjuster, or even an inline adjuster at the bars.
Anyone who's worn out a set of pads in a single muddy cyclo-cross race will appreciate the benefit of this. The alternative is a faffy procedure where you first move the 'static' piston, then the moving one; not something you can do on the go.
Dual pistons should also mean more even wear. A correctly set up single piston brake should have the non-moving pad closer to the rotor than the moving one, wearing it down more in gritty or muddy conditions.
There is one scenario where moving pads independently could be a benefit; if you're changing wheels regularly. Rotors are not always exactly in the same place and adjustments may be necessary. I'd happily forego this for the above reasons, if I had more than one set of wheels.
Set up is rather straightforward. I replaced a set of BB7s on a Kinesis Pro6 with the Spyres. All I had to do was remove the BB7s, bolt the Spyres on finger tight, attach brake cable, squeeze brake and tighten brake calliper bolts. Job done.
It's immediately apparent that the Spyres profile is a lot more svelte than BB7s: they stick out less. This results in more heel clearance, and also means you're less likely to run into issues with rack mounting on frames with seat stay bosses. Not surprisingly this also translates into a bit less weight. A Spyr is about 20grams lighter compared to a standard BB7 for one end (comparing just the calliper, without bolts).
Pad clearance is not as good as the hydraulic Shimano SLX disc brakes I have on my mountain bike, but this is no better or worse than the BB7s. I put this down as a feature of cable discs. You can hear a bit of scrape, but it doesn't seem to actually slow the wheels down noticeably with the bike in the workstand. You have to really pay attention to hear this at all when actually riding your bike in Real Life.
That's a lot of words on dual pistons and setup, but what are they like to ride? Better than BB7s is the short answer.
Braking power is about the same, if not a tad better. Good, but not as impressive as a hydraulic unit. Much better than any cantilever or dual pivot rim brake I've used, particularly in wet or muddy conditions. I'll leave you to decide whether you need/want the extra braking power; personally, I like it. A lot.
Modulation and lever feel, though, is noticeably better than BB7s. Note that this will depend on the levers and how much cable they pull - the test bike had last year's Shimano 105s. Even with standard Shimano outer cables, I didn't think the brakes were very spongy, and that is with a full length outer to the rear. Better quality outers should given an even more direct feel - I wouldn't bother myself though.
On the road, with 28mm Continental 4 seasons tyres, it's easy enough to lock up the rear. Happily, it's easy to predict precisely at what applied lever force it's going to happen and therefore easy to stay just the ride side of skidding. If that's what you want.
Off-road, on 33mm Maxxis Raze cyclo-cross tyres, it's the same. Controlled skidding/braking no problem. I've not been able to try in wet conditions, mainly because there haven't been any since I've had these on the test bike.
Lighter, better modulation, better clearance, easier adjustment for at least the same braking performance. And they look so much better than BB7s, wouldn't you agree?
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Make and model: TRP Spyre mechanical disc brake
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
TRP say: "Finally a mechanical disc brake that offers superior performance and is a snap to set up. The Spyre is a dual sided mechanical where both pads actuate providing even and precise clamping force. This translates into even pad wear and, with the addition of a simple cable barrel adjuster, the pads can be adjusted easily and hassle free. No frustration at completely adjusting the whole caliper, only to have it continue to drag the fixed side, adding wear! All of this in a incredibly thin 40mm wide, 154g slender package that works with any of the drop bar levers on the market. Available with 140mm or 160mm rotor and includes all mounting hardware, rotor, and adapters."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The main selling point of the TRP Spyre is that it's a dual piston design, meaning that both pistons move, as opposed to just the one on Avid BB7s for example.
They are well made.
They stop at least as well as BB7s.
I can't say much about pad wear as I've been riding the bike mainly on dry roads and trails. So far, there's no indication of undue wear.
20 grams lighter than BB7s. Nice.
The return spring is plenty powerful without hindering brake performance. All good.
You get a lighter brake, with dual piston action, that looks better and is physically smaller than a BB7 for the same price. And they work slightly better too.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They are very decent stoppers.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The slender design, no issues with rack fouling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I couldn't get the pads to completely clear the rotor during set-up on one end of the bike. Not an issue in Real Life as this didn't noticeably slow the wheel in the work stand, but annoying nevertheless.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The Spyre has just taken over Avid BB7s reign as the go-to mechanical disc brake for road bikes.
Age: 32 Height: 1.78m Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cervelo Dual
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, fixed/singlespeed, Audax