Review: TRP Parabox Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes
- by Michael Bachman
- Published: 10 March 2012
Ever since approval from the UCI in June 2010 to allow disc’s in Cyclocross competition in 2010/11, there has been a lot of discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of discs, the main issue is that are no readily available ways to run hydraulic callipers and STI type shifters. There are several ‘adaptors’ in the works from Hope, 324 Labs and TRP.
Whilst the focus has been on discs in CX, there is a growing trend of the next stop being discs on road bikes. Ever since seeing the Volagi Liscio, and suffering from poor initial braking when riding in the rain with traditional rim brakes (despite fitment of specific wet weather pads), I knew I had to try discs. My initial foray was fitting a CX fork to a road bike, and then followed that up with my current bike, a 2011 Kona Hionky Inc, which is the test mule for the TRP Parabox.
TRP’s Parabox is a hydraulic disc brake set (395 grams/wheel) with a junction that converts the mechanic cable pull into ‘smooth, powerful’ hydraulic braking. It means that it can work with any roadbike brake lever. The Parabox was unveiled in 2011 however, they have not yet made it across the ditch to Australia where cyclocross is still a very young sport and road cyclists arn’t yet seriously considering disc brakes. Despite my efforts to purchase locally, the importer Adventure Brands simply havn’t been able stock the Parabox, they have had them on order for five months though TRP arn’t delivering.
When I set my mind to getting one, I knew that none were available locally, so looked up the TRP home page (www.trpbrakes.com) and noticed whilst listed, the delivery date was Mid-March. I widened my search a bit more and found that many other sites were showing the same information… except one. After some deliberation, about 20 minutes, the order was submitted and shipped the next day.
In the back of my mind, before parting with my hard earned cash, I wondered if it was worth waiting for SRAMs Hydraulic Road Disc system due out in August. But I couldn’t wait, and the opportunity was too good to miss, and the bonus of using the discount offer saving me a few dollars off the RRP of (USD) $469 was bonus.
TRP Parabox Quality
The quality of the finish and manufacturing of the kit is faultless. There is a very high level of attention to detail and the quality of the parts used throughout. This extends to the paint finish and the artwork applied which is uniform and clear making it a very visually appealing piece of kit, including the red anodised piston covers on the calliper body.
The TRP Parabox junction is quite a tidy package that is well integrated below the stem and out of harms way, and does not interfere with the hand placement on the bars in any way. It does however rely on 17mm of the steerer tube being available below the stem to fix the mount of the junction box. The bracket is quite stout, and there is no apparent flex in the master cylinder during the operation of the brakes.
One failing point though, is for the Australian configuration of the brakes (the front brake is on the right in Australia, the US and Europe is opposite). The ‘noodles’ that route the cables from the brifter into the master cylinder have to cross over each other, and clash. In order for them to fit properly in the housing, I had to use some of the ‘plasticity’ in the noodles, otherwise they would not fit properly. I managed to get them to fit, but just, and this is not something that an unskilled tinkerer should be doing.
The routing of the cables as they exit the master cylinder is a bit average as they sit right up against the head tube, but at least they are out of harms way.
Even with taking pictures (for my reference, just in case) and weighing the items that went on and came off, installation for a ride ready state took just over two hours. Note that I did not adjust any of the hose lengths as the fittings/bleed kit is not yet available.
There were no issues in alignment, incompatibility or ill fitting parts. All the bolts and hardware were high quality and spanners/allen keys fitted beautifully. Apart from the excess hose (you will notice I have looped some excess near the seatpost) the system looks like it was meant to be thereand the colours complement my bike nicely.
The weight difference between my Avid BB7 cable-pull disc brake setup that was removed and the TRP Parabox was an increase of 52g, though a few grams will be shaved off once the excess hose is removed.
In my initial flat ride to ensure that all parts operated well, no bits fell off, slipped or locked so this was a pleasant surprise. The lever feel was initially harder than with the BB7’s, but there was absolutely NO fiddling to get the setup right and and ensure no pad rubbing. Fantastic !
The next task was a gentle hill ride to bed the pads in properly, and then hit the slopes with confidence.
The First 500km
The brakes are now fully bedded in, and they work really well, great modulation (marginally better than cable pull discs) and lever feel. During some hard and fast descents with plenty of brake application, the rotors took some punishment, but the callipers were only slightly warmer to the touch. No squealing, no lever feel change and still 100% of the original braking capacity available as at the start of the descent.
There was a difference in the lever feel between the BB7’s and the TRP installation, however, this was minimal and I adapted quickly.
Whilst waiting for the Parabox to arrive, my research told me that the hydraulic lines could potentially be too long. Hence I tried to contact the local importer, Adventure Brands and then TRP in the USA to try and source the required components. Adventure Brands have had the Parabox and accessories such as the bleed kit and brake pad on order for some time, though without any certainty on the ETA or price. I then tried TRP in the United States, you can forget emails, only on calling was I able to get any answers.
TRP have a bleed kit which is compatible with all of their hydraulic disc brakes, there are also brake pads and for cutting the hydraulic cable sugget the Jagwire Hydraulic Hose Cutters which are imported by Bike Corp in Australia.
It’s a great piece of kit that does the job very well for those people that want the latest and greatest. The function is faultless, and aside from the left / right brake layout issue for the Australian standard, it fits in really well and looks the part.
However, it is best suited to those who don’t want to fit cable operated calipers, but want discs on the trusty steed. It is debatable whether it is worth paying the premium price compared with well set up Avid BB7 cable-pull disc brake system. With the SRAM RED Hydrualic disc brakes and rim brakes due out this year I look forward to seeing their price point and whether the TRP Parabox was in hindsight a good purchase or whether I should have waited.
Although the Parabox is not yet available in Australia, to ensure that you have local warranty and easy access to accessories such as the bleedkit and brakepads, it is worth checking first with the importer Adventure Brands ([email protected]).
Just Announced – TRP Hywire Di2
At the Taipei International Cycle Show, the biggest OEM bike show – the TRP Hywire has just been released and this builds upon the Parabox however is fully hydraulic and works with both Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2. Seeing the increased interest in road use, in addition to cyclecross, it has been built with a new brake compound and larger piston for longer downhill braking and heat when road riding. The target retail price is $599 and is planned to be available late 2012 and available on complete bikes earlier.
TRP Brakes Online: www.trpbrakes.com