Servicing TRP Spyre Brakes

 

My Kinesis Tripster ATR has been sporting a pair of TRP Spyre Brake Callipers for a couple of years now. Ridden mostly off road, spared no amount of mud, grit and water, It’s been enough time to get a feel for their performance and to figure out how to get the best out them. Recent deterioration in performance led me to do a complete overhaul. Read on to find out how it went. 

Firstly, I’ve found TRP Spyres to be perfectly adequate for slowing and stopping my bike in all conditions. Despite being cable operated I find they operate fine from the pressure of just one or two fingers. I’ve read reviews complaining of aching hands from operating them over long rides.  I’ve done lots and lots of all day hill reps this winter, aching hands have not been an issue for me, thankfully.  Hand pressure is always going to be more a part of a mechanical system, more so than for hydraulically assisted systems, as the only gain is at the actuating lever on the caliper and at the levers on the bars. To be fair, if your hands are very small or delicate it may bias your choice more in the direction of hydraulic brakes but I believe for most people it shouldn’t be an issue. I actually rather like the directness of feel you get from a mechanical system.
 
I’m using fully metallic brake pads for most versatility and longevity. The only downside being the screeching when wet.
 

Touchy Feely Cables

Being able to feel a progressive bite at the brake pads without sudden locking up of the wheel is  achievable with the Spyres. However, in my experience, this is hugely dependent on the quality of cables and housing.  Compressionless outers are essential in my opinion. I’ve been using cables with standard steel coil outers. The feel at the levers was rubbery and vague, particularly for the long run to the rear. The lever travel was so long due to all the play in the housing that I was constantly having to readjust the gap between pads and rotors to prevent the lever touching the bars under hard braking. It was becoming really irksome. I was thinking I’d be better getting hydraulics! This idea was becoming cemented as good brake performance was becoming increasingly difficult to achieve without constant fiddling. 
 

Time for an Overhaul

So, off with the calipers to find out what was going wrong. The actuating levers on the calipers weren’t returning fully to the end of their travel on release of the brakes and the action felt stiff and gritty. Even worse, the pads failed to operate in parallel to each other thanks to the pistons pushing out at odd angles. The barrel adjuster on the front cable was seized. Allied to the unsuitable cabling it was no wonder I was failing in my attempts at adjustment! 
 
My mission: a complete overhaul of the calipers and replacement of cables. Clear the decks. Roll up the sleeves. Spectacles for super small and spectacles for normal small at the ready……you know, when as a youngster, you used to look pitifully at people wearing two pairs of specs. Well I’ve crossed to the other side! Fuck It!! Bloody nuisance!!!

 

Servicing the Calipers

Clearly the calipers needed dismantling to see what was going on. Internet searching revealed a woeful tale of non-serviceability of Spyre callipers. TRP don’t supply the internal parts, nor do they offer guidance on dismantling, servicing and reassembly. What a shame. Does that mean the Spyres are in essence disposable. Are TRP afraid DIY meddling might result in brake failure followed by DEATH or SERIOUS INJURY. Or do they just want built in obsolescence!

The world is full of tinkerers, good, bad and indifferent. My message to component manufacturers is to let us get on with it. We are going to have a go anyway! Offer us support via instructional documents and videos and sell us the bits….please. We will love you in return and give you undying loyalty. And, we will be less likely to kill ourselves too.

Some companies already hold this ethos. Hope Technology, for instance, treat customers as grown ups with superb after sales support, encouraging those who want to do DIY servicing and repairs. Because of this and the excellent quality of their components they will be one of the first places I look when I want to replace or upgrade items on my bike. So come on TRP, sort it out!

Thanks to the home engineers out there all is not lost with the Spyres. A good guide to dismantling and servicing them can be seen at https://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/psa-trp-spyre-rebuild-guide/

Be Meticulous

Following this guide was easy. But doing a procedure like this I like to be undisturbed, focussed and take a meticulous approach to laying everything out in a way that assists correct reassembly. The photo below shows all parts cleaned. The muck that was in there took about an hour to clean out completely for each caliper. They were filthy! Fortunately though all parts were still in serviceable condition.




Reassembly was a straightforward reverse of disassembly, much helped by having everything laid out in exploded diagram fashion. Particular care is needed to ensure those races containing tiny ballbearings are located the correct way up as it isn’t immediately obvious, if you don’t observe carefully at the dismantling stage.

Adding grease to the internal moving parts seems to be a matter of some conjecture. You have to make up your own mind on this one. I thought I could detect old grease on disassembly so I used it on reassembly, SPARINGLY (I have subsequently road tested the brakes thoroughly and they’re fine). Needless to say you have be careful with lubricants around brakes. Remember brakes get hot. Think about where melted grease might run before you put it on!!

The threads on the pad adjusters benefit from a touch of blue thread lock. People report they move on their own if you don’t and I find it helps make the feel of the adjustment more precise.

The reassembled calipers felt like new, super smooth and everything operating at the correct angles. It must say something for the quality of materials used to build the Spyres that, despite 2 years of very dirty riding and precious little servicing, nothing was destroyed.  

 

Fitting Compressionless Cables

The Tripster ATR has, for better or worse, full internal routing. Changing cables can go one of two ways. It can be either a breeze or an experience to ruin your day…or a whole weekend even.

To ensure it’s the former it’s important to avoid the simple yet terrible error of pulling out all the old cabling, inner and outer, only to realise you have just removed the means to guide your new cables through the labyrinth. The engineering genius of Brunel and patience of a Saint will be needed to resolve the ensuing problems if that happens.

Needless to say, some forward planning is really, really helpful here!

A good approach is to pull out the outer housing, leaving the inner in situ over which you can then simply slide your new outer. Pull out the old inner and slip in the new. Simples.

I replaced my old cables with the TRP Disc Connect Set. Everything you need in the packet, looks and feels good quality.

TRP Disc Cable

Attention to detail when cutting the outer cable end is worthwhile. Cut square. Open out the hole using a suitable tool, I used the tang of a very small file. Clean up the end nice and tidy and square, same file used.

The cable end caps supplied with the kit need putting on with care to ensure they are fully home. They are quite a tight fit. A bit of spit helps. 

Mounting the Calipers and Adjusting the Pads

Just as important as getting a smoothly operating caliper is mounting it correctly on the bike. The aim is to get the pads as near as possible to perfectly parallel with the discs. When braking we want all the pad surface contacting the disc at the same instant. If that doesn’t happen it is another cause of spongy feel and will also wear the pads unevenly. I find this quite tricky to achieve. It’s a bit fiddly, somewhat hit and miss,  requires a delicate touch and perseverance to get it just so. But it’s worth it. 

I’ve buggered about with this quite a bit, trying different methods. This is the method I’ve settled on. It works for me:

  1. Make sure the discs are clean now, before brake pads touch them.
  2. Loosely mount the caliper
  3. Wind in the pads by equal amounts until they are gripping the disc
  4. Tighten the bolts, going back and forth between them, a little at a time. Hold the caliper with the spare hand at the interface between caliper and mount to feel for any movement. If there is some, loosen off and start again.
  5. Wind the pads fully out.
  6. Set the barrel adjuster a few turns short of fully wound in.
  7. Attach the cable to the caliper arm with a very small amount of pre-load to prevent brake lever rattle.
  8. Wind in the pad adjusters one at a time until they are just catching the disc when you spin the wheel. Give the brake lever a few good squeezes to ensure everything is seated correctly. Then back out the adjusters until neither are touching the disc.
  9. Wind in the one of the adjusters until you can hear it catching the disc. Then back it out until the noise stops. Repeat for the other adjuster. The Spyre adjusters are extremely sensitive, use very small movements with the Allen key.
  10. Final fine tuning can be done with the barrel adjuster.

GO FOR A RIDE

Kinesis ATR ready to ride

I did! 12 hours of hill reps, practising for an Everesting attempt. A good test! Great results with the Spyres feeling transformed. I think primarily the compressionless cables are responsible for a really vast improvement. I’m very pleased.

This was a good exercise, well worthwhile. It has restored my faith in the TRP Spyres. I’ll be stripping them down more regularly now to keep them going. Now that I’ve had a go, subsequent servicing should get faster too. Money saved by going DIY can be spent on…..treating Mrs. Bottom Gear.

 

 

 

 

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