TRP’s CX9 cross-specific v-brakes

trpcx9.jpgThough I love cyclocross, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with the equipment used on most cross bikes. I ride a variety of terrain on my cyclocross bike including standard cross races (usually flat, sometimes muddy) but also very hilly gravel roads near my home as well as things I’d normally take my mountain bike on. The biggest difference from my MTB and my cross bike is the braking – I have sure-footed discs on my mountain bike that can reliably slow me down any steep descents with good control while my cyclocross bike’s ancient cantilever brake design mean I’m mashing them to the rim with all my might, white knuckles showing on the downhills as I watch the edge of the trail approach my front wheel at way too great of speeds.

I’ve always hated the quality of cyclocross cantilever brakes and I’ve tried four different sets on two different bikes to make sure it wasn’t just me. The sport of cyclocross is one of centuries-old tradition and it wasn’t until this very year that disc brakes were even allowed in national and world cup competition racing.

While the industry scrambles to consider future cross bike designs with disc brakes, TRP has stepped in to recently release the CX 9 mini V-brake design, specifically designed for cross bikes. it’s a short throw brake that works as-is with road bike levers (you won’t need a travel agent hack to increase the cable pull). After a season of mashing my poorly performing cantilever brakes I started this season racing on several hilly courses all the while cursing my chattering front fork and poor brake performance. Two weeks ago, I got a set of TRP CX9 brakes mounted to my cross bike and decided to see if they’d help.

Instant Results

From the first time I squeezed the brake levers, I was in heaven. Gone was the sluggish feel of my old brakes, the new ones felt incredibly smooth and I could lock up the rim with a single finger (instead of my entire hand with the old brakes). A quick test ride on my street and I was going from short sprints to a dead stop in a shockingly short distance.

The same day I got my brakes installed I got to race at a local night cross series, on a course I’d already raced twice before with my old brakes. The course features two downhills with sketchy turns at the base which previously gave me hand cramps from braking so hard over the course of a race. With the new brakes in place I could not only easily control my speed and keep a better grip on the bars (since I wasn’t wasting hand strength clutching my brakes) the brake feel was so easy and smooth I could lightly feather the brakes throughout the entire race.

A week later I got to test my next big worry with these v-brakes, and that was in extreme muddy conditions. People say v-brakes can have clearance issues that cantilever brakes can easily solve, but I noticed the top clearance on these v-brakes were higher than the top of my own fork, so mud clearance wasn’t looking like it’d be an issue. I can safely say now that I’ve spent an hour in 6 inch deep mud and driving rain that the brakes held up and never seized with debris, and worked like a champ throughout the bad weather racing.

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The Verdict

These new TRP brakes are just about perfect, coming very close to what I’d expect from a disc brake setup on a cross bike. They’re easy on the hands with a smooth and steady pull and give you so much stopping power you’ll quickly learn to dole it out in small amounts by feathering your brakes. My front fork brake chatter was instantly gone as well, providing even more control on downhills under braking. Simply put, I love these things to death and my bike feels more like a sure footed mountain bike than an over built road bike struggling in the dirt.

About the only downside I’ve encountered is the short travel of the brake arms in this design. My previous cantilever brakes could work without adjustments on a variety of wheelsets I use. I have some standard 19mm wide road wheels for training rides, 23mm wide HED wheels for road riding as well, and a beefy set of mountain bike tubeless rims for cross by Stans NoTubes that run a whopping 27mm wide. These TRP brakes require cable adjustments to get them stopping both my most narrow and widest wheel sets, but it’s a pretty minor drawback.

I believe in the paradox that better brakes make you faster because you’ll be prone to less mistakes on a cross course, you’ll be able to maintain higher speeds while descending because you’ll have more braking power if you need it, and you’ll have all the stopping power you want in an emergency. After just two weeks with these brakes in a variety of conditions in three races and a handful of training rides, I’m in absolute awe with the power and easy feel of these brakes and finally at only around $115 for a front AND rear set, they’re competitively priced with most mid-range cantilever brakes.



10 Comments

Also makes possible some “ultimate rain bikes too” with all kinds of clearance for fenders and using cross forks. Not sure anyone is making a quality carbon fork for long-pull brakes anymore. So you could run these in the front, as a retrofit to your bike, and sidepulls in the back. And build up a new rain bike with cantis front and rear—damn good setup.

Thanks! These just moved to the top of my need list.

Cool. I’ve been looking for some open-minded feedback from actual racers about alternatives to cantilevers for cross, and this is just what I was hoping for. I long suspected that barring discs, V-brakes (with levers that pull the right amount, natch) would be superior to canti’s, but most people seem to think that any deviation from the standard cross formula is treasonous…

I think that was true until a game-changer like this comes along—in tech, you’d call it “disruptive technology.” On the [Hugga Hodala](http://bikehugger.com/2010/09/hodala-single-speeds.html), running old-school Shimano Cantis and they work just mushy. That’s tempered by the change in courses over the years to “dirt crits with barriers.” So we’re not usually going down a long-bombing descent with a hairpin at the end and need absolute stopping power. On the [Redline](http://bikehugger.com/2010/09/a-bike-for-dirt-crits-redline.html), running TRPs EuroX and those work well too. What I don’t see the need for, really, is disc brakes on Cross bikes.

How do they compare to the Tektro BX3V, Sinz Pro BMX or the cartidge loading Tektro BX25’s? All much cheaper.

I agree.  I was using Avid Shorty brakes till this week, pulling the lever so hard just to slow down a little.  I was a little skeptical and figured I’d be one of the guinea pigs trying these out.

I got the TRP CX9’s installed and it’s like night and day.  Very, very similar to mountain bike disc brakes.  You only need one finger to slow down or stop.  You can effortlessly pull the back tire off the ground by grabbing the front brake. 

The local shop had to install a travel agent on the rear to get it set up correctly. Setting the pads up wider did not give me enough lever pull to get the pads to grab.  Setting the brakes really close was the only option - before adding the travel agent.  Still looks great.  Might wait till I see more of these set up on the internet and hopefully can get it working w/out the travel agent???

I initially thought they might be too strong till a ride yesterday after work.  We headed yesterday evening for some cross practice. 
These brakes work awesome.  You can literally stop as quick as you can control your bike.

Be careful on your first ride as they are nothing like your previous brakes.  Not a lot of modulation, but I’ll take the quicker stops any day.

i liked the way CX-9 works with 7900 levers, but i found that with SRAM levers that they were too grabby.  on my own bike i’m running SRAM with travel agents and i really like the way they perform now.

That’s a good question—we did not do a comparison test. The TRPs came on the Redline and the buzz at Cross races is about the Mini Vs.

WoundUp is making a quality carbon long reach touring fork. Mudguard eyelets too. It just oozes audax style.

http://www.woundupcomposites.com/road_fork.html

As for your later comment about not understanding disc brakes on a cross bike, I didn’t either (I happened to be a wide profile cantilever brake only luddite) until I tried it. Mud isn’t an issue. Tire clearance isn’t an issue. Shudder isn’t an issue. Weak braking and no modulation aren’t an issue. It just rides like the bee’s knees, really. The only real penalty is that you have to have a frame that’s made to take them. The weight’s not that significantly different, and it’s on a spot that you can’t notice (it’s not rotating mass)

I know how you feel about disc brakes on road bikes though, so I suppose there’s no convincing you.

Note: I ride a disc-brake bike at least once a week, if not more—don’t value it for road riding, no, but cargo yes. Considering the course we’re racing here in the Northwest, don’t see the point either but do understand the purpose and benefits. As I said earlier, we’re not bombing death-defying descents.

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