- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
It's been a couple years of reviewing products here on TSC and until this point I've avoided making any references to shows that date me...tonight I've slipped. For your convenience the reference seen in the title of this article is from The Simpsons S06E15 Homie The Clown...old Simpsons are a good thing. Anyway, if you caught my review of the Brooks C17 saddle, I mentioned that two other products were up for review which share the same design concept that is reflected in the Cambium saddle. The first of these remaining two products is the TRP RRL SR levers reviewed in the classy drilled lever/black color finish. It is no coincidence that the Brooks saddle and these levers are being reviewed side by side. They both seek to accomplish classic looks while improving upon the mechanics and ergonomics of their vintage counterparts which they drew inspiration from. In terms of aesthetics, the RRL’s speak strongly enough for themselves that they need-not be praised in this review…but ultimately they will. There is simply no better looking or more luxuriously appointed dedicated brake lever on the market. From the ergonomic and asymmetric curves of the hoods, to the defined positions on each lever, and with a meticulous selection of materials, these levers drip with craftsmanship. Although these guys seem to have achieved unanimous appeal among owners and dreamers, I will still reiterate that these levers are nothing short of gorgeous. Developing a product with this sort of response and passion shows that TRP isn’t just some-company pumping out components, but rather a group of chaps (and gals I’m sure) who are passionate for our beloved pastime.
So they look great, but how do they bite? Well, it certainly depends on the application. For a very brief moment, I tested these levers on a modern road bike with quality brakes and a great wheelset. While I should have spent a bit more time riding this setup, I’m confident in saying that the modulation, reach, stopping power, comfort and ergonomics are all roughly on par with various modern 10 or 11spd shifters. To say that they are on-par with Shimanos new 6700 11spd levers is no underachievement given “the big three” have each put out some fantastic levers this year. The ergonomics are interesting and very pleasant when mounted to a modern style OS road bar in which case a typical application would likely be a touring setup with downtube shifters or an SS bike for any use. I’d liken the RRLs design to the offspring of a momma Campy and daddy Shimano. While the ergonomics reflect a pleasant asymmetrical shape like Campys ergo levers, a substantial but not overly wide hood seems to be borrowed from Shimano (although the most recent Shimano generation has trimmed a bit of those love handles from years past).
Now, as for the application you see pictured on Pugs, the ergonomics start to feel a bit off and the stopping power is weakened by poor brakes or poor rim surfaces. This does lead to a diminished level of stopping confidence, however, none of this can be attributed to the levers themselves. So why mention this? Well, say you’re running a classic bike with a period-correct group and you decide to upgrade the levers to add a bit more stopping power…my experience has shown me that the greatest issues lie in the brakesets and rim surfaces. Additionally, the hoods seem a bit bulky on a classic road bar and the angle formed between the bars and hoods is much less level than what is found today. To compensate for this, TRP includes two lever shims which effectively pitch the angle of the levers down to flatten out this transition. It’s a good option for added comfort on steeply pitched bars. The setup you see pictured is a classic bar with a steep pitch as I’ve described…shims not installed.
A final highly functional touch is the cable release button. Located on the inside of each lever, depressing this button will release a fair amount of cable tension to allow the removal of your wheel without opening your brake cams. The cable release also serves a great purpose in the event you knock your wheel out of true. By relieving some cable tension you may open the brakes enough to eliminate rub. When its time to apply the brake levers, you can simply engage them as normal and pass right through the release step. While I haven’t knocked my wheel out of true, I have played around with the levers to see how this would work…quite well I’m convinced.
With ascetics that feel right at home on both classic and classically styled bikes, ergonomics that rival benchmark level shifters, and materials that set them apart from other dedicated brake levers, the TRP RRL SR levers are by every measure the choice for cyclists who are after a product that is marvelously functional and equally classy. A tough decision does arises however, as it did for me, when forced to choose between the subtle black color or the über retro gum option. Either way, you ought to be mighty pleased.