When the world’s fastest racecar teams are building up lightning-bolt track machines, they don’t talk too much about the cost. They focus on the light and fast corners in a light, fast, durable, or cheap diagram.
Similarly, the MTB component engineers at Trick Stuff don’t mess about when designing the parts and processes for their world-class brakes. Their Piccola model, an Italian word for “small,” is reportedly the lightest mountain bike stopper on the market. The front brake weighs just 150g with its Kevlar hose cut to 70cm. This is the lightest model from Trickstuff, with carbon fiber lever blades and two-piston calipers. These same levers can also be connected to their heftier 4-pot calipers for gravity bike use.
Like the Direttissima model we tested last season, the Piccola brakes retail for a premium price of €450 each without rotors. They are selling so fast that the brand has had to hire and train new builders, and recently moved to a larger manufacturing facility. With all of the components, CNC’d, polished, and prepped, a single person puts together each brake from start to finish, to the client’s exact preferences. Trickstuff says this system works best to ensure an optimal product for each client, and they won’t sacrifice perfection for efficiency.
Bleeding these brakes is a snap, or a slurp, with the Trickstuff bleed kit and organic Bionol mineral oil substitute. Home mechanics can run through the usual back and forth procedure without any concerns of dripping toxic fluids on their skin.
The Piccola levers are as clean and simple as they come. A single aluminum band wraps the bar to hold the 7075 aluminum plunger-body in place, and there are adapters for Shimano and SRAM shifters to keep the cockpit looking clean. The angle of the hose can be adjusted to suit your handlebar setup, which is ideal for anyone who wants to run their brake hose internally through the bar. We’ll let you decide how that might work out.
The brake lever throw can be adjusted across a 41mm range to suit different hand sizes and position preferences. Simply turn the hex bolt in the front of the lever and bring it to your happy spot. The carbon lever blade feels as comfortable as any, and the large sweep at the end keeps fingers from slipping in wet conditions. Thanks to the silky, ball-bearing-actuated pivot these levers require very little hand muscle to pull pack, resulting in less hand fatigue on long descents. I haven’t had a chance to ride massive twenty-minute alpine descents on them, but I’ve noticed very little hand fatigue and zero fading on longer local descents of seven to eight minutes. They feel the same at the peak as they do toward the bottom.
In addition to their uniform power output, the Piccola brakes offer a dead-consistent bite point at the lever, even as the pads wear past the halfway point. The bite point is not adjustable, and with no dead or floppy lever action, there is no need to fiddle with them. The pads engage shortly after you engage the lever, and offer a clean-feeling transition of slowing force through their modulation.
The lever hardware feels solid, with no play in the blade after several months of slowing. The carbon fiber is sturdy enough to take some abuse, and these blades have held up well after a few of my clumsier dirt naps.
The high-pressure Kevlar hose Trickstuff specs with the Piccola is a key element of their impressive power transfer. The front and rear brakes serve up what feels like identical force, with nothing lost to the longer rear hose. The hose fittings are easily accessible and like every bit of these brakes, they can be replaced if the fittings happen to snap.
Lightweight and complexly minimalist C22 calipers use 22mm hollow stainless steel pistons to cut weight and heat in tandem. The pistons on both of my test brakes are engaging and retracting evenly, despite the fact that they have been ridden in terrible winter conditions and likely need to be cleaned and lubricated. The calipers are as effortless to align, taking about five minutes to properly set up.
Piccola brakes come stock with a set of alloy-backed Trickstuff 830 Power-A pads, and the first set lasted longer than most after-market racing compounds I have tried. As mentioned, the brakes continue to offer the same broad range of modulation and force as the pads wear thin, which can’t be said for all MTB braking systems.
Between the dual-piston caliper and aggressive pad compound, the Piccola pinch with noticeably more power than any Shimano or SRAM 2-piston model, but not as much as most 4-pot calipers I have tested. In terms of power and modulation, they compare most closely to a Formula Cura 2-pot, though with a considerably lower weight. Those Formula brakes were the last 2-piston calipers on the World Cup downhill circuit, so the comparison is no joke.
For folks who haven’t experienced Formula brakes, another comparison would be a brand-new set of SRAM Guide 4-piston brakes. These two 22mm pistons are about as powerful feeling on the trail as a Guide 4-piston, and unlike the Guide models that I have used, these things will keep working well. From there the power only goes up, as the brand has two heftier gravity options in the Direttissima and Maxima.
If there is a downside to these brakes, it’s not one that affects their performance. They tend to make a fluttering, or “gurgling” sound under heavy braking. The sound is similar to that of the brakes on some motorcycles, and the engineers at Trickstuff assured me that it has no effect on the system’s longevity or performance. Having listened to it for a while, I can confirm that it’s just a sound, and I eventually forgot about it. Riders can reduce the flutter sound by switching to standard pads, but I’ll take added braking power over silence.
The pads in the C22 calipers are the same shape as those in a SRAM Elixir calipers, making replacement pads fairly easy to find.
For riders who can afford a set of hand-honed brakes, the Piccola are a spectacle of modern engineering. If you prefer 4-piston calipers, feel free to mix and match when you order. Dag from Trickstuff says they have customers sending their ten-year-old Trickstuff brakes in for a checkup, and they are still working great. While these speed scrubbers aren’t cheap, they are likely worth the asking price with that level of longevity. The team at Trickstuff recently relocated their operation to a larger space, and they have been back in full service since February 22nd.