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First Ride: Magura’s Groundbreaking Disc Brakes

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published May. 24, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:53 PM EDT

The MT8's Double Arch stiffens the single-piece forged caliper. Photo by Lennard Zinn

MAGURA MT SERIES GALLERY

Magura has set the bar very high with the release of its new MT series of disc brakes.

Featuring a master cylinder and lever made completely out of carbon fiber and a unique one-piece caliper, the flagship MT8 brake weighs in at an incredible 278 grams including rotor, yet its modulation, power and resistance to heat, drag and squeal make it stand out in terms of performance as well.

Its sibling brakes, the MT6, MT4, and MT2 also all have composite master cylinders and achieve weight and performance benchmarks at lower price points.

I had the pleasure of riding the MT8 in Sedona, Arizona last week. I was particularly appreciative of the fine control the brake offers, as one of the trails in particular and specific points on several of the other trails offered technical challenges with high consequences for mistakes.

MAGURA MT SERIES
MT8: $399 a set • full carbon • 280g • lever, hose, caliper, Storm SL rotor, fluid.
MT6: $299 • 310g • aluminum lever blade/handlebar camp on full-carbon master cylinder body • Storm SL rotor
MT4: $199 • 320g • Storm rotor • fiberglass/carbon composite master cylinder
MT2: $129 • 335g • fiberglass/carbon composite master cylinder, aluminum lever blade
www.magura.com

The new brake series is a direct result of Magura’s Mission Performance project the German company embarked on two years ago. It’s not easy to shake up the corporate culture of a staid company founded in 1893, and Magura’s directors felt that it needed an entirely new vision to carry forward its legacy of innovation in a modern world demanding that it distinguish itself in an ever-more-crowded field of strong competitors.

Lever

ANTI-EVERYTHING
Riding steep drops with minimal traction and high consequences for an otherwise minor mistake, as we encountered in Sedona, Arizona at Magura’s press camp many times requires very good braking control. Too much brake, and the bike is sliding down a slickrock ramp greased with loose sand. Too little brake, and the bike’s speed becomes too high to make the next sketchy move.
The MT8 provided a great combination of power and modulation that bolstered my sense of security in those conditions. I’ve ridden more powerful brakes, but none that offered more fine adjustment of speed with small finger movements.
One rather impressive thing at the Magura Direct press camp was that, despite riding with about 20 riders on new bikes with newly-installed brakes, I never heard one single squeal or rubbing noise from a brake. Anyone who has ridden a lot of disc brakes can relate.
Squealing (often it sounds more like howling!) is a resonance phenomenon whose source can be very hard to chase down, as the huge number of questions I have received over the years to my online Q&A columns can attest. The vibration causing it can emanate from or be amplified by any of a myriad number of parts of the bike. To combat it, key components of Magura’s “Anti-squeal” system are its stiffer rotor, stiffer caliper, and organic pads.
The key “Anti-drag” feature is a special coating on the pistons preventing piston sticking. The slick coating reduces friction so that retraction (achieved by a rubber square seal in a groove in the cylinder bore untwisting the twist caused by the piston’s movement) is even on both sides.
The Magura “Anti-heat” feature causes the caliper to run 50 degrees Celsius (122F) cooler at the same braking power as previous models, according to Pahl. Keeping heat out of the caliper and in the rotor, which pushes off heat and can take 600C (1,112F) temperatures without warping, is accomplished by using organic pads (which run cooler than sintered metal pads), “Duroplastic” pistons, which absorb less heat than metal ones while being resistant to extreme temperatures, and the Double Arch, which acts like cooling fins.

The MT8 full-carbon master cylinder is the first on the market. The “CarboTecture SL” composite master-cylinder body starts out as pellets of mid-length carbon fibers in a thermoplastic matrix that are forced into the mold under extreme heat and pressure (“CarboFlow”). According to Magura, the CarboTecture SL matrix has almost double the strength of laminated carbon, aluminum, or magnesium while also forming the basis for the lightest master cylinder on the market.

The lever body’s shape, including its internal cylinder bore, is completely net-molded without forming air pockets. It receives no post-molding machining, which would cut fibers and weaken it. Yet the accuracy of the cylinder bore, judging by the modulation and power of the many sets of these brakes on the many bikes in Sedona, seems to be within extremely tight tolerances.

The body has a symmetrical flip-flop (i.e., for the right or left side of the handlebar) design.

Also unique is the “CarboLay” laminated-carbon lever clamp. The studs holding the clamp are molded into the carbon body, and long aluminum nuts resembling small road-brake mounting nuts secure the clamp to the body. These nuts save 20 grams over steel bolts, and, like all of the fasteners on the brake, accept a Torx T25 key.

Carbon lever blades are nothing new, but it’s clear as soon as you pull these laminated-carbon levers that a lot of thought went into their shape. Magura calls it “Feel Safe Ergonomics,” and the blade is easy and comfortable to grip and pull from its outward angle to when it is parallel to the grip. The lever pivot is large and hollow, running on slick, composite bushings.

Caliper

With such a light lever, Magura felt it had the luxury to build stiffening features and thermal mass into the caliper that add weight, while still ending up with a very lightweight total system.

The forged aluminum caliper features two large fins on nearly opposing ends of the caliper, one of which includes the fluid-intake and bleed ports. Called “Double Arch” by Magura, these two fins fulfill the dual purpose of stiffening the caliper against being pried apart by the pressure of the pads pushing against the rotor while also absorbing heat and then radiating it away.

Rotor

Resisting the temptation many have succumbed to of thinning the rotor in the interest of saving weight, the new Storm SL rotor is still 2mm thick – the same as Magura rotors have been all along.

“Our tests demonstrate that a 1.8mm rotor can collapse under hard braking,” Magura Product Manager Stefan Pahl says.

The extra 0.2mm thickness also adds stiffness, security and heat radiation. With lots of cutouts to radiate heat and clean the brake pad surfaces, the Storm SL rotor still weighs only 95 grams in a 160mm diameter.

Storm SL and Storm rotors are 6-bolt-mounting, but Magura does offer an elegant, strong, and convenient Centerlock adaptor. The aluminum base plate of the two-piece adaptor engages in between the bolt-hole eyelets, while six prongs on the steel top piece pass through the bolt holes. It takes seconds to install, and Magura claims that the full 8mm of spline length offers greater security that the mere 1.8-2mm of spline on other adaptors on the market.

Pads

The top-load organic-compound pads are easy to see inside to check for wear and centering. A Torx bolt secures them through their ears. Two pad compounds are offered: the stock “performance” pad and a longer-wearing, yet less powerful “endurance” pad.

Other features

Magura’s adherence to employing mineral oil as brake fluid remains unchanged. The Royal Blood oil in the lines has a lower maximum operating temperature than some DOT fluids, but it won’t absorb water as DOT fluid does, which lowers the boiling point. Once fluid boils, it is a gas in the lines, not a fluid, and gases are compressible, while fluids are not. The oil also won’t damage paint or human skin, as DOT fluid can.

Bleeding couldn’t be easier, as gravity bleed requires nothing other than installing an oil-filled syringe at the lever and a catch vessel at the caliper. You need not squeeze the lever or perform any other gyrations.

The MT8 sells for $399 a set and weighs under 280 grams for the lever, hose, caliper, rotor, and fluid. The $299, 310-gram MT6 has an aluminum lever blade and handlebar camp on the same full-carbon Carbotecture SL master cylinder body and Storm SL rotor. Its caliper has less machining for weight removal and more cooling fins. Only 10 grams heavier, the MT4 sells for only $199, weighs 320 grams, and has a Storm rotor with fewer holes than the Storm SL. It has a Carbotecture fiberglass/carbon composite master cylinder from the same mold as the MT8 and MT6. The  MT4 comes with an optional ball-end lever blade, the standard lever bladeis a normal two-finger blade with BAT, Magura’s pressure-point adjustment “Bite Adjust Technology.” Finally, the MT2, at 335 grams and with a Carbotecture fiberglass/carbon composite master cylinder and aluminum lever blade, weighs about the same as an XTR brake, yet it sells for a mere $129.

That Magura is the first to offer a full-carbon master cylinder is testament to the flourishing of innovation within a 118-year-old organization. And to simultaneously improve the performance of a brake brand many devotees already felt was the highest in the industry is gravy. Magura MT brakes comes with a five-year leak proof warranty.

Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Lennard Zinn.

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Follow Lennard on Twitter.

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / MTB TAGS: / / /

Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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