When you’re paying nearly £500 for a set of brakes, you expect something pretty special. But, the MT Trail Carbons don’t offer the free-stroke adjustment found on most top-end stoppers and you’ll need an Allen key to dial in the lever reach.
However, one thing that does help justify the price is the weight — just 454g for my pair, with uncut hoses. Throw in a set of Magura’s 180mm Storm HC rotors (£25.99 each), and a complete brakeset weighs 730g. That’s around 100g less than SRAM’s Guide Ultimates.
My first set of Trail Carbons suffered from a spongy feel and an inconsistent bite point out of the box. I got one of Magura’s tech boffins to give them a textbook bleed. While this improved things, it didn’t fix the problem — the brakes still felt mushy and the lever travel was excessive, especially on the rear.
After swapping to a fresh set, which were again professionally bled, I had no such issues, with a shorter stroke and a similar feel front and rear.
Braking was still far from crisp — due in part to the carbon lever blades, which flex visibly when pulled hard — but the gradual build-up of resistance throughout the lever stroke gave the brakes a well-modulated and easy-to-control feel, which made it easy to avoid locking up the wheels in slippery situations.
The lever blades feel a little flimsy, with a small but noticeable amount of up-and-down play — not an issue I’d have expected, given the price. I’d also prefer a sharper feel at the bite point. But I like how the broad, flat blades feel on long descents.
While the four-piston front brake has plenty of power for most situations, the two-piston rear caliper is noticeably weaker, making it feel like you’re running a smaller rotor than you actually are. This deliberate imbalance takes a bit of getting used to, but does mean it’s easier to avoid locking up the rear wheel.
Even on my second set, I found the bite-point wandering slightly on prolonged descents. The lever would pump up a little and then become spongy, so I had to double-tap the brakes before I wanted to slow down.
I’ve had the same problem with high-end Shimano brakes, but the price of the Trail Carbons puts them right up there with the Guide Ultimates, which I’ve found to be far more consistent while offering more adjustment and a crisp, high-quality feel. This makes it hard to recommend the Maguras.