Magura’s approach to its top-flight trail and enduro brake differs from others. Up front there’s a four-piston brake giving ample power and modulation – both vital for top-level performance – while at the back there’s a two-piston brake – it’s lighter and, arguably, has a simpler job to do.
But does this setup stack up on the trail?
Magura MT Trail SL disc brakes specification and detail
For a few quid under £500, you’d hope that Magura’s MT Trail SL disc brakes would have a top-end construction, and, on first look, this appears to be the case.
The short, one-finger brake lever is made from unidirectional carbon, which certainly looks premium. Likewise, the removable back-half of the split bar clamp is carbon too, presumably dropping a gram or two over an alloy equivalent.
The lever body is made from what Magura calls ‘Carbotecture’, which looks to be a carbon-infused composite. Overall, the brakes come in at 459g on our scales (with a 900mm front hose, 1,650mm rear hose), which is around 100g less than many of the brakes I had on test – a significant weight saving.
The master piston at the lever is radially mounted, pushing in towards the bar. The lever body hides the reservoir well and the hose exits at 45 degrees to the bar, meaning the lever takes up little real estate.
The levers have a flip-flop design, so either lever can be run on either side of the bar without having to swap hoses over. There’s reach adjustment on the lever blade, using a 3mm Allen key, but no bite point adjust.
Magura offers a range of lever blade types, which it says can alter the feel of the brake and more obviously the interface between the finger and brake system.
Down at the calipers, the polished single piece units hold different sized pistons front and rear, with the rear piston being larger in diameter than the front.
As each end uses different calipers, brake pads cannot be swapped between front and rear brakes, so you’ll need to carry spares of each on a ride. The front brake uses individual pads per piston too – so four in the front brake. They’re held in place by a screw-in pin.
Both calipers use adjustable banjos, aiding hose routing, especially at the rear. I measured the hoses at 950mm for the front and 1,950mm at the rear, plenty long enough for the vast majority of bikes.
This all sounds good, but on closer inspection, I’d like to see a better finish, especially at the bar.
The use of wide-pitched, almost self-tapper-like Torx 25 screws for the bar clamp don’t exude a feeling of precision or quality, and they screw directly into the Carbotecture body, often feeling like you’re going to strip the threads.
Likewise, it feels like the rear half of the split clamp is hard to thread – it’s prone to catching on the threads of the screws, which don’t slide smoothly through the lightweight part, and it gets jammed on the screws as you try to manipulate its position over them. The inside edges of the clamp are sharp, too.
There’s a bit of vertical wobble within the lever pivot. While it doesn’t seem to impact on performance, it’s not quite what I’d like to see on a pricey brake.
Likewise, I found that the 8mm spanner needed to tighten the nut that secures the hose into the lever had a lot of play over the nut’s flat sides, much more than on any other brake with which the same spanner was used.
Bleeding the brakes was relatively easy, using mineral oil and syringes in a push-pull system.
Magura MT Trail SL disc brakes performance
As expected from such a chunky caliper, the power on offer from the front brake is excellent. Furthermore, not only is the amount of power high, but its delivery is controlled and easy to access, making it one of the best front brakes I had on test.
At the back, the large-diameter piston means that, despite having half the number of pistons of the front, there’s still a chunk of power available to bring you to a halt, while there’s ample modulation to prevent the rear brake simply locking the wheel up every time it’s used.
Heat management seems good, and I found no real downside in terms of power or performance to having the different caliper designs front and rear – other than needing two different styles of pad.
The single-finger lever gives the brakes a reasonably sharp initial bite, but it’s not so harsh that you can’t feather the brakes on mellow, high-speed tracks where you might want to gently adjust your speed.
In the lever’s mid-stroke, modulation through the brakes’ available power is good, so on steep, technical tracks you can easily control how much braking effort is put through the tyres, boosting control. It’s difficult to describe, but the lever feel isn’t quite as ‘clean’ as SRAM or Shimano’s brakes.
What I really liked, though, was the late stroke ramp in power. When you really need to lose speed, that little extra bit of squeeze delivers eye-popping power.
Magura offers a number of alternative lever blades for its brakes. This single-lever blade seems to give a more direct feel compared to the two-finger lever I tested on the MT5 brakes, perhaps thanks to the larger lever on the MT5 having more flex.
Their braking performance is even more impressive given the light weight of the brakes.
Magura MT Trail SL disc brakes bottom line
There are contrasts when it comes to analysing the brakes. On one side, there’s buckets of manageable, controllable power that will get you out of sticky situations and allow you to ride faster thanks to that confidence. However, especially at the bar, the price versus construction quality doesn’t seem to add up.
Simply put, the levers do not feel as well constructed as many other brakes, even those costing a lot less.
|Price||EUR €580.00GBP £497.00USD $599.00|
|Weight||459g – calliper, hose and lever - for front and rear|
|Features||Pistons: 4 front, 2 rear
Fluid: Mineral Oil
Weight: 239g (f) 220g (r)
Details: Split lever clamp; Shimano I Spec A/B/EV/2, SRAM MatchMaker
|Brake type||Hydraulic disc|