Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM
Long Term Review

Magura Trail Sport Brakes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Dec 8, 2017

Superiority Complex

Is it possible that the best brake set on the market sells for 275 USD? That sounds too good to be true but it is - if you include a set of four independent brake pads that will run another 40 USD. You'll have to buy some rotors, adapters if needed, and a bleed kit as well but that's standard these days. The performance features are fantastic completely aside from the value factor. 

If that's bad news for anyone it's the German hydraulic brand itself. I've previously reviewed the MT Trail brake and I was really impressed. I can say now that it's almost as good for twice the price as Trail Sport brakes reviewed here. 

Magura MT Trail Sport AndrewM

Four pistons up front for power and modulation. Two pistons in the back for balance and low maintenance. 

Magura MT Trail Sport AndrewM

Step one of any brake review is to bleed the system after cutting the lines for an apples to apples comparison.  

Magura MT Trail Sport AndrewM

The Trail Sport brakes spent their first couple of months on a 1500 USD Marin Hawk Hill

The Trail Sport isn't the only great choice on the market. I'm currently enjoying the TRP Quadiem and despite my disappointment with SRAM's Level and Guide models, I'd be remiss not to mention that their new Code brake is great. I really enjoyed Formula's oval-piston R0R brake and I have dreams about a set of Hope V4 brakes with Tech 3 levers. 

The Trail Sport is simply the on-trail winner for me for a number of factors including power, feel and modulation. I'll talk about where it misses out to these other systems as well, after all, everything in the bike industry could benefit from a little rip-off-and-duplicate. 

Magura MT Trail Sport AndrewM

For more information on bleeding and setup, including a quick bleed trick, please see my first look piece here

Layout

Magura's Trail brake format mixes a four-piston front caliper from their DH oriented systems with a two-piston caliper from their XC models. In the Trail Sport package, the front brake is a Magura MT-5 and the rear is an MT-4. 

When storming down steeps, the Trail system feels very balanced between the front and rear using the same sized rotors. The other benefit of the system is it makes the rear brake easier to set-up and maintain a drag-free state. I also find that when bleeding well-beaten 2-piston calipers I achieve a good result with less time and effort. 

I was going to write that I'm surprised more companies haven't followed suit but between Shimano putting a Zee caliper up front on their XT Trail brakes and the guy I ran into last week who says Hope is all over the E4/X2 split, I'd almost call it a trend. 

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

The large four piston PM caliper doesn't play nice with everyone's brake adapters. Go with Magura or be extra diligent. 

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

Despite being a much smaller block of aluminum to dissipate heat, I had no issues with rear brake fade or rotor warping. 

Lever Feel

Magura's HC lever blades remind me of some Bonz levers I bought for my Hayes brakes in the early 2000's. The generous hook is especially appreciated when everything is soaked and my fingers are cold. They are also positioned in such a way that I still get ample leverage on the master cylinder piston even with the levers set inwards for my average-sized hands. 

Guys with massive mitts may prefer the standard lever blades but I'm not telling you what to do. I know a couple of guys running XXL gloves who prefer their levers closer to the bar than I do. 

Magura-HCT-NSMB-AndrewM-4.jpg?w=1600

The standard lever blade vs. the more generous curve of the Magura HC blade. The Trail Sport brakes come stock with the HC version. 

With either blade installed, the Maguras have a very predictable power band. The initial bite is not as aggressive as other brakes on the market but the harder I yank on the lever the more power is on tap. That's certainly my preference versus more on/off options. 

A lot of the time 'modulation' is used to describe away a flexy or wallowing feel at the lever and that isn't the case here at all. The system is firm and predictable like a good parent.  

Pads

Magura makes three different brake compounds, all of which are organic. Tim and I had a great conversation about how sintered metal brake pads are generally considered to be good and organic are generally considered to be sh*t when, like everything in life, it really comes down to the ingredients. Magura's are an example of great organic pads.

I'm a fan of the stock Performance compound but for the few previous commenters wanting more initial bite, the Race pad is too grabby for my tastes but may be perfect for yours. I always bed in new pads and rotors with a series of short hard stops on a paved hill near my house and I think it makes a big difference compared to just dumping them on and going for a ride.  

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

The stock pads offer good friction and wear more evenly but I notice an improvement in feel and a power increase by upgrading.  

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

I prefer to run the independent pads that come stock with the MT-7 and MT Trail brakes once the first set of stock pads is toast. 

Magura's pads are held to the pistons by magnets rather than return springs which makes changing the thru-bolt pads really fast on the four-piston and two-piston calipers. The one-piece stock pads for the four piston caliper can be a bit of a PIA. One more reason to give them a pass. 

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

T-25 pins thread in to hold the pads in place. Rather than springs, they hug the pistons via magnets. 

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

Both the two- and four-piston calipers are big, beautiful, curvaceous one-piece blocks dressed in basic black. 

The Magura calipers are also nearly silent. I hadn't considered, until recently, how much noise some brakes make just from their pads rattling about in their seats. There's no smacking or clacking when the brakes are applied here, just the standard pad-to-rotor friction scuff. The brakes do wail when they are wet and cold but it goes away quick once I put my flask away and get moving. 

Carbotecture

In the wider industrial world, Magura runs a brisk business in high-end injection molding and the 'plastic' master cylinders are derived from that experience. There are actually two different versions of the material, the lighter Carbotecture SL featured in their highest end brakes and the regular Carbotecture material on the Trail Sport. 

Magura 2018 NSMB AndrewM

MOAR FANCY. The lighter Carbotecture SL master cylinder and multi-adjustable HC3 lever blade are great options for riders that want to spend more money. 

I can say from experience that both master bodies are equally stiff. The SL shaves a few grams but the Carbotecture material in these Trail Sport brakes is actually the same as that used for clutch bodies in BMW Enduro motorcycles and should get the nod for durability.

Being the hooligans mountain bikers are (or simply unlucky), they will eventually break anything and everything but, I've yet to damage a Magura master cylinder and I'm not nice to my bikes of late. 

Room For Improvement

There are a few features of other brakes I prefer over the Trail Sport that I think are worth mentioning. First up is SRAM's answer to the question "did you learn anything from all those sh*t to bleed Elixirs you made?" Which it turns out is "hell-yes, check out our bleed fitting system." In all fairness to Magura, the difference between manufacturing one-piece and two-piece calipers is massive and their brakes aren't exactly hard to bleed, but every time I hook up a brake these days I can't help but think about how easy SRAM has made it. 

Guide-NSMB-Mandrew-Bleed-1.jpg?w=1423

I completely understand the orientation of Magura's bleed port in their one-piece calipers but SRAM's Bleeding Edge system is awesome. 

The other miss from my perspective comes down to design philosophy. Magura brakes really consist of four readily available parts - the lever blade, the master cylinder, the brake line and the caliper - along with the various fittings to hold them together and the pads and rotors that generate friction. Wreck one of those four parts and you're buying a replacement brake, Shimano-style. 

I have a deep preference for rebuildable versus replaceable products and I give credit to Formula, Hope, TRP, and SRAM for making every small part replaceable (assuming they are available).

trp brakes

I love the idea of being able to replace every small part in the master cylinder and caliper assemblies. 

Lastly, there is no brake on the market that has the sleekness and sex appeal of Formula's R0R and it uses a similar layout to Magura so there's no reason they couldn't add some Italian passion to the German industrial-ness. The way Formula integrates their reasonably large reservoir into their master cylinder makes me sing.  

Formula-ROR-NSMB-AndrewM-4.jpg?w=1600

The master cylinder is small but the reservoir is large. Formula's svelte R0R is the best example of how to make a vertical master cylinder sexy and the pull-style piston makes so much sense. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

If I was given 600 USD to spend on brakes, I'd pick up a pair of Trail Sports and enough pads, fluid and lines to last me for a while. There's no doubt that the mirrored calipers and Carbotecture SL masters of their MT Trail brakes look like a million bucks but that comes dead last on my list of important metrics for brake performance. 

I've also found both Magura's MT-5 and these Trail Sport brakes to be faster and easier to set up to be drag-free than their higher end counterparts for no loss in performance with the same pads installed. 

Magura Trail Sport Review AndrewM

I'm hooked on the Trail Sport brakes. 

This is the brake I've been recommending to a lot of my riding friends and everyone who has bought a set has been stoked on them. The only complaints I've heard from bike mechanics I know are bleed related and hey, ladies and gentleman, if you can't figure it out my three year old will drop by to lend a hand. 

The brakes include a five year leak-proof guarantee and North American after-sale support is excellent both from Magura USA and Orange Sport Supply here in North Vancouver. 

For more information on the 275 USD package please click here

Comments

scoleman
+1 Andrew Major
SColeman  - Dec. 8, 2017, 9:35 a.m.

I can pretty much echo everything in this article. Definitely my favorite brakes on the market right now.  Bleed was a bit of a pain, and the front caliper REALLY doesn't like the SRAM post-mount adapter, but they've been flawless since I got the bleed right and switched to the Magura adapter.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 9:51 a.m.

The biggest struggle most folks seem to have with getting a good bleed is the insertion/removal process for the bleed fitting. Really important to elevate the caliper like I’ve shown here

Have you tried the drilled syringe at the bar for quick bleeds? Some love it; some don’t.

Awesone that you’re enjoying your brakes. Everyone I know with a set (or MT-5) is really happy with performance and performance/$$$.

Thanks,

Reply

scoleman
0
SColeman  - Dec. 8, 2017, 12:23 p.m.

Yep, elevated caliper was key to getting a good bleed.  I think I just didn't clear out the bubbles enough when I first installed them - on ride #1, my rear lever started pulling to the bar about two miles in.  A fresh bleed the next day solved that though.  I did not try the drilled syringe - may use that when it comes time to do a fresh bleed.

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geraldooka
0
Michael  - Dec. 8, 2017, 10 a.m.

Nice write-up Andrew. I admit to not having graduated beyond the xt/xtr space though the latest version of the xtrs I'm running are not as good as my previous xt. Partially because at a certain point in ones biking life (unless retired) it gets overwhelming to stock the necessary equipment and store the knowledge to work with the various standards that one finds themselves surrounded by when they are the sole "fleet manager" of a many bike home ;)

I digress though. 

What I really wanted to say was the vertical piston design also helps provide more flexibility in bar accessory set-up like inner bar grips or extra levers.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 10:36 a.m.

Great point re. handlebar real-estate Michael.

My wife’s bikes both have Shimano brakes from one generation ago (one XT masters || one XTR Trail masters) that are still in great shape. We generally don’t fix what ain’t broke. 

I wanted to improve the feel and power curve without spending the money on replacements so I put on Zee calipers (one’s actually an older M810 Saint but basically same thing) up front a few years ago. Huge improvement in every metric except weight. 

This is what Shimano is doing with the new XT brake.

One of my buddies just picked up some old Saint M810 brakes lightly used, tossed the ‘meh’ levers, and put the calipers on the front of his M8000 XT brakes on both his bikes w/ rave results. Definitely worth keeping you heads up for Zee or Saint M810/M820 calipers for the right price.

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jason
0
jason  - Dec. 8, 2018, 7:23 a.m.

Been running Xt/SLX levers with saint/Zee calipers for about 5 years and it is a great combo.  Certainly a lot of power if that is your thing.  Grabby for sure but that has never bothered me.  At 205lbs I want the power and the Xt/Zee option works awesome.

Note I have not been able to see/find a difference between saint calipers and Zee calipers, other than pin versus bolt to keep the pads from falling out.  As a result I stick with Zee calipers for the savings.

I like the combo so much that when a recently built a new enduro bike from scratch, I built the brakes using Xt levers, saint cable, Zee calipers.  Awesome build.

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Andeh
0
Andeh  - Dec. 8, 2017, 11:26 a.m.

Thanks for this review.  I currently run M785 XTs, but have been really considering switching to another brake with better modulation.  My thought is if my brakes are less on/off, I might actually go a bit faster.  The MT Trails do look really appealing:  great price, good weight, good power, good modulation, and good lever shape.  My main concern is the mentioned wail when wet, but that would likely be an issue with my other main contender (SRAM Guide/Code).

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 11:38 a.m.

Cheers Andeh, that’s certainly my experience.

Just to clarify, with Performance pads the Trail Sports any louder/worse then anything else on the market when it comes to squealing when wet/cold. I only notice it after taking a break or dropping in right after a big climb. 

They heat up (and quiet down) pretty quick. Same as my experience with SRAM and Shimano systems.

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agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Dec. 8, 2017, 2:26 p.m.

I was considering swapping my SLX front caliper for a Zee, but I have an extra 203mm rotor from the DH bike and thought I'd give that a try since a new adapter is way cheaper. What are the advantages of 4 piston front over going from 180 to 200 rotor? Thanks!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 3:45 p.m.

All that a larger rotor does is increase the leverage your brake has on the wheel (and improves heat dissipation if fading is as issue). The actual feel of the brake at the lever doesn’t change. If a brake modulates poorly a larger rotor can make that effect worse. 

The four piston Shimano calipers use a layout with paired pistons of different sizes so brake pressure  from initial pad contact to full clamp-down has a significantly larger range compared to their two piston options.

It really solves the initial on/off feel of Servowave brakes and provides more deep end stroke power when really hauling on the binders. The longer pads also mean more friction material in contact (rotor + pad). 

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agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Dec. 9, 2017, 9:56 a.m.

Thanks, that's helpful!  I wouldn't say I'm unhappy with the shimano on/off, modulation but like the idea of a bit more power. So a larger rotor should help w that some it sounds like? But for sure getting a Zee up front when it's time for a new brake

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bailey1
0
Bill Bailey  - Dec. 8, 2017, 3:38 p.m.

You mentioned Hope V3 E4's but it's a mystery to me why more people aren't using them. After getting frustrated with Sram I bolted them on my bike and could not believe how good they are. 
Reach adjustment- best I've used
Contact adjustment - easy and accurate
Bleeding - seriously ? , no special tools required, fast and so easy
Did I mention all parts are replaceable ?
Quality - amazing 

Oh and as far as power and modulation, they easily match or surpass the guide rsc's they replaced without the noise.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Bill Bailey
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 3:54 p.m.

My E4 experience is why I reference loving the idea of trying a V4/Tech-3 combo.

The E4 were beautifully made and I quite liked the lever feel. Certainly not my favourite brake to bleed but not the worst. 

I’d say they have about the same power as a Guide brake - which is to say around the same as a Shimano 2-Piston but with much nicer feel/power curve at the lever. Overall I was very impressed with the quality/manufacturing/feel and underwhelmed by the power. In contrast I think the 2-Piston R0R from Formula bests the Guide or E4 when things get steep/gnarled.

The V4/Tech3 promises the same feel with more power and that’s exciting. I don’t know anyone locally that wants less braking up front. In the spirit of my Magura experience I’d be all over trying a V4 front / X2 rear setup.

Totally agree that the Tech 3 lever adjustments work awesomely.

Reply

Kai
0
Kai-Robin Losvar  - Dec. 20, 2017, 1:10 a.m.

Running E4/X2 combo on my enduro bike with 203 rotors front and rear, and I absolutely love this combination, 2 of my other bikes run E4 front and rear with 203/180 rotors, which is also quite nice. Decided on the E4/X2 for better heat management on the enduro bike, as it's going to be pushed quite a lot harder than my other bikes, so there will be more heat generated, and it seems to work very well in the real world, even for the occassional bike park laps.

E4 with 180 rotor up front isn't powerful enough in my opinion, but as I'm quite light (~75 kg with gear), it's enough when paired with a bigger rotor.

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Lynskey
+1 Andrew Major
Lynskey  - Dec. 9, 2017, 12:29 p.m.

Really enjoy these considered and common-sense reviews/articles, Andrew. I've got Saint M820s front and rear on my trail bike (my LBS gave me a killer deal so I went for them). They're great when I get in over my head, but the massive power and on off feel can be a bit much on the trail. Honestly I'll probably just leave them and keep riding, but an XT caliper up the back is a solution I hadn't considered.

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nicksen
0
nicksen  - Dec. 12, 2017, 9:17 p.m.

Been using saint lever and some old XT caliper for the rear for ages now, works really nicely. No issues with power (i'm 90kg ish) even on steep descends. Paired with Saint/Saint on the front, this is a really good combo imo.

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mzro
0
mzro  - July 20, 2018, 1:11 p.m.

I have installed new MT Trail Sport brakes today and I am disappointed with a braking power. Not sure what's wrong with them but braking feels weaker then on my previous SRAM Level TL brakes that I have replaced with Maguras. It was almost impossible to skid, especially on higher speeds and with full grab on both brakes I am still able to pedal through. Modulation is great though. I have 203/180 brand new Trickstuff rotors installed. I still have to bed the pads properly - maybe it will improve braking? Also, I will try to clean rotors, maybe they have some sort of oil/grease on them. Not sure how to improve braking, I was expecting them to be much more powerful. Should I try to re-bleed them? Any advice is much welcome! Thanks.

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AndrewMajor
+1 mzro
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2018, 2:02 p.m.

When you pull the lever is their hydraulic pressure (i.e. the pads are clamping the rotor)? If that's the case then the system doesn't need to be bled. 

It sounds to me like you are not getting any friction between the pads and rotors. Bedding in the pads and rotors is a key with any system but I'd recommend doing that before riding the brakes off road. 

With a new system, you'd generally do a series of short hard stops down a hill (completely letting off the brakes in between) and you can add a bit of water on the pads/rotors to aid with the process. 

I've never used the Trickstuff rotors but they have lots of surface area so I don't see why you'd have any issues bedding the system in with Magura pads. 

If you've already put a lot of brake dragging into the pads and rotors I'd very lightly sand both with water and a rough grit paper and then start the process again. 

Hope that helps.

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mzro
0
mzro  - July 20, 2018, 2:15 p.m.

Thanks, Andrew. Pads are clamping the rotors and it doesn't feel brakes need re-bleeding - modulation is great and smooth. But you're right - there's simply not enough friction. I did a series of "bedding" braking stops when I was out on test ride, it improved braking power slightly. Magura recommends at least 30-50 full braking stops on speed around 20mph to fully bed the pads. Will do it tomorrow and also will try slightly sanding rotors/pads if I fail to bed them "naturally".

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2018, 2:19 p.m.

Pour a bit of water on the system and that will help as well.  

Cheers!

Reply

Andeh
0
Andeh  - July 20, 2018, 2:09 p.m.

I'd check the rotor thickness.  Magura recommend replacing the rotors at 1.8mm (I think), which is basically the starting thickness of Shimano and Sram.  Your rotors may simply be too thin.  A quick Google search shows that they have a spec starting thickness of 1.85-2.05mm.

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mzro
0
mzro  - July 20, 2018, 2:19 p.m.

Rotors thickness is good, 1,97 mm. I have these rotors - https://goo.gl/FNcJgA

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mzro
0
mzro  - July 20, 2018, 3:14 p.m.

I have a question about pads - as far as I understand on 4-piston front can have either fused dual-pad that is installed magnetically (9.P/9.C/9.E in Magura specs) or a pair of conventional pads installed with pins (8.P)?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 mzro
Andrew Major  - July 20, 2018, 3:35 p.m.

They're all magnetic it's just that the 4x separate pad setup also uses pins to keep them in position where the 'fused dual-pad' uses its shape.

Having ridden both extensively I prefer the 4x separate pad setup as I find it has an improved feel at the lever and power curve. For best pad life (Magura pads aren't cheap) it's a good idea to rotate them so they are a bit more work than the dual-pad.

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mzro
0
mzro  - July 20, 2018, 11:47 p.m.

Thanks, Andrew. Have you tried non-Magura pads, by the way? Trickstuff, SwissStop, Nukeproof and other manufactures offer different Magura MT pads. I wonder if they are as good as Magura pads or maybe have a longer lifecycle.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - July 21, 2018, 4:53 p.m.

I haven’t. It’s the simple case that I haven’t had a reason to seek an alternative. The local distributor keeps good stock in Magura and most shops can have them in a day or two (and I always have my next set at home ready to go).

If I thought I’d see an improvement in any performance metric without a detriment I’d try different pads for the sake of doing so but the only brake where I’ve experienced a benefit running pads that weren’t from the brake manufacturer is running Shimano Saint pads on TRP/Tektro brakes.

Most my after market pad experiences have been either same:same or poor.

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Heinous
0
Heinous  - July 22, 2018, 6:07 p.m.

Interesting - I've found the EBC pads far better in Saints / XT4's. I love your feelings about the Formula's - I still miss my Oro's, but I'm just not sure if I can risk a bad Formula experience again. I guess that fear is exactly what keeps SRAM / Shimano at the top of sales with their brakes.

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