Chiron Kantakis of the C-Team here, with another installment of “ Wreck and Review”.
As a bit of background, I have been a dork of the bicycle variety for just over twenty years now. I just recently downgraded myself to Master Expert from Elite for DH: How did every kid on the block get so damn fast? As an assistant manager at one of Vancouver’s larger bike shops, I was able to really let loose the bike slut in me. I have a good portion of the products on the market, so I think I have a good idea of the benchmarks out there.For this article I have put the Magura Gustav disc brakes to the test. Magura has been in this game longer than ANYONE. They made the first hydraulic bicycle brake before the competition was out of diapers. They have kept their aim true, and ideals high, never farming out the process to fatten the bottom line. This has made for some pretty pricey brakes from our German friends, and some parts difficulties in the past. (MSRP in Canada is about $480 per brake) When you look at the machining and casting on their products, you can see the difference from a cheap Taiwan ( or China/Cambodia/etc..) instantly. This is a real company with actual people that you can call up and talk to. Jude and Jimmy at Magura USA are always super helpful, and ready to coax you (me) along with your (my) six thumbed mechanic skills. These guys know an insane amount about hydraulic brake systems, theirs’ and the competition’s. Oh, and did I mention that they are disarmingly friendly?
So, on with the carnage. To start with, these things look like they should be on a KTM.*Were they separated at birth?*
The front rotor is 210mm!!! Combine that with two giant pistons and on paper you have the most over built brake ever to see a trail. At 640 grams for the front and 580grams for the rear, they are not so bad. These Sherman Tanks have one feature that is quite different than any other bicycle brake on the market, they operate on a floating caliper, just like many motorcycle brakes. I suppose the first question is: Why? Well, the whole issue of the rotor deforming under sustained braking and the resulting friction, ie: heat, makes for a faded out brake no matter how big your rotor or reservoir may be. No fiddling with shims or frickin bolts that keep moving the caliper as you tighten them. Just get it some where near the middle of the travel of the perfectly machined riders that the caliper runs on, and you are done brake set up. Jude was kind enough to send our brakes fully bled, and with enough housing for two bikes. Plenty of line for a spare brake or two. Now, being a dunce with way too many bikes, no time or inclination to work on them, and DH runs happening in half an hour, I had to think fast. I am really partial to brakes that run on mineral oil, so much safer, and you can get brake oil at London Drugs at 3am if you have to. Keep in mind that this is in no way recommended by Magura, and is just down right stupid, but the tools I used to trim my lines so I could look cool in front of my friends were: 12 inch Crescent Wrench, and a Exacto knife. I just chopped the line where it needed, put in the new olive and fitting that Jude sent with each brake, and Voila! Done. No fluid loss, just reset the pistons and off I went.
-THE FIRST RIDE-
My first ride on the Gustavs had me wondering if I knew how to ride a bike at all. The huge volume of the caliper and reservoir, combined with the long brake levers make for the most stopping power I have ever experienced. One truly does need to modify your riding style somewhat. There IS modulation, its just so easy to lock the wheel up compared to any other brake, it takes some getting used to. I found my front wheel sliding out uncontrollably the first couple rides. I had to remind myself, “LIGHT on the front brake”. After few months on them now, I firmly believe these things make you go faster. I know that I can stop on a dime, so I have more confidence to keep the speed up. If I panic and slam the brakes as I would on any other brake, both wheels are locking up right NOW. Because of this, I have adopted the new philosophy of simply not using the brakes. Well, obviously one has to brake sooner or later, it’s just that the Gustavs taught me to really concentrate on the best places to apply brake. Before corners, after corners, NOT in the worst section of trail, and all those general rules that we all know to be true, but seem to forget when that tree is hurtling at us at ten thousand miles an hour. Strange that ultimate braking power encourages the guts to not use them. I have had some nice crashes on with the Gustavs aboard, and they have not even batted an eyelash. Totally unscathed. On a recent photo shoot with my friend Sean Frith, I bailed on a 18foot rock roll-down, and let the bike go. It landed with the full weight of the impact on the front brake line, I’m thinking for sure I am walking now. No worries, just the black housing was torn off, and the inner woven line was intact. Still using it today! The rotors are a fair bit thicker than a Shimano or Hayes rotor, so they last a very long time, and are incredibly hard to get out of true. The strange thing is with the floating caliper, the rotor often trues itself by the end of the trail, with minimal drag.
Overall, I’m convinced the Magura Gustav brakes are the most powerful disc brakes on the market. They are self centering, so any dope can set them up. They are powerful beyond all comprehension. The maintenance is zero at this point, and the other C-Team guys ran them all last year with not one spec of maintenance. Let me tell you, these guys are not friendly on equipment in the least.
So, thanks to Magura USA
for letting us do our worst. Thanks Jude and Jimmy! Thanks to On Top Bike Shop
for keeping us rolling and providing a truly friendly hardcore store for the whole family. Thanks to Beastgear
for protecting us in our many crashes. Thanks to KHS
for the great chassis that loves to rip down every chute in town. . Thanks to Tyler and the crew at Pinkbike.com
. Thanks to Sean Frith getting eaten alive while we do our photo shoots. www.seanfrith.com
All Action shots were provided by Sean Frith.