Magura originally co-developed the multi-adjustable HC3 lever with trials phenom Danny MacAsill for his signature Day-Glo-Yellow brake set. Now the HC3 lever is available in black, as a retrofit for Magura's MT series brake lever assemblies. The novel looking aluminum lever hinges in the center, where an Allen screw adjusts the its distance from the handlebar grip as well as the angle of the blade at the contact point. A second adjustment near the lever's main pivot increases the braking force by altering the leverage ratio. By combining the two features, it is possible to balance the feel, power and ergonomics of the braking system with a measure of accuracy that has previously been out of reach for rank and file mountain bikers. HC3 levers weigh 38 grams each and retail for $69.99 USD per side.
Aluminum, one-finger design
Fits: MT6, MT7, MT8, and MT Trail Carbon lever assemblies
Grip-side of blade machined flat for safety.
Adjustable leverage rate
Adjustable reach/angle feature
Weight: 38 grams (single lever)
MSRP: $69.99 USD (single lever)
Contact: Magura USA, Magura Germany
About HC3 Levers
Magura and Danny MacAskill went over the top, designing the HC3 levers. There are sound reasons for their principal features (others, like the indicator button on the leverage adjustment, are there for the cool factor). Danny lives by his brakes, so he needs exactly the same power at exactly the same point in the lever's stroke. By altering the blade's leverage rate, he can fine-tune where the lockup point will be, relative to the blade's position, and by balancing the blade's angle with the leverage rate, he can get the modulation just right. Whether or not you need such accuracy, here's how it all works:
A 3mm Allen (center of blade) adjusts the reach and angle screw of the one-finger HC3 lever.
Angle indicators around the articulating lever's pivot make it easy to reference your settings.
Lever angle: Articulating the lever just inside of the flat section means that you can set the engagement point where you need it and then optimize the angle that your finger meets the lever. Riders who like the engagement point close to the grip will benefit from this feature. A 3-millimeter Allen key sets the lever angle, and indicators printed around the pivot point help with the process.
Leverage rate: Magura's MT levers have a radial master cylinder that is actuated by a fixed plunger. In the case of the HC3, the fixed plunger is replaced with a movable shaft that can be micro-adjusted via a T25 Torx key. Moving the shaft away from the blade's pivot reduces the lever's mechanical advantage, so you have to squeeze harder to obtain equal braking force, but the trade-off is a more connected feel with the brake pads and the tire's contact patch. Adjusting the shaft closer to the blade's pivot multiplies braking power - you don't have to squeeze as hard, but that power comes at the expense of a mushier feel at the lever.
A T25 Torx driver adjusts the position of the shaft that drives the master cylinder piston. (Indicated by the round button.)
The shaft at its maximum distance from the lever pivot—button in...
The movable shaft: Closer to the lever blade's pivot equals more braking force. Farther equals a firmer, more sensitive feel.
...And at its innermost position, 3mm closer to the lever pivot—button out.
Putting it all together: To take advantage of the HC3's features one must think outside the box. There is no "bite-point" adjustment. Instead, the user balances the leverage feature with the blade's reach adjustment to arrive at an engagement point that corresponds with where you want your finger to rest. It's not hard to figure out. If you want a lot of power with minimal squeeze force, to optimize braking at your favorite distance from the grip, you'll need to run the blade a little farther out to compensate for the extra travel created by the more advantageous leverage rate. If you prefer maximum braking only ten millimeters above the grip, you can achieve that by backing out the leverage adjuster. The reduced mechanical advantage will require a little more squeeze force, but you'll be able to modulate the brake to lockup without having the blade contact the grip. Once you find your sweet spot, you can make minor adjustments to perfect the blade angle to suit your finger position.
The articulated lever blade seems like overkill, but on the trail, it turned out to be a luxury.
Ride Report Pinkbike's Take:
Most of the setup information has been covered in previous text, so I'll skip most of that, adding that my greatest fear was that I'd end up with all of may favorite settings right in the center of the adjustment realm—proving that my stock MT one-finger levers were perfect all along. That was not the case.
I began the experiment with all the settings in the middle, but the fiddling began with the realization after years of living with a softer feeling rear brake, that I could use the leverage dial to correct for it. (When the longer hose balloons slightly under braking pressure.) Not huge, but better braking nonetheless.
Encouraged by that small success, I experimented further, first by turning out the leverage dials and reducing the mechanical advantage near their maximum limits. I wanted that metallic brake pad feel where the pads sound like they bang on the rotors when I squeeze the levers. It was fun for a while, but the sensitivity was such that I could feel the pads on the ventilation holes and, while stopping power remained strong, my index finger fatigued more quickly, as it was always pulling from the same position.
Okay, I switched to soft and powerful - for one day. Magura must have done a lot of testing, because the range afforded between the full hard and full soft are both livable extremes. I could ride the bike without suffering much both ways, but I found my sweet spot to be on the firm side of the scale, with the front brake set to a greater mechanical advantage to balance the squeeze force and modulation between my right and left hands. I don't skid much. I prefer a brake setup that modulates well so I can run the tires right up to where they start to break traction without letting loose.
Getting the lever angle right was easier than I anticipated. Once I arrived at a good leverage setting, I would dial in a comfortable blade angle, then I'd use the leverage adjustment to fine tune the distance I wanted from the grip. I'm sure that Magura has a system to follow, but that's what worked best for me.
How to Switch the Levers
Magura has a host of instructional videos on this subject, but if you are adept at basic bicycle maintenance, you should be able to ace the MT brake lever switch using the following tips. All you'll need is a plastic tip hammer, a pin punch, a 3mm Allen key and a Torx 25 key. To start, firmly clamp the lever assembly to the handlebar in a good working position. The whole operation should take fifteen minutes.
Magura's MT lever pivots on a pressed-in steel pin. The knob below it is a tool-less, spring-loaded nut that retains the stop for the lever blade.
Depress the lever-stop nut and 1/4 turn will release it. Remove the spring and push the pin out.
Drive the pivot shaft out with a pin punch and light taps with the hammer. Tap it out just far enough to release the blade, and still remain in the opposite hole.
If you stopped short, the pivot shaft will be ready for reassembly. If not, tap it back in just far enough to feel the nub on the other side. Pop the HC3 blade in and carefully tap the pin through the lever assembly, then use the pin punch to drive the head flush with the surface. Reverse the order of the steps to finish the job.