Magura HC3 Adjustable Brake Lever - Review

Aug 10, 2017 at 0:56
by Richard Cunningham  
Magura HC3 brake lever


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.



HC3 Details:
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)
Color: Black
MSRP: $69.99 USD (single lever)
Contact: Magura USA, Magura Germany
Magura HC3 brake lever


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:

Magura HC3 brake lever
A 3mm Allen (center of blade) adjusts the reach and angle screw of the one-finger HC3 lever.
Magura HC3 brake 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.

Magura HC3 brake lever
A T25 Torx driver adjusts the position of the shaft that drives the master cylinder piston. (Indicated by the round button.)

Magura HC3 brake lever
The shaft at its maximum distance from the lever pivot—button in...
Magura HC3 brake lever
The movable shaft: Closer to the lever blade's pivot equals more braking force. Farther equals a firmer, more sensitive feel.

Magura HC3 brake lever
...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.

Magura HC3 brake lever
The articulated lever blade seems like overkill, but on the trail, it turned out to be a luxury.


Ride Report

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.


Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesI like that Magura went crazy and designed their version of the ultimate brake lever. Seventy bucks a side is a lot to pay for brake levers, but if you already own a set of Magura MT brakes and you want to upgrade, HC3 levers could give you more performance options than jumping over to another brand would promise at a more affordable up-charge. Bottom line is that I found the HC3 levers were shaped beautifully for comfortable, one-finger braking, and was pleasantly surprised that Magura's novel adjustments proved to be a better way to achieve that braking sweet spot that many riders seek.RC

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 HC3 brake lever
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.

Magura HC3 brake lever
Depress the lever-stop nut and 1/4 turn will release it. Remove the spring and push the pin out.

Magura HC3 brake lever
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.

Magura HC3 brake lever
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.



55 Comments

  • + 14
 Cool upgrade for those who're ultra picky about lever setup. Can I assume from this that Mag MT's have consistent level feel every time? I know I'm not alone in struggling to get my Shimano brakes to pull the same distance before the pads hit the rotor. Seems all sets from recent years suffer with variable lever feel, to the extent that I always give the brakes a few pumps before dropping into a trail these days, just to be sure...
  • + 7
 For reasons known only to Shimano they've been suffering from utterly terrible factory bleeds. I got my Saints delivering a perfectly consistent bite point and feel, but only after bleeing them myself and evicting some impressively large air bubbles from them.
  • + 4
 My MT5s have been consistent every time. There's much debate as to where the inconsistency in shimano brakes come from. Most of the consensus is that it's the calipers, and the levers are fine. I'm tempted to try a shimano lever on my magura calipers...
  • + 1
 yea pretty much fed up with my Shimano set. cant seem to find a happy place and have them stay there for more than a couple rides.
  • + 3
 In Shimano I trust.
  • + 5
 Magura has fixed most of Shimano's problems: their modulation and end-stroke power are off the charts, and Magura now has Shimano beat in the reliability department. I can't see to needing these levers, but it's cool to have the option.
  • + 3
 I recently got a set of one Magura MT5 and an MT4, after using nothing but Shimano brakes for years.

The standard Magura levers are awful, compared to Shimano.

I heard that Magura calipers do work with Shimano levers, so I put Shimamo M615 levers on that MT5/MT4 set.
Swap was easy and the result is pretty awesome.

Probably solves 90% of the problems that HC3 lever does, but at about half the price.
  • + 1
 @pyromaniac: Woo! Thank you
  • + 1
 @pyromaniac: another option is buying the HC lever blades. They're less expensive than the HC3, and the shape and stiffness of them was a huge improvement from the originals.
I believe the new "Trail Sport" brake set comes with them standard
  • + 1
 @jaredpbt: Possibly. But I generally dislike the whole lever and lever body design of Magura and it would be somewhat too easy Smile
  • + 11
 Magura really missed the mark by not making these compatible with their lower end brakesets. For reasons unknown, the HC3 lever is not compatible with brakes like the MT5, which lack knobs to adjust lever reach. If you're going to spend more for the higher end version of the brakes, are you going to want to spend even more for new levers? Give those of us with the cheapy brakes the option to upgrade to fancy levers so we can take the brakes we own further.
  • + 1
 I'm not sure how well these would work with the lower end models since they have quite a lot of unadjustable free stroke and these levers could make that even worse.
  • + 1
 Not sure you are right. Looks like the mt trail carbon and mt5 share a similar lever- no tool free reach and no bite point. The mt7 does get bite point, however. I inquired with magura and they said the mt5 was not upgradeable to tool free reach adjust, which is a disappointment.
  • + 8
 F my A $70 per lever! And it's just a hack of the -too long- original design flaw... if this was an after market hack people would burn buildings down.
  • + 3
 im all up for more options on the market regardless of price at the end of the day people choose how to spend their money, but this is just ridicilous. 140 just for the levers on brakes that are already above the 250 mark.
  • + 1
 I paid 80€ per end for my MT5's so these better be some pretty f*cking awesome lever blades to be worth it Big Grin
  • + 1
 Not quite understanding the price outrage. How much does a spare XTR BL-M9000 cost right now? I remember a costly bike shop trip when I snapped my XT lever a couple of year ago.
  • + 2
 @karaknic: snapped being the operative word
  • + 1
 @fercho25: Touché !
  • + 5
 "There is no "bite-point" adjustment."
Back in the day when there was no pad contact adjustment, I did it by the lever adjustment, washers, shims, and different thickness bleed blocks that I made to add or remove fluid from the system. Every time the pads wore down a certain amount (usually when the lever blade started to hit my knuckle) is when I'd go to town again.
I like the engineering behind these and the endless options, but it still is no pad contact adjust (thanks SRAM!) After wearing the pads with this setup, it seems like you're back to some lengthy tinkering to get the "consistent" feel back, instead of just dialing the pads in when they wear. Shimano brakes seemed to try the pad contact adjust, but honestly, their pad contact screw never worked for me. At this price, not sure it's worth it. More moving parts=more things to go wrong. But for a user who likes to get that perfect feel at the lever, these would work
  • + 1
 ^^^This^^^
  • + 1
 To be fairthough it doesnt look like it needs lengthy tinkering - seems very easy.
  • + 8
 don't hope tech levers do this already?
  • + 1
 No. Hope levers are not independably adjustable in the way these Maguras are.
  • + 5
 well they kinda did with the adjustable bite point and angle of the blade, it does the same job.
  • + 7
 Last time I was this early people thought gwin was an asshole
  • + 1
 I remember lusting for Hope brakes after Danny's breakout video showed me what he could do with them. I only just got around to getting them and now Danny has had two different brake sponsors since then. So these are the brakes I'll be getting in the 2020s? The only brakes I've been able to use with actual bite point adjustment are Maguras old HS33 hydraulic rim brakes and Hayes mechanical brakes. I bought XT brakes cause they were supposed to have it but it doesn't work. Now these comments say that neither my new Hopes nor these have it. Why is it so hard to make a bite point adjustment for Hydraulic Disc Brakes?
  • + 2
 Got these recently, and really solid feeling! Didn't have time to play with the adjustments yet though ... But will definitely give a go!
  • + 3
 a confession that they screwed up the design of the stock lever?
  • + 3
 What would Life be without HopeBig Grin
  • - 1
 With mtb disc brakes someone needs to think properly out of the box and design a truly new system.
One that doesn't use a master cylinder at all because this seems to be where 99% of failure and poor feeling brakes originates from.
I'm completely sick of the disc brake lottery. No one has conquered a truly consistent master cylinder design - it's time for something else, something new
  • + 1
 Maybe I have some luck with brakes, but I spend quite a bit of times insuring I have good bleeds. Poor feeling is just air in the system. You get it all out, no more poor feeling brakes.
I haven't had any true "failures" and I've run avid brakes since their V-brakes, all the way through the Guides. When a bleed doesn't fix the issue, it's usually internals. The calipers are really easy to rebuild, as are the lever components. Like 15 minutes tops. People complain that their brakes down work and then just say everything fails, but literally nothing has an infinite lifespan, especially a system that is really used hard. They are not hard to troubleshoot, and most of the parts are readily available.
If hydraulics don't work for people, there's always the ole tried and true BB5. No bleeding, setup is completely easy, and there is mechanical pad contact! Won't ever get air in those babys!
  • + 1
 @krashDH85: master cylinders are not serviceable or even replaceable without replacing the whole lever. They are the achilles heel of modern hydraulic brakes.
We are completely reliant on a weak and temperamental part. It needs scrapping entirely and replacing with something fool proof and consistent
  • + 0
 @IllestT: Right, the master cylinder is an integrated reservoir for fluid. This is usually a machined piece of the lever body. How are these prone to failure, unless machining tolerances are out, or there is damage to the internal sealing surface?
For reference:
img04.taobaocdn.com/bao/uploaded/i4/12750859/T2MtByXhxXXXXXXXXX_!!12750859.jpg

It's usually not a master cylinder that fails. It's the mating components of that system. Ie piston/bladder/pushroad assembly, o-rings, etc. Being that it's part of the lever body, of course you can't service the master cylinder, but people use that term. "I'm re-building the master cylinder"...ie all the components of the system.

Ref Sram's Repair manual for example:

www.sram.com.cn/sites/default/files/techdocs/service_manual_code__code_r_rev_b.pdf
  • + 2
 @krashDH85: I mean the master cylinder as a whole - seals and O-rings included. None of it is either serviceable or reliable
  • + 1
 @IllestT: you can purchase every single internal component of a SRAM brake. If you have extensive wear to the bore of the master cylinder itself, that probably isn't an issue with the brake but it's upkeep.

Shimano on the other hand...
  • + 1
 I solved this buy going magura, two years in and not one issue
  • + 0
 @IllestT: I am running elixir 1 s guide Rs and xt m9000, (not on the same bike) take your time to learn there foibles .and don't demonise them due to poor maintenance
just don't buy formula ,Took my time to learn/understand them but they are just poorly engineered .tolerances and design
  • + 0
 Shimano Servo Wave levers for the win. Dynamically adjustable leverage ratio, low leverage for initial pull, high leverage once the pads contact the disc. Best lever design out there.
  • + 3
 non servo wave shimano levers are said to work better and Saint/Zee calipers paired with XTR Race/ Deore levers are one of the best brake systems ever made. My Deores feel and work better than my XTs. I am buying XTR Race/ Saints as my next brakes
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: why Saint calipers and not zees? I think zees are the same but cheaper since they don't have the name.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Wait, Deore levers do not use Servo Wave?
  • + 1
 @pyromaniac: my bad - Deore's do have SW, but they feel better modulated than XT while providing same power.
@themagicat: you have a point...
  • + 1
 So you adjust to perfection. On the next dh your brake heats up, go mushy and your lever hits the bar. No brake. Not sure that is a good thing.
  • + 2
 Been running them for a bit and absolutely amazing, luv them~!!!
  • + 3
 My dixie wrecked.
  • + 1
 AFAIK MT5 caliper is the same as MT7. Magura makes damn strong brakes, but pricing of these levers is mad!
  • + 1
 That lever is $70! It must be adjustable.
  • + 1
 C3# I want to break free...
  • + 1
 $70 a lever Eek
  • + 1
 Keen.
  • + 0
 Well shit on my dick! This is fantastic!

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