Blue highlights signify Magura's MT Trail Brake – four pistons up front, with two pistons in the rear caliper, paired with 180mm rotors (Pictured: Storm SL front and a Storm HC rear).
MT Trail Brakes came into being because their employees were mixing and matching the four-piston MT7 and two-piston MT8 calipers on their bikes to balance the braking forces and to enhance modulation. Magura took the hint and started packaging the combo as its "MT Trail" system. According to Magura, the difference in stopping power between the hard-gripping four-piston caliper and the softer action of the two-piston MT8 caliper closely match disparity in traction produced by the front and rear wheels. Because most riders tend to drag the rear brake, Magura specs equal-diameter, 180-millimeter rotors, which adds some cooling mass to the rear brake and further balances the feel at the levers. MT Trail brakes are offered with either carbon
or aluminum lever blades (reviewed), and weigh 660 grams for the pair. MSRP is 585 a pair (carbon blades), plus $64 for a pair of 148-gram Storm HC 180-millimeter rotors.
MT8 and MT7 brakes share the same lever/master cylinder unit, so to balance the feel at the lever, the four-piston caliper has smaller pistons. The asymmetric calipers also require different brake pads. Four small pads are used on the MT7 in order to facilitate top-loading while providing clearance for the caliper's central reinforcing arch. The two-piston MT8 uses conventional rectangular brake pads.
Magura says that all of their brake pad materials are organic. Three compounds are offered: gray "Performance" pads are standard, with softer-gripping blue "Comfort" pads and their grippiest gold "Race" pads offered as aftermarket options. Our review brakes used the standard pads, which provide powerful stopping and are longer wearing than Magura's high-performance Race items. DIY Trail Brakes
Magura's disc brake range is interchangeable, so savvy customers who can live without the blue colorway can mix and match
their own Trail Brakes by cherry-picking from their upper-level MT7 and MT8 systems—or save some money by piecing together a kit using MT5 and MT4 components. For the less inclined, Magura already packages that mid-range MT4 and MT5 combination into the Trail Sport kit for $275 USD.
Magura initially launched the MT Trail brake to aftermarket customers exclusively with their carbon fiber lever blade, which has a wide and comfortable profile. For 2017, they plan to offer the new one-finger HC aluminum lever which was previously an OEM-only option. My brake kit had the aluminum blade, and after experiencing both, I now prefer the feel of the metal lever. The grip length is about half way between a tiny one-finger lever like Shimano XT, and the longer, two-finger types from both SRAM and Shimano. The Magura profile offers one-finger braking, with slightly more room on the flats, so braking action feels just right from more than one position on the grips.
Magura's Performance pad material doesn't offer much grip until the pads are properly mated to the rotors. After a few hard stops, however, the pads bite into the rotors with a lot of authority. There is no bite point adjustment on the MT master cylinder, only an Allen-screw reach adjustment on the levers. The adjustment function is flush, so it will survive many crashes and it proved to be all that I needed. The master cylinder's bite point is precise, so I could set the lever close to the grip and be assured that the pads would contact the rotors consistently. For most of this season, I have favored SRAM's Guide Ultimate brakes. MT Trail brakes surprised me with their more precise feel, and with braking power and modulation that was pleasantly similar.
While I was happy to discover that Magura has achieved significant performance gains in the MT brake's feel and stopping power, the real story about MT Trail brakes is whether or not the four-by-two caliper arrangement can deliver better modulation and balance than a matched pair of calipers. The short answer is "yes, they can." An unusual-for-California rainy season provided exorbitant traction, and a rare opportunity to brake like a boss on high-speed descents and put some heat into the rear brake. There was plenty of power available, and I never felt any fading, but honestly, I didn't notice any advantages over matched-caliper brakes.
After the sun eventually baked the clay trails into their usual gravel-covered concrete, however, the asymmetric calipers, paired with same-sized rotors stepped up to the plate. My home zone's slippery soil and steep rock rolls require a sensitive hand on the levers and a lot of coordination between the front and rear brake. With Magura's MT Trail stoppers, I could intuitively nurse the tires to the razor edge of traction and control. In any situation where traction was compromised, they were a delightful improvement. Pinkbike's Take: