German brand Magura has been in the brake business for quite some time - over a hundred years on the motorsports side - and while they may not hold the same chunk of OEM sales that the red and blue "S" brands share, they're certainly a force to be reckoned with.
I was beyond pleased riding their MT7 brakes that I reviewed last year, and while the MT7 is designed for the enduro-trail-dh category, the MT8 SL brakes reviewed here tip the scale the other way for the XC crowd with a lightweight two-piston design, carbon lever, and race-ready chassis.
MT8 SL Details
• Intended use: XC / Marathon
• 2-piston calipers
• Mineral oil system
• Interchangeable levers
• Carbon fiber lever assembly
• Weight: 195g as tested (w/o rotors, adapters)
• MSRP: $289 USD
The MT8 SL features levers with an adjustable sweep that are also interchangeable - Magura offers several different options, allowing riders to pick the shape and material they prefer. Colors can also be customized on both the lever/master cylinder assembly, clamp, and on the caliper using different covers, clamps, and rings available from Magura.
As a top-of-the-line product, the MT8 SL isn't cheap at $289 USD a pop for the brake assembly alone. Rotors and adapters are sold separately, so add on $80-$100 or so more to complete the package. Rotors are $37 each for the recommended HC rotor or the nicer SL is $45. Adapters are $13, so you're looking at $700 or so to get your bike up and stopping.
Out of the box, the lever and caliper assembly, along with a full-length line weighs 195g. That's comfortably over 100g less than SRAM's top tier Level Ultimate brakes that weigh a claimed 318g.
The entire brake system is produced in Magura's factory in Germany under stringent quality controls - the entire building is sealed and pressurized to prevent dust or dirt from getting in and contaminating the products. On top of that, Magura offers a five-year leak-proof guarantee for all of their brake systems.
Details and Installation
The MT8 SL lever. Levers can be interchanged to modify the feel and performance of the brakes.
The MT8 SL sports a composite master cylinder made out of Magura's "Carbotexture SL" material. The lever is their 1-finger HC carbon lever blade. and the bolts holding the lever assembly to the handlebar use a very open pitch thread and lower torque than most other handlebar clamps and the levers are made to rotate in the event of a crash rather than snap off. Levers can be run on either the left or right side; a simple twist of the pin that holds the lever to the master cylinder allows it to release and be transferred to the other side for a uniform look.
On the other end of the line, there's a two-piston caliper. Unlike some other brands' calipers, the MT8 SL, like other Magura calipers, is machined out of one piece rather than two sides joined together. Magura claim this makes it more powerful, stiffer, and more stable than a two-piece design. There are three different pad options from Magura, that all use a resin composition.
Magura ship all of their brakes with a full-length hose so you're going to be cutting down the brake lines no matter what, but anyone with basic mechanic and direction following skills should have no issues. If you're careful, might not even need to bleed the system, but a full bleed is a quick and painless process.
Magura uses their own "Royal Blood" mineral oil. The bleed screw on the master cylinder pushes into place and very little torque is required to hold it where it needs to be. Keep this in mind before you over-torque it and strip it out if you're working on your own bike.
There are three different options for pads, offering varying levels of friction. The stock pads are the 7.P Performance pads, which are "for long tours; these pads offer safety together with excellent performance in all situations." The 7.C Comfort pads are "for riders who want control rather than bite from their brakes as well as those looking for a long-lasting product" and the 7.R Race pads are "for all those who bring their material to the limits during cross country or downhill and require outstanding braking performance," according to Magura. Performance
Having used the MT7's for well over a year on various bikes, the MT8's were a simple set-up and easy to get out of the box, onto the bike, and out on the trail. On the bike I have been using the brakes on, I previously been using SRAM's Level Ultimates, so it was a great back-to-back comparison of two top-of-the-line XC stoppers.
The MT8 SL's have a very lightweight feel to them. The carbon lever is incredibly comfortable and the ergonomics suited me well. The lever blade is wider than the Level lever and is also a bit longer, due in part to the design differences in the master cylinders.
The stopping power that the MT8 SL brakes provides is very good after the initial break-in period. It's the modulation that makes them really stand out - it's better than any other brake that I've ridden. The stock HC-1 carbon levers were a little on the soft side for my liking, but they still provide ample power to go along with all of that modulation. Swapping levers can definitely change the way things feel, and the shorter levers have a little firmer bite.
With the MT8 SL's, as with other Magura brakes, you can swap out pads to change how much they grab. While the stock pads are good and offer a great amount of modulation, I found myself wanting a bit more power, so I opted for the 7.R race pads which gave a great deal more stopping power. Swapping to a 180mm rotor up front (up from a 160) also generated a bit more of the grab I was after
Long descents left the brakes unfazed, and I never had an issue with pump-up or fade. The brakes were every bit as consistent at the start of a long ride as they were at the end.
Overall, the MT8 SL is one of the best feeling XC brakes available, but I found that it took a bit of tinkering and messing around with different levers and pads to get the to that level. The brakes offer quite a bit more modulation than SRAM or Shimano's XC options, but in their stock configuration they don't offer as much power right out of the box. Price-wise, the MT8 SL's are no doubt far more expensive than their counterparts.
Ultra-lightweight and customizable+
Achieving the ideal set up can take some experimentation with different lever/pad combos-
Underpowered compared to competitors right out of the box