2015 Magura MT5 Next Brakes
Intended use: Trail, Enduro, and Downhill
• Brake (no rotor or mounting hardware): 266 g
• Rotor: 114g (160mm) – 177g (203mm)
Rotors: Magura Storm (203mm front, 180mm rear)
Bike: 2013 Ventana Zeus 650b
Rider: 5’9”, 140 lbs.
Test Locations: Squamish, BC; Aspen, CO; Colorado Springs, CO
Test Duration: 4 months
MSRP: $199/brake (without rotors)
Magura brakes have been somewhat of a niche favorite for the last few years, with devotees of the German brand praising their reliability, feel, and modulation. But they lacked power and were rarely spec’d on most manufacturers’ complete bikes, which largely kept them out of the mainstream spotlight that Shimano and SRAM occupy.
For 2015, Magura has redesigned their entire lineup in an effort to stay competitive with higher-powered offerings from Shimano and SRAM.
The brand’s entry-level brake, the MT2, has largely stayed the same, but each subsequent level of the MT series gets a boost in power. Magura’s two new gravity-oriented brakes, the MT5 and the MT7, feature four pistons that deliver braking power via four separate pads.
The MT5 and MT7 are largely similar in design, but the MT7 features a different pad and backing design, toolless reach and engagement adjustment, and costs about $150 more than the MT5.
Magura’s entire lineup continues to use mineral oil.
The MT5 is the cheaper of Magura’s four-piston gravity brakes. At $199/brake, it stays competitive with the SRAM Guide RSC ($199), Shimano XT ($139.99), and the Shimano Zee ($219). It features alloy levers, reach adjustment, and a one-piece caliper body.
At first glance, you can see that the MT5 was designed with user-friendliness in mind—installation and adjustment of both the caliper body and the lever is accomplished with a single T25 Torx wrench.
Reach adjustment comes in the form of a T25 nut partially recessed into the outside of the lever, keeping it mostly out of harm’s way in the event of a crash.
Unlike some of its competitors, the MT5 does not feature any form of manual pad contact adjustment.
Compatibility with other controls was problem free. It’s worth noting that I’ve been running a pretty unusual cockpit setup on the Ventana Zeus I used for this test, as the bike is currently set up with a Rohloff internal hub in place of a traditional derailleur setup.
That said, I would be surprised if the brakes interfered with any traditional cockpit setups, because of the MT5’s compact lever body design. The brakes are also ambidextrous, so riders that run their brakes reversed shouldn’t have any issues.
I set up the MT5 with Magura Storm rotors (203mm/180mm). The Storm is the burlier Magura rotor available—it’s known to be heavy, bombproof, and to dissipate heat well. For riders looking for a lighter option, the Magura Storm SL is also available in 140-203mm options.
Both the Storm and Storm SL are centerlock-compatible through the use of an adaptor.
The MT5’s alloy levers are longer than most other levers on the market today, and are almost big enough to accommodate two fingers. Lever shape and feel is always a matter of personal preference, but I found them to be quite comfortable, though they feel noticeably bulkier than Shimano’s levers. The lever’s wide range of reach adjustment should satisfy practically all riders.
Braking force is delivered by an individual brake pad for each of the four pistons. On each side of the caliper, two pads share a steel backing but are effectively separate, which Magura claims aids heat dissipation. Rather than relying on pins or bolts to keep the backing in place, the pistons are magnetic, allowing the pads to easily snap into place upon installation.
On the trail, the first thing that was apparent was the MT5’s power. I had always thought of Magura’s performance as similar to the Avid brakes of years past: fantastic modulation, but noticeably limited power. But after my first descent, I was reminded much more of Shimano’s Saint and Zee gravity brakes.
I would have loved to have ridden Shimano’s brakes back to back with the MT5 for a better comparison, but I suspect that if you rode Shimano’s offerings in the same day as the MT5, the brakes would still feel quite similar. Although the Maguras felt significantly less touchy than any of Shimano’s brakes, their top-end power felt very comparable.
For the vast majority of descents, I want to be able to keep braking force somewhere in between 50 and 100 percent, depending on what kind of traction situation I’m encountering. This is where predictable modulation becomes crucial.
It was on the wettest and slipperiest days when the MT5’s modulation impressed me the most. Rather than modulating by significantly changing the lever’s position, it felt much more like I was making subtle changes in pressure, and the brake was responding to my inputs accordingly. This contrasted with how I’ve felt on other brakes in the past (particularly Avids and Maguras from previous years), where it felt like I was really moving the lever around to modulate power.
On the trail, this translated into the ability to easily find that sweet spot of braking power as the bike was bouncing down wet roots or mossy granite. I was consistently able to scrub speed without sliding, and vary braking force in reaction to trail features. Adjustments could be significant or minimal, depending on what the trail demanded.
While the brakes were very rewarding in situations that required finesse, I still felt like it was easy to access the brakes’ full power when I needed to reduce speed quickly. Compared to a high-powered brake with less modulation (particularly the Shimano Saint), it did take a bit more pressure on the lever to get to 100% power, but it never felt like I was struggling to achieve full power.
Overall, Magura has struck a great balance between modulation and all-out power. I felt remarkably confident both in situations where I had to scrub off a lot of speed before a corner, and in low-speed situations where I had to keep the bike’s speed in control while rolling down steep and wet rock.
In my book, this is exactly what a good gravity brake should accomplish.
NEXT: Reliability, Durability, and Comparisons to SRAM & Shimano Offerings