magura brake lever

Review: The Magura HC 1 – Finger Brake Levers Change The Way Your Brakes Feel

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A lever blade may seem like an odd thing to review, but as one of the contact points for your bike, it’s important. Magura started offering these single finger HC levers as an upgrade a few years ago, over the (at the time) stock two-finger levers, which were much more suited to big hands than small ones.

I’ve got a set of Magura MT7 brakes on my personal bike, so Magura sent a set of the upgraded levers for me to try out.

magura hc3 brake lever
The original 2-finger lever blade (bottom) and the 1-finger HC lever blade (top).

Installation

Fitting isn’t as simple as some other brands, because Magura lever blades are secured by round metal pins that need to be pressed or tapped in or out. The pins sit within a bushing, and are covered top and bottom by thin, rigid, adhesive metal covers. Kind of like very thick foil stickers.

The master cylinder bodies are Magura’s Carbotecture, which means they’re carbon fibre reinforced themoplastic. It’s certainly very tough, and as three years of riding these MT7’s attest, up to the stresses of hydraulic braking.

magura hc brake lever workshop vice tool fix
This made me nervous.

Magura’s lever blade fitting video tutorial shows the pins being bashed in and out with a deadblow hammer and a tiny punch. Nonetheless, handling them I just couldn’t escape the thought that they were plastic.

I got nervous and, since I have one around, used a pillar drill as a press so I could be more gentle and precise. In all, doing both was a fairly quick job.

magura hc brake lever
The process is actually pretty quick and easy though.

Much later on in this test, I did get a warranty replacement on one of the brakes. Uninstalling the HC lever from the old brake, I was a bit more courageous and tried the hammer and punch method, supporting the master cylinder on a bench vice so the pin could drop through. It was fine and, after triple checking the punch was lined up, went without a hitch (just to get photos of installation for this review, I refitted a standard lever to an MT5 master cylinder)

If you’re wary of DIYing things, this procedure is simple enough, but definitely more complicated and nerve wracking than swapping lever blades from other manufacturers that use machine screws or the like.

magura brake lever shifter
I’ve since added the Magura Shiftmix clamp to direct-mount the shifter to the lever clamp.

Since installing these, I’ve also added Magura Shiftmix clamps and a Magura specific Wolftooth dropper remote, visible in some of these photos. A Shiftmix setup wasn’t strictly necessary to achieve a good setup, but it is very tidy and convenient. Even without this kind of tidying, the shorter levers immediately lent themselves to a much better control setup.

As mentioned, the old style levers could manage one finger braking if you had big enough hands, but they were rather flexy and you had to run the clamps quite far inboard. This meant the brakes ended up feeling on-or-off, as modulation could get a little vague, and MT7s are extremely powerful. Even before the Shiftmix clamps, the shorter HC levers meant I could get my shifter and dropper remote into better positions than before.

Weight weenies beware, these lever blades weigh 29 grams each, which is a whopping 3 grams more than Magura’s two finger blade.

magura brake lever wolf tooth remote paddle dropper
I’ve also been testing the Magura-specific Wolf Tooth ReMote, which has tidied up the cockpit nicely.

The Feel

While the previous two finger levers work alright for big hands, I’d say the HCs are not tiny-hand specific. They definitely change the feel, give more precise control, and have good enough range of adjustment that you can get them close to the bar or not. I wear medium-size gloves, and the last knuckle joint of my first finger sits comfortably in the middle of the reach adjustment range.

These HC levers are not only a great deal stiffer than stock Magura levers, but many others besides. The single-finger shape feels a little closer to other manufacturers’, right down to leaving a similar gap between clamp and grip, but much stifferer. It makes a pronounced difference to braking, but it might not be to everyone’s taste.

magura brake lever
The shorter HC lever blade is not only more comfortable for single-finger braking, it also changes the brake feel too.

In use, I’ve found they mean I can modulate the brakes more consistently, without any squish, flex or perceived loss of power. For the past few years, I’ve really liked powerful on-off brakes, because they encourage me to brake less and later. Consequently, I seem to have built good enough habits to really benefit from extra modulation.

A week spent yanking on these in the Alps resulted in minimal arm pump, with only the steepest, longest trails tiring my forearms. The ergonomics feel spot on for my riding and technique. If you drag your brakes with white knuckles down every descent though, beware, levers this stiff could become a bit stressful.

magura brake lever
The thicker structure makes them noticeably stiffer too.

These blades are beefy. They really don’t flex much, and the large hook at the end keeps your fingers very secure. At that point, they’re also 16mm tall, which is identical to the older style two-finger lever. That’s 2.1mm taller than a Shimano lever blade though, or 1.3mm taller than a SRAM one. Those may seem like tiny increments, but to an appendage as small and sensitive as a finger, they’re not. Most other brands feel dainty in comparison to these.

Levers, being one of the six fundamental ancient machines, can only be so complicated. These are pretty simple objects, so there’s not much to go wrong. The only problem I’ve had is, at some point later in this test, one of the reach adjuster knobs on the front of the levers started to spin without turning the screw it’s mounted to. Luckily, I’d already set it to my ideal reach and it’s stuck in just the right place. If that wasn’t the case, well, I wouldn’t really want to drop penetrating oil or superglue anywhere near a load of seals and an oil reservoir.

magura brake lever
Now fitted as standard on higher end brakes.

Since these levers were sent to us, they now come as standard on Magura’s higher end brakes, but there’s also a HC3 lever upgrade, with even more adjustability. The HC3 is jointed in the middle and has little grub screws to adjust the lever geometry exactly to your princess-hands.

Overall

These will give your brakes a very solid feel, and have almost no flex at all. If you’re a brake dragger, or squeeze them a lot for comfort, Magura’s HC levers are stiff enough that they might stress your hands. In my experience though, they provide precise braking and feedback, and you can still grab them to put down a lot of power very quickly. An excellent upgrade for existing Magura users.

Review Info

Brand: Magura
Product: HC Brake Lever
From: Magura UK, magura.com
Price: £32 per lever
Tested: by David Hayward for 10 months
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