Magura HC3 Adjustable Brake Lever - Review
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 designFits: MT6, MT7, MT8, and MT Trail Carbon lever assembliesGrip-side of blade machined flat for safety.Adjustable leverage rateAdjustable reach/angle featureWeight: 38 grams (single lever)Color: BlackMSRP: $69.99 USD (single lever)
About HC3 LeversMagura 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:
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.
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.
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.