2009 Magura Marta SL Disc Brake
The Magura Marta SL Disc Brake need little introduction -- it has been a premier disc brake in terms of performance and weight savings for years. The Marta has been a notable fixture on World Cup level race bikes (including a podium sweep by the Elite Women in 2008) to every day enduro builds. Although it may not be purely visible at first glance, the brake was drastically redesigned for 2009. Naturally, we were eager to investigate when our sexy red anodized set arrived via UPS.
For 2009, the Marta SL is available in red and silver anodized finishes. We've found red to be a make or break color when it comes to accessorizing a bike. It’s a great way to add accents to what can be a bland overall appearance like white, black or grey frames. But trust us -- we know how difficult it is to find two red items that have the same shade, and the difficult thing about two different shades of red is they can clash big time! When we see a metallic Ferrari Red road frame leaving the shop with two shades lighter red bar tape the gag reflex is in full effect. The point of all this is to say the anodized red Magura Marta SL is pretty much a dead match with a red Chris King headset or Industry Nine wheelset. Good thing since we set up our Intense Spider FRO test rig with Industry Nine Ultralights with red hubs and red spokes. It came off looking smooth.
Out of the box, we were surprised by an unbelievably long brake hose provided for the front brake. We pondered the subject for a moment then one our co-workers chimed in that they run both brake lines long enough for rear for those folks who like to run moto-style (front brake on the left hand and rear brake on the right hand). This is standard fare in UK and Australia. No biggie for us, as we needed to re-cut both lines anyways.
Cutting and refitting proved to be a snap. In fact, the rear brake was solid and did not require bleeding. Maybe we’ll be home in time for dinner for once! The front brake needed some TLC so we were excited to test out the new Easy Bleed Technology (EBT) technology the Magura crew had told us about. EBT is centered around the fact that the reservoir now has a removable pin in which a syringe can be inserted for bleeding. We hate to be smart, but we are not sure the EBT is a labor saving device on par with our vacuum cleaner or TV remote control. We found removing the reservoir plate for bleeding, so we can watch all the tiny bubbles that pop up, is still the most effective way to bleed, same as before. Not that this is difficult, but a job best done with two men. Although the process is very similar to Shimano, the Marta SL brakes definitely popped to life quicker and easier than we are used to with Shimano lines.
The system runs on non-corrosive mineral oil which is always nice when considering those inevitable drips, leaks and squirts that can happen while bleeding. We are not too proud to say that we have never experienced a few panic moments from shooting a little DOT fluid near the eyes while bleeding Avid and Formula brakes.
One other refinement to the '09 Marta SL that is merely a bullet point in print, but a monumental feat in terms of ride is the improved lever kinematics. Basically Magura has tweaked the lever pivot, which gives the brake a stiction-free and more powerful lever stroke. We found that the levers were compatible with all shifters, except Shimano Dual Control of course, and the lever provided plenty of clearance be able to mount a shifter to the inside or outside depending on personal preference for lever and shifter reach. Reach adjustments were handled with ease at the lever with a 2.5mm Allen key.
The oversized one piece dual piston caliper uses injection molded composite pistons. Unlike metal pistons the composite pistons greatly reduce heat transfer from the pads to the fluid. Magnets are molded into the pistons to retain the pads -- unlike springs that lose tension or get packed with mud. Additionally the Marta now uses the same pads as the Louise brakes. The Louise/Marta pad has a larger surface area and provides better power and modulation. We were able to easily check pad wear without having to remove the pads from caliper.
We opted for the lightweight SL Rotors -- the intended mate for our Magura Marta SL (available in sizes 160, 180, and 203mm). Adapters and rotors are sold separately from the caliper/lever set and make selection easy now that the Marta utilizes post mount front and rear calipers. Options exist for the Magura Venti-Disc, or drilled SL rotors. Although these rotors are a tad heavier, we have found that they can provide slightly more consistent and pulse free feel on long steep descents from our experience with the Louise brakes. So the latter two rotor options would be a good choice when selecting the Marta SL brake for use on a more All-Mountain oriented build.
Out of the box the pre-bled lever, caliper and hose system weighed 240g, then added our 95g 160mm SL rotor, we got a total running weight of 335g for a front brake mated to a post mount fork -- exactly as Magura stated. On the trail, the Marta SL has stepped up with a much more powerful and controlled braking feel than we experienced in previous iterations. We are happy to say that after a quick easy hose trim, and bleed set up, we rode for several months with no needed maintenance and continued top notch performance. For those looking for a simple, lightweight and low maintenance brake set up for their cross country or enduro bike, the latest edition of the Marta SL should be at the top of the list. It doesn't hurt that they look damn good either.