- Magura Julie disc brakes
We hate to describe anything as “essential”. There are very few things in the MTB firmament that you actually can’t do without. There’s “a bike”, and after that pretty much everything is largely optional. That said, disc brakes have become, if not essential, bordering on indispensible. If you’re anything other than a gram-obsessed racer, the added weight of discs is more than compensated for by more consistent (and in most cases, just plain more) stopping power and rims that, barring accidents, last for ever.
The main obstacle remains cost. Even the least expensive discs can’t match V-style brakes for out-and-out cheapness, and budget discs haven’t had a great reputation for performance. All of which brings us to the latest incarnation of Magura’s Julie brakes. Readers with long memories may remember the first Julies, that didn’t exactly set the world alight. But the only thing that the 2005 version has in common with the original is the name.
The Julie certainly ticks all of the “proper brake” boxes. It’s an open system with a twin-piston caliper and automatic pad wear adjustment. An interesting thing about the system is that it’s a low-pressure design – it uses the same hoses (and mineral oil) as Magura’s hydraulic rim brakes, unlike other discs in the range that use high-pressure hoses. The advantage of this is mainly that it makes the brake cheaper without affecting performance, plus the hoses are very easy to work with should you need to shorten or replace them. The main disadvantage is that the slave pistons have to be a bit bigger, and the calipers are quite chunky.
You get a 180mm front and 160mm rotors. Both are Magura’s drilled, wavy SL design as found on pricier brakes. The Julie belies its chunky appearance with a quite competitive weight of 480g (for a front). Yes, that’s fairly heavy, but it’s not alarmingly heavier than a lot of other brakes and the Julie is considerably cheaper than most.
Part of the secret of the Julie’s weight is the brake lever, which marries an aluminium lever blade to a composite lever body containing the reservoir and master cylinder. If you really haul on the levers you’ll detect a bit of flex in there, and feel generally is a little more vague than users of posh brakes may be used to. The Julie feels solid, but a bit dead somehow. It slows the bike down a treat, though, and the big calipers seem to do a good job of dissipating heat. The lever itself is comfy to use, although there’s not as much clearance between lever and grip at the inboard end as some levers which might trouble large-digited Rapidfire+ users. We’d quite like a more pronounced hook at the other end, too, but then we like to hang right off the end of our brake levers.
Magura calls the stock pads a “Performance” compound, which is fair enough – they work well, but won’t last long in wet, gritty conditions. There’s an “Endurance” compound available too, which’ll take a power hit but should last longer. We feel that there’s power to spare, though, and the Endurance pads are a better bet in the UK.
Fitting is easy – the brakes come fully assembled, so just bolt them on. As is the trend at the moment, the Julies are post-mount native but come with adaptors to fit IS mounts – no shimming necessary, just loosen the bolts, squeeze the lever and tighten the bolts again. The system’s not as tolerant of wonky mounts as, say, Avid’s domed washers, but if you find you’ve got very out-of-whack mounts it’s best to get them faced off anyway.
Something definitely worth mentioning is Magura’s five-year no-leak guarantee. Barring accidents, these brakes shouldn’t need any attention beyond cleaning for quite a while.
Positives: Bargain price, solid, plenty of power, reliable, decent warranty
Negatives: Look a bit clunky, lever flex, lever shape not to all tastes
Verdict: With plenty of brakes on the market costing twice what these do, you wouldn’t expect the Julies to offer up top-notch performance. They’re very competent, though, and for the price they’re very good. They might be a bit clumpy-looking and they could feel nicer, but they perform where it counts – slowing the bike down. Spend 25% more and you’ll get a step up in finish and step down in weight, but then the same is true of most things…