By John Ker
Magura brakes have been around for a long time. In the last decade, they became the stoppers of choice for John Tomac, Shaun Palmer, Jurgen Beneke, Henrik Djernis and Bart Brentjens, as well as the members of the Rocky Mountain, Yeti, Manitou and ParkPre teams.
It was at Tomac’s suggestion that the company came up with on-the-fly brake adjustment capability via a a small knurled wheel at the brake lever. Bart Brentjens rode the brakes to glory when he won his cross-country World Championship and the men’s first mountain biking gold medal at the1996 Olympics.
Over the past 13 years, since entering the mountain bike business, Magura has earned a reputation for producing some of the finest brakes in the mountain bike world. Yet mountain biking is only one part of the company’s success.
Magura was founded in 1893 as a supplier of petroleum motors and hydraulic pumps (the company still produces fuel pumps for Citroen and Peugeot automobiles), then later enlarged its operation by producing handlebars and handlebar controls to the German motorcycle market. Magura’s finely engineered products are used by companies as diverse as BMW, IBM (for whom they make some computer hardware components) and Suzuki.
While Hayes and Formula control more of the mountain bike disc brake market in the U.S., Magura is the biggest player in its native Germany, and the company is striving to build on that success and become an even bigger player in the rest of the world.
HOW BIG IS MAGURA
While small when compared to companies like General Motors and Microsoft, Magura, with its 400 employees and annual sales of over $40 million, is a huge one in the mountain bike industry. What’s more, mountain bikes are a key part of its business, producing some 45% of the company’s annual revenue. The company projects sales of 550,000 bike brakes for this year, with 400,000 of them being disc brakes.
Magura first entered the mountain bike market as a producer of hydraulically controlled cantilever brakes, then entered the disc brake market in 1994 with its Gustav M model (named for founder Gustav Magenwirth), its first downhill specific brake.
Today, the company has diversified and offers four more models. There are the lightweight Louise brakes for cross-country; the Clara model, designed for both cross-country and freeride; the Julie model, a more economical choice designed for enthusiasts; and the new high-end, 348-gram Marta model disc brake, which is being used by Cannondale on their 2002 Scalpel model bikes. The non-downhill brakes are named after Gustav’s four daughters. For more info on each model, check out the company’s website: www.magura.com.
On a recent visit to Germany we were able to try out the 2002 model Louise disc brake on a three-hour ride, and the 2001 Clara on a freeride/downhill session of shorter duration. Both worked flawlessly. We’re hoping to do a full test on the 2002 brakes when they go into production.
Magura recently bought part of the Rond fork company and is now handling the sales and marketing of the popular Dutch-made suspension forks, as well as adding some of their own engineering expertise to their development. The Rond forks are reportedly rated very high among European riders, and Magura is planning to expand their market throughout the world. Rond is also planning to enter the rear shock business later this year. Gerard Rond and chief engineer Hank van der Scheer showed us a pre-production version of the shock and it was impressive and innovative. We’ll look forward to testing one when they go into production. Innovation is not unusual for the company. Rond was reportedly the first company to release an air/coil spring fork. Bart Brentjens used one, in fact, when he won the gold at the ’96 Olympics.
We’ll be interested in seeing if Magura’s beefed up marketing efforts earn them a much larger share of the fork market. As things stand now, Hayes and Magura are, according to Magura, the top two hydraulic disc brake makers in the world. From how they said it, we got the impression that Hayes is currently number one, but we also got the impression that Magura has them in their sights. That’s good news for consumers, of course. Any time companies strive to improve their products to get a larger share of the market, its the mountain bike-buying public who benefit.