Tested: Magura Louise BAT

MAGURA LOUISE BAT $161 per wheel

618-395-2200; MAGURAUSA.COM

Now in their 14th year, Magura's Louise brakes benefit from some significant improvements for 2008. First, the brakes now feature a hinged-back clamp, which makes for easy-on/easy-off action and allows the lever to be mounted on either side of a SRAM or Shimano shifter. I ran mine inside, as the lever blade is long and had a good enough hook for one-finger braking.

Lever feel now can be fine-tuned on this BAT-equipped model (Bite Adjust Technology), which increases or lessens the amount of lever throw before the master cylinder is actuated. But that's not the only new feather in the Louise's cap. The brakes also feature a new pivoting banjo bolt that makes installation easier on a wide variety of bikes. The banjo uses Magura's "Heat Eater" technology—a fancy way of saying it has aluminum fins built into the fitting to shed heat from braking friction that could otherwise lead to dreaded brake pump. Following the industry trend, the caliper is now post-mount ready. Lastly, the brakes now feature a user-friendly bleed port, although they come pre-bled and with a 5-year leak-proof guarantee.

Once set up, with a knob to take care of contact/ bite point and a deep-set Allen key to adjust reach, these brakes performed quietly and capably throughout our six-month test. Once bedded in, they proved up to the task of hauling me down from speed. Not once did they pump or fade, even after 20-minute-long downhills.

But at 454 grams per brake, the Louise has as much business on a trail bike as it does a big bike. And with 20 years' experience making hydraulic brakes, it's clear the 115-year-old Magura has learned a thing or two.