Cross-Country goes Downhill?

Propulsion like cross-country bikes and downhill qualities like trail bikes – the new trend of the “downcountry” bikes combines the performances of both of these segments. What are this category’s unique characteristics, and what impact do they have on the brake setup?

Cross-country has undergone a fundamental transformation in recent years like no other discipline in cycling. Nowadays, long races lasting more than two hours on simple forest paths have almost disappeared. Two-metre drops and jumps, almost unrideable stone fields and technically sophisticated uphill stretches now push riders to their limits. This trend is no longer limited to professional bikers because a steadily increasing number of hobby bikers are also taking up cross-country. Several “everyman races” entice sportsmen and women with trail adventures, and the legendary stage race “Bike Transalp” now includes an additional downhill/enduro classification on certain sections of the stages.

The material has also kept pace with these changes. Fullys (full-suspension bikes) have become the norm, and now, following a long period of 80 and 100 mm travel, 120 mm bikes are on the rise! In addition to having a more robust chassis and suspension, modern geometries with flat steering angles and extended mainframes make riding in rugged terrain much safer. If you take a closer look at these bikes, you’ll soon see that the requirements for the components and especially for the brakes have also become more demanding!

Although 160 mm rotors and 2-piston callipers were the norm for many racers in earlier cross-country races, a different, more optimized setup is recommended for downcountry. Especially when racing in the Alps, where competitors are often faced with mile after mile of trail descents, tuning the brake to match the rider’s weight for more stability and braking power makes racing much safer for riders, and also conserves the strength of their arm muscles. Heavier downcountry riders especially benefit from this tuning. The MAGURA #customizeyourbrake product portfolio offers several options to adapt brake setups to this new trend in the best possible way.

The first noticeable upgrade is the change from a 160 mm to a 180 mm rotor. This increases braking force by a helpful 10% and improves thermal stability! More power can also be gained by retrofitting a 4-piston brake calliper. Thanks to the MAGURA MT modular system, an MT8 can be upgraded to an MT Trail SL with a 4-piston brake calliper in just a few simple steps. The brake master and brake cable don’t have to be changed.

Race brake pads offer even more power than the series setup depending on the usage scenario. HOWEVER! Please be aware that this brake pad compound can lead to faster fading on long descents, which is why we recommend Performance brake pads for the longer descents.

And how does the “Downcountry” brake upgrade change the racing weight? Upgrading an MT8 SL with 160 mm rotors to an MT Trail SL with 180 mm rotors adds just 56 g more weight. (The 4-piston calliper weighs 20 g and each rotor 18 g. Another option is two QM40 (PM160-180) adapters of 30 g each.) Many racers meticulously optimize their bike down to the last gram, but 56 g should be well within their tolerable limits! Later-occurring braking points and more safety on the downhills will compensate for the tenths of a second lost uphill!

Try it out – take your cross-country brake to an exciting new level in just a few simple steps!


MAGURA Downcountry brake setup:

  • MT Trail SL
  • 180 mm STORM SL.2 rotors
  • Performance or Race brake pads
  • Optional QM40 (PM160-180) adapter


Pics by (c) Oliver Hugo (

Rider: Eric Junker (

MT Trail SL
Trail Combination

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Brake pads 7.P/7.C/7.R

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Disc Storm SL.2

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