Brake lines, steel vs. plastic?

There’s tons of useful info on this topic here, for example, for example.

I took my brake off a few years back when I realized it was only adding weight and getting in the way for trials. Lately, though, I’ve been riding some long steep downhill trails and want to play with the brake again.

I spoke to a lbs guy who seemed pretty knowledgeable about hydraulic brakes, but he didn’t see the advantages of steel braided line over plastic.

He showed me what I believe was Hayes cable, gave it a twist and said, “see this stuff will kink up just as quick as plastic.” (The Hayes cable has a plastic coating). He also felt that it wouldn’t take a beating any better than plastic and said that steel was only designed to handle the high temperatures found in downhill situations.

So my questions are:

  1. Is Magura brand steel cable the only way to go, and if so, why? (As opposed to possibly cheaper generic brands).
  2. Is the best steel braided cable really more flexible than plastic?
  3. Is steel braided line stronger than plastic? (Will it take a beating better?)

Also, I noticed that my Magura is different from the newer models in that the cable comes out of the cyclinder near the lever at a right angle. The newer models shoot the cable straight back which is better design. Can I get a different piece so that my cable shoots straight back toward the seat post? What is that part called? If this is unclear I’ll take a picture. With the right angle setup, the cable needs to be bent at practically a right angle in order to point it back where it needs to go, making installation very awkward and I worry about the stress I’m putting on the cable.

BTW, the Magura cult page is pretty cool.


Pics, please =)

This is what mine looks like with the 90 degree fitting installed, Joe. This is ideal for my handle setup, which is with the custom thing that George Barnes and I worked out. In this setup the handle is installed backwards from what yours is, I imagine. I had to remove the original fitting and install the 90 degree kit. I should think it would be straightforward (as straightforward as hydraulics get) to undo the 90 degree setup.

I tried to put some Hayes steel braided on my Magura’s and it didn’t fit, Magura tubing flares at the end so you might have to buy Magura cable to make it work…

I think you should only do steel braided if you want it for the image b/c otherwise it ain’t worth the extra money IMHO…

I’m gonna do steel braided in the next few weeks.

I would like to piggy back on Joe’s questions

My MUni ends up in the trunk of my car a lot, so I worry about the heat effecting the plastic brake line. Do the plastic lines have a certain life span and then crack or split? If so, I might consider replacing before NJII MUni weekend. My brake lines are almost two years old. I have the newer handle/cable set up.


For what it’s worth, I think the two main types of damage likely to occur to brake cables on a unicycle are:

a. Sudden hard yank from getting caught on something. My guess is that this is the biggest worry.

b. Hard impact of the unicycle falling, and the cable attachment points banging hard against a rock or other object that gets in there. I assume flat ground would not do it, so it applies more in rough terrain.

Heat from being in a parked car? That can get pretty extreme, but I don’t think in the ballpark to warrant metal over plastic. In either case, don’t burn yourself picking it up! :slight_smile:

Come on, just fess up and admit it: steel looks way cooler than plastic.

Seriously, here’s how you do it:

  1. Buy the brake - comes with plastic
  2. Ride until you damage it
  3. Replace with steel or plastic, depending on:
    A) How long did it last and did you like it?
    B) Available funds
    C) Aesthetics

If you find yourself in step 2) for a long time, consider yourself lucky.


I usually stick by the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Not really depending on my brake, I wouldn’t be upset if it broke on a ride. I don’t keep spare parts and tools for Magura maintenance. If the brake is really important to you, then I guess having backup materials and tools would be a good plan.

The NJ/NY trails are as technical as you want, but for most of them a brake is not needed. I’ve been riding this short hiking trail lately though, that drops 1500 feet quickly and is relentless - I’ve been thinking the brake would save a lot of energy. I don’t expect that this trail will be used simply because it’s extreme and there are plenty of great trails that will appeal to everyone.


I think all you need is to have a steel cross-over cable. My plastic cross-over cable busted within 2 weeks of riding with my brake. The plastic is really weak when it comes to friction and rubbing, and the side got a hole in it. It can easily break if you ride it on cement and drop it at all.