This guide is a answer to many requests that have come to us during the time about the braking system and the needs of our customers to improve the braking and the braking system of their motorbike.
It is not unusual to hear owners of super sporty motorbikes, who are not satisfied with the braking system, which after a few laps of the track suffers from fading, or buyers of naked (very often Japanese 4-cylinder production) that after a descent from a mountain pass find themselves with the brakes of the way down, completely "cooked."
Let's find out why this happens, how to avoid it and how to improve the brakes of your motorbike, step by step.
The brake system of the motorcycle is simple and already performing, but with our guide you will find out how to improve it.
The brakes of a modern motorcycle are of the disc type, generally floating at the front and fixed at the rear.
To understand how to improve braking you need to know what happens when you brake; the motorcycle disc brakes transfer the inertia of the motorcycle to the brake discs, transforming it into heat through the friction that occurs between the pads and the surface of the brake disc.
If the braking is long, prolonged and close over time, the system temperature rises, until the so-called fading occurs, which is the loss of effectiveness and decrease in the braking force of a braking system caused by overheating.
Too much heat = ineffective braking!
Now that we know that the number one enemy of brakes is heat, we must absolutely understand how to keep it under control.
The heavier and more powerful the motorcycles, for example the 4 cylinders with little engine brake, the greater and faster the overheating and loss of efficiency of the brake system will be.
While driving on the roads, following the speed limits of our roads, it is very difficult to overheat a modern braking system, but if we talk about driving on the track, or sports driving in roads closed to traffic, for example downhill, then the systems as standard, in particular that of some motorcycles (for example Yamaha MT07 / MT09, Kawasaki Z750, Z800, Z900, Honda Hornet, CB 650 F) may suffer from performance drops in braking performance.
Remember that improving the braking system not only ensures better braking on the race circuit, but shortens the stopping distances and in the case of an old motorcycle (over 10 years) it makes the system safer. Better brakes are not only synonymous with circuit racing, but also on the road they make the difference compared to the standard brakes which are of lower quality to minimize production costs.
Reading this GUIDE you will understand why brakes born for the race circuit are also perfect for road use, increasing driving safety in everyday conditions.
To improve the brakes of the motorbike you must work on its components, let's see what they are, how they work, how and why to change them.
The brake system of a motorcycle is formed, starting from the wheel, by:
• brake discs
• brake pads
• brake calipers
• brake fluid
• brake hoses
• brake pump
In an ideal world we could replace everything with more performing components without worries, but due to the costs of the braking systems we will go in order by creating a list, starting from the most important components to be improved, the replacement of which with a higher quality spare part, in relation at the price, provides the greatest benefits.
In this way it is possible to improve your braking system step by step, being able to feel the various differences.
The BRAKE PADS are the first step to improve the braking system of your motorbike.
The benefits you get are:
- reduced heat transmission
- higher friction coefficient
The pads are composed of friction material that acts on the braking band of the disc, this material is available in various types. To improve performance you will have to choose a sintered compound, that is a mixture of metal powders that ensure effective braking even at high temperatures.
We recommend, for example, Brembo RC or Z04 brake pads, these compounds are truly excellent, at high temperatures they hold up very well guaranteeing top braking, while at low temperatures they brake less (but always better than an organic compound) improving braking with respect to a original pad.
The brake pads recommended by us improve braking thanks to the friction material and are the first "insulator" to protect the brake fluid and brake calipers from heat, in fact if the plate on which the friction material is fixed is thicker than usual will be able insulate better the brake calipers from heat.
The brake fluid has a low price and its replacement helps to improve braking performance, in fact a RACING brake fluid, even if it needs more frequent replacement, has a higher boiling point, and above all better dissipates heat produced during braking. In any case, the brake fluid should be replaced every two years as it absorbs humidity being hygroscopic.
The benefits you get are:
- higher boiling point
- greater thermal dispersion
We recommend Motul RBF 660 or Brembo Racing LCF 600 brake fluid, for its excellent characteristics. In fact, RACING brake fluids have a higher boiling point, slowing down overheating. Even at high temperatures they maintain their characteristics without changing their state.
In any case, we recommend replacing the brake fluid every two (2) years for normal use.
When working on the pump, discs and brake calipers, the costs of the components significantly increase, not all of them make these replacements, but those who do will feel truly radical benefits, in particular the replacement of the brake calipers and the BRAKE PUMP significantly improve braking, but first you must have correctly arranged the pads, hoses and brake fluid.
At this point, in addition to obtaining benefits from the braking performance point of view, substantial benefits are also obtained referring also to the motorbike weight reduction, especially when working on suspended moving masses. Racing components can be less than half as light as originally assembled components. On average, by replacing the pump, calipers and brake discs it is possible to eliminate many kilograms (not grams or pounds) of weight from the motorbike.
The benefits you get are:
- greater stopping power
- weight reduction
- Improved scalability
- improves comfort and ergonomics during use
REPLACING THE FRONT BRAKE PUMP (master cylinder) is the first step to be performed on the motorcycle; normally a low / medium quality axial pump is mounted, in some cases, such as for Ducati Panigale, the pump will be of the Brembo semi-radial type (with an angle of about 45 °), while some Japanese sports ones mount a radial derivation pump of the Nissin brand.
Many people think, making a mistake, that the radial pump is only useful in the race circuit while driving to the limit, that these types of pumps make the brakes "nervous" and that they are useless on normal roads.
But those who have tried a radial pump will never go back.
The advantages are felt at the first braking! The motivation is due to the force applied ratio on the lever / force transferred to the pumping part.
In the radial pump, the pumping part (the part that pushes the oil under pressure into the circuit) exerts a higher force, which translates into higher pressure for the same force impressed on the lever. Thus creating a significant hydraulic advantage.
The radial pump is much more powerful than an axial pump, ensuring much more powerful braking with the same effort. The big advantage is its modularity. For this reason the radial pump is much more measurable and manageable than an axial pump, the amount of force applied can be "calibrated" with more precision, avoiding blocking the wheel or having a very marked on-off effect.
The advantages of the radial brake pump don't end there, this type of pump has a smaller footprint, takes up less space on the handlebar or on the half handlebar, allowing you to mount other accessories. But the most important feature is the adjustment of the lever distance; thanks to the micrometric front knob on the radial pump, the distance of the lever from the knob can be decided with extreme precision, this allows to adapt to any size of the hand of the biker.
This is an important ergonomic and functional advantage.
It must be remembered that when replacing the original axial brake pump with a radial one, many times you will have to deal with small changes that are easily resolved with the right accessories. For this mounting a radial brake pump must almost certainly buy also:
- BRAKE SENSOR, to make the brake lights come on when braking (for road use only)
There is another important accessory that could save you money on replacing the pump, namely LASTACCATA ADAPTER for the brake hoses on the radial pump.
This adapter is used to mount the brake hoses on the radial pump when an axial pump is fitted as standard. Our advice is to buy the hoses already for the radial pump, and make the modification of both components at the same time, to also avoid double bleeding (see this guide for BRAKE BLEEDING) and also immediately buy the hoses with connection for radial pump.
If the modification is made in two different times, to avoid having to replace the brake hoses again we have developed this special adapter.
The radial pumps are available in many "sizes", generally indicated for example with the code 19x20.
This number, which identifies the type of pump, determines two measures; the first measurement, 19, indicates in mm the diameter of the brake pumping part (the part that physically moves the brake fluid by sending it under pressure), the greater the measurement, the greater the brake fluid moved with the same movement of the lever. Usually on standard (axial) pumps the pumping part is 10 or 12 mm in diameter, while on radial pumps the diameter varies from 16 to 19 mm, the diam. 16 mm is used for single-disc systems, scooters, enduros, or on the clutch side in the case of motorcycles with hydraulic clutch, while the size diam. 19 mm, on the other hand, is used for naked or sports bikes with double front disc brakes.
The second measurement (x20) indicates the distance between the fulcrum of the lever, represented by the pin that fixes it, and the connection point between the lever and the pumping element. The greater this distance, the greater the force to be applied on the levers to obtain the same braking, for example a 19x20 pump compared to a 19x18 pump will need more force to be applied to the lever to obtain the same braking effect. The advantage of having a larger wheelbase is given by the modularity, in fact, a 19x20 pump compared to a 19x18 pump will be less sensitive and will have a slightly higher lever stroke. It is good to know that there are certain types of pump that allow you to adjust this size without replacing the lever.
At the end, the radial pumps, both brake and clutch, are compatible with all motorbikes models, both with 22 mm handlebars and with 22/28 variable section handlebars, however we recommend replacing or overhauling the standard pump at least every 10 years, the internal components wear out and reduce their efficiency over time. The brake pump is a fundamental element for the safety of the motorcycle.
After the brake master cylinder, the next step is the brake discs, replacement is quick and easy and can also be done in the home garage.
The benefits you get are:
- weight reduction
- better heat dissipation
- slowing warming
- minimum thermal deformation
BRAKE DISCS as standard are usually made of medium quality steel, in fact it is not uncommon for the disc to wear very quickly when mounting high-performance brake pads, this is due to the fact that racing brake pads are more aggressive and they " eat " the discs made of soft materials.
This is one of the disadvantages of the original discs; in fact the standard discs are almost always thin (4.5 mm as regards 600 and 1000), 90% of the time they are of the semi floating type (and we will see why they are not good) and are very heavy, this is due to the fact that the standard disks have an iron wheel rim attachment flange, much heavier than aluminum.
All these disadvantages disappear with the use of a racing brake disc set.
As we saw at the beginning of this GUIDE, to improve the efficiency of the brakes you need to reduce the heat transmitted to the system and dissipate it as quickly as possible; racing brake discs work just like this. Normally they are thicker than those of the first system, the thickness of the racing discs for motorcycles varies between 5.5 and 6 mm, a greater thickness (for the same size) means having a higher mass to be heated, therefore with the same type of system and braking, a thicker disc will take longer to warm up, maintaining, always with the same effort, on average a lower operating temperature.
Obviously the type of brake band material also changes, which on racing brake discs is much more "hard" than a normal road disc, this slows down its consumption when using aggressive brake pads.
To improve performance, the racing brake discs mount the connection flange between the disc and the wheel rim in aluminum (Ergal 7075 alloy for the top brake discs). This type of combination has two advantages, the first is that of weight reduction, Ergal is in fact very resistant but also lighter than iron. The second reason is always referred to the dispersion of heat, in fact aluminum is a worse conductor than iron or steel and when two materials that have a different heat conduction are joined, due to the effect of HEAT TRANSMITTANCE the two materials will tend to uniform their temperature, consequently the braking band will transfer heat to the aluminum flange, which in turn will disperse it from the environment.
The aluminum Ergal alloy flange has the function of both lightening and cooling, as well as aesthetic, since it is possible to color it by anodizing.
Another advantage of racing brake discs is the floatation. The most common flotation method uses circular centring and connecting pins, which allow slight axial. This feature allows the brake disc to "stretch out" during expansion without bending, the greater the float (to the extent possible) and the less likely it is that the brake disc will deform itself under the effect of heat.
Finally, let's move on to replacing the brake calipers, this component is the most important, complex and delicate from a technical point of view, but which ensures the highest possible performance. Replacing the brake calipers radically changes the braking of the bike. But it would not make sense to replace only the brake calipers if the entire brake system was deficient. This is why we have inserted the brake calipers at the bottom of this GUIDE, because they are the last component to be replaced, the component of the motorcycle's braking system more expensive and more difficult to assemble if you do not already have the predisposition for the brake calipers radial (here you can still find the LASTACCATA ADAPTERS to mount the radial brake calipers on an axial brake system).
The benefits you get are:
- greater stopping power
- better thermal dissipation
- motorbike weight reduction
The brake calipers mounted on most motorcycles models are of the traditional axial type, some motorcycles, in recent times, are converting to the radial brake calipers, which generally have a 108 mm center-to-center connection for Japanese motorcycles and 100 mm for Italian/European motorcycles models.
In the case of axial brake calipers as standard, the system must be used with the adapter or the motorbikes fork legs will have to be replaced, otherwise the operation will not be possible. Those who already have the possibility of mounting radial calipers as standard, or have replaced the feet or directly the entire motorcycle fork with one with a radial attachment, can mount radial brake calipers.
Essentially, the RADIAL BRAKE CALIPER, compared to the axial caliper, has the advantage of being able to vary the size (thickness and diameter) of the brake disc, by inserting only thick washers, increasing the braking surface, this is the advantage of the brake caliper with radial connection.
However, the evolution of the braking systems in recent years has meant that the technology developed only and exclusively on the radial brake calipers, leaving the axial calipers at lower technological levels and firm over time.
Here are the features needed to select the high performance motorcycle brake caliper:
- Type of brake caliper
- Number, diameter and material of the pistons
- Construction and caliper material
Taking into consideration only the front brake calipers (for the rear the explanation is very similar), there are two types of brake calipers, floating and fixed.
The standard brake calipers of naked motorbikes and some sports motorbikes are usually floating. This type of brake calipers have only one piston (or more pistons) on one side of the caliper. When the system is activated, the piston (or more pistons) moves pushing the pad against the disc, when the pad pushes on the disc also the caliper being floating and mobile moves "pressing" the pad on the opposite side, without piston, against the surface of the disc (see figure below). This type of caliper has functional limits since the applied force is partially dispersed during braking.
The fixed brake calipers instead have a series of opposing pistons, which when activated push the pads towards the disc independently, this configuration allows to apply the maximum braking force on both sides of the disc.
The fixed brake calipers for racing motorcycles have a maximum of 4 pistons, 2 per side. The brake caliper pistons play a fundamental role, in fact in addition to pushing the pad against the brake disc, they also function as heat dispersion. While the stock pistons are made of steel, the pistons of the racing radial brake calipers are made of aluminum or titanium, materials that conduct less heat than steel, in this way the heat transmittance from the pads to the caliper and the brake fluid is slowed down, the overheating is lower and the brake system is better able to resist stress.
Many pistons are also perforated, in this way it is possible to guarantee an exchange of air inside the piston, which otherwise would inevitably overheat.
The pistons are also classified not only by number and material but also by size, in fact the larger the pistons the greater the braking power, but above all they will also be better distributed.
The latest generation brake calipers are made of Ergal 7075 or in two blocks joined by screws or made in a single block (monobloc).
These solutions guarantee maximum structural rigidity, as the pressures involved are very high, therefore the greater the stiffness of the brake caliper and the higher its braking power, which is not dispersed. Furthermore, a monobloc component is subject to uniform expansion which ensures maximum performance.
There are 4 types of brake caliper bodies, here is the list starting from the most performing:
- Monobloc machined from solid, maximum resistance and weight reduction
- Double shell machined from solid
- Casting monobloc
- Double casting shell
The brake calipers machined from solid have the advantage of being able to be lightened to the maximum in every "useless" part that would only increase the weight.
Some models are also equipped with a triple central bridge, which increases the overall rigidity of the brake caliper itself.
We have analyzed all the changes that can be made on the brakes, after this guide you should be able to evaluate how to intervene on your system, depending on the budget you can choose where to intervene more effectively.
Our advice is to evaluate your system and act accordingly.
The important thing is to always keep the system in maximum efficiency.
Total interventions and maximum performance are highly recommended only for driving on the race circuit, but also on the road improving your braking system can make the difference. The motorcycles, even the economic ones, exceed all 200 km / h and the 0-100 km / h is less than 6 seconds, the braking systems of these motorcycles are undersized in terms of performance, a sporty road driving on a mountain pass can easily put the brake system in crisis.
On a race circuit it is highly not recommended to drive with the standard braking system, especially for entry level motorcycles (300 or 600 c.c.), when you start to turn with a certain rhythm the standard braking system lasts a few laps before being completely unusable and do not brake anymore, this is a very dangerous situation that we advise you to avoid.
Reducing the stopping distance of the motorcycle by just a few meters can be decisive for the motorbike and especially for the rider.
Don't save money on brakes!
Thank you for reading our GUIDE