When riding on the track, one of the areas of the bike that takes the biggest pounding is the brakes, so it’s no wonder that when people get a little more into their track riding they start looking around at how they can improve motorcycle brakes so they can be more affective on the track (the correct braking technique helps too).
If you feel your brakes could be better or you just wish to future proof your brake system, then taking the below five steps will be an excellent direction to take in order to do that. So here’s my advice for anyone looking to increase their deceleration potential.
This is the cheapest and most simple way to improve the performance of your brakes. If your fluid hasn’t been changed for a while, I would highly recommend you make that the first thing you do to improve performance.
Glycol-based brake fluid (DOT 4 and 5.1 to you and me) is very hygroscopic, which means that the fluid will aggressively absorb moisture, and over time you will get a build up of water in the system which will in turn decrease the performance capabilities of the fluid.
Changing your fluid regularly is very important for keeping it fresh and in turn keeping the performance of your brakes up as high as they can be.
Another fairly cheap way to upgrade motorcycle brakes; by upgrading to track biased brake pads you will not only gain more outright performance, but you’re also less likely to experience things like brake fade.
The most popular form of track brake pads is race sintered pads. These contain metal particles that not only improve overall friction characteristics, but also handle heat better so you are less likely to experience your brakes fading.
Having said that, the standards of OEM brake pads are as high as they’ve ever been (some manufacturers actually employ sintering) and a lot of track riders and racers would swear by OEM pads, so it’s worth looking into what your bike manufacturer offers if you want to stick with stock pads.
A popular choice for a lot of riders when upgrading the brake system; though I would guess a fair few people don’t fully understand the benefits of braided brake lines.
Braided brake lines aren’t just for show and do in fact serve a purpose. Most motorcycles come with rubber hoses out of the factory and over time the rubber starts to degrade and stretch through use (even more so on the track), this is going to decrease your braking performance and have you once again knocking on the door of brake fade.
Braided hoses are nowhere near as prone to this problem as rubber ones, meaning they’ll not only give you consistent feel with the lever, but they’ll also last longer too.
It is with an aftermarket master cylinder where the biggest gains will be found when looking to upgrade motorcycle brakes.
In simple terms, their larger piston diameter means that more fluid can be forced out of the master cylinder which in turn means greater pressure produced. The downside of a bigger piston is that it would actually take more effort to produce this pressure, but due to the different lever positions and leverage offsets that the manufacturers employ you can in fact achieve this higher level of produced pressure with the same (if not less) effort than using stock parts.
They are a more expensive upgrade, but ask anyone who has upgraded to an aftermarket master cylinder from a well known manufacturer if they would go back to stock. I bet I could guess their answer.
While not really an upgrade to motorcycle brakes as such, keeping up with the maintenance schedule and replacing the brake internals (and cleaning non replacement items) when necessary is an important part of making sure your system is up to scratch.
Rubber perishes over time, so the effectiveness of the seals inside the master cylinder and callipers will degrade and lose effectiveness. Not only this, but dirt and particles can build up around the pistons and cause them to stick. In the end the pads will drag on the discs (because the pistons can’t fully retract) and only further produce unwanted friction and heat.
I’ve put this last because as I said it’s not really an upgrade, but if the brake system isn’t kept in good working order it does indeed affect the performance of your brakes.
If you feel your brake system isn’t performing as well as you would like, or you just fancy an upgrade, the above would be an excellent five steps to take in order to improve your motorcycle’s brake system.
Photo by Jerko
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