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Motorcycle Brake Maintenance Guide

Chaparral Motorsports
September 30, 2011
Brake Maintenance Supplies - Pads, Rotors, Brake Lines, Brake Fluid

Ask any motorcyclist what they love best about their bike as opposed to a car, and most will say something that has to do with freedom. It's true that there's nothing quite like accelerating down the highway with nothing between you and the open air. Motorcycles rev up quickly and have a high top speed, which is part of what makes them so enjoyable to ride. However, a vehicle like that needs to have equally strong brakes to remain safe - and smart riders will keep up with their brake maintenance in order to ensure their bikes are in top condition.

Sure, it may not be all that thrilling to talk about proper motorcycle brake maintenance. But at the same time, it's something that you'll notice immediately if you go too long without addressing it. Having your brakes fail can be extremely dangerous, so it's worth taking the time to take care of them properly. Besides, it's typically quite easy to do, something that even complete novices can likely manage on their own.

Before you start tackling motorcycle brake maintenance, it helps to get an idea of how they work. On a motorcycle, the brakes are split up between the front and rear of the bike. Typically, the bike will have separate controls for each of these, with the front brake providing most of the stopping power.

Essentially, the main parts to be concerned with are the motorcycle brake pads. When you press down on the brake, the pad grips the rotor, which grinds the bike to a halt. The majority of the time, this works like a charm. However, you need to pay careful attention to the thickness of your pad, as this part eventually breaks down over time and needs to be replaced.

To access your brake pads, you first need to remove the brake calipers, which are attached to the rotors. Your owner's manual should easily identify where these parts are on the vehicle. From there, you can inspect the brake pads. If they are thinner than an 1/8th of an inch, it's time for a replacement.

There are a wide variety of pads on the market, with some companies claiming better performance or increased durability. These are worth looking into, but you also can't go wrong with OEM motorcycle parts, as these will be guaranteed to work with your particular model.

Whatever you do, just don't ignore the brake pads. It's a cheap and easy fix that most riders can pull off themselves, and it definitely beats what will happen if you don't change them out every once in awhile. If the rotor is damaged because the pads wear thin, then you could be looking at a much more expensive replacement.

Another area you should pay attention to is the brake fluid. About once every two years or so, you should inspect the fluid in your master cylinder. Using a brake bleeding kit, you can drain this old fluid out and replace it with new, clean fluid. Just be careful not to get any of that fluid on your bike's paint - it'll eat right through it.

If you're into modifying your bike for performance, you might want to start looking into specialty parts. For example, installing steel braided motorcycle brake lines can really increase your bike's stopping power. Some riders, especially those who compete in races, also like to customize their brake rotors in different shapes, which can affect performance. Oversized motorcycle rotors and wave rotors are two of the more popular designs for this application.

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