Brakes are one of the most essential parts of any vehicle, including your motorcycle. When out riding, they are crucial for helping you slow down and stop your bike. Poor or insufficient maintenance can decrease brake performance and increase crash risks. Especially come springtime, brakes should be high on your motorcycle maintenance list.
Many of today’s motorcycles use disc brakes, which are less likely to overheat and need fewer adjustments. Typical modern brake models feature twin disc brakes in front and a single disc or drum brake in the rear.
Each brake is supported by a caliper, which is powered by up to six pistons, and the brake pads will be clamped to the disc. Your brake usually sits in the wheel to adjust to temperature changes as you ride and may feature anti-block system (ABS) technology.
Much like a car, motorcycle brakes experience wear and need to be replaced. The system’s fluids may run low or hold onto debris and moisture, so it’s a good idea to give the brakes a once-over before every ride.
Brake fluid helps reduce wear on the system’s mechanical components. Over time, the amount of fluid starts to decrease and may trap moisture or debris. Based on how often you ride, it’s recommended the old brake fluid is flushed out and a new supply added every one to two years.
To avoid air bubbles in the brake fluid, you may want to have a professional perform the job if you’ve never done it yourself. Additionally, the substance can be damaging to your bike’s exterior, eating through the paint or plastic if it splashes outside the reservoir.
Do not get in the habit of only checking the brake fluid when you suspect it needs to be replaced. Riders should inspect the fluid level and color at least once a month.
If the fluid is brown or black instead of clear, it needs to be flushed out. Delaying fluid replacement reduces brake lubrication and decreases performance.
Motorcycles are equipped with two brake fluid reservoirs, one located toward the handlebars and one in the back. Both should be opened as you monitor the fluid levels.
Brake pads are crucial to how the system performs. With standard disc brakes, pistons apply pressure from the calipers to the brake pads. This process results in friction, which then generates heat energy.
However, this action places wear on the brake pads. Once a brake pad becomes too thin, it can influence your travel in three ways:
- You won’t be able to stop as smoothly, which can increase your accident risk.
- Air builds up in the brake fluid lines, which can impact the system even further.
- Too-thin brake pads can eventually damage the disc and rotors, resulting in even more repairs. Worst case scenario, they may prevent your bike from stopping at all.
Due to their importance, get in the habit of checking the brake pads regularly. Examine the wear and thickness – the brake pads should be at least 1/8 of an inch thick. If they have worn down past this point, you’ll want to have them replaced. While riding, listen for grinding, squeaking or screeching sounds coming from the wheel area.
Do you perform your own brake work or have professional maintenance done? If you have any tips to share, leave a comment on our Facebook page.