Big binders, fancy rotors and pad-to-lever upgrades all help to bring out the best in a bike, but what is the best route for better brakes? Are Superbike rotors necessary for the street, or will quality pads, stainless steel lines and a responsive master cylinder get the job done? Each rider requires a personalized braking setup and each bike comes from the factory with a different degree of stopping power. For instance, a budget Ninja 650 benefits from brake upgrades much more so than an S1000RR. SSB consulted the experts at Galfer USA, a braking component manufacturing company, to offer up a refresher on braking basics while also investigating how to make the most out of a personalized brake upgrade budget.
Galfer USA was founded in the late 1940s when Maffio Milesi set up shop in Barcelona, Spain as a brake pad supplier for the both the automotive and motorcycle industries. But it wasn’t until 1992 that the company branched out to the states and opened an office in Oxnard, CA with grandson, Sandro, at its helm.
We sat down with Robert Davila, an R&D and Racing Technician at Galfer, to discuss the basics of braking components, maintenance and making the right buying decisions.
A set of cooked 1003 brake...
A set of cooked 1003 brake pads previously installed on Martin Cardenas’ bike. After 14 warm-up sessions, they’ve served their purpose.
Brake pads are usually the first and most affordable mod riders turn to when looking to improve their brakes. But how do you know what you really need? Robert works closely with road racers to ensure the rider has complete confidence in the bike’s braking response and that translates to what the less aggressive street rider needs. “We vary things like the pad material to the rider’s preference. Some riders like an aggressive feel whereas other riders don’t,” Robert said. Pad compound plays a major roll in bite, longevity and wear on the rotors.
If you’re looking for a brake pad that lasts as long as the stockers and won’t decrease the life of a rotor, a semi-metallic pad will work best. This is a workhorse compound that reacts well in most road conditions and is ideal for commuting.
Galfer color coats each compound...
Galfer color coats each compound of brake pad so they can easily differentiate between them.
More aggressive or track day riding requires a pad that can scrub speed quickly. The very common sintered compound or a ceramic pad will best get the job done in these instances. The word, “sintered” describes the process of heating and pressurizing a powder into a solid compound and this option will stand up to daily abuse without abusing your rotors. Both of these pads have a strong bite whether they’re hot or cold providing more feel through the lever.
Serious racers should consider carbon compound brake pads. These bad boys will give you the most bite at hot temps, but require a longer bed-in time before you can start pounding the brakes. Racing requires continuous hard braking and acceleration, which keeps the pads hot. A more mundane street ride will not keep a carbon compound pad warmed enough for optimal stopping.
Wave rotors are directional...
Wave rotors are directional and channels are cut from the blade so old material or dust is wicked away as the rotor passes through the leading edge of the caliper, giving the rider a fresh pad with each stop.
Stock rotors have rigid mounts, meaning they don’t flex under braking. As the pads from the outer part of the caliper close faster than the pads on the inner portion, an uneven amount of braking occurs and can cause both pads to not contact the rotor at the same time, thus reducing stopping power. The larger the diameter of the rotor whether it be stock or not, the more braking power is felt at the lever. The thicker the rotor, like the 6.5mm to 7mm sizes used on superbikes, the more heat resistant it will be.
Wave rotors are one of most popular choices out there, but do they actually make enough of a difference to warrant the investment? Originally developed to prevent brake fade on trials bikes, Waves were designed to wick away debris that was getting caught in the rotor and transferring into the pads. They later moved to street applications because of their cooling capabilities and have since become popular for style too.
Full floating rotors ride on buttons or rivets instead of solid mounts. These buttons are layered with washers, which allow the rotor to flex at varying degrees when the pads press into it, thus providing a constant, flush point of contact resulting in a stronger bite. While effective on race applications, they’re not necessarily recommended on streetbikes.