Motorcycle Brake Pads 2018 Buying Guide

A single motorcycle brake pad.
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Brake pads are one of the most important parts of your motorcycle, right up there with your tires. Like tires, good quality brake pads will improve the overall handling of your bike, but it’s when you need to do an emergency stop that they really matter.

If you have to scrub off a lot of speed quickly and safely, you need to know that your brake pads are up to the job so you can brake with confidence. Pads are consumable items, because they wear out over time, so they need to be checked and replaced regularly otherwise there’s a risk they will fail to work effectively in an emergency.

A brake pad consists of a flat metal base with a pad of material that is used to grip the brake disk tightly and slow the wheel’s rotation. That material wears down slowly, and you need to replace the pads before the material is entirely gone or else the bare metal base will be forced against the disc during braking, which will fail to slow the bike down and damage the disc.

On most motorcycles it’s easy to take the dust cover off the brake calipers to inspect the pads visually. If the pad material is worn down to 2mm, or the wear indicator is no longer visible, then it’s time to replace the pads. A brake caliper uses two pads, and you should replace both at the same time, and if your bike has two calipers on the front wheel it makes good sense to do both calipers at the same time too.

Again, as with tires, pads come with different types of material that will affect how the braking works. You can buy softer pads with more stopping power, and these will wear out more quickly, or you can buy lower-friction pads made from a harder wearing compound. Your motorcycle manufacturer will recommend what grade of pad to use, and for most riders it’s best to stick with that.

If you want to use a more powerful brake pad than is recommended for your bike, make sure you also have very good tires that can cope with more aggressive braking. Also, spend time practicing and getting use to the feel of the pads, because it takes skill to control a motorcycle under heavy braking.

Brake Pad Grades

The different levels of friction of brake pads is shown using a grading system of E to H, with E having the least stopping power and H having the most. Motorcycle brake pads are often graded with two letters which show the pad’s friction level when it is cold and when it is warm. In the past brake pads often did not work as well until they warmed up, but that’s not really true any more so even though we still have the same grading system it’s rare to see pads graded with two different letters.

In most cases, motorcycle brake pads will be graded HH, but check your manufacturer’s recommendation to be sure.

Brake Pad Types

The main difference between the different types of brake pads is in what kind of material the pad is made from.

Sintered – sintered pads have a very high level of metal particles in the braking compound. This provides great stopping power, and these pads are usually recommended for everyday road riding and for high performance bikes.

Semi-sintered (aka semi-metallic)– these have a lower level of metal particles in the braking compound and provide consistent braking regardless of temperature. Recommended for touring.

Organic (aka NAO, non asbestos organic) – often contain a material such as kevlar as an alternative to hazardous asbestos which used to be common in brake pads. Organic pads provide a smoother braking  feel to sintered, and some riders prefer this. Can suffer from brake-fade where the pads lose efficiency under frequent heavy braking, so not recommended for sports riding.

Ceramic – the pad material contains ceramic particles, which provide different characteristics to metal sintered pads. They provide great cold performance and are less noisy than sintered pads. Ceramic pads are seen to offer the stopping power of sintered pads, with the same smooth feel as organic.

Brake pads are critical, so it’s important to buy from a trusted supplier. While there are a lot of brands in this market, we highly recommend staying away from the cheaper, unknown makes and sticking with those that have proven track records.

It’s always advisable to buy OEM pads from your bike manufacturer, but the third party brake pad brands we also recommend are:

 

 

Motorcycle Airbag Vest, Jacket and Suit Buyers Guide 2018

A front view of the Hit Air MLV-RC motorcycle air vest
RECOMMENDED: Hit Air MLV-RC Vest
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The greatest advance in rider safety gear in recent years has been the development of inflatable motorcycle airbag jackets, vests and suits. Based on the same airbag technology used in cars, these vests automatically and instantly inflate in the event of an accident, providing a cushion of air to protect you.

Wearable airbags have been around for a while but have only recently begun to see higher levels of adoption from riders. This is largely thanks to greater visibility of the safety devices in professional motorcycle racing. Several racers have credited airbags with helping them to survive high speed crashes with no serious injury. As with many motorcycle related innovations, once they were tested in the crucible of motorsport, airbag vests became more popular with road riders.

An inflated motorcycle air vest.
Inflated view of the Hit Air MLV-RC vest

With 4,000 motorcyclists killed every year on American roads, and 90,000 injured (according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) anything which can improve safety should be welcomed. According to a report from Research and Markets, global sales of airbag jackets are expected to increase by over 5 percent year on year between 2016 and 2020.

The report also points out that, at present, the relatively high price of these products are deterring many would-be customers. This is understandable, since even the entry level products cost close to $500. While there’s a clear safety benefit, that’s still a lot of money for many riders to spend on top of what they’ve already sunk into their other protective gear. It’s also worth noting that so far there had been little independent research into the effectiveness of these products, so motorcyclists might well wonder just how much additional safety they would provide.

There are three main types of motorcycle airbag products:

Airbag Vests – these harness-like devices are designed to fit over your current jacket. The main advantage is that you can use the vest with whatever jacket you choose, so you can use it with your summer or winter gear, and keep it when you buy a new jacket. The downside is that you have another item of gear to put on

Airbag Jackets – these are much the same as a standard motorcycle jacket, but with built-in airbags. The benefits are that all of the airbags are concealed from view, so the styling of the jacket isn’t affected, and you only have to put on a single item of gear rather than a separate jacket and vest.

Airbag Suits – full race-suits with integral airbags provide a high level of protection, at a price. Primarily designed for racers and track-day riders they are the most costly option but will give you the greatest chance of survival in a high-speed crash.

How do motorcycle airbags protect riders?

Although there are various designs, airbag vests, jackets and suits all offer approximately similar protection. They all feature a large airbag to cover the rider’s back and spine, another to cover the chest, and an inflatable collar around the neck. This last one obviously helps to guard the neck from direct impact, but also helps keep the head straight and prevents the helmet from compressing downwards onto the body. Some products feature additional airbags over the shoulders and legs.

The vest, jacket or suit is fitted with a small compressed air canister, and tethered to the bike with a lanyard. If you are thrown from your motorcycle, the lanyard activates the canister, which blasts air into the airbags. It takes milliseconds for the pockets to fill with air, so by the time you hit the ground or another vehicle you are cushioned from the impact.

But what if you forget to detach the tether before you get off your bike? Will it inflate as you walk away? No – the airbags will only activate if the tether is pulled with sufficient force, so simply walking away from the motorcycle won’t do it. You’d need to be thrown from the bike in order for it to work.

Some manufacturers, such as Dainese, don’t use a lanyard at all, but instead rely on electronic sensors to detect a crash and automatically inflate the airbags.

Motorcycle Airbag Manufacturers

The main players in this space fall into two categories . There are wearable airbag specialists, who often provide similar products for other markets such as horse-riding. These companies usually only offer vests.

Then there are the established motorcycle safety gear brands, who have added airbag products to their product lines. If you’re looking for airbag jackets, or race suits, these are the brands you need to be looking at.

Hit-Air

A front view of the Hit-Air EU6 Motorcycle Airbag Jacket
Hit-Air EU6 Ultimate Airbag Jacket
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Hit-Air is a Japanese company which began researching airbag-vests for motorcycle riders in the mid-nineties, finally launching its first product in 1999.  The company’s safety products are widely respected and this is reflected by the fact that emergency services around the world use them to provide protection for their motorcyclists.

As well as offering a range of vests and jackets with its own label, Hit Air supplies its equipment to other motorcycle safety gear manufacturers to sell under their brands. The jackets come in a range of different designs, including the sporty HS-5, to the adventure styled EU6, pictured here.

Helite

A French company founded in 2001 by an aviation entrepreneur who wanted to improve safety in the light aircraft industry, Helite quickly became one of the early leaders in the airbag vest business. The company now provides wearable airbag gear for skiing, aviation,  equestrian and motorcycling applications.

For motorcyclists, Helite offers an airbag vest (either high viz yellow or black) currently priced at $629, or a range of airbag jackets priced between $699 and $999. The company sells through a network of dealers across America, or you can buy directly through the online store.

Moto Air

A front view of the MotoAir R-970 motorcycle inflatable jacket
MotoAir R-970 Motorcycle Airbag Jacket
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A Chinese manufacturer which offers airbag vests and jackets for motorcycle and equestrian applications. The company has an official US importer, and its products can also be found on Amazon.

Compared to others in the market, Moto Air seems to be the budget option, with vests starting at under $400, and jackets for under $500.

While we’ve no reason to doubt the quality of these products, we should point out that Moto Air is the manufacturer we were least able to find good information about. When it comes to motorcycle safety gear, trust is important and the company would do itself a big favour by establishing a more professional web-presence with better quality information about its products and technology. Moto Air products come at a good price, but there are certainly some question marks hanging over the brand.

Dainese

The Dainese D-Air Race suit with air bags.
Dainese D-Air Misano Race Suit
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One of the most respected brands in the motorcycle safety gear market, Dainese is widely used among racers and serious motorcyclists. The company entered the airbag jacket market a couple of years ago with it’s D-Air system which, unlike other manufacturers, does not use a lanyard attached to the bike to detect a crash, but instead relies on electronic sensors.

This has the obvious advantage of not having to tether yourself to the bike, it does mean you’re depending electronic systems which need a battery that has to be kept fully charged.

At present, the only such product available in America is the high end Dainese D-Air Misano Perforated Race Suit, designed for racers, track day heroes and road riders with a lot of spare cash. The suit uses such advanced technology that Dainese will require customers to register with them in order to ensure that it is properly maintained and working correctly. Other D-Air products are available in international markets, but right now there’s no news about when American customers will be able to buy them. 

The best motorcycle security chains for 2018

Motorcycles are attractive targets for thieves because they’re easy to steal and sell. There are lots of ways you can protected your bike, but a strong motorcycle security chain is always going to be one of the most effective deterrents.  Not only does it provide a big visual sign that the bike is protected, which will deter casual thieves, a good quality chain will also make life difficult for more determined criminals.

Ultimately, if a professional thief really wants your bike, they will find a way to take it. But if you can put as many obstacles in their way to slow them down as much as possible, so that it’s really hard for them to take your bike quickly and quietly, the chances are they will give up and find a weaker target. A hardened steel security chain with a strong padlock will do exactly that.

Wherever possible, chain your motorcycle to a physical object such as a ground anchor or lamp-post that cannot easily be cut through. Simply putting the chain through the motorcycle’s wheel is not enough, because it will still be possible for thieves to lift the bike into a truck and cut through the chain somewhere private.

If you park somewhere it isn’t possible to shackle the chain to anything, you should at least wrap it through the back wheel and up over the seat, or through the frame, so that no part of the chain is resting on the ground. If the chain is on the ground, that makes it easier for somebody to smash it.

A good chain should be made from hardened steel and as thick as possible. Also, the chain links should not be made from round ‘tube’ shaped steel, but should have flat edges, either square or hexagonal – this makes it harder for bolt cutters to get through.

There are a lot of security chains available – here are our recommendations for 2017.

Oxford OF9 Boss Alarm

CHECK PRICESAn Oxford OF9 motorcycle security chain and lock

Made from hardened 12mm steel, with square links, this 6’6″ chain should be strong enough to stop most thieves in their tracks. It comes with Oxford’s highly secure Boss lock that can either be used to shackle the chain, or as a stand-alone disc-lock. It features a tough 14mm shackle and a built in 100decibel alarm which will be activated if anybody tampers with the lock and can be heard up to a third of a mile away.

The lock and chain has been tested and approved by the UK’s Thatcham Research vehicle security institute, who found it impossible to breach within a five minute attack, which is longer than most thieves will risk spending on a bike.

ABUS 1060 Granit CityChain X-Plus

CHECK PRICESABUS 1060 Granit CityChain X-Plus motorcycle security chain

Abus is one of the most respected name in the security business, and its products consistently score highly in reviews. This is a lighter chain with an integral lock, and is best suited for when you are travelling and need to carry a chain with you to secure the bike in a public place.

It’s made of 10mm hexagonal link hardened steel, while the lock cover and core components are also hardened. The lock uses ABUS Power Link Technology, which simply means that the chain is secured more solidly into the lock body than with traditional chain/lock combinations. This provides one less avenue of attack for thieves, adding to overall security.

Kryptonite  New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock

CHECK PRICESKryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock

With 14mm thick hexagonal hardened steel links, this is one of the most robust security chains on the market. It will certainly present a problem for opportunists, and even professional thieves will struggle to cut through it quickly.

The accompanying lock has a 14mm cross bar and serves either as a shackle for the chain, or a standalone disc lock. This is a very popular chain and lock combination, scoring an average customer rating of 4.5/5 from almost 400 Amazon reviews.

The best new motorcycle helmets for 2018

A motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment any rider will ever buy. Your brain needs the best protection you can afford, so it’s worthwhile getting the best motorcycle helmet possible. The moment you spot that car pulling out of a junction in front of you, you’ll be glad of every penny you spent on your helmet.

The manufacturers are constantly improving their designs, making their helmets safer, more comfortable and with better features, so here we present some of the best new models for 2017.

Bell Pro Star Race Carbon

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Bell has recently updated its popular Star range of helmets, and this is the top end model in the new line-up, designed specifically for racers and fast road riders. Obviously it has a big price-tag, but you’re paying for the very best in track-focused head protection. The helmet is incredibly light at just 1500 grams and has a highly aerodynamic outer shell design.

The helmet is compliant with all three of the most current motorcycle helmet safety standards so, in terms of keeping your head intact during a crash, this is as good as it gets.

AGV Pista GP Gran Premio Italia

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This carbon-fiber beauty is one of the coolest looking motorcycle helmets for sports riders currently on the market. It’s also one of the top models from trusted brand, AGV, As well as meeting all the leading safety standards and providing race-focused design, the helmet has exceptional ventilation, ensuring good airflow even when the visor is down.

On a practical note, the lining can easily be removed for cleaning, which is good news for those of us who get a little sweaty in the warmer weather.

Schuberth SR2

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Updating Schuberth’s respected SR1 helmet, this new model updates the design for 2017. The new helmet has greatly improved aerodynamics, and reduced wind noise (unusual for sports helmets).

Reviewers have praised the quality of the SR2’s visor, providing excellent clarity as well as low fogging with the excellent ventilation system. As well as an all round excellent design and light weight of just 1300 grams, this is a very competitively priced helmet compared to others in the same class.

Nexx XR2 Trion

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This latest model from Nexx is one of the lightest motorcycle helmets on the market, weighing in at just 1270 grams, lighter than many far more expensive options. There are two versions available – this one is made from a composite shell, and there’s also a more expensive carbon version which costs twice as much.

Even the cheaper version meets all of the necessary safety standards, although it doesn’t score quite as highly as some of its more costly competitors. Nevertheless, for under $300 this is a great value helmet that offers enough protection for most road riders.

 

The best winter motorcycle boots for 2018

Nothing ruins a motorcycle ride more than cold wet feet, and as as the weather turns bleak you need a good pair of winter boots to keep your toes toasty.

Your fancy sports boots might look good in the summer, but at this time of year it’s more important to keep out the rain and cold. Here are our favorite winter motorcycle boots for 2017, to keep your feet warm and dry so you can ride all the way through winter.


Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex Weatherproof Motorcycle Touring Boots

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They’re not cheap, but if you want the ultimate weather and crash protection from a trusted brand, these boots are the best.  Alpinestars drew inspiration from its popular off-road boots to build a boot for road riders to cope with poor weather conditions. They’re made with a leather outer and Gore-Tex waterproof membrane.

All over impact protection will help you to stay in one piece in the event of a crash, but is also designed to keep the boot flexible it’s easy to operate the bike’s foot-controls.

Sidi Cobra Gore-Tex Touring Motorcycle Boot

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Although it might look like an ordinary sport-riding boot, this features a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and is designed to keep your feet warm and dry on long rides in poor weather.

As well as the usual toe, heel, ankle, and shin guards, this boot includes Sidi’s trademarked Achilles tendon protection.

Alpinestars Roam 2 Waterproof Boots

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A great sub-$200 winter boot from Alpinestars. The boot is designed with comfort as its main priority, offering the flexibility riders need to precise control of the gear and brake pedals.

This boot is constructed from leather, with a waterproof but breathable membrane and easy access velcro straps. Although it doesn’t offer the advanced protection features of some of the more expensive products, this is still a great, durable boot, ideal for commuters rather than speed-junkies.

Tour Master Vintage 2.0 Road

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If you’re on a budget, or simply looking for a more classic style boot, the Tour Master Vintage provides good winter protection at a low price. It’s constructed from tough leather with a waterproof membrane, and features an oil proof sole to help keep your feet from slipping on spills.

This is not a fashion boot – it’s the real deal,  well built and designed to protect riders if they should have an accident, with

The best winter motorcycle gloves for 2018

Temperatures are plunging, but you’ve still got to ride, right? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, and a good pair of winter gloves will make riding in the cold much more enjoyable.

Venture Heat – 12V Heated Gloves

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These are pretty much the ultimate winter gloves. They’re electrically heated to keep your hands nice and toasty, with three different heat settings, along with 3M Thinsulate material. They also feature carbon fiber knuckle protection so safety isn’t compromised.

The gloves are touch-screen compatible, so you can continue using your sat-nav or cellphone without taking them off.  Starting at $155 for the smallest size, they’re not cheap, but if you want the best gloves to keep you riding through the coldest months, these are worth the money.

 

Spidi NK-3 Street Bike Racing Glove

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Designed for the winter sports-touring rider, this glove provides cold weather protection with the flexibility needed by performance riders. The glove has a leather outer, with stretch panels to allow comfortable, responsive access to the handlebar controls. Insulation is provided by a fleece lining and H2OUT waterproof membrane.

If you’re the kind of rider who doesn’t let winter slow you down, this is the glove for you. Available in three size options, starting at $145.

 

IXS Men’s Arctic GTX Gloves

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A great value sub-$100 glove, made of goatskin and textile mix, with GORE-TEX membrane to get the cold rain out whilst staying breathable to avoid the uncomfortable sweatiness you get with some winter gloves.

A double suede panel on the palm allows flexibility and good grip. A flock patch on the thumb allows riders to wipe rain and dirt from the helmet visor. Reflective piping on the back of the gloves helps increase your visibility during the dark months. For the price, this is a good quality glove.

 

IXS Men’s Vail II Gloves

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Another excellent value winter glove from IXS. The outer shell is made from goatskin and textile mix, with inners consisting of a tri-fleece lining and soltoTex waterproof membrane.

The palm is leather, and there’s additional leather padding on the knuckles. For riding in the rain, there’s a rubber blade on the thumb to wipe your helmet visor clear.  Don’t be put off by the low price – IXS is a trusted brand and the gloves meet all the required safety standards.

 

Unbranded Budget Winter Gloves

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You never want to cheap-out when it comes to safety gear, but sometimes when you’re on a tight budget you just have to work with what you’ve got. These all-textile generic winter gloves should keep your hands warm and dry, and offer a basic level of crash protection.

If you can afford to spend more we’d recommend the IXS gloves, but if times are tough then these low-price alternatives will keep you riding in the cold. Just take it easy out there – winter is dangerous for bikers, and if you have to cut corners with your safety gear then you can at least use extra caution so you don’t have to test its crash-worthiness.