Understanding motorcycle brake parts


High quality and professionally fitted motorcycle brake parts are absolutely essential to the safety of your bike. Perhaps more than any other part of your motorcycle, you have to have absolutely confidence in the brakes in order for you to be able to enjoy the machine’s full performance capabilities. If you’re even slightly worried that they might not be functioning correctly, you need to think about getting them serviced.

Most modern motorcycles use disc brakes, with the front brake using two discs while the rear brake uses just a single one. Obviously it’s important to keep both brakes in good condition, but a lot of riders of modern sports bikes don’t bother to use the rear brake very much because of the danger of it locking up and causing an accident. For most situations during day to day riding, the front brake alone is sufficient, but in an emergency the extra stopping power delivered by the rear brake can be a life saver. Also, if you want to be able to ride really fast on a track, learning how to use the rear brake effectively will enable you to brake later into the corners, since you won’t need as much stopping distance as you would relying solely on the front brake.

The different parts of motorcycle brakes

Brake disc – the brake discs are the large circles of metal that are attached to the wheel. These will rarely need replacing and there is very little that can go wrong with them, although you should check the brake discs regularly for cracks or grooves that have worn along the surface.

A set of modern motorcycle brakes
A set of modern motorcycle brakes

Brake pads – motorcycle brake pads are made from small pieces of high-friction material designed to slow down the discs as quickly as possible when they come into contact with their metal surface. Brake pads are a consumable item, which means they wear out and need to be replaced on a regular basis. Most brake pads have a wear-indicator, a small groove in the pad material, and when the material has worn down so far that the groove is no longer visible the pad needs to be replaced. You should replace all of your brake pads as a set, even if they are not all worn out.

A typical set of motorcycle brake pads, the groove in the middle is the wear indicator. When the material is so worn down that that you can't see the groove any more, you know it's time to replace the pads.
A typical set of motorcycle brake pads, the groove in the middle is the wear indicator. When the material is so worn down that that you can’t see the groove any more, you know it’s time to replace the pads.

Brake callipers – these sit over the brake discs and, when the brake is activated they compress the brake pads against the disc with a great amount of force, slowing down the rotation of the wheel. Brake callipers contain various moving parts and hydraulic components, which can wear out or get clogged up, so they need to be serviced and checked regularly. A common problem with brake callipers is that the moving parts can seize up, and this will require the callipers to be completely rebuilt – usually an expensive job.