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Brake maintenance 101: How to get the most out of your bike’s brakes

Read on to learn more about proper brake maintenance, as well as how to make sure your brakes live a long life.

Brake maintenance 101

Undoubtedly one of the most crucial safety elements on a motorbike is the brakes. Your brakes are the only thing that can safely bring you and your bike to a halt while keeping the rubber side down and the shiny side up, second only to your tires. Nevertheless, ignoring brake maintenance is all too often since a light push of the brake lever might fool you into believing that your brakes are in fine shape.

While the majority of contemporary braking systems are still very straightforward hydraulically operated systems, this does not mean that they are infallible. Indeed, a number of variables may be present and have a significant impact on the service life of your brakes. One of the most terrifying, spine-tingling situations a motorcyclist may face is losing brakes in the middle of a ride. That being said, if you're new to two wheels, here's a quick brake maintenance guide to get you started. 

Frequently check your pads and rotors

Brake maintenance 101

The majority of motorbikes have hydraulic disc brakes as part of their braking system. As a result, your brake pads and rotors are essential for reducing speed and finally bringing your bike to a halt. It's crucial to do regular inspections on your rotors and pads. In fact, we'd even go so far as to advise you to check them out before every single ride you go on.

What should you thus watch out for? Give your rotors a thorough visual check to begin with. Try to examine your rotors from both angles to see if any scoring is there. Have surface fractures started to appear? Is the wear even? The thickness of your brake pads should come next. The majority of pads include tread wear indicators that make noise as they reach the end of their service life. Always have a spare pair of pads on hand, especially if your current ones are obviously close to expiring.

Check the condition of your brake fluid

Brake maintenance 101

Even if you have the best carbon-ceramic rotors and highest-performance brake pads, they are completely useless if your brake fluid is incapable of delivering the hydraulic pressure required to safely stop your bike. It's quite easy to overlook brake fluid. But doing so can be incredibly expensive. The brake caliper's pistons are moved by hydraulic pressure in hydraulic brakes. These pistons then force the brake pads together to squeeze the rotor, thereby bringing your bike to a stop. Naturally, should your brake fluid be unable to take the pressure, your brakes won't work to their full potential. 

Your braking system produces heat while you brake, especially when you're slowing down after traveling at a high speed. Your brake pads, pistons, and ultimately the brake fluid all experience the effects of this heat transfer. Brake-fade is a phenomena that happens when your brake fluid heats up beyond its ability to withstand the constant heat, causing your braking force to start fading or disappearing altogether. Now, if the brake fluid in your motorbike hasn't been changed in a while, you might want to put it on your to-do list because dirty and old brake fluid is much less heat-resistant and is therefore more likely to fail while braking hard.

Keep your brakes clean!

Brake maintenance 101

Like all other components of your motorbike, filth, moisture, and dirt may seep into your braking system and, over time, result in problems like corrosion and oil seal failure. As a result, maintaining the cleanliness of your brakes greatly extends their lifespan. This is especially true for riders who travel off-road or during inclement weather. In these circumstances, when you are riding, road tar, debris, and mud are thrown up into your rotors and calipers. All of these items have abrasive qualities that, if not removed, might hasten the rotor and brake pad wear process.

Online retailers provide a number of items made specifically for cleaning brakes. Your brakes will stay clean and ready to use with the help of anything from brake-centric degreaser to brake components cleaners. Avoiding over-lubricating your chain is another suggestion for keeping your brakes clean. While you're riding, your chain is prone to fling loose oil or chain lubricant, and if any of it gets on your brakes, they're sure to suffer.

Develop good braking habits

Brake maintenance 101

Unsurprisingly, how you ride has a significant impact on how long your brakes last. Due to the constant stress that racers and track day fans put on their bikes' braking systems, brake pad replacement is a regular practice. Similarly, if you ride extremely smoothly and anticipate stops so you don't pound on the brakes needlessly, your brake pads and rotors can last much longer.

Although it may not seem like it, frequent abrupt stops and hard braking situations mount up over time and can severely reduce the service life of your brakes. A good bonus when it comes to maintaining your brakes is learning how to apply engine braking via seamless downshifts. Additionally, it makes your ride much smoother because you can more easily utilize the bike's power at any pace.

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