If you’ve ever seen the brakes of high performance big bikes, chances are you’ve noticed that they look different from your regular disc brakes found on lower-end motorbikes. In most cases, high-end sportbikes and sport-tourers are equipped with radial brakes wherein the caliper mounts perpendicularly to front forks, as against axially, which you would find on other motorbikes.
Furthermore, a lot of these radial braking systems make use of monoblock calipers—and I don’t mean the chair. Monoblock calipers are especially performance oriented due to the fact that they’re machined out of a single, solid piece of aluminum—hence the name monoblock. This means that the brakes can exert maximum pressure on the rotors without the potential for failure due to weak points in non-monoblock units.
Naturally, replacing the brake pads on monoblock calipers is slightly different from that of traditional disc brakes, as it’s understood that you’ll be going through your brake pads much more quickly, assuming you ride your bike the way it was designed: on the track or in a performance-oriented setting. That said, if you’re eager to make a DIY job out of replacing the calipers on your monoblock brakes, keep reading.
Detach the caliper from the fork
The first order of business would be to remove your brake caliper from the fork. This is a very easy and straightforward procedure, and usually requires nothing more than an Allen wrench or a spanner. Start by removing the lower bolt, then move on to the upper bolt. Once your caliper is unbolted, ease it off of the rotor by gently pulling it away from the top. Be careful not to apply any twisting forces, as these may warp your rotor, resulting in a costly repair. Once your caliper is dangling, you may want to support it with a string attached to the handlebar, or rest it on a short stool to avoid any stress on the brake lines.
Remove the old brake pads
Once your caliper is off the bike, the process of removing the brake pads is incredibly simple. The first thing you’ll need to do is to separate the brake pads so as to push the pistons inward. This makes it easier to remove the used pads and reinstall new ones. Use a pad spacer or a rigid plastic tool to do this. Do not use a screwdriver, as it could damage your brake pads if done incorrectly. On most Brembo monoblock calipers, all you need to do is to slot the brake pads into the middle of the caliper, and simply pull them out. This is true for the Brembo M50, Stylema, M4, and GP4 RX calipers. Brembo has intentionally made it an easy, tool-less job to replace brake pads, as doing so is pretty common on race bikes usually equipped with these braking systems.
Clean, clean, and clean again
The next step is arguably the most important step, and is essential in ensuring the longevity and service life of your braking system. With either brake cleaner, a mild degreaser, or even just soapy water, use an old toothbrush to give your calipers a thorough cleaning from all angles. Make sure all the grime, dirt, and brake dust is washed away. That way, you ensure the smooth operation of your pistons, which will result in a more progressive and consistent brake feel.
Install the new pads
Once the caliper has been thoroughly cleaned, simply slot the new pads into place by doing the reverse of how you removed the old pads. Slot them into the middle of the caliper, make sure the fins on the pads are aligned to the slots in the caliper, push it down and slot it in place. Once in, it should make a reassuring clicking sound, as the spring on the top of the caliper secures the pad in place. Repeat the process for the next pad, and move on to the other side.
Tighten it up
Once the pads have been fitted, reinstall the caliper onto the fork taking extra care to torque everything down to manufacturer specifications. After this, you’re going to want to give your brake lever a few squeezes and let the pads find their spot in the pistons’ range of motion. Give your brake fluid a good once over to see if the level has changed due to the new pads. If not, and everything seems to check out, you’re pretty much ready to ride.