(This review was published in the June 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)
Brake pads are the unsung heroes of motorcycling. Out of sight, out of mind, those little buggers save our lives hundreds if not thousands of times, every time we ride. Materials, design and quality vary, but all disc brake pads play the crucial role of squeezing rotors firmly and precisely to slow or stop hundreds of pounds of bike, rider and gear in every conceivable sort of condition at any speed: downhill, leaned over, in the rain, in an emergency, you name it.
Today nearly all motorcycles use sintered metal brake pads as original equipment. Sintering refers to the process of making objects out of powders. First developed in the U.K. by Dunlop Aviation in the 1950s, sintered brake pads are made by mixing several compounds, pressing the mixture together to form pads, then undergoing a hardening process in a high-temperature, high-pressure furnace. The motorcycle division of Dunlop Aviation became Dunlopads, which is now DP Brakes.
To make its brake pads, DP uses a proprietary blend of “metallic powders (to absorb heat), refractory material (to provide friction), friction modifiers (to alter feel), [and] graphites (to minimize rotor wear and eliminate noise).” But like tire compounds, exactly what goes into any given brake pad depends on the application. For example, DP’s RDP X-Race brake pads use a special carbon additive and a titanium compound. For our 2012 Kawasaki KLR650 test bike, DP sent us sets of its SDP411/SDP412 (front/rear) pads, which have higher friction for more power and feel than the DP411/DP412 pads, which are designed for off-road use where durability is the primary requirement.
Swapping the OE Nissin pads for the DP pads took only about 10 minutes. Unlike the OE pads, the DP pads don’t have wear indicator grooves down the center. According to Larry Mills of DP Brakes and Clutches North America, the grooves are also “for cooling and water dissipation. With the materials DP uses, there’s no need for that. DP pads have a gray ceramic backing on the backing plate that eliminates heat transferring into the brake line.” Mills added that DP pads absorb water, allowing them to work just as well wet or dry. Also, the grooves on the OE pads “can allow foreign matter to get caught in there and cause grooving on the rotor. A smooth surface is better, with more surface area for added stopping.”
As mentioned in my comparison test on page 48, the KLR650’s brakes are its weakest feature. In back-to-back braking runs, initial bite and overall stopping power were only marginally better with the DP pads than the stockers, wet or dry. But the OE pads did squeal more when coming to a stop; DP is the only company to use graphite in its pads to reduce noise and wear. In other words, replacement pads can only do so much to improve the KLR’s braking. In previous tests of DP pads on sportbikes, we noted less lever effort, better feel and reduced fade with repeated hard stops.
A major advantage of DP Brake Pads is lower cost. MSRP is $38.95 per set (SDP411 for the front, SDP412 for the rear); a local dealer quoted me $63.25 per set for OE replacement pads. DP also offers higher-grade 410 stainless-steel replacement brake discs for $99 each, also a substantial savings over OE replacement rotors.
For more information:
See your dealer or visit dp-brakes.com