Going fast is fun, but the ability to stop quickly is essential. Because when a bad situation arises, the capacity to brake hard, scrub off speed and come to a safe halt will save your bacon.
In a related thought, as motorcycle technology marches onward, it’s the brakes that often stand out most between new bikes and older machines. Case in point: the 2006 Honda 919 I keep in my personal garage. When I jump back on this trusty old ride after flogging newer bikes, I sometimes need to pay just a little more attention to the front brake, having gotten a bit spoiled by the latest and greatest.
Nine years into the lifespan of this 919, it’s certainly time to try more aggressive brake pads. With stouter aftermarket front brake lines already mounted, I turned to DP Brakes for a set of its high-performance SDP Sport HH+ front pads. For the single-piston rear, DP sent its Standard pads.
Like the vast majority of pads available nowadays, both OEM and aftermarket, these are sintered brake pads. That means they’re made of a complex mix 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). These powders are mixed together, pressed to form the shape, then sintered at high temperature and pressure. The key here is altering the proportions of materials in the mix to derive the braking qualities most desired.
According to DP Brakes, its SDP Sport HH+ pads incorporate a unique copper alloy friction material specifically developed to provide a top-level HH+ friction rating with consistent, powerful, controllable braking performance together with low lever effort, no noise, low rotor wear and reduced dust. In addition, all SDP Sport HH+ pads come with a high-tech, plasma-applied ceramic heat shield to help reduce brake fade under extreme conditions. That extra braking performance, however, comes at a cost in reduced pad life; there is no free lunch. Also, pads with a higher metallic content (think racing brakes here) typically require more warming up to reach full stopping capacity.
Replacing the pads on all three calipers took me less than an hour, including breaking out the tools and cleaning up. It’s a very straightforward process, but if you’re not confident in your wrenching abilities, have your local shop do the swap. DP Brakes warns that it may take up to 150 miles to bed in the new pads, but the bedding-in time I experienced was much shorter.
With everything fully up to spec, I found using SDP Sport HH+ pads up front does indeed elevate front brake action a notch over the OEM pads. Initial bite with stone-cold pads and rotors feels a touch light, but that goes away immediately as heat builds. From second application on, braking is noticeably stronger and braking action builds in a nicely linear fashion with good feel as more lever pressure is applied. Front brake action still falls short of what the latest radial-mount sportbike brakes deliver; replacement pads can’t create miracles, naturally. But I am now definitely happier with the added effectiveness of the 919’s older-generation four-piston front setup. And there are no annoying side effects, such as brake squeal.
The change in rear pads reaped negligible effect; the DP Standard pads are designed to emulate the stopping qualities of OEM pads, and the 919’s stock rear brake is nothing to brag about. DP Brakes claims a much longer pad life with the DP Standard pads, but that will be seen in due time.
MSRP for pads from DP Brakes range from $39.95 to $49.95 depending on compound and model of motorcycle. This is often much less expensive than the pricing on OEM pads.
For more information: Visit dp-brakes.com