The riding season’s nearly upon us, and it’s time to get your bike back up to speed for all those hot laps and Sunday blasts. Yay! One area that does suffer from winter abuse – salt and rain – is brakes. Brake performance can go downhill gradually, and you don’t always notice it until it’s got really bad. So it’s definitely worth giving your discs, pads and calipers the once-over.
The brakes on my winter hack Burgman 650 have seen better days, to be fair. The discs are well-worn, the pads corroded on the back, and the calipers are starting to seize on when you park it up. Yuck.
So – time for some TLC. I had a look online at aftermarket discs and pads, and while there’s a bit of a saving to be made, I thought I’d check out the genuine OE parts from Suzuki. You can get bits from your local dealer of course, or from an online store like Fowlers.co.uk, or Suzuki has its own online eBay shop, selling spares. Perhaps surprisingly, the prices aren’t far off what you pay for a decent aftermarket part. An EBC disc is about £55, the OE discs come in at £75-ish. There were also some super-cheap Chinese discs at under £30, but I didn’t feel like gambling on the quality there, for the sake of £30 a side… The OE pads are a bit pricier, at around £35, and you can get a decent brand aftermarket set for £15.
I plumped for the OE parts in the end – the cost is about £80 more for the whole front end, two discs and two sets of pads. According to the paperwork I got with the bike, it’s on the original discs after 14 years and 29,000 miles, so that extra cost will be spread out over a fairly long period. The pads are top-notch, with a proper heat-proof shim on the back of the pad nearest the pistons, and you know the sintered metal friction material has been designed to work well with the stock discs. Suzuki also points out the other benefits of OE bits – a decent warranty, extensive testing and top-notch production values. Plus, they’re guaranteed to fit and work first time.
Changing the discs is a breeze – or would be if my front wheel wasn’t so disgusting. I took the opportunity to spruce it up, with a can of Audi ‘Avus Silver’ paint I had in the garage. I took the old discs off, and an evening with the Scotchbrite pads, wet and dry sandpaper and a wire brush had the wheel stripped of corrosion and flaking paint. A quick masking job over the tyre and valve, some primer, then a few coats of the silver paint. Next a load of coats of lacquer, to try and give a tough, smooth surface, to repel the worst of the brake dust and road grime. And then sit them somewhere warm to dry. A cold damp garage isn’t the best place for paint molecules to link themselves all together and form a tough, solid barrier, so I took the wheel inside for the evening, sat near a warm radiator. Once dried, I gave the surface a quick polish and waxing. If it was more crucial, and I had more time, I’d have rubbed the paint down between coats for a proper deep gloss. This quick and dirty job has turned out really well though, and I’m happy with the results/effort ratio…
The Suzuki discs fit a treat, of course, and some fresh disc bolts come with thread lock already applied. Torque them up to 16.5 ft-lbs, and we’re done there. Now, the manky calipers need a clean. I gave them a bit of a going-over when I picked the bike up, but the pins are rusty again, and the pads , while still fine in terms of friction material thickness, are genuinely nasty. Corroded all over, and sticking on the calipers. A quick clean up with brake cleaner, wire brush and some wet’n dry paper, a coating with brake anti-seize paste, and the calipers look much better. The new Suzuki pads slip in a treat – remembering that they come in left- and right-handed packs, so you get the heat-proof shim on the correct side, nearest the pistons. That stops brake heat getting into the fluid and reducing its effectiveness.
Wheel back, in (I even fitted new bearings, for £8 including seals from Scooterworks on eBay, a snip!), and we’re off. A whole new front end brake setup, with proper Suzuki bits, for just over a couple of hundred quid. Not a bad day’s work. All I have to do is repeat the process on the utterly hanging back brake now.
It’ll take a few trips to bed the new discs and pads in properly. But already, the front stoppers have more feel and the power is building up. And they don’t rust in place every time I park up…