Best braided hoses and brake upgrades for your motorcycle

Upgrading your brakes is a simple way to improve safety and performance.

Braking hard on a BMW R1250R

by Jim Blackstock |

The brakes on your motorbike are arguably the most important aspect of the whole machine after the tyres, the latter are the only things that connect you to the ground and so are essential.

After that, reducing speed or avoiding incidents with brakes that work effectively and predictably is crucial. That’s why regardless of any other electronic aids, all new bikes from 2017 must have been fitted with anti-lock brakes, or ABS.

On cars, ABS is intended to prevent wheels locking so the driver can safely steer the car away from hazards but on a motorcycle, locking a wheel is far more dangerous to the rider and potentially, other road users and pedestrians. As a result, preventing it is more important though it’s only been mandatory in recent times.

Bikes older than 2017 may have been fitted with ABS but they may not. And while it isn’t feasible to retro-fit ABS, it is possible to upgrade the braking system so that it is performing at its best potential.

Related: Best motorcycle headlight bulbs

Age can affect various parts of a braking system, from the brake fluid absorbing water to the hoses themselves becoming brittle and cracking or perishing.

Simple cleaning can help keep the brakes in tip-top working order but an overhaul or upgrade to various parts can also improve performance and reliability of this crucial aspect of your bike’s performance and safety.

Here are a few of our favourite motorcycle brake upgrades.

Castrol DOT4 Brake Fluid

Castrol DOT4 Brake Fluid
Amazon

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Many manufacturers recommend the brake fluid is replaced periodically u2013 sometimes as often as every two years. This is because over time, it absorbs moisture and gradually degenerates. There are several grades of fluid, depending on their boiling point and composition; this DOT 4 from lubricant giant Castrol should resist heat build-up and offer consistent braking performance for the road. However, if you are doing trackdays, you may want to go up to DOT 5 or DOT 5.1 which are more heat-resistant to prevent boiling in heavy track use.

Pros:

Better heat resistance than DOT3

Absorbs water, doesn’t form pockets like DOT 5

Cons:

Heat performance not as good as DOT 5

Vacuum Brake Bleed Kit

Vacuum Brake Bleed Kit
Amazon

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Bleeding brakes, to get air out of the system, which can compress and reduce efficiency is a bit of a pain and in the old days, needed two people u2013 one to open and close the bleed nipple on the brake caliper and another to pump the brake lever. But with a vacuum kit like this, you do it all yourself. The vacuum draws the fluid through the system and out of the bleed nipple and you let it flow until air stops coming out, when you close off the nipple u2013 job done.

Pros:

Can bleed brakes on your own

Useful to help fill calipers when replacing fluid

Cons:

Can introduce air around bleed nipple thread

Hel Braided Brake Lines

Editoru2019s Pick - Weu2019ve tested this product and would spend our own money on it
Hel Braided Brake Lines

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British company HEL manufactures a huge range of brake lines for motorcycles, including braided brake lines (as well as clutch and oil lines). It sells kits for popular motorcycles to replace familiar rubber or plastic-based lines with more modern examples. Older brake hoses can deteriorate over time and can become soft and bulge as the brakes are applied, reducing efficiency. These new hoses with stainless-steel over-braiding donu2019t bulge and as a result, offer better response and performance. Available as single hoses or complete replacement kits for the whole bike, they also come in a range of finishes. Iu2019ve used these and they fit perfectly and work very well.

Pros:

Eliminate bulging in older lines

Replace deteriorating rubber hoses

Cons:

May be classed as modification by some insurance companies

EBC HH Brake Pads

Editoru2019s Pick - Weu2019ve tested this product and would spend our own money on it
EBC HH Brake Pads

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EBCu2019s HH pads are widely regarded as among the best for fast road upgrades, as they offer superior braking performance and bite compared with standard-fit organic pads even when cold or in the wet. They are sintered pads, meaning the friction material is formed when powdered material is compressed under heat and pressure, fusing into a single unit. These pads are perfect for fast-road riding and will cope with the occasional trackday use, resisting the heat and damage that can occur during particularly hard use. I have these on my own bike.

Pros:

Superior braking performance to standard-fit pads

Work well in the cold and wet conditions

Cons:

May be classed as modification by some insurance companies

Muc-Off Brake Cleaner

Seal of Approval - Weu2019ve tested this product and have found it performs well
Muc-Off Brake Cleaner
Amazon

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There are many manufacturers of brake cleaning products but this one from Muc-Off is Amazonu2019s choice and Iu2019ve used it and know that it works well. Brakes need to be kept clean to work properly and this will help remove dirt, old grease and brake dust build-up from the disc, pads and calipers. It is designed to carry dirt away and dry in air so there is no need to rinse off or any extra work after itu2019s cleaned the brakes.

Pros:

Cleans all braking system elements

Air dries

Rehydrates pad material

Cons:

May need agitating for very stubborn dirt

i2i Motorcycle Academy Machine Control Course

Seal of Approval - Weu2019ve tested this product and have found it performs well
i2i Motorcycle Academy Machine Control Course

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OK, so itu2019s not a brake product as such but the Machine Control 1 course from trainers i2i Motorcycle Academy includes a section on developing braking skills, looking at not only basic but also advanced braking techniques that can be used every time you go out riding to shorten braking distances and integrate more effective and safer braking into your riding. Iu2019ve done this course and it was a revelation. Courses run at locations around the country.

Pros:

Develop advanced braking techniques

Learn host of other techniques at the same time

Become a safer rider

Cons:

None we can think of

Galfer Brake Discs

Galfer Brake Discs

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When it comes to replacement discs, these from Galfer seem pretty well made. They use a u2018Waveu2019 design to the steel section, designed to improve heat dissipation and clear water from the disc effectively while the steel section works perfectly with the standard pads and calipers to offer optimum braking performance. It doesnu2019t hurt that they look very cool too...

Pros:

Improved heat dissipation

Better water clearance

Greater brake performance

Cons:

Obviously replacement parts

Suggest over-sporty riding style

Brake Caliper Rebuild Kit

Brake Caliper Rebuild Kit

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Occasionally your brake calipers could do with a rebuild; the rubber piston seals can become brittle so they either donu2019t seal and leak fluid or they grip the pistons too tightly and the brakes drag, causing all sorts of problems from increased fuel consumption to overheating brakes. The solution is straightforward u2013 remove the calipers and rebuild them, replacing the rubber parts. As long as they havenu2019t seized solid, itu2019s a fairly simple process to strip them and replace the seals and it will have a big effect on the braking performance.

Pros:

Smoother braking

Improved fuel economy

No dragging brakes

Cons:

Can be a messy job

Need some mechanical aptitude

PFM Brake Conversion

PFM Brake Conversion

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Apparently designed for those who require the u201cultimate in braking performanceu201d, these PFM kits use a six-piston caliper operating on a narrow disc to offer racetrack levels of braking. They are designed to fit directly to the bike and use Goodridge braided hoses and 320mm diameter iron or stainless steel discs. The narrow calipers will accept AP design pads and in road, trackday or race compounds depending on the use.

Pros:

Ultimate levels of braking performance

Characteristics can be changed to suit conditions

Make full use of grip from racing slick tyres

Cons:

Could be excessive for the road

Only for the most dedicated track users

Billet Brake Levers

Billet Brake Levers
Amazon

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Replacement billet aluminium (machined form a solid piece of metal) levers can be used to tailor how the brake application feels and works and these adjustable versions (shown here for a Yamaha R1) can be used by riders with long and short fingers, with five resting positions at varying distances from the grip. They also fold so that in the event of a tumble on track, they won't break.

Pros:

Look cool

Adjust for different sized hands

Cons:

Are bike-specific

An obvious modification

What to read next:

Best motorcycle waterless washes

Best motorcycle cleaning and maintenance sprays

Top motorcycle products for the new riding season

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