As bikes have gotten more powerful brake technology has pretty much advanced in parallel – which is just as well…
But on the other hand..you can’t have too much of a good thing. Many riders; those on heavy or performance bikes, anyone who wants some serious track time, folks looking for a safety edge; all seek to upgrade braking power at some time or another.
A change of pads is always a good start, while for some its new discs (Galfer, EBC and so on) or even a set of fancy calipers from Brembo or the like.
Enhance and Maintain at the same time..
Whatever route you take to improving your brakes, replacing the standard rubber lines with braided steel is a good bet.
Even when new, the standard rubber lines flex, absorbing some of the pressure that should be going to the pistons inside the brakes. They also deteriorate over time and should be replaced every 3 or 4 years anyway. Not only can you upgrade but you get to tackle a maintenance job at the same time!
Choice of Colours
Proving that more than ice cream and fudge is made in Devon, British manufacturer Hel Performance churns out over 3,000 kits from their Exeter factory and sells them worldwide.
They’ll deal direct and prices are very reasonable – typically between £80 and £200 for a full front and rear kit. they come in a range of colours including different ones for the lines and the banjos.
Fitting the Lines
We wanted to improve performance of the brakes on our ZZR1400, so we ordered a kit with shiny gold lines and natty red banjo’s together with a bottle of DOT 4 brake fluid. It cost £199 for the full front and rear caboodle – more than most bikes due to the ABS.
We approached the job with some trepidation, never having done it before, but it was amazingly straightforward. First the old lines had to be drained of fluid and removed. Simples, we said, but remembering to cover paintwork to prevent damage from leaking fluid…
Then the new lines were carefully routed, connected and bolted into place. Finally the system was refilled with fresh fluid and pumped through to remove all air. With the bleed nipples closed, all joints tested for tightness and a quick side to side of the steering – to check lock was unaffected, it was job done; a full front and rear kit on the ZZR taking just a hour and a half for the completely unskilled labour of two motorcycle nuts.
The only tricky bit came when undoing the solid metal line connection at the ABS junction. It goes into a solid metal block and corrosion had set in making it unwilling to budge. Copious applications of Plus Gas and the attentions of a hairdryer to heat the metal block and make it expand did the trick though.
The difference between the original lines and the new Hel ones was apparent even before we tested the machine on the road.
Both levers were firmer, and we could actually back the front adjuster off a notch – it had moved out that far.
Once rolling, the effect was noticeable in two ways – more instantaneous bite (no sponginess at the lever) and greater net stopping power, especially at the rear where the original brake had been amazingly poor for such a fast bike. Handy for slow speed work.
Without accurate equipment it’s hard to be precise (or at all scientific), but all three riders who tested the machine before and after the conversion agreed that the brakes were sharper, gave more feedback and gained stopping power; about a 50% gain at the unusually poor rear and a more modest 10% or so at the front.
A crude ‘before and after’ emergency stop test suggested an improvement of about a car’s length in reduced stopping distance from 50 mph on a dry road.
ABS cut in earlier, which seemed to us to confirm the brakes greater grip on the discs.There also seemed to be a more direct relationship between how hard you squeezed the lever and how fast the bike actually stopped.
The main benefit of fitting the Hel lines, it seems to us, is in general riding.
Good brakes help to keep riding smooth – control inputs can be more precise and, with braking power more aptly matched to engine performance, a greater confidence is also felt by the rider. The bike more accurately does what you want it to, and you know it.
Hel lines are no miracle workers. They won’t transform your bike instantly, or your riding, but they do represent a very real benefit in performance, do give you a safety edge and also tick an oft-neglected box on the maintenance chart. We think they also look pretty cool into the bargain. Overall; excellent value for money.
Note: if you are not confident around a bike – use a professional mechanic. Don’t take chances with brakes.
Win a set of brakelines for bike of your choice!