Disc brakes

Cees Fick's interim solution

Progress and I are not always on good terms. My first motorcycle with a front disc brake was one Triumph T150V Trident. That engine was at Van de Kuinder in Hilversum as a trade-in. Nico actually preferred not to sell the thing to a younger buyer. The Tridents did not have the best reputation back in the days when younger heavy machinery buyers often used the throttle as an ON / OFF switch.

But I was in love with the thing

Nico tried to discourage me by offering only a symbolic trade-in price for my bike at the time. But love makes blind, deaf and speechless. On the Trident I drove about 50D km almost without any problems. Because you can get used to a disc brake that doesn't work in the rain.
I think the Lockheed disc was hard chrome plated or at least heavily alloyed with chrome. And the disc brake pad technology wasn't quite right either.
The basic idea must once have been that something had to be devised that had to be less technically laborious and cheaper than drum brakes.

Drum brakes

Because where a simple drum brake on a Jawa (an ascending and a descending brake shoe in a biscuit tin) was still quite clear, that was not the effect of faster engines. Of course things could be improved by making the brake drums bigger and inventing more brake shoes. Those brake shoes also had to pivot against the direction of rotation to get a self-reinforcing effect. Fontana and Grimeca made very nice drum brakes with four ascending (leading shoe) brake segments. Yamaha did the same for the factory racers.

Those brakes did their job well

But they were very expensive things to make. And the correct adjustment of such a 4LS brake was also quite a job. Robinson was even more ferocious. That company makes racing brakes with no fewer than eight (!) Ascending shoes. To make them speak well and evenly, you would sooner need a piano tuner or a neurosurgeon than a mechanic.

Disc brakes are better

Compared to this high-quality mechanical engineering technology, disc brakes are child's play. But before the disc braking was at the incredible current level? The early disc brakes generally didn't perform well when wet. Or in my case Triumph At first, the shiny breakfast plate did nothing for a frightening time when braking in the wet.

As a rider of a modern motorcycle with a disc brake between the legs, the rear drum brake was a kind of life insurance. And when it was wet, as a precaution, you always kept the front brake very lightly dragging to prevent you from coming to a stop, startled but unharmed… On the other side of the intersection. The high chrome alloy shiny disc brake also gave naive riders the idea that something like this had to be protected against rust. We have known a Suzuki driver who, from that point of view, had put his disc brake lightly in the petroleum jelly. He came to a stop in the hallway of a house.

But disc brakes also matured

And we are now in a phase where many of our classics also simply have disc brakes. Disc brakes that also work in wet conditions. This is mainly due to the technical developments in the field of brake pads and the fact that the manufacturers no longer use brake discs that you can use as shaving mirrors. The discs are worn if you feel a raised edge on the outer circumference. (Finishing is an option, but there is a minimum thickness.) Rust does not have to be a point. You slow it down in no time. And with the excellent braking cast iron Brembo discs, it is a sign of satisfaction if they have already put on an even brown coat the next morning after a wet night.

Disc brakes also require maintenance

The brake fluid really has to be replaced every two years and the brake hoses are also just wear parts that can be changed once they are about 5-7 years old. It is helpful to keep the caliper clean between the squeezing edges. That works fine with compressed air. Look at calipers that have a pivot point somewhere to see if that is still common. Give new brake pads a light coat of copper or ceramic grease before mounting. On the caliper side.

But be careful whatever you do. It's about your brakes. About your life. Of course you also work on your brakes at your own risk and you cannot hold the publisher or me responsible for things that go wrong after working on the brakes.

Read also
- Encapsulated disc brakes
- The new' Triumph Trident
- More stories about classic engines




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  1. The older BMW discs, with countless holes in them, also suffer from hydrophobia.
    If it pours really well, you really have to anticipate wanting to come to a stop in time, because the first two seconds are often 'reflection time'.
    Furthermore, with two brembo discs in the front, and the master cylinder (with the smaller diameter) of a single-disc brake, the place is really good. Enough braking power and easy to dose. Usually only two fingers are needed for normal braking. Usually, however, the rubber grip on wet roads is the biggest limiting factor.

  2. The disc brakes from the 70s are often stainless steel.
    Also be careful with modern (sintered) brake pads on old-fashioned brake discs; your drives are 'used up' in no time ..
    So use old-fashioned organic brake linings (eg Vesrah green) on old motorcycles with disc brakes.

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