SV650 Stage 3 Break Love
After installing the Race Tech front end and Fox Racing Shock on my trusty SV650 and testing it around both the infield and AMA tracks at Fontana, it became suddenly obvious that the brakes were the next things to need a little attention. To understand how things deteriorate after only a couple years of rain, road mung and benign neglect, it's useful to switch back and forth between factory-fresh motorcycles. (Even so, my little SV was only 1.4 seconds behind the Ducati S4 on the infield circuit with Mr. B at the helm.)
Mainly, rust never sleeps, and when rust is maybe taking a catnap, there's all kinds of dust and dirt and junk dying to get in between your brake caliper and its little pistons, creating friction, robbing feel. You can take the calipers all the way apart of course, but sometimes a good cleaning will do the trick too. (And you'll need new piston seals if you take them apart.) All you need to do is remove the calipers from the fork tubes, slide out the pads--and you're right there on the front porch of the piston sisters. Easy.
You can take the calipers all the way apart of course, but sometimes a good cleaning will do the trick too.
While I was at cleaning the calipers, new pieces from Ferodo Brake Tech and Goodridge Brake Lines were enlisted to come to the aid of Mr. SV650. Jeff Gehrs at Brake Tech was very helpful in helping me with suggestions for brake pad selection and tips for installing them, then Matt at Goodridge even let me drop by their shop to observe my very own set of brake lines being fabricated. (One important lesson I've learned at MO: Call People. For all of you who seem hacked off that your local parts person doesn't know diddly, why don't you pick up the phone and call people who do?)
I tackled the brake pads first; Jeff recommended the SinterGrip ST pad set for the front, and the Platinum set for the rear. As expected, there was a lot of grime built up inside the calipers and I employed the use of a toothbrush and WD-40, then brake cleaner, to de-goo the assemblies. As these pads were different compounds than stock, Brake Tech recommended sanding the swept area of the rotors with a fine grit of sandpaper then cleansing them with acetone. Standard brake cleaner isn't recommended for this application as some brands can leave a residue-- some are ok, but to be sure, acetone is used. Jeff mentioned that serious racers may want to bead-blast the swept area of the rotors to ensure that old residue from previous brake compounds is banished to the land of wind and ghosts. But since this was to be a "real-world" test, he said that the sand paper and acetone trick would be more than adequate for mostly street use.
Installing brake pads is a straightforward affair anybody can handle; just make certain to keep track of the clips and retainers for the pads and it's quite self-explanatory once you get unbolt the calipers from the fork. There is no real 'black art' or mystery to an SV's brakes, so if you're hesitant to tackle a brake upgrade because of an intimidation of mechanical things, don't be.
After I completed swapping out the worn stock pads for the fresh Ferodos, I moved on to trading out the old squishy brake lines for delectable Goodridge braided Kevlar lines. The people at Goodridge know their stuff when it comes to fluid-transfer lines; they have a long and impressive list of customers, including NASA. I suppose if Goodridge's lines are good enough for the shuttle, I can stand to use them on my lowly Suzuki. (I'll pass on the Morton-Thiokol O-rings, though, thanks anyway.)
Matt, like the other employees, has been cross-trained in every sector in the Goodridge hosiery, and had the hands-on knowledge to explain each step in the manufacturing process of my lines. He even did most of the fabrication himself. As a finale, I watched the new lines get pressure tested to 2500psi--impressive!
And speaking of performance, I noticed a dramatic difference in the brakes as soon as I hopped on the SV for a shakedown blast around the block.
The key thing to keep in mind when installing the lines is that the fittings were pre-set at a specific angle, and it takes a little experimenting and test-fitting to see exactly which direction each line is supposed to run. But again, not too difficult. Anyone with a few wrenches, decent hand/eye coordination and un poquito of spatial reasoning can do this job. The trickiest (or more accurately, tedious) part of the installation process is bleeding the lines, especially the rear. In order to pull off the rear brake reservoir lid on the SV, it's necessary to remove the right tailsection panel. Again, not too hard, just a little time-consuming-even the Monster S4 has its brake reservoir in a convenient location, but such is life. I imagine that many an SV's rear brake has gone without being serviced for far too long--much like the Editor--because people didn't want to mess with pulling off some plastic, but it's worth it in the long run. The two-year old fluid I bled from the systems was a nice caramel color and looked in dire need of replenishing.
I really can't stress this enough, but things on this bike are really straightforward and not intimidating to work on at all. Even bleeding the brakes can be a one-man affair with the SV. It's such a small bike that I was able to reach my Go-Go Gadget arms around the front and bleed even the front left brake. Remember, brake-bleeding is simply getting the new fluid in and air in the lines out. Air rises. Keep that in mind and motorcycles are a snap. Removing the calipers from their mount after the initial bleeding, giving them a couple of light raps with a hunk of wood, and bleeding again will usually result in a very firm lever. You can bleed, too, by squeezing the lever while loosening the banjo bolt at the master cylinder a skosh (keeping a rag between it and any painted surfaces).
While not only promising better performance, my new lines are a nice blue with red anodized fittings that look quite sharp--definitely a dramatic visual improvement from the blah stockers. Plus, they are significantly lighter than the stock lines.
And speaking of performance, as soon as I had everything buttoned back up and cleaned up my messes, I noticed a dramatic difference in the brakes as soon as I hopped on the SV for a shakedown blast around the block. There is far more 'feel' in the front brake, mostly due to the Kevlar lines, which don't expand nearly as much as the stock hoses. The rear brake now actually seems to do something. It should be much more useful in settling the rear end down on corner entries whether used for track duty or on a spirited backroad jaunt, as well as adding confidence to any sort of panic-stop situation on the street. Considering that I'll be going back to Seattle (the land of bad weather conditions and idiotic drivers) in a matter of weeks, this is a reassuring detail.
The Ferodo pads will need about 100 miles more of bedding-in (out of 300 recommended total bed-in miles), but I can already tell that they are not only more than adequate for the street and great for the occasional track visit, but will be very useable and controllable. There's more than enough stopping power now for one-finger stoppage, but at the same time they're not vague or overwhelmingly 'bitey' or grabby either. While having a great initial bite, the SinterGrips retain the linear feel of the stock brakes. In fact, they feel surprisingly similar to the stock parts in their progressive nature, just far more powerful-- and the lever is far less spongy due to Goodridge's contribution to the great overall package. And unlike some performance brake compounds, they are not noisy either. Jeff also informed me that these pads have a remarkably low wear rate on the stock rotors for a set of performance pads. Braketech has done extensive dyno testing and found the wear rates of these pads to be comparable to the stock pads, if not a little less.
It really is amazing what this bike is capable of even when in stock trim, but add some relatively cheap and easy-to-do modifications to the mix, and the SV becomes a formidable street and track contender while retaining its polite manners.
This is the type of bike that I can imagine storing under a tarp forever in my garage, waiting for a whole new generation of riders to discover. (Then, they will laugh and call you Old Man.--Ed.)
Goodridge Brake Lines:
Braided Kevlar- $117.95 front/$69.95 rear
Ferodo Brake Tech:
SinterGrip ST pads- $89.90 front set
Platinum pad set- $24.95 rear