We don’t always agree on everything at MO, but we do all agree that the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 could use a better front brake. Its revvable and lovable little 60-degree V-Twin engine is one of the best things Harley’s done in the 21st century and the rest of the bike’s not far behind for the money, but the response from its front brake let us down. In our recent Millennial Hep Cat Shootout, mean Tom Roderick said, “Where the Street 750 really fails in its performance package is with its lame front brake. Whether it’s the brake pad material or air in the line, the twin-piston single-caliper front disc brake is glaringly weak.”

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750 Review – First Ride.

“As much as I was impressed with the engine, I was maybe equally negatively impressed with the brakes,” said Troy Siahaan. “Weak and wooden, they’re bad even for budget-bike standards.”

Always ready to defend the downtrodden when it’s not too much trouble and doesn’t cost me anything, I got hold of Johan Rauff Kristensen at Scandinavian Brake Systems to see what could be done. The next week, a box arrived packed with front pads for the Street 500/750, including SBS’s 924H.HF Ceramic pads and its 924H.LS Sinters. I knew I was on the right track when I saw myself on the packaging, riding a ZX-9R Kawasaki circa 1996.

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750: Extended Play.

Yet another example of The Man (Kevin Wing Capitalist Photographer in this case) profiting from the sweat of my brow.

Yet another example of The Man (Kevin Wing Capitalist Photographer in this case) profiting from the sweat of my brow.

The Street comes with ceramic pads of unknown origin. Ceramics, which are a mixture of ceramic and metal particles baked into the pad, are supposed to wear longer, be easier on rotors, make less noise and dust – most of which alleged benefits don’t much matter to motorcyclists, who just want to be able to stop hard when we need to. On the Street, which H-D markets as an entry-level bike, it makes semi-sense to provide a front brake you need all four fingers squeezing hard to lock up: H-D seems to sometimes go to great lengths to protect beginners from motorcycles that are able to start, stop or go around corners too fast.

Discuss this at our HD Street Forum.

Slipping SBS’s Ceramic H.HF pads into the Harley’s lone slide-type twin-piston front caliper resulted in slightly better power than the stock pads, but really barely enough to notice. Part of the problem may be that we motorcycle journalists are just spoiled; I’m used to being able to stand just about any new bike on its nose with two fingers on the brake lever. With two fingers on the Street’s lever and the stock pads, you’ll pull the lever back onto your other two fingers before you get hard, tire-chirping braking. With the SBS ceramics and two fingers, you can get the front tire chirping with a manly squeeze; with three, you can lock it up. Stopping from higher speeds, though, both the stock ceramic pads and the SBS ceramics fade before you come to a stop. Brakes turn energy into heat, and the ceramic pads can’t seem to make the transfer quickly enough on the little Harley.

The stock ceramic pads are at left, the SBS ceramics are in the middle, and the SBS sinters at bottom left, all after being run on the bike. Can you guess which pads most efficiently turn velocity into heat?

The stock ceramic pads are at left, the SBS ceramics are in the middle, and the SBS sinters at bottom right, all after being run on the bike. Can you guess which pads most efficiently turn velocity into heat?

Swapping the ceramics for the SBS 924 H.LS sinters (after bedding-in with a few miles of stop and go), provided much more positive results. Even without bleeding the system (sponginess was never the problem), the sinter pads somehow provide a firmer brake lever, and now, a good two-finger squeeze of the lever can get the front tire squealing. You can jump on the brake at 80 mph and still be decelerating hard during the last few feet before full stop; fade is greatly reduced compared to the ceramics. If the SBS sinter pads don’t add 20% more braking power and stop the bike at least 10 or 15% shorter from speeds above 60, I’ll eat 72% of my hat. On a sportbike, the Harley’s front brake would still be marginal; on a 505-pound cruiser, it’s now passable (especially while also using the rear, as God intended on cruisers).

SBS sinter pads, before and after abuse.

SBS sinter pads, before and after abuse.

The downside of sintered pads, with their all-metal content, is that they may be a little harder on brake discs. For most of us, possibly having to replace the occasional disc is  a small price to pay for the increased margin of performance and safety (about $82 for H-D rotor Part Number 41500029 at many online outlets). A set of SBS 924H.LS Sinter pads for the Street will set you back about $29 at the same online retailers (MSRP for the ceramic pads is $33.95 per set, $39.95 for the sinters). An even smaller  price to pay to significantly expand the little Street 750’s performance envelope.

MO TESTED! Screamin’ Eagle Nightstick and Air Cleaner

  • fastfreddie

    Would an aftermarket disc attain even better stopping power along with those sintered pads?

    • John A. Stockman

      I was wondering the same thing. Maybe a bit out of the “spirit” of the budget-nature of the upgrade and the bike itself, but I think a worthwhile experiment. And really, how much more cost is added if a second disc and caliper is included? It’s not a weight-conscious model like a sport machine, and lightweight, current components are not that expensive, especially when you consider how bad that stock front brake is. At this price-point, an extra hundred or two isn’t going to put off someone in the market for this type of HD. The engine is good enough to draw buyers anyway, and some like a little “different”, even from the motor company. The quote “H-D seems to sometimes go to great lengths to protect beginners from
      motorcycles that are able to start, stop or go around corners too fast” is telling and something I’ve experienced directly on various Sportster models, Dynas, and a few big twins. So it’s not just on “beginner” machines.

      • fastfreddie

        I think if I ever get insane enough to go for a sportster,I’d upgrade the brakes and suspension first-with emphasis on brakes.

        • DickRuble

          It’s cheaper to just go with a better bike. After you spend 1200 for an upgraded suspension and another 200-1200 (brembo’s ?) for upgraded brakes, you’ll be wanting an upgraded engine and upgraded frame.

          • fastfreddie

            Since when was rationality compatible with insanity?;)

            Maybe just go for a Buell if I find one which is in my price range…

  • Vrooom

    I can’t imagine why HD chooses to put only one rotor on this bike. I get why they do that on dual sport singles and dirt bikes, but there’s really no excuse on a street bike, unless you’re using Buell’s massive rotor, and even that has always seemed marginal to me.

    • john burns

      well it keeps the price and the weight down no? Plenty of bikes do fine with just one front disc, but it has to be a good one.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha ha, cut it out, John.
        Keeps the price down? This thing is more expensive than its competitors.
        Keeps the weight down? This thing is heavier than it’s competitors.

        On top of that, the Street 750’s brake sucks. “Plenty of bikes do fine with just one front disk.” Sure, but the Street 750 isn’t one of them.

        Fucking Harley.

        • john burns

          Old MO, as a veteran of this stuff you know very well that keeping the UNSPRUNG, SPINNING weight down, ie, wheels and tires, pays greater dividends than keeping the weight off elsewhere on the bike. And 505 is way light by middleweight cruiser standards.

          • Old MOron

            Okay, you’re right about unsprung, spinning weight. Help this MOron understand further.

            I thought this was supposed to be Harley’s bike to attract new riders. Doesn’t 505 lbs kind of suck for that purpose?

            And while reducing unsprung, rotating mass is a noble objective, let’s look at what MO said about it:

            “We don’t always agree on everything at MO, but we do all agree that the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 could use a better front brake.”

            “Where the Street 750 really fails in its performance package is with its lame front brake … the twin-piston single-caliper front disc brake is glaringly weak.”

            “As much as I was impressed with the engine, I was maybe equally negatively impressed with the brakes … Weak and wooden, they’re bad even for budget-bike standards.”

            Are you really suggesting that the Harley struck a good balance between unsprung mass and braking performance?

            Seems to me that while “plenty of bikes do fine with just one disk,” MO’s staff unanimously agrees the Street 750 isn’t one of them.

  • Randy Darino

    Thats a ’02 or ’03 ZX9R Burns,not a ’96.a fine bike in its day.

  • Roopesh Shah

    Alright… I agree that the brakes on this bike are bad enough to be called wooden. Now where do I find these pads? Please help.

    • john burns

      Roopesh, did you find some?

      • Roopesh Shah

        Oh yes I did and it’s changed the bike. Thanks for bringing me back to this thread. Got this from EBC – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00N41J8TQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

        In addition, I’ve also replaced the brake lines with braided ones from HEL and life is good now.

        • Jim Hixon

          Where did you find the braided lines?

          • Roopesh Shah

            Custom made HEL brake lines. Used a piece of pipe to measure, selected the right hardware, colour and got these made. Less than US$100 for the pair. Noticeable difference.