In our Beginner-Ish Sportbike Shootout, the KTM entry got beat up about its brakes. When compared to the CBR300, the Ninja 300, and the YZF-R3 , the poor RC390’s binders, well, just didn’t compare. Of course, this sparked discussions about whether the ByBre brakes were inferior to the components that its parent, Brembo, both designs and manufactures. Well, thanks to Scandinavian Brake Systems (SBS), we’ve had the opportunity to test this theory with a set of SBS 877RS pads. For this test, we’ve enlisted a 390 Duke, which shares its single 300mm disc and 4-piston, radial-mount caliper with the RC390, as our test mule.
In our MO Wrenching: How To Replace Brake Pads article, we swapped the OEM pads with a set of SBS ones. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of sampling the improved performance offered by the compound. First, however, a bit about the pads.
SBS’s RS pads were originally designed as racing pads back in the late ‘90s. Since technology marches on creating even stronger friction compounds, the RS pads are now rated for street and as an affordable trackday pad for a wide variety of bike models. Given their racing roots, one would expect the Racing Sintered (RS) pads to offer more stopping power than the typical OEM pads found on bikes in the 390 Duke’s class.
The friction material on the RS pads is sintered, meaning the metals and other components that become the friction surface – the friction powder blend, in SBS parlance – of the pad are fused together under heat and pressure at SBS’s production facilities. Rather than being attached to the pad’s backing via some form of adhesive, SBS uses a matrix of hooks raised on the backing plate of all its racing pads that molds into the friction material, resulting in a mechanical bond that is stronger than any adhesive. SBS states that the resulting pads offer predictable feel, a firmer lever action with increased stopping power, and no fade at higher temperatures. To support its claims, SBS offers up Xavier Zayat’s 2015 ASRA Sportbike Championship which was won on RS pads.
When we rode the RC390 on the track against its competitors, the results weren’t pretty: “The ByBre brakes may have been designed by Brembo, but the cheaper alternative was by far the worst in the test…. They lacked both feel and stopping power – a bad combination.” So, you can imagine our curiosity once we had a set of the SBS 877RS pads installed in the mechanically-equivalent ByBre caliper on the 390 Duke.
The results were nothing less than spectacular. Once bedded in, the SBS pads offer better initial bite without being grabby, meaning less pressure was required to initiate braking. If a full-boogie deceleration is required, the braking power builds with a slightly progressive curve relative to the pressure at the lever. Additionally, the feel is much better, allowing the rider to get maximum squeeze up to the threshold of the ABS intervention. Compared to the wooden, distant feeling of the stock brakes, the SBS pads’ feedback and predictability enable the rider to easily feather the application as required by the corner. Repeated hard braking results in no fade or change in lever effort. Although we only tested the pads on the street, we feel that the SBS 877RS pads would be up to the task on the tightest of tracks.
For those of you who were wondering if the SBS RS pads were enough to overcome the braking deficit the RC390 suffered in our shootout, we think that the pads put the brakes in the same neighborhood as the other lightweights we tested. After almost a year since we last gathered the quartet at the track, it would be disingenuous to claim anything more specific. So, while we’ve still got this 390 Duke, perhaps we should grab one of the other contestants for a quick head-to-head.
The reality is that the change in the braking character of the 390 Duke though adding a pair of $44.95 SBS 877RS front pads means it would be wise for all owners of KTM’s sporty singles – the 390 Duke and the RC390 since they use the same brakes. How many performance modifications cost this little, yet yield so much?