In a world where fine-tuning for speed and agility is nearly a science sometimes you just want to stop your dirt bike.
Besides helping prove the well-used catchphrase "You have to go slower to go faster" true, braking keeps you from possible carnage. Let's see what happens the next time a plunger falls out of the rear master cylinder as you pin the straightaway and head towards a turn with no rear brake.
While rare, catastrophic brake failure in the heat of battle does happen sending you into a frenzy but mostly you encounter a lack of response or a mushy feel when pressing the brake lever. In either case, you quickly understand the need to address the brakes. A number of issues cause the brakes on a dirt bike to fail from the obvious - like worn brake pads - to the head-scratching boiling brake fluid. Check out these common dirt bike brake problems you'll eventually experience and what to do about them.
Worn Brake Pads
Clearly and perhaps the most common complaint for bad brakes is worn brake pads. You'll know it by the high-pitched squeak from the metal-on-metal grinding. The easy solution, of course, is changing the pads.
Routine brake checks eliminate this from ever happening but most riders wear pads down to the bare minimum since it's cost effective and waiting until the last minute doesn't necessarily end a riding day early. However, you also risk ruining the rotor by waiting too long so make the change sooner rather than later.
Weekend warriors have better opportunity to save money and wear down brake pads until scant remains but racers should regularly check pads to ensure enough grip is left for an aggressive day of riding.
Sticky pads don't actually get sticky from overuse instead they feel sticky when applied resulting in inconsistent braking. Corroded parts like the retaining pin or caliper piston cause the brakes to stick. When you experience sticky brakes inspect these parts and clean.
Boiled Brake Fluid
Riding in hot weather doesn't help but it's not the reason brake fluid boils. You risk overheating the brake fluid by using the brakes too much or dragging the brakes (watch your boot is not applying light pressure to the brake pedal). You'll experience brake fade, which progressively gets worse, after the fluid boils. Once this happens the fluid is garbage so you'll need to bleed the brakes and change the fluid.
Total Loss of Brakes
Sometimes, like the above scenario, the brakes just completely give out. You might get a heads-up like when the brake fluid boils and the brakes slowly give out but usually a total loss of brake function occurs when the master cylinder or caliper fails. This results from old and worn out parts or other components that fall out, like the plunger.
The only solution is to rebuild all the internal parts.
Bent Brake Rotor
A bent brake rotor prevents the pad from completely engaging or depending on the severity of the bend might cause unnecessary braking - both cases undermine the quality of a ride. A crash or banging in to other riders is the most common culprit to a bent rotor and the only solution is replacing the rotor. If this happens, inspect the master cylinder and other parts for damage.
Need a break? Check out these past articles on dirt bike brakes:
- Signs That You Need To Get Your Dirt Bike or ATV Brakes Checked
- How to Bleed Dirt Bike Brakes
- Do You Need Oversized Brakes On Your Dirt Bike?
- What a Drag - Brakes Grabbing Your Dirt Bike?
- Best Brake Pad Material for Dirt Bikes
Written By: AndrewT