Safe braking is an indispensable element of riding a motorcycle.
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At high speeds, the difference between a safe stop and a potential accident can be a matter of seconds… or considerably less. But what many riders might overlook is the essential role played by brake fluid in ensuring their safety.
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While the material of your brake pads and the condition of your discs are crucial, the quality and type of your brake fluid are equally significant.
So what exactly is brake fluid? Well, it’s a hydraulic fluid that transfers force from the brake lever to the brake pads. It works under high temperatures and pressures to ensure optimal braking. Simply put, your motorcycle brake fluid consists of a mixture of glycol ethers and other chemical compounds that offer a range of boiling points and viscosities.
But not all brake fluids are created equal, and choosing the right one can dramatically affect your braking performance.
Brake fluid operates in a closed system and is responsible for transferring the mechanical action from your hand at the brake lever to the hydraulic brake callipers. It needs to be reliable under varying conditions. It is easy to overlook the fluid, but a poorly-chosen or deteriorated fluid can lead to a longer braking distance or even brake failure.
Types of brake fluid.
There are several types of brake fluids available in the market, primarily Dot 3, Dot 4 and Dot 5. Dot 5.1 is also gaining popularity.
For example, Dot 3 and Dot 4 are glycol-based, whereas Dot 5 is silicone-based.
It’s not just about choosing a brake fluid; it’s about choosing the right brake fluid. Factors such as wet and dry boiling points, and even the age of the fluid, play a role in determining how quickly you can bring your bike to a standstill.
Old or incorrect fluid can cause water contamination, reducing the boiling point and increasing the risk of brake failure, while high-performance motorcycles may require a fluid with a higher boiling point to withstand the heat generated during aggressive riding.
Given the rise in motorcycling events and motorcycle-related tourism in Britain, understanding the impact of brake fluid on your safety has never been more critical. Regularly check your brake fluid levels, know when it needs replacing and, most importantly, consult your owner’s manual or an expert to make the right choice for your bike.
Next time you’re thinking of cutting corners on your brake fluid, remember: the wrong choice could literally mean the difference between life and death. Choose wisely.