Brake Caliper Discussion / Question


Been reading a few posts lately on brake calipers which started me thinking again.. (I've had this discussion with myself over the years..)

What makes one brake caliper better than another?
If a name brand caliper is 15% better than an oringinal, factory oem unit, but is 60% more expensive, is the gain worth the financial outlay?
For the amount of time a rear caliper is used, does a replacement to a name brand make sense if the oem factory is up to doing the job?

A brake cailiper is not much more than a hydraulic ram.. Fluid goes in, flows through some channels, and pushes onto a piston, which pushes pads to the rotor.
If that's the case, what is the differences in design that make one brand caliper better than another? Don't they all follow the same design brief?

I understand there are 2 (or more) piece calipers and single piece calipers, which is an obvious difference, but surly if single is superior, then ROi on mass production would bring the cost down? No? Think of things that have started in F1 world or high end cars, then progressed down the line to where it's commonplace now.. ABS, cruise, elec windows, A/C - they all were expensive options at one stage.

Don't get me wrong, I know there is differences, put a brand name on a factory bike and watch the press reviews go all gooey over them.. But the question is, why?
The more complex a thing is, I can understand the differences, cheap run-around cars vs the luxury imports, solid name brand tv's vs the cheap imports..
But they have many, many parts.. A brake caliper has at most 6 (pistons)

Just look at the name brand on our bike; 4 moving parts.. Plus some rubber seals.. Fluid goes in, thru some channels and pushes the pistons out.. Thats it..

Daydreaming rant and rambling over :)
Not 100% sure what makes them better myself......

Maybe it's the flow of the fluid through the channels which gives more pressure per inch?
Maybe it's the design of the pistons and how they move in their bores?
Perhaps the case and mounts are thicker and stronger to minimize flex...??

I know all high performance bikes use Brembo systems and many cars/trucks do too...there must be something which makes them perform better.
The braking with all high end Brembo goodies is substantially better than my second K8 that had all oem parts and now is being changed over to lower spec Brembo's but the difference is still there to the point I don't ride it, seems cheap compared to the LE.

My decision to buy the Brembo GP4-RX calipers and Billet M/C was based on the fact that it had expensive mods already and is deemed to live in the loungeroom in the future, the major benefit was the upgrade over the already fitted Brembo goodies.

My Billet Brake M/C is barely one finger to pull it up, the Brembo RCS19 is two.
If you always ride your bike within a certain performance window, the factory brakes are fine. Go a little faster and they are quickly insufficient on several levels. People don't realize that brakes spend very little time stopping a bike. If you are riding at a good clip, the brakes spend much more time adjusting the speed and attitude of the bike. To do this well you need feel, and feel cost money. Here are the main factors of a good braking system for riding fast:

1. Feel
2. Suspension
3. Power
4. Consistency (fade)

Monoblock calipers are much more stable relative to vibrations, dissipate heat better, and can be lighter. Monoblock calipers are difficult to manufacture, requiring some pretty complex machining. However since this is where the pads are forced against the discs, it has a big impact on feel. The calipers are also a huge heat sync, dissipating heat from the fluid as it moves the pistons.

Put simply, a good caliper will reproduce your movement at the lever exactly with no losses to flex, vibration or mechanical losses. The Brembos do this a lot better than the OEM stoppers. Going from the Tokiko to the M4 calipers is a big difference. Going from the M4's to something like the GP4's is a more subtle difference and a big cost jump.

Is it worth it? Depends. Pro's spend thousands to get tenths of a second. On a mainly street bike it's harder to justify the cost of top performing parts. Most of us frankly are not skilled enough to even ride in the window where many of these parts start to make a performance difference. Further, people don't realize if you haven't upgraded your suspension with a minimum of proper springing and adjustment, no brakes will be an improvement. So improving the braking system is more expensive than many think as they don't consider suspension.

But there is a critical part of a fast bike many overlook, that's confidence. I recently traded rides with a friend with a mostly stock Busa. When we stopped he had a completely stunned look on his face. That's amazing he reported. It feels like a completely different bike. The road feels huge and I feel like I can do anything (ok, I left out the F-bombs). On the other hand the stock bike was scary to ride for me. It was amazing to realize how far I've come with the bike.

Cost is a funny issue. If you are begging on the corner, a dollar means everything. If you are a millionaire $1000 means nothing!
If a name brand caliper is 15% better than an oringinal, factory oem unit, but is 60% more expensive, is the gain worth the financial outlay?

Can you please correct me or provide an example for our bikes, as this is what I see for a common Brembo swap:

OEM Hayabusa calipers: $396.96
Brembo Monobloc M4 108 mm caliper $349.50

then ROi on mass production would bring the cost down?

The benefit of mass production is relative to the production run time. From your car analogies, bike production numbers are far smaller than car numbers, and aftermarket part runs are smaller than bike runs. For each smaller batch it takes a combination of a longer model life and higher prices to recoup the process costs.

Sometimes the consumer reaps the benefit of lower manufacturing costs and sometimes we do not. I think the issue of "want" versus "need" is influential there. Aftermarket parts are highly emotional decisions (haha just like the initial bike purchase is!) I would think that motorsports aftermarket parts have an extremely inelastic demand, with a premium price driven as much by emotion as by the performance and intrinsic cost of the parts.

Research is costly and every single change to brake parts, and many motorcycle parts, is inherently research heavy. An extreme example where research is almost all of the cost is the $100 pill or injection that costs a nickel to make but which is the result of a billion dollars of research that went into the development of said medicine. Thus it is not correct to look at any particular brake caliper and judge it as excessively expensive for a simple device. One has no idea of the total bill.

but surly if single is superior...

And don't call me "surly". :laugh: