Brake Pads, Oil, and Rear Axle Questions | Answers


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Compound Conundrum
I'm in need of front and rear brake pads for my 1995 Kawasaki Concours. There are so many types now—Kevlar, ceramic, organic, composite—it's confusing. I'm thinking HH, since I'm a sport rider first and then a tourer. However, I can't complain about the stock pads. They had good initial bite and have worked well over the last 20,000 miles. I don't care about longevity—I want to stop!
Jim Brininger
Sacramento, CA

_ As you’ve already discovered, brake pads are like tires: Hard riding can cook the life out of them before they’re observably spent. Getting 20,000 miles from the stock ones is admirable, especially when they’ve been stopping 640-something lbs. of motorcycle. We put your query to Jeff Gehrs, head man at Brake Tech (, to help narrow things down. There are two basic categories of friction materials, he says. Organicincluding semi-metallic like Kevlar/aramid fiber, carbon, ceramic, etc.and sintered metal, often referred to as full-metal: a process whereby powdered metal (typically copper/bronze formulations) is baked in high-temperature furnaces to near-melting point, fusing it to a copper-plated metal backing plate._

All friction materials operate on the universal transfer-film principle, depositing a very thin layer of friction material onto the operational surface of the brake rotor. To keep things simple and minimize potential for bedding-in problems, it’s typically best to stay with the same basic friction material you’ve been using. Otherwise, you’ll need to remove the existing friction material with a rotor-cleaning tool such as a Rotor Hone or bead blaster. We always recommend this step before installing new pads.

Oil's Well
After years of pressure from my wife, kids, insurance agent and some nameless, heartless humanoid at the Department of Motor Vehicles, I sold my 2003 Suzuki GSX-R1000 and funneled the proceeds into a low-mileage 2010 Harley-Davidson Road King. Domestic tranquility is restored, and all is as well as can be expected except for one thing: I still have one very expensive case of high-performance 20w50 100-percent synthetic motor oil out in the garage that kept the Suzuki's internals very happy, but my new Harley brothers insist the Twin Cam 96 crankcase must ingest nothing but V-Twin- specific lube. I'm not convinced. You?
Emiliano Mendoza
San Antonio, TX

_ Go ahead and use what you have. We would. A V-twin-specific oil may be formulated slightly differently, depending on its manufacturer’s idea of what works best. For instance, you might find more friction modifiers in something that’s only going into the crankcase, or less in something designed to be used in the primary case as well. Too much slippery stuff and the clutch plates can’t get a grip. But any good 10w40 or 20w50 motorcycle-specific synthetic should work just fine in this case. The most important thing is to change it and the filter when the book tells you to. So once that case is empty, shop around and buy another one from a brand you trust. If something with V-twin on the label makes you feel better, go for it._


Chain In Pain
The rear axle on my bike is just about as far back in the swingarm as it will go. Does that mean I need a new chain? If so, is there anything else that needs to be replaced at the same time—like the sprockets?

_ Once the axle is all the way back, it’s time for a new chain. If you’re looking for more evidence, adjust chain tension to factory spec and try pulling a link away from the rear sprocket. If you can lift it much more than a quarter-inch, it’s done. Replace the front and rear sprockets at the same time—the worn-out originals would stretch a new chain prematurely. One possible exception might be if you’ve got an aftermarket aluminum rear sprocket; that would tend to wear out quicker than a steel countershaft. _