Long-Term Yamaha R1: SBS Brake Pad Upgrade

Superbike Horsepower? I Want Superbike Braking Power!

Zack Courts Project R1 brake pad upgrade
It’s not as hard as I’m making it look to change brake pads. But, being meticulous with brakes is essential. I’ve watched what happens when pads fall out of the caliper because the process was rushed, and it’s ugly.©Motorcyclist

Wrist: Zack Courts
MSRP (2015): $16,490
Miles: 2740
MPG: 34
Mods: SBS brake pads

This R1 is not the king of horsepower, but with nearly 170 horsepower at the rear contact patch it's got plenty of stomp for me. What I've never really liked are the brakes. To be fair, the stock R1 binders are very good, but having a roadracing background I always just want more bite from stock brakes. Double-sintered, extra molasses, magnetic-bite brakes; that's what I want.

Yamaha YZF-R1 OEM and SBS brake pads
The sintered SBS pad (left) differs only slightly visually from the stocker—an extra cooling groove is pretty much it—but they bite harder.©Motorcyclist

Since brakes are all SBS thinks about, I called them up and asked for the pit bull of pad options. There were more options than I realized, and I actually opted for the second-most aggressive—the RS series. The RS pieces are a step up from the recommended HS series but a step down from the race-only DS pads (there’s also a DC, which simulates carbon). SBS says that the RS is good for aggressive street use and trackday or club racing—exactly what I want to do.

Project Yamaha R1, SBS brake pad shims
If you’re spicy aftermarket pads are noisy, SBS makes a shim to suppress the squeal. Also, always label your brake pads in case of reassembly!©Motorcyclist

I misunderstood the directions given by the SBS rep and installed the provided shims on the back of the pads (meant to kill noise at low speed) on my first go at it. But since the shims are a fibrous rubber they also made the lever pull pretty soft. After a few hundred miles I removed the shims and went back to just the pads. The result is much-improved feel at the lever to go on top of sharper initial bite from the pads. Overall, I'm pleased with the upgrade, and happy that the SBS pads don't cost a fortune. Unlike some OE or aftermarket firms that charge a couple hundred bucks for replacement pads, it's $45 per set for the RS pads at sbs-friction.dk.