Brake Pad Choices

Ok since the HRC pads are no longer available for the RC51 or the 1000RR, I get a lot of requests of what "other" brake pads are recommended so I am going to give my opinion on what I have learned about brake pads over decades of racing, testing and instructing. The original HRC Pad review and info is still on this page it is just way down below everything else & then there is a little write up on brake fluid that might surprise some people...


0. Honda OEM Brake Pads have long since been an industry standard for the best OEM pads. Excellent longevity, stopping power in both wet & dry conditions and great feel from them without being too aggressive on initial bite. Obviously perfectly suited for street riding, but can be used at the track as well. The only real downside is the cost from the local dealerships that usually like to charge a premium at the parts counter.

1. The Vesrah SRJL XX are the best pads I have ever used bar none, but they are also the most expensive. Their SRJL line is superb and their less aggressive RJL pads are simply pads you cannot go wrong with, but the cost of the pads along with the sometimes difficult time and effort it takes to acquire them had me looking for alternatives which I found in the following

2. Carbone Lorraine

The Carbone Lorraine C55/59 & now C60 Race Compound is almost as good as the Vesrah's, but usually less than half the price. These are the best value for the dollar you will find on the current market for brake pads period. Just for the record I started using the Carbone Lorraine C55's when I could no longer get HRC pads for OEM calipers and was very skeptical at first simply due to the low cost of them, but they really get the job done. I like them because they are powerful and predictable plus the hotter you get them the better they work. It's like they really enjoy the abuse. The C60 compound is the latest and greatest. Since 2008 I have turned many racers and trackday junkies on to these pads and not one SINGLE person has come back to me with a complaint. In fact every one of them praise the race pads for their performance and they have solved a lot of issues that riders were having with other brands of race pads. I am telling you these are the best kept secret in the racing world as they really do work exactly like you think a race pad should.

Carbone Lorraine also makes a very formidable street compound the XBK5 that easily pulls double duty for trackdays similar to the Vesrah RJL Line. They are better than some OEM pads, not quite as good as others, but if you have a dealership trying to rape you over OEM brake pad prices then these make excellent alternatives for street use and can easily handle trackday duty as well. if you are turning full on race pace then I do suggest the C60's, but the XBK5 are more than sufficient for normal trackday riders.

3. SBS Dual Carbon

The SBS Dual Carbon's aren't bad either especially for the price point. They require heat to work, have good initial bite and only a tiny bit of fade when really aggressive, but once you hit that point of fade it NEVER gets any worse. The only real downside to them is they don't work well in the wet and in pouring rain they literally disintegrate into a graphite like mush in just a few track sessions.

4. Galfer pads

Every Galfer pad I have ever sampled including some of their supposedly new stuff over the last couple years no matter how much they cost or how many accolades had been thrown on them all seem to feel wooden to me and have tons of fade.

5. Performance Friction

I have only tried Performance Friction pads a couple of times and they have never failed to impress, but they seem to also be difficult to find consistently. I was using the #13 compound this last time around and while pleased with it I still went back to the Carbone Lorraine's when the PF pads wore out.

6. Ferodo Pads

I don't have much experience with Ferodo pads. They sent me a set to test back in 2004 and I think they were allegedly performance street pads called SinterGrip ST. Those were the worst pads I have ever used in my life with no consistency whatsoever. You literally never knew what kind of response you were going to get when you pulled the brake lever. Your mileage may vary and they may have a lot better offerings as well in the way of race pads, but that little test pretty much swayed me away from their brake pads... I have used some of their rotor products with excellent results and their ceramic composite stuff is in a league of its own if you can afford it!

7. EBC Pads (I don't like them)

The main pad people refer to when it comes to the EBC brand is their "HH" model. On the message forums some people swear by them and others always chime in accordingly, but in my experience they are crap... The backing plates are too thin and the heat causes them to warp which creates parasitic drag on the rotors. I have heard for several years now that EBC created a new kit pad with a thicker backing plate to address the warping issue, but nobody has ever been able to present me with a set of these new kit pads to confirm or test.

Now inevitably someone will pop up & spew out something along the lines of "I've been using them for years and have never had a warping problem", Yea well those are usually the same guys that say their tires "stuck like glue" all day when they review the latest rubber donut for their steed. If they never got the tire to spin up they simply weren't riding it hard enough to find the limit of traction and the same is true with brake pads. Those that don't have problems with the EBC pads are typically guys that aren't riding hard enough to need the HH Sintered pad to begin with and funny enough they are usually the one that praise them the most. A lot of my racer buds used to put EBC stickers on their bikes for contingency money as well, but never actually ran the pads in the bike so be wary of equating what you see on the racetrack to what is really getting the job done...

15 years ago when there were no other choices for HH type pads the EBC's were better than most in spite of the warping problem (although I preferred DP pads back then), but huge advances have been made in the technology behind the brake pad compounds and now there are many far better choices out there. In fact I think the OEM honda pads outperform many of the race pads from even just a few years ago. The OEM Honda pads have the feel, feedback and outright stopping power as well as the longevity that puts most race pads to shame from the same time period that the EBC HH pads were initially introduced.

Another interesting little note is EBC Rotors. I've had 2 different customers come forward recently with issues of their brand new EBC rotors eating through new pads like they were butter. It appears that the latest crop of EBC rotors are coming with extremely sharp edges in the slots or holes in the rotor. These sharp edges basically wear the pads down at an almost unbelievable rate until the edges dull enough to slow down the wear... In my opinion it is a design flaw, but what do you really expect from an aftermarket rotor that costs less than half of any other aftermarket rotor on the market...

8. Brembo Brand Brake Pads

UPDATE: I have been remiss to not mention the Brembo Race Pads designated as the Z04 compound. These are excellent pads on par with the Vesrah race pads and I have nothing bad to say about them except they are even harder to get. They are simply not readily available at any outlets so if you are going to use them then stock up when you can and make sure you always have backups ready to go. Also be aware that many of the lower end Brembo calipers (like my GP4-RX) come with a Brembo Brake Pad compound that is completely unsuited for track use so be prepared to throw those away and purchase a proper race pad if you intend on going to the track.


Race Pads vs. Street Pads:

There are a number of important differences between brake pads designed for the track or the street. Having a good understanding of these differences when choosing which pad to put on your machine can mean the difference between having a safe ride with your buddies on the street, your best time ever at the track or just keeping yourself alive.

1. Generally speaking, race pads require more heat than street to perform properly. That means on a cold misty morning, with race pads on your bike, if you go ripping down to the end of your street and grab a handful of brake, you will pretty much blow right through the stop sign and end up in the middle of the road before you stop. Some are better than others, but in my experience the better the race pad is at doing racetrack stuff, the less effective it is at managing colder street ride duties. Obviously this can be alleviated by doing some short brake drags and getting the temp up on the pads, but let's be honest: most riders just aren't responsible and informed enough to be trusted with such a simple, yet important task.

2. Race Pads Typically wear out faster than Street Pads regardless of whether they are being used on the street or track. This has left more than one rider sitting on the side of the road waiting on a buddy to come pick him up because he misjudged how much pad he really had left for his weekend ride to Eureka Springs or Deals Gap etc. The average rider is likely not aware of this nor are they prepared to do the maintenance as often as the typical, prepared track rider who regularly changes tires and inspects pads and rotors.

3. The key benefit of race pads is that they have a much higher resistance to brake fade when used at prolonged and higher temperatures. They will slow you down much more effectively from high speeds than will a street pad.

4. Race pads are designed to have a tuned amount of initial bite, allowing a racer more choice in the way the pad first attacks the rotor. Sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing like when you have 4 Pad monobloc's which means 8 leading edges of brake pad hitting the rotor at the same time causing A LOT of initial bite. In a case like that, a pad with less initial bite in the compound design could help offset the effects etc. What works well for a racer threshold braking and then trailing off as he approaches the apex of a grippy racetrack may not work so well for a street rider needing to scrub speed or slow mid-corner for an unexpected obstacle or decreasing radius turn. Ultimately it is nice to have choices.

Street Pads naturally, show opposite characteristics. They generally work really well from a cold start and as they heat up to normal operating temps, they remain consistent in feel. However, at or near race pace (or if the rider is abusing the brakes by granny dragging them too often and overbraking) they start to suffer fade in performance. They typically have less initial bite, but are always consistent in the way they build friction to the point they start to fall off.

Rotor Prep
When changing to a new brake pad compound it is important that you strip the old pad compound off the rotors. The best way is to bead blast the rotor, but not everybody has access to a bead blasting cabinet so you can also use the maroon Scotch-Brite pads & Simple Green to scrub the rotors thoroughly. This is not really a difficult task, but if your fingers don't ache when you are done then you probably didn't scrub them long enough. It takes about 20 minutes (5 minutes per each side of the rotor) to get the job done. Make sure you rinse them well afterwards, cold water does just fine.

Once you try the Simple Green on your brakes it will become a part of your ritual maintenance for cleaning your brakes after each event. Some people use aerosol Brake Cleaners instead of Simple Green & this works well too as long as you don't have a crappy brand that leaves an invisible residue on the rotor & unfortunately many of them do so I tend to stay away from the aerosols altogether.

Bedding in Pads:
Best way I have learned to bed in new pads to the peaks and valleys in the rotors is to get the bike up to about 70mph and slow it down to about 30mph 4-5 times in a row with moderate braking pressure DO NOT COME TO A COMPLETE STOP WHILE DOING THIS as that can cause the pad material to melt and stick to the hot rotor. There are 2 ways to glaze your rotors and both of them are from too much heat. If you drag the brakes at slow speeds for too long they overheat and if you panic stop to hard lifting the rear wheel into the air etc they overheat. If they overheat the pad compound melts on the rotor and braking effectiveness is reduced.

Brake Pad Condition:
Change your pads before they are worn out! When you wear the pad material too thin it causes the heat generated by friction during braking to be transmitted through the backing plate of the brake pad and into the braking system. Brake Fluid is hygroscopic which means it absorbs water from the atmosphere. This water when heated will boil and turn to gas which then makes the brake lines spongy. The older the brake fluid the more time it has had to absorb water and the worse it will perform.

Brake Fluids:
Over the years I have used every brand of brake fluid you can think of from $100 a bottle Castrol SRF to multiple Brembo formulas to Motul RBF600 and unless you are torturing your brakes to the point it boils the brake fluid which I have only seen happen on endurance bikes raced by the cream of the crop racers then all the brake fluids work equally well. Most of the time I use the $2.99 a bottle Valvoline Synpower DOT 3/4 available on the shelf from just about any auto parts store in this country. Because a customer gave me some after a special brake overhaul on a Corbin Sparrow EV I am currently using the ATE Superblue and yet again I notice no difference whatsoever in ANY of the brands. From OEM calipers to the top of the line Brembo 4 pad Monobloc's and back to the brembo GP4's I am running currently I know how to use and abuse the brakes...

HRC Pads

First a little history of the product; For those of you that don't know about them HRC has sold brake pads for most current model Honda Supersport bikes for years & they are designed to give race type performance with the stainless steel rotors. The HRC pads we used on the RC51 & F4i are without a doubt the best brake pads I have ever used on stock rotors. They are second only in feel & stopping power to a full on Brembo caliper & rotor set-ups costing much much more... The only downside is the cost was about $160 per set of 4 to do the complete front end, but they worked well enough that we spent the money on them.

Now the race kit for the 1000RR has Brembo calipers instead of the OEM Tokico's so the HRC pads they made for the RR were of course designed to fit the Brembo's, but this year they went to Tokico calipers on the 600RR & in doing so ended up making HRC pads to fit them & since they are the same caliper they use on the RR they of course fit! Again the downside to this is they are rediculously expensive at $320 a set...

Part # 45105-NL3-621 (hard initial bite)
Part # 45106-NL3-921 (softer initial bite)

I prefer the softer bite & I cannot tell you just how happy I am now with the brakes on the RR, they feel almost identical the RC51 brakes that I loved so much & trying them out for the first time was like hopping into bed with an ex-girlfriend. I immediately went out & dropped my lap times due to the confidence & feel I was getting from the front end under braking.