Friday, November 4, 2011

Vulcan 900 Brake Pads

Motorcycle maintenance is more like a riddle than an art, according to "The Lost Motorcyclist".

For the first time since I bought a 1972 Honda scrambler six years ago, I was able to do some actual motorcycle maintenance in my garage. That's because I found a new home for the scrambler last week, and now there is enough space in the garage again for me to work on the remaining bikes.

Let's begin with what happened this morning. I rode my Vulcan 900 Classic over to Zdeno's, where they were able to install a new rear tire while I waited. During the install, I was informed that the brake pads were getting thin, and I asked them to replace the rear pads while they had the wheel off. While that was being done, I had time to reflect on all the years that I insisted on doing all the maintenance myself, and how this golden rule was being broken down step by step. This was another step, the first time I let someone else replace my brake pads (or shoes as we used to say in the sixties).

When I got home I suddenly realized that there were pads on the front of the bike too, and that they had never been inspected either, and they probably needed replacing even more than the rear pads. So I got on the bike again and drove across town in rush hour traffic to pick up a new pair of pads for the front. These, I would install myself.

I didn't have time to work on the bike until 8:00 PM. Normally I would not work on my bike in the driveway when it is dark out and 3c, but I remembered that I could now work in my "roomy" and well lit garage.

At first, everything went well. I removed the two caliper bolts as per the shop manual. Then I got stuck. The rim of the wheel prevented the caliper from coming off the rotor. I wasted no more than a minute fiddling with it, then came inside the house to jump on the internet and get some helpful advice from the Vulcan Forum. For some reason, I have never seen the internet so slooooow. I looked up post after post, and no one said anything about a difficulty removing the caliper. Finally I came to conclusion that (1) my bike was different from everyone else's (2) Or, it was so simple that no one else thought it worth mentioning.

I went back out to the garage and fiddled around until I realized that I needed to bend the fender a little (It's plastic, so that's OK) and my brake hose was a bit short because it was wrapped around my custom windshield bracket. Also the far side of the caliper was shorter than the side near to me, and the whole caliper was closer to coming off than I realized.

So, caliper is off, what next. "Remove clip pin" it says. I don't see a clip pin. Also, I don't know that a clip pin is supposed to look like. Is this some new 21st century technology? So I start working over the pad post with pliers, until I notice something moving in the crack between the pad and the bracket. Hey that must be the clip pin in there. I look in with a flashlight and some reading glasses, and there it is. Once you see something, it really is a lot easier to remove, and now I even remember what a clip pin looks like. I have seen many of them before.

When I bought these new brake pads, I was a bit worried because these are the first pads I have ever seen where the pair do not match. With the old pads, the only way you could mount them wrong would be to put the friction material pointing away from the disk instead of toward the disk (don't ask). With asymmetrical pads, there are many more ways (in theory, maybe four ways) to install them wrong. Anyway, lets continue with our look at the new brake pads. These pads have a very clever design feature, that you only need to remove one clip and shaft, to take out both the pads. Up till now, I have always had to remove two shafts (with their clips) per pair of pads. This new design is more complicated to think through. But it is simpler to build, and uses fewer moving parts, and is quicker to change the pads. I also noticed that the way the caliper is constructed, it is very unlikely to rust solid and stop working properly. That is the kind of progress that I like. Simpler and better ways to design things. Nothing much to brag about, because it is actually cheaper, but still an improvement because the performance stays 100% much longer and less maintenance is needed.


  1. Yes ... the last time I saw your rear tire, it looked like it was on the verge of the 'adhesion breakthrough' (i.e. where you regain traction because of the grip of the cord ;-)

    You write, 'But it is simpler to build, and uses fewer moving parts, and is quicker to change the pads.' ... 'fixed' vs floating calipers?

  2. I am going to replace at least the front brake pads for my 900LT as soon as this is the first beginning of the change. I really do not want to upgrade the most performance pads. Front pad storage cried for the first 1,500 km makes me mad.

  3. I am not really sure that the post from "Motorcycle Brake Pads" is spam, even thought there is a commercial link in the id.

    The link goes to a California site where I can order a front and rear set of Vulcan 900 LT brake pads for $10 plus shipping. Compare that to $80 for the set I just bought locally.

    The picture of the pads shows that the front and rear are not interchangeable, although they are almost identical - they are mirror images.

    The comment itself made sense up to "900LT as soon as", and from then on, it was puzzling. Does "cried for the first 1,500 km" mean the brakes squeaked?

  4. You write, 'I am not really sure that the post from "Motorcycle Brake Pads" is spam.'

    Yes, of course it is. It's blog spam - transparent spamdexing ... a no-value-added post simply to get that site higher in the page rankings.

    That post is largely unintelligible because it was machine-generated or posted by some third-world slave with a poor grasp of English ;-)

    Best policy: simply delete the posting.

  5. Well, I thought that "crying brake pads" was actually kind of poetic.

    I think I would be OK with it if the link to the brake pad website was in the body of the comment instead of in the ID. Or is that just giving ideas to the spammers?

  6. This article discusses 'comment factories.'

    You can see an example of spamming through the commenter name link in the second illustration in this article.

  7. Nice stuff about brake pads, I usually use Centric Brake Pads for my newly BMW.