We live in a great time. Most bikes these days possesses incredible braking capability, with a single finger good enough to haul a bike down on most mainstream sport bikes. One area they seem to scrimp on more than most is the budget cruiser market segment. Here we have bikes that weigh about 50% more than most sport bikes, and are typically braked with totally inferior components. Non- floating rotors, single front discs; even drums aren’t out of place here. Thankfully, there is a quick upgrade you can do with most of these bikes to improve braking feel for little cost and 30 minutes of your time. Most factory budget cruisers will come with rubber brake lines. These lines require replacement every 3-4 years and under intense pressure, will bulge out a little bit. This bulging removes some of the feel of the brakes, making it more difficult to tell if you’re at the edge of traction or far from it. It feels kind of . . .squishy.
The alternative to rubber brake lines are braided steel lines. They’re more expensive than the plain rubber lines, but will last for the life of the bike, and do not bulge like rubber lines. There are no real downsides to going with stainless braided lines; they just add too much on the bottom line for factories to put on budget motorbikes. The Suzuki M50 is known for its particularly weak brakes and poor feel. I chose to upgrade its brake lines to revive some of the braking feel. If you have a popular model, you should be able to find lines that are pre-cut and have the right fittings. If your model is less popular you’ll need to specify the measurements and fittings to the line manufacturer. You can even choose colors.
If you’re running 2 calipers on the front, the manufacturer will most likely run the two lines directly off the master cylinder rather than T-ing off in the middle as most factory systems do. Other than the brake line kit (which should come with banjo bolts and crush washers), you’ll need the correct brake fluid for your bike, a torque wrench, something to keep brake fluid off your bike, and optionally a brake bleeding kit and a syringe. Vacuum or gravity brake bleeding kits make bleeding the brakes faster.
The first step is to bleed all fluid from your brake system. Open your master cylinder from the top and take a look at your brake fluid. If yours is like mine, it’s thick and has some goopy junk in the bottom. Attach a line to the bleeding nipple on your caliper, and bleed the system according to your bike’s manual. If you have issues bleeding all the fluid from the master cylinder, use the syringe to suck out all the remaining nasty fluid. With the system bled, remove your factory rubber brake line. Have a rag below the lines when you loosen and remove the factory banjo bolts in case a little brake fluid dribbles out. Quickly rinse any spilled brake fluid off your bike with soapy water. Put the new line in place and ensure that the fittings match up with where they’re supposed to be.
Clean off the mating surfaces, use a crush washer on either side of the fitting, and put the banjo bolt on finger tight. Next, torque down the banjo bolt using your torque wrench set to the brake line manufacturers specifications. These can vary from 12-25 ft-lbs, and the banjo bolts will snap easily, so make sure you get it right. Finally, refill the master cylinder with the correct DOT brake fluid and recharge the system according to your manuals specifications. This is where a brake bleeding kit or system can really save you time. That’s about it.
From start to finish with the correct tools, you’re looking at 30 minutes of work. For just a little bit more than it would cost to buy OEM rubber brake lines that you need to replace every 4 years, you could get superior braking out of lines that lasted as long as your bike would. It’s an inexpensive, easy to do upgrade.