Not having ridden a modern Guzzi with integrated brakes, I didn't know what to expect. I was used to the old two-finger squeeze on the front lever to slow a motorcycle down, like I do when riding my 1995 1100 Sport. Using my foot on my 1998 EV took some doing. Although the obvious advantage of the linked brakes was the bike would squat, as opposed to dive, under braking. I still wasn't comfortable with having to lift my foot off the floorboard, find the small rubber heel perch, then depress the foot lever. I'm sure there's some engineering reason behind why they used the foot lever instead of the hand lever to actuate the integrated brakes, but I never really got comfortable using the foot lever on my EV.
So I decided to de-link the integrated brakes on my EV, and have them operate like normal motorcycle brakes: the front lever operates the dual discs up front, and the foot lever operates the rear disc only. I found some diagrams of the integrated brake system, so I would have a better idea of what lay in store for me. The front should be easy, requiring new brake lines and a different master cylinder. The rear should be a simple matter of removing the integrated front line, and replacing it with a banjo bolt. I knew the rear brake pedal would become hard, and hoped that a Ducati Brembo master cylinder I was going to use on the front would do the trick. I'd try it, and if I wasn't satisfied with it, I'd pay a visit to a local motorcycle salvage yard and find something there. This Brembo master cylinder came off of a Ducati Superlight I used to own. I replaced it with a unit from a Suzuki GSX-R1100, and combined with the braided lines, Brembo calipers and full-floating rotors, that bike would stop on a dime and give you change!
Before I started this whole process, I took a piece of string and measured how long each brake line would have to be if I ran them directly from the Ducati Brembo master cylinder I was planning on using. The line lengths I came up with were 31 and 34. These lines are shorter than the regular EV lines because I replaced the stock EV handlebar with a lower Superbike bar. With these measurements in mind, I looked on eBay to see if there were comparable lines for a Japanese bike that would work. After several inquiries, the closest one I found was for a 1990 Kawasaki ZX-10. But for what the seller was asking, I figured I could have some lines custom made for almost the same price. I called a local motorcycle shop who was also a Galfer distributor, told them what I was doing, and they said they'd see what they could do. I got a call from Dean at Galfer within an hour, and I spoke to him about my de-linking project. He said he could make up some custom lines, with the screw-in fittings at the caliper end instead of the normal banjo fittings, and charge me the regular kit price of $95. This kit would also include a new double-line banjo bolt for the master cylinder, and all the copper crush washers I'd need. I also asked Dean if they had full-floating rotors in stock for my EV, which they did. He said he could drop the rotors and lines off at the motorcycle shop on his way home from work, and have them there in about three hours. I called the motorcycle shop back so they could place the order with Dean, and true to his word the lines and rotors were ready for me when I went there after work. This all happened on a Friday afternoon, so my rainy weekend project was off to a good start!
I started by removing the gas tank, chrome steering head cover on the left side, and the side panels, so I would have easier access to the integrated front line and rear brake reservoir. While I was at it, I removed the airbox lid and cut a large rectangular section out of it, to flow more air to the K&N filter. Following the front integrated brake line, I found where it plumbed into the rear system. I disconnected the metal brake line at the rubber brake line, then removed it at the other end, where it connects to a brake valve. I stuffed a rag underneath, removed the brake valve, and replaced it with a single line banjo bolt. I removed the caliper from the fork leg, then pulled the integrated rubber brake line away from the bike, keeping the open end of the hose high so it wouldn't dribble brake fluid. I then placed the caliper on a rag, and removed the brake line, letting the rag catch whatever residual fluid was left in the line. This pretty much took care of the integrated front brake line.
I repeated this process for the normal brake line on the right side. Using a suction device, I removed as much brake fluid as I could from the master cylinder. I took the caliper off the fork leg, then removed the brake line at the reservoir. I put the caliper on a rag, and removed the master cylinder from the handlebar, holding it with a rag to make sure no brake fluid dripped on the bike. I removed the brake line at the caliper, and now both front lines were off and the calipers were ready to be mounted back on the fork legs.
I did one side at a time, starting with the left caliper because it had the longer brake line. I attached the brake line to the caliper, getting it snug but not tight so the brake line could still rotate as it made its way up to the handlebar. I repeated this process for the right caliper. Then I bolted the Ducati Brembo master cylinder on the handlebar, again making it snug so I could still make small adjustments. I connected the dual lines to the master cylinder, using the double banjo bolt and crush washers. Once everything was in position, I started to tighten everything down. I then added new brake fluid, and proceeded to bleed the front lines. I did it the old-fashioned way, by pumping the brake lever, holding it, loosening the bleed nipple, watching the fluid exit into a clear hose down into a jar, and repeating until I was satisfied the lines were free of any air bubbles and the new fluid was in both lines at the caliper end. I had to top off the master cylinder a couple of times, wanting to make sure I didn't get the fluid so low that I pumped air into the lines. After about 30 minutes, I was satisfied the lines were bled.
Next was bleeding the rear brake line, and since I couldn't pump the foot lever and loosen the bleed nipple at the same time, I asked my 7-year old daughter to help. While I worked the bleed nipple, she pushed on the foot lever and held it down. After I tightened it up, she'd pump the lever and hold it while I bled the line again. This took maybe 15 minutes, and that line was done.
Next to go on were the Galfer full-floating rotors. I had to take the front wheel to a shop to get the stock rotor bolts out, because they were seized. I told them I was going to replace them with new stainless allen head bolts, so if the stock ones got chewed up in the process of removal that was fine by me. I used a metal brush on the hub where the rotors would mount, scraping away any old Loctite that remained, and used some compressed air to blow out the bolt holes. The rotors fit perfectly, and I used some anti-seize on the new stainless allen head bolts. I took the front calipers off, remounted the front wheel on the bike, put the calipers back on, tightened everything back up, and the bike was ready for a road test.
I put about 50 miles on a short road test, and the brakes worked just as I had expected. The fronts have the old familiar two-finger squeeze, hauling the bike down from speed without too much drama. The rear pedal is hard, not having much feel, but is more than capable of slowing the bike down when approaching a stop. A difference I noticed with the full-floating rotors is they don't pulse like the old ones did when I used the front lever only, which may have been a sign that the stock right-side rotor was warped. Dean at Galfer said it would take at least 100 miles for the rotors to break in, and for the buttons to loosen up so the rotors would float. He said they won't rattle like the Brembos I have on my '95 1100 Sport, but they'll still float.
[Ed Note: The pulsing is definitely a warped Fuji brake rotor. These stock rotors are known for this if used energetically. I replaced the first pair of stock rotors on my '98 EV via the warranty. It wasn't long and the second set of rotors started to warp. So I bought a pair of full floating Brembo rotors for the front and by that time the rear brake rotor was starting to warp too. The rear rotor was replaced under warranty, and the second one is still on my EV. The front rotors became so bent, that the front end of the EV would sort of pogo up and down when I came to a stop. Not a pleasant experience. However, most people have not experienced this kind of problem. -FW]
Another upgrade I considered was to install some 6-piston calipers. I searched eBay and Yahoo! to see if there were some 6-piston calipers with 40mm mounting tabs available, and the only ones I could find were brand new Nissins that retailed for $285 a side with new pads. I asked Dean at Galfer about this, and he said that the 4-piston Brembo setup I already have on the bike is better than a 6-piston system. He said depending on the size of the pistons in a 6-piston caliper, the stock master cylinder could feel mushy and not be up to the task. The master cylinder would have to push through enough fluid to activate as much as 50% more piston area than before, and without upgrading to a bigger master cylinder piston the brakes would feel spongy. This made sense to me, and when I remembered that Brembo makes some of the best motorcycle brake systems in the world, and they are Italian, I'd save my money and maybe get a new clutch installed!
All in all, it was a learning experience for me to de-link the brakes on my EV. With some careful planning and sheer luck with Galfer, it was a project one could easily accomplish in a few hours with regular tools. Just remember to think it through, and make sure you have everything you need to get the job done right the first time (brake lines, banjo bolts, crush washers, front master cylinder, new brake fluid, rags, anti-seize, etc). Feel free to send me an e-mail if you're contemplating this, and I'll be more than happy to answer your questions.
'98 V11 EV
'95 1100 Sport