Friday, February 4, 2011

Key engineering advances #6: Disc brakes

Cars were ahead of bikes in the adoption of this technology for a couple of reasons: cars’ heavier weight made braking more of a challenge, and it was easier for automotive engineers to incorporate early hydraulic systems, which were quite bulky. The idea of disc brakes dated way back to 1901, when Frederick William Lanchester patented a brake that operated on a car’s clutch plate.

In the early ‘60s, the tiny Mini Cooper rally car had disc brakes and these units attracted the attention of motorcycle racers. Canadian Grand Prix racing star Mike Duff was one of the first racers to adapt Mini Cooper brakes to his Yamaha 250. 
Just five or six years after the first race bikes showed up with disc brakes borrowed from Mini rally cars, Honda spec'd a disc on the CB750K1. It was not that much of an improvement over the best drum brakes, but was a lot more cost effective, and another visual clue - along with those four exhausts - that Honda had arrived.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, early iteration of disc brakes. I had a GT750 Suzuki, the first one with disc brakes. The first time I rode it in the pouring rain I was doing about 200 km/h when the lights 500m ahead changed to yellow. I gently applied the brakes and *nothing whatsoever* happened. I sailed through the red light at about 190, up the hill beyond and half way down the other side before any actual braking took place. I learnt that you had to ride with one finger gently applying the brake the whole time. It's a wonder any of us survived.