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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 08:32 AM Thread Starter
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Front Brakes

Hi folks. I need a little advice, and I know this is the place to go!

I have a 2001 VN 750 that I bought a year and a half ago with under 5k miles. I put on about 12k miles. I read that the front brakes are pretty aggressive on these bikes, but mine feel very grabby. There is very little travel on the brake lever. I recently ended up on my ass when I jerked instead of squeezed at relatively slow speed when I car pulled out in front of me. Part of the problem is my lack of experience (riding just over 2 years) but in my defense there is precious little squeeze before the brakes lock up. I was wondering whether the hyper sensitivity of the front brakes could be something mechanical that I need to address. Any suggestions?

Last edited by T-Bone; 07-18-2018 at 08:35 AM.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 09:12 AM
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My thinking here without being able to test them myself is you just need to learn a softer touch. If they aren't scraping the discs when riding and seem to grab with little pressure they would seem to be working fine. Did this just start happening or been like this since you got the bike?

You can check for warped discs, or replace the fluid and see if there's crap in the master cylinder.

What's the condition of the brake pads? You could also try installing new pads and see if that changes things.

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Last edited by Knifemaker; 07-18-2018 at 09:16 AM.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 09:17 AM
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Agreed. UNless perhaps you are metal on metal and there is no pad left but it would make a god aweful sound. I want my brakes to be pretty strong. You are only using two maybe three fingers fingers to pull the lever.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Pads are good and the wear appears about even. The brakes are smooth (no pulse on application) so the rotors are not warped. It's been like this since I purchase the bike. I suspect the brake fluid is original, so it would probably be a good idea to change it out. I don't know if pads become funky with age (can't see why they would) but while I'm at it I'll change those too.

If in your experience they are just beefy brakes, then the softer touch is the answer.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 10:10 AM
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Make sure the caliper bolts are snug and there's no play in the wheel bearings.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by T-Bone View Post
I recently ended up on my ass when I jerked instead of squeezed at relatively slow speed when I car pulled out in front of me.
I'm curious, as somebody with a hell of a lot less riding experience than you (I've got like 6 or 7 weeks): Was your front wheel straight when you applied the front brakes?

The only real brake scare that I've had so far as a light that changed when I apparently wasn't ready for it. I thought I was, but I was also riding at night, on a relatively unfamiliar road. Not a great decision, but I'm also glad that I made it through my first "panic stop," for lack of a better word. It wasn't really an emergency stop, just a very rapid stop that I hadn't planned for, and which went a little clumsier than I would have hoped.

I might as well explain it a little more, while I'm at it, even though it has little to do with the topic. Realizing I had to get the thing stopped, and I had enough speed that it was going to have to be a much faster stop than I'm used to, I'm pretty sure that I went for both brakes, and I must not have hit either of them too hard, because I'm not aware of either wheel having locked up. The main issue that I had was my engine was revving a bit when I did come to a stop. I had the clutch it (which is good), because my throttle hand hadn't really let the throttle go, while applying whatever front brake I applied. So once I stopped (and I know I definitely used some front brake, because I noticed the light from my headlights go down and then back up when I stopped. It was a pretty decent amount of fork compression on this stop.

I suppose it's possible, by the way, that either the front or the back wheel locked. Maybe both. I know for sure that my bars were straight, and I assume that gives you quite a bit more locking margin.

Anyway, once I stopped, I then focused on taking care of transmission matters. The light was still green, so I put the bike into neutral before I did anything else, and then I focused on letting go of my white-knuckle grip on the bars and catching my breath. I recovered fairly well, ready to go by the time the light turned green. So I considered myself fairly lucky.

And obviously, I'm grateful that the bike performed. Grateful that I didn't completely panic, grateful that the bike did its job, and grateful that I made it home that night without further incident.

I generally have better experiences at traffic lights. I notice they're coming up, I'm ready to stop if I need to, ready to commit to going when appropriate, watching for the unexpected, even if it's green, and my muscle memory of the routine has gotten pretty good. But I must have taken my mental eye off the ball for this one light. I just misjudged it. I had determined it was going to stay green, even though I wasn't close enough to be able to stick with that determination when it surprisingly changed.

Hopefully all this preparation on the muscle memory fundamentals will pay off when I inevitably get cut off by somebody who doesn't see me.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: I definitely notice that my bike has very powerful front brakes, but I have not considered them to be TOO powerful or grabby. Of course, I can only speak for myself and my bike.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-18-2018, 11:39 PM
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I've had a few older bikes that had been neglected before I got them. If the fluid is old, your brakes aren't going to work right. Applying the brakes isn't going to give a nice smooth progression from light application to hard application of the brakes. It'll be notchy. Squeeze a little bit and not much will happen, squeeze a little harder and the brakes will suddenly grab quite aggressively. I think you'll be surprised how much improvement you'll see with just a brake fluid change. OTOH, I doubt that changing out the brake pads will give much benefit. I haven't seen that, but the bikes I've purchased have generally been garage-kept. I suppose if everything is all rusty and nasty, then all bets are off.

Another thing that'll really improve how things work is getting some grease on all the various pivot points. I'm talking about brake lever, clutch lever, brake pedal, etc. Also some graphite lube on clutch cable, choke cable, throttle cables, etc.

Don't forget the spline lube, either!

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-20-2018, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you. You pretty much described what happens. Under normal conditions a smooth application of the front brake seems to work but when I go to a quick stop and apply pressure more aggressively there is almost a crunch sound and it comes on hard. There's no rust and everything is pretty clean. I'll try changing out the fluid and will check the glide points to see if they were pitted or rusted from lack of use before I bought it.

One of my happier moments with this bike was when I took off the rear wheel for a tire change and found a happy, well greased spline!

Last edited by T-Bone; 07-20-2018 at 11:43 AM.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-20-2018, 11:40 AM Thread Starter
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It was a strange set of circumstances. I was going around a 90 degree left turn and came upon the intersection, so I was already going slow. The driver was coming out of a side street that ended at the road I was on. I saw her look left (toward me) as I was in the turn. Apparently she didn't see me because she turned to look right and began pulling out in front of me. I was going pretty slow but I grabbed the brake and next thing I knew I was on the ground. I wish I had video - I'm sure it looked very comical. There were no skid marks. The bike just went from a slow roll - say 5 or 10 mph - to an instant stop and fell over before I got a leg down. There was nothing progressive about the stop - it was like someone put a pipe in my spokes. Thus, my question about the brakes.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-20-2018, 02:36 PM
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Sounds to me you were in a precarious position. I've seen several people fall over doing that exact move you just wrote. I think you just need to practice more at slow speeds and learn fine clutch and brake controls.
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