After chafing at home for 11 straight days as the climate-change-skewed weather alternated between freezing, snowing and raining, yesterday I was able to put 2 hours on the Dukino to test out my new front brake combination:
Galfer 320mm rotor and Frando 15mm radial master cylinder. I came home chilled, but very pleased at the power and control of these new components.
I have long thought that the Duke's stock ByBre MC is something of a weak link in the front brake chain: It works adequately, but has little tactile feedback, requires relatively high effort, and even after being thoroughly bled, it still retains a kind of murky, springy, indistinct feel. It stops the bike, but does not provide the kind of feedback, effortless power and easy control of brake dosage that many experienced riders seek. I decided to look for something better.
I first looked at Brembo's RCS 15 (see HardRacing), a beautiful, race-oriented and pricey unit festooned with features such as on-the-fly lever ratio changing, folding lever and expensive Brembo logo. An exquisite piece, perfect for racing, but definitely overkill for my kind of enthusiastic but rational street riding. I researched and was drawn to Frando, a high-quality Taiwanese brake system manufacturer whose products are similar in design and quality to the major Asian brake makers such as Nissin and Tokico. Frando, however, is lesser known, especially in the NA and EU markets, has lower manufacturing costs and is therefore able to match Nissin and Tokico (and Brembo) at a significantly lower price point. Frando has quite a complete selection of master cylinders, calipers, rotors and accessories.
FRANDO- Brake System CHE LIWU CO., LTD.
I decided on the no-frills Frando 7NB Vertical (ie, radial) MC with the stock short lever. Since I have fitted my bike with Barkbuster hand guards that protect the levers in the event of a fall, I saw no need for the available folding lever. The MC is available in a variety of anodized colors (including Orange!), but I chose a sober black finish. I purchased the Frando from WeBike Japan,
frando : Radial Brake Master Cylinder [065-7NBRL14BK]
an excellent, efficient vendor, BTW. The price of this unit varies almost daily as the USD/Yen exchange rate fluctuates. I paid about $138 last December.
The Frando comes nicely boxed with MC, banjo bolt with built-in brake switch with connector, and reservoir with hose and bracket. Very complete, everything needed for fitment except a couple of copper washers.
I thought that fitting the Frando would be much more of a project than proved to be. It was surprisingly easy and painless. The most difficult part of the operation was uninstalling the stock MC. The ByBre does not have a two-piece handlebar clamp, and thus requires disassembly of the control module, removal of the throttle tube (and in my case, uninstalling the right-side Barkbuster) before the ByBre can be unhooked from brake line and brake light leads, then slid off the handlebar.
Installing the Frando was dead easy. The two-piece clamp mounts readily to the bar; The OE brake line is long enough to reach the Frando's underneath outlet (vs the stocker's side outlet); new copper washers added, it hooked right up; the two brake light leads to the stock MC pushed easily onto the Frando's connector pins, no modification needed. If I were OCD, I would have cut the Frando's rather long connector to the exact length; instead, I simply looped it around the bar and attached the Duke's leads directly - no hassel, no cutting. In 20 minutes the Frando was fitted and ready for fluid. I filled the reservoir with new DOT3-4 and opened the top mounted bleeder (a great feature of radial MC's, entirely lacking on conventional MC's like the ByBre). Right away I had a firm lever and a working brake light. I tied the lever under pressure to the throttle grip and left it overnight to eliminate any vestige of air in the system. The next morning I had a rock-solid lever. (Note: Like Nissin and Tokico, Frando uses a 10mm x 1.25 banjo bolt thread, vs. Brembo's 10mm x 1.0. Not interchangeable.)
The rotor change was straightforward, following HardRacing's helpful video. The new Galfer was Locktited and torqued to spec within an hour. Serendipitously, when re-installing the wheel, I loosened the pinch bolts on the right side of the fork, pumped the forks several times, then tightened the pinch bolts. Like magic, the unusual stiction - I had assumed was just part of the basic forks - suddenly disappeared. The fork action is distinctly freer and better now. One would think this fork alignment procedure would be part of the factory assembly routine, but apparently not. I recommend this operation to any Duke owner who has not yet done so.
Before the long stretch of unrideable weather set in, I was able to make a short, chilly test ride. Even with brake pads (EBC HH) unbedded-in to the new rotor, I was elated at the increased power, feel and control of the new setup.
Yesterday's ride confirmed that impression: Compared to the ByBre MC/stock rotor setup, the Frando/Galfer combination offers instant bite, greatly increased deceleration for less lever effort, and especially, much better feel/feedback/dosage control. Almost effortless to bring the front wheel to the ABS intervention point. Exactly what I was seeking. This is a great upgrade, and will only improve as the pads bed in over the next few hundred miles.
I think this is about as good as it can get on the Duke using the ABS unit and the stock ByBre caliper. (Idle, wicked thought: new, big-time caliper? Hmmm.....I'm sick, I know) The Frando/Galfer combo is certainly the most meaningful of my Dukino's winter upgrades, along with the R6 shock. The Frando MC, in particular, is excellent quality and performance for the money, right up there, IMO, with the other top-tier manufacturers - a deal.
The sun's coming out! It's my birthday! Need to ride! Later yall......