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1981 CX500C
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m currently taking a motorcycle safety course and they stressed how much the front brake stops the bike. I’ve read and experienced that the front brake on the cx is not as good as todays bikes. I’ve got the single piston style and I did a full rebuild on it. I bought a new brake hose but I need to upgrade to stainless. What are you all doing to accommodate for the sub par braking performance? Tossing around the idea of a dual piston swap.
 

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1978 CX500 "The Grub", 1983 GL650I "Nimbus"
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If you ride it like an '80s bike, the braking performance is just fine.
 

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You could try "experimenting" with brake pad material options first....

Ive even got a single piston on my 750...tho the diam is larger...as many others may have on this era machines
 

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1981 CX500C
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429 Posts
Ride the bike. Practice some emergency stops. You need to become familiar with the bikes capabilities. You will adjust to the bike's handling. Slow down a little, increase following distance, keep your eyes moving.

Don't expect 2022 performance from a 1980 machine.

Would you expect a 1980 Camaro to perform like a 2022 Camaro????

FWIW, braking physics from 1980 are the same as braking physics from 2022. The front brake handles most of the braking effort due to the dynamics leading to weight shift onto the front wheel. This is true for any vehicle, not just motorcycles.
 

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Get the habit of trail braking on the rear brake and applying the rear brake a fraction of a second before the front. This begins to squat the front of the bike and does it in a more controlled manner than grabbing a fistfull of front brake.

And remember to brake progressively.

As mentioned above, these things need to be practiced. They need to become automatic.
 

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Don’t covet modern bikes, or women for that matter. You’ll be happier in the long run. 😁
 
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I prefer single piston brake calipers and new current tires then multi piston brake calipers and old tires.
 

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Ettore Bugatti once said when someone complained about the brakes on his car, "Brakes just slow you down". I have both a 80 CX500C and a 82 GL500 and yes, the GL500 does brake a little better but I have never had a problem stopping with the CX500C. I did put new pads both bikes this year and it did make a difference. The new tires made a bigger difference.
 

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Cx500 1978 engine probably later
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As already so very well put, it's a historic vehicle ( without abs) so ride with that in mind.
I've found that if you focus your lever pull effort nearer the end of the lever it makes quite a difference.
 

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'82 GL500 '83 GL650 '21 RoyalEnfield INT650
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Your safety is dependant more on the operator than the age of your technology.
 

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I’m currently taking a motorcycle safety course and they stressed how much the front brake stops the bike. I’ve read and experienced that the front brake on the cx is not as good as todays bikes. I’ve got the single piston style and I did a full rebuild on it. I bought a new brake hose but I need to upgrade to stainless. What are you all doing to accommodate for the sub par braking performance? Tossing around the idea of a dual piston swap.
Like others have said, practice is everything, and every bike has different limits. Practice those panic stops and figure out where the limit of braking is. I'm also an advocate for practicing what locking the front wheel feels like (in a straight line! at least at first. Fine gravel or hard pack dirt is the most forgiving place to start practicing this). In an actual panic stop on real, subpar road surfaces or in the rain, most people will lock the wheel so you need to train your brain to let off and modulate that brake lever. The bike will not instantly crash when you lock the wheel; getting over that fear and understanding what it feels like goes a long way towards quick, confident emergency stops.

The stock CX front brake is okay, but not great. Stainless line will help quite a bit, and some pads are better than others. I use a DRZ400 front master cylinder on mine which also made a big improvement in braking performance due to piston diameter and lever pivot ratio. It won't pick the back wheel up off the ground with one finger like a modern bike, but she'll still stop in a hurry with a few fingers and a solid pull. I never got the front brake to work well enough for my preference with the stock master.
 

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'82 GL500 '83 GL650 '21 RoyalEnfield INT650
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My RE Interceptor is the same size and weight as my GLs, but has front and back disks and ABS. The main difference in braking is the front wheel on sand or gravel. My big real world braking difference is after adding the sidecar. You can brake harder with the front wheel without having to be as careful, even though I’ve added 200lbs or off-centered weight. If your car is set up right, I believe a sidecar is much safer.
 

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If you think the CX is poor, then you won't like a few of my bikes! Whoeee.
 

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Lol....
No ones said thats why you wear boots..
To slow down, if you must...
And those with steel plates on the soles spark!...
 

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'84 CX650E that is evolving into a GL500
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My RE Interceptor is the same size and weight as my GLs, but has front and back disks and ABS. The main difference in braking is the front wheel on sand or gravel. My big real world braking difference is after adding the sidecar. You can brake harder with the front wheel without having to be as careful, even though I’ve added 200lbs or off-centered weight. If your car is set up right, I believe a sidecar is much safer.
My GL1100/Dnepr is OK with disc front & rear but for winter I much prefer the disc front & drum rear because as it gets colder parts that weren't intended for use when it is cold contract differently if it gets really cold and that generally causes problems with disc and drum brakes at different temperatures so you can be more sure that at least one will work.

As for the braking capabilities of older bikes, I learned long ago that too much brake is worse than not enough on snow & ice, especially on the front and especially with 350+ lb of sidecar & passenger pushing it sideways under deceleration so I quite deliberately set up my CX650E based sidecar machine with a single disc (2 piston caliper) on the front and a CX/GL500 drum on the rear on. It has been like that for 16 years and I haven't run into anything so far so the brakes must be adequate ;-)

I think many people become too dependent on electronic assistance to stop their vehicles. That may be nice in an emergency but what happens if the electrical system shuts down when you need to stop right now? It is far better to learn how to use the brakes properly so you can get the vehicle stopped or slowed without the ABS intervening.

BTW: I believe what Ettore Bugatti actually said was "I build my cars to go, not to stop"
 

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1981 CX500C
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Yeppers....many drivers have not had to learn about "pumping" brakes when skidding on ice/snow/wet.

ABS has nearly eliminated braking skill.
 

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Threshold braking, even on snow and ice, is better than "pumping" the brakes. However it requires more skill, something the average driver these days fails to possess.
 

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'84 CX650E that is evolving into a GL500
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On the sidecar outfit I've learned that if I let the front brake lock the sidecar's inertia will push me into the next lane but if I lock the rear it still goes where I steer it. But that's a whole other situation.
 

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I agree that threshold braking is different. It to preceded ABS. It requires application of the brakes to the point where they are about to lock up and maintaining that pressure until stopped. Pumping the brakes involves application of the brakes until they lock and then releasing brake pressure, followed by another cycle of brake and release. Threshold braking will result in a shorter braking distance than will pumping the brakes.

Signed A confused, retired, driving instructor.
 
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