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How Brake Rotors Work


Motorcycle Brake Rotors
Of course they're functional, but motorcycle brake rotors often have a decorative appearance, too.
Of course they're functional, but motorcycle brake rotors often have a decorative appearance, too.
Franz-W. Franzelin/iStockphoto

­Motorcycle brake rotors work much in the same way as car brake rotors. The rotors spin along with the wheel, and when the brakes are applied, the brake pads grab the rotor to stop the wheel from spinning. On a motorcycle, however, the front and rear brakes usually operate independently of each other, in contrast to car brakes, which work to slow or stop all four wheels at once. Most motorcycles have independent, hand-operated controls for each brake -- front and rear. The front brake tends to be more effective; delivering the lion's share of the stopping power, with the rear brake assisting to slow or stop the bike. Obviously, motorcycle brake rotors are considered a key component of motorcycle safety. 

Most street driven motorcycles come equipped with drilled brake rotors; however, most high-performance or on-track bikes will typically use slotted rotors. Since motorcycle brake rotors are more visible brake parts than car brake rotors -- especially on the front wheel of the bike -- the drilled brake rotors often provide a custom look. In fact, many custom cycle builders use decorative drilling or shaping of their rotors to make their bikes stand out. 

Stopping a motorcycle takes a relatively small amount of effort compared to bringing a heavy-duty truck to a halt. Find out about truck brake rotors in the next section.


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