Dirt Bike Brake Pedal – Your FIRST Upgrade

dirt bike brake pedal

Your dirt bike brake pedal is one of the most used and most critical components in your braking system.  Unfortunately, it often comes inadequate from the factory.  Like many control components on stock bikes, the brake pedal often feels as though it was an after thought.

When many of us get our bikes home for the first time, all we can think about is how to make it better.  The top thing that comes to most peoples mind is to upgrade the exhaust to squeeze a little more power out of the motor.  I personally feel this is the wrong place to start because the vast majority of riders are not going to be riding at a level where the bike’s performance is what is holding them back.  Rather the vast majority of folks skill level will hold them back.

The first upgrade I do on any dirt bike that I am planning on keeping is to upgrade the rear brake pedal.  This is a cheap and fast upgrade and is a great bang for your buck.  Not only is it a tenth of a price of an exhaust upgrade, but you will actually be able to use the new found braking performance your very first time out.

Why Upgrade Your Dirt Bike Rear Brake Pedal?

Think about this the next time you are riding.  Can you easily find your brake pedal?  If you have been riding a while, the answer will be yes, but it probably took some getting used to in order for you to be good at locating and using it.  Stock brake pedals come with very small tips and have inadequate grip on those tips.

Ease of Use

dirt bike brake pedal tip
Brake Pedal Tip

An after market brake pedal will generally have a larger tip.  Additionally, the grip on that tip will be much more aggressive.  This means that not only can you find your brake pedal faster, but you can use it with confidence and not have to worry about your foot slipping off the pedal during hard braking.

The easier your brake is to use, the more confidence you are going to have in it and the more aggressively you will be able to ride on the track.

Stronger

Most after market brake pedals are made from much stronger materials than what comes from the factory.  From the factory your brake pedal will bend if you lay the bike over.  After a couple of hard crashes, your brake pedal, especially the tip, will start to look deformed.

After market brake pedals are typically constructed from billet or forged aluminum and the tip construction is far better and beefier than stock.  This means that they don’t lose their shape over time and are always ready when you are.

Better Braking Control

If you ask any pro, they will tell you that dirt bike races are won in the turns.  What they mean by that is that if you are able to execute a turn better than your opponent, you will get through that turn faster, and gain lap time speed. 

dirt bike brake corner

The physical motors in any given dirt bike class are generally pretty evenly matched.  This means that you don’t have a real good shot of passing someone in an all out drag race on the straight aways.

So, to get faster in races, you need to be better in the corners and that starts with better braking control.  If you can easily find your rear brake, and be able to use it when you need it, you are on your way to getting faster.  

Imagine this, you are winning a race, and charging into the final turn.  It has been a rather long race and your boots and bike are pretty muddy.  You get ready to brake, start applying the brakes, and your boot slips off the brake pedal. 

You can try and recover with your front brake, but chances are good you will end up taking the turn very very wide, or worse, end up running off the track.

brake lever corner exit

All that work you put into the race flashes before your eyes as your competitors pass you while you try and recover.  I am not saying this will not happen with an after market brake pedal, but the chances of this happening are much smaller with an after market pedal instead of a stock pedal.

Examples of Good Aftermarket Dirt Bike Brake Pedal

There are a few really good after market brake pedals on the market.  Luckily, they are all relatively inexpensive.  Generally you can spend between 40 and 150 dollars on one, depending on the type you decide to go with.

Tusk

Tusk is the in-house brand for Rocky Mountain ATV/MC.  I have had pretty good luck with their parts, so I don’t hesitate to recommend them.  In fact, I am running a Tusk on my main bike now.  They are on the lower end of the price range as well, so that’s a plus. 

The pedal itself is made from forged aluminum and the tip is CNC cut and has a rotating mechanism and stainless steel studs for traction.  The tips are replaceable and come in a wide variety of colors.

The Tusk kits come with a brake saver as well, discussed below.

Hammerhead

Hammerhead is the cream of the crop as far as brake pedals go.  I have a hammerhead shifter, it is extremely high quality.  Hammerhead offers a couple of different styles of brake pedals.  The first, and cheaper style, is made from forged aluminum, and their most expensive style is made from billet aluminum (stronger than forged).

Hammerhead is nice in that they have ultimate flexibility for the tips.  Like Tusk, you can get a replacement tip, but Hammerhead offers a wider variety of tips, from oversized to rotating, with a wide range of color options.

Like the Tusk brake pedal, the Hammerheads come with a brake saver, discussed below.

Dirt Bike Brake Pedal Savers or Brake Snakes

brake saver
Brake Saver (or Brake Snake)

Most aftermarket kits are going to come with Brake Pedal Savers, sometimes called Brake Snakes.  These are designed to help your brake pedal from over extending during a crash.

What is a Dirt Bike Brake Pedal Saver?

A brake pedal saver, or brake snake, is a piece of cable that runs from your brake pedal tip on one side to a mounting point on your dirt bikes frame on the other side.  This cable acts as a limiting strap to prevent over rotation.

How does a Brake Pedal Saver Work

In a crash, there is the potential for your brake pedal to get pushed further than the rear master cylinder can handle. 

Imagine sitting on your bike and fully depressing the rear brake.  No problem right.  But now imagine jumping up and down on that rear brake pedal trying to get it to go further than it is supposed to.  Something will ultimately give.  Either your brake pedal will bend or you will trash your rear master cylinder. 

This is exactly what can happen in a crash if your brake pedal gets hung up on a rock or something as your bike is tumbling or sliding on the track.

A brake pedal saver is just a piece of cable that helps stop this from happening.  Instead of your master cylinder taking the load when the brake is getting pushed further than in should, the cable gets the load.

How to install a Brake Pedal Saver

Installing one of these is super easy

  1. After you have your brake pedal installed and set at the level you want (generally the tip will be level with your foot pegs), you will first install the clamp on your bikes frame. 
  2. Then with a pair of crimps, you can crimp the cable to the clamp. 
  3. Next, rout the cable around the brake pedal tip and through the crimp. 
  4. Push the brake pedal down fully, tighten the cable to where it is taute, then crimp the final crimp. 
  5. Trim the excess.

What to Look for when buying a Dirt Bike Brake Pedal

There are a couple of things to think about when deciding which brake pedal you want to go with.  They are the Materials, Pedal Tip Size, and Pedal Tip Style.

Materials

The strongest material available for a rear dirt bike brake pedal is going to be billet aluminum.  Next is going to be forged aluminum.  Billet is almost always going to be more expensive as there is quite a bit more machine work that needs to be done to form an aluminum billet into a brake pedal shape.

Pedal Tip Size

The next thing you will want to do is find a brake pedal tip size that meets your needs.  You can measure your stock brake pedal tip to get a starting point.  I generally go with bigger is better here because it gives you more of a surface to press on, making for better traction and easier brake pedal locating.

Pedal Tip Style

brake pedal rotating tip
Rotating Tip

Tips are either going to be rotating or fixed.  A rotating pedal will rotate out of the way during a crash, preventing damage.  A fixed brake pedal won’t.  There is some give and take when figuring all this out because often if you want an oversized tip, it won’t be available in the rotating style.  The best advice I can give you here is to just go with your gut.

Wrap Up

So that about wraps it up.  I am a firm believer that a better brake pedal will make you a better and faster overall rider than any other upgrade you can do.  Dollar for dollar you will see the most improvement in performance with a better brake pedal.  So, before you go invest in a beautiful sounding exhaust, try the lowly brake pedal and see if you are better for it!  Stay Safe out there!