High-performance aftermarket brake lines that work.
My 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 has ABS, and a fine anti-lock braking system it is. Thanks to its five-axis Bosch IMU, the wheels won’t lock up, even when the bike is leaned way over, and the ABS’s cycling rate is high enough that pulsing the lever or pedal is hardly noticeable. I did an engineering thesis in the early ’80s on the burgeoning motorcycle anti-lock technology and sophisticated systems such as the V-Strom’s are the fulfillment of those promises of almost mistake-free emergency braking. I would never buy a motorcycle without ABS.
However, as good as Suzuki’s ABS system is, it does have one downside – at least if you’re thinking of switching to steel braided lines. Along with the standard banjo bolts and washers, there are – on my 1000XT, at least – three odd-looking blocklike adapters that fit specifically to the anti-locking portion of the lines. The first adapter bolts into the bike’s upper frame and transports fluid from the front brake reservoir to the ABS modulator; the second is on the return to the front brakes before they head toward the front calipers; and the third is for the rear brake line exiting the modulator circuit.
Whatever the reason Suzuki chose those adapters, they are unique (at least as far as I can see), which means that they’re difficult to find if you’re shopping brake lines from an aftermarket company. I tried a couple of manufacturers that sell in North America, including Galfer, and they offered no exact substitute. Oh, they make lines for Suzukis and they do offer adapters – something they call “inversors” – but there’s a bit of a hodgepodge universality to them and, especially in my V-Strom’s case, the adapter that is supposed to replace the block at the lower front junction is particularly inelegant.
That left me between a rock and hard place because I absolutely needed a longer front brake line to fit my new Gilles adjustable bar-back risers. That is, until I spent some time googling the problem and found an Italy-based hose company called Fren Tubo. On paper – okay, onscreen – the company seems to offer everything: fully customizable hose lengths, duplicates of the stock Suzuki junction boxes and no less than five hose/banjo combinations for all the models Fren Tubo covers – standard stainless-steel lines with nickel-plated steel banjos, stainless steel with hard anodized banjos, Kevlar hoses with anodized banjos, dual carbon fibre braided hoses with anodized banjos (the ones I ordered) and finally – I didn’t go this overboard ’cause I’m not that much of a tech whore – double carbon fibre with titanium banjos.
Now, I was a little reticent about ordering motorcycle parts from Italy. Besides the inability to communicate (I can’t speak or write Italian), there’s potential for a long wait – quite literally the last time I ordered something from Italy, the equipment was put on the proverbial “long boat from…” – and, of course, there is the sometimes casual attitude to order fulfilment from Europe-based aftermarket suppliers. But, unable to find anyone else who supplied direct replacement fittings, I bit the bullet….
But – surprise, surprise – my expectations were exceeded.
For one thing, the entire kit arrived not eight days after I filled out my online order. Not only that, the crucial front brake line is exactly the 50 mm longer that I ordered and, yes, there they were: exact replicas of the stock fittings specific to Suzukis. The kit even included new grommets. Most excellent!
More important, the quality of the product is exquisite. The fittings, for example, are all at the exact angle necessary for easy installation. That may not sound like much, but if you’ve ever installed an aftermarket brake line kit, you know that all too often the banjos are at odd angles, which can make them difficult to fit without twisting the line. One company even offers a special tool that allows you to rotate the banjos relative to the line. No such need with Fren Tubo’s perfectly oriented hardware.
Indeed, the kit went on incredibly easily. Even bleeding the Suzuki’s brakes was quite easy – no special tools needed. Now my brakes are even sharper (the DL1000 has particularly powerful front calipers), there’s plenty of extra length to accommodate those risers and, in full take-me-to-the-MotoGP-grid carbon, they look way trick.
The final coup de grâce? Although the price will change with currency fluctuations, my entire kit in double carbon was not especially expensive: 260 euros (although there appears to be a coronavirus-inspired sale going on at the time of purchase) for the five-line brake kit plus the clutch line. Fren Tubo’s stainless-steel version, 145 euros for all six lines, is downright cheap. Even with shipping, it is price-competitive with anything available domestically. And, like I said, the shipping was amazingly quick – barely longer if sourcing American parts.
Fren Tubo does not deal directly with retail customers, but the factory directed me to Carpimoto.it. I cannot recommend Carpimoto’s service highly enough. Contact Carlo Carpi at firstname.lastname@example.org.