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Tuesday 31 January 2023


SBS - 'Better Brakes' 

Law-Compliant Compounds

As briefly reported in our review of the 2022 EICMA 'Milan Show' in November (AMD January 2023), leading Denmark based performance brake pad manufacturer SBS Friction is introducing a 'Better Brakes' program.

The product launch will entail upgraded formulations, environmental regulation and best practice code compliance and performance for more than 95% of all the brake pad products manufactured under the SBS brand name.

H.HS sinter replacement compound for bikes with sintered pads, designed for modern high-performance, sport and big touring bikes

All its product ranges will be transitioned "in full scope," meaning that all products in a product range are included in the transition phase. It will not be possible to purchase old formula based SBS products once the transition is complete in 2025.

Transition will happen following an impact-principle, meaning that high volume fast-moving products are first in line as this is where highest impact can be obtained soonest. It is only racing products that are not being transitioned in the present scope. This is due to the complexity of race related compounds.

The Better Brakes Law and Standard is designed to be a U.S. national model that can be carried by all states, and to act as a catalyst and inspiration for other national and regional legislative areas outside the U.S. 

In implementing the Better Brakes Law, the working group that had been established worked closely with brake manufacturers, retailers, distributors and environmental groups - including SBS Friction A/S.

SBS Marketing and Product Manager Thomas Midtgaard-Jørgensen explains that "one of the principal (but by no means only) aims of the new protocol is the massive reduction and, where possible, complete elimination of the use of rare earth minerals and other potentially toxic substances - metals and chemicals - with special initial focus on the elimination of the use of copper and nickel in sintered brake pads and antimony from ceramic pads.

"During the 1990s, research reports were issuing warnings about the heavy metal contamination in the San Francisco Bay. This resulted in new legislation in 2010 that has presently been adopted by both California and Washington states for cars - initially motorcycle brakes were exempted from the legislation and therefore SBS Friction and other motorcycle brake pad manufacturers have not been covered by the legislation. 

"The copper content in brake pads should have been reduced to less than 5% (weight) after January 1st, 2021, decreasing down to 0.5% during the coming years, with full implementation of the legislation in 2025. Furthermore, three additional nickel and zinc-based substances are under observation for potential future inclusion in the ban.

"In January 2015, the manufacturers signed a memorandum of agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Council of the States to adopt standards based on Washington's and California's brake laws. This means that every new brake pad sold in the United States will meet Washington's standards for copper and other toxic chemicals.

"By working together on the Better Brakes program, ecological advocates and brake manufacturers were able to agree on an approach that protects the public and the environment. Since manufacturers sell their products globally and have relatively long product design cycles, these changes will have far reaching beneficial effects."

From SBS' point of view, the first products to transition into 'SBS Better Brakes' specifications are HF, HS and MS. 

"Due to the performance characteristics in the new Better Brakes SP-series (similar to those of the Better Brakes HS), it has been decided to merge the two types into one. The SP compound can, as of 2023, be referred to with the equivalent HS product code. The merger of the two product-series is expected to be complete by Q3 2023. 

HF ceramic replacement compound for bikes with non-sintered pads

MS high-performance upgraded sintered compound for maxi-scooters from 250 ccm and up

"Next in line in the transition plan, by mid-2023, is the transition of RQ and CT products, followed by the transition of LS products and in 2024, SI products."

At EICMA Thomas told AMD that the SBS R&D team had been working on the new formula since 2015 - in close collaboration with both research partners and validation institutions. The development phase has included more than 480 compound variations being developed and tested to where only the best formula has been selected. In testing, more than 1,000 dyno tests and 50,000 km (over 31,000 mph) of road testing has been performed.

"With the removal of copper and nickel in sinter products, and antimony in ceramic compounds, another friction material has been required to enable an improved brake performance. SBS Better Brakes is based on a +60% iron-based compound formula. The rest consists of various different types of binders and fibers.

HF ceramic designed for commuters, general-purpose street and cruiser bikes

HS sinter designed for modern high-performance, sport, big touring and adventure bikes

"Macro-economic trend forecasts by the World Bank in Washington D.C. show that, as a resource, the price of iron is far more stable - being the most abundant element, by mass, in the Earth. The cost of raw materials are a major part of the production and end-user price inflation that the brakes industry has been suffering in the past two or more years.

"So, it is clear that transitioning to iron, as our friction material of choice, will not only produce Better Brakes in environmental and performance terms, but also result in more stable end-user pricing in the long run.

"SBS Better Brakes have been shown to deliver improved stopping power and better maneuverability in emergency situations. The metallics in the compounds enable an improved coefficient of friction that results in a more efficient brake grip throughout the braking cycle. The effect is an improved stopping power equivalent to between 9 and 12% in brake length terms.

"Riders can expect a similar wear profile and an overall improved sense of grip and performance stability throughout the temperature spectrum. This means that riders can expect a 1:1 responsiveness between lever grip and speed reduction."

The new compound has been designed to maintain performance, even in intense brake situations. The average commuter most often brakes in a disc heat spectrum of between 100 - 300 degrees - the average rider can expect a consistent braking experience throughout the ride and throughout the heat range. They can also expect an improved performance in the beginning and throughout the ride, despite the brake system getting heated. Riders will also get an improved grip feeling and an improved initial bite when braking.

Referencing the new law and the improvements that its research and development has produced, the SBS 'Better Brakes' brand name will also see a new generation of packaging introduced to differentiate the new product from the old, with the addition of a symbolic "Better Brakes" icon to its packaging. For buyer and vendor convenience, the product references (e.g. 706HS or 146MS) will remain as they were.

"The SBS Better Brakes icon consists of three elements: water symbolized by the waves, the nature symbolized by the green leaf and the text. The waves symbolize the improved environmental footprint the new compound has in water use and reservoir terms. The leaf symbolizes the raw nature that benefits from the cleaner riding being produced and, towards the implementation of the European Commission's Green Deal (designed to prevent packaging waste), SBS is evaluating advised material analysis, and before January 1st, 2025 a new packaging type will be announced."

The Brake Manufacturers Council has adopted the LeafMark to inform customers whether a brake pad meets the Better Brakes standards. The darker the leaf, the more levels of compliance the brake pad meets:

  • Level A: limits levels of asbestos, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.
  • Level B: includes all the requirements of Level A, with copper levels reduced to less than 5% by weight.
  • Level N: includes all requirements.

SBS Better Brakes have received a Level N certification in a Brake Friction Material Environmental Certification performed by LINK under approval of AMECA. The analysis was carried out in Q2 2022.