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Thread: Servo-assisted brakes

  1. #1
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    Servo-assisted brakes

    I am in the market for a new/used bike and want to know if I should consider the assisted braking system in my decision. From what I have read, people have not liked the "power brakes" because they can grab too quickly for low speed maneuvering. I gather this is why BMW dropped the feature.

    I have lost finger and as a result I can only cover the brake with one finger. That is fine in normal circumstances, but in an emergency, I have to take my have off the throttle and hook all finger around the lever for powerful braking. This takes too much time for emergencies, but I have not known what I might do about it. Enter power brakes. Have not ridden one of these machines, but do they work in such a way that I could brake more powerfully with one finger?

    If so, I will need to know which bikes and years came with servo-assisted brakes. Any help appreciated.

    Michael

  2. #2
    You stupid, fix it! r11rs94's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtkeehan View Post
    I am in the market for a new/used bike and want to know if I should consider the assisted braking system in my decision. From what I have read, people have not liked the "power brakes" because they can grab too quickly for low speed maneuvering. I gather this is why BMW dropped the feature.

    I have lost finger and as a result I can only cover the brake with one finger. That is fine in normal circumstances, but in an emergency, I have to take my have off the throttle and hook all finger around the lever for powerful braking. This takes too much time for emergencies, but I have not known what I might do about it. Enter power brakes. Have not ridden one of these machines, but do they work in such a way that I could brake more powerfully with one finger?

    If so, I will need to know which bikes and years came with servo-assisted brakes. Any help appreciated.

    Michael
    Hi Michael, My 04 R1150RT has servo breaks. The hardest paart was getting use to moving the bike with the key off. Only a day or two, to get use to them. I swithced back and forth between servo and non-servo with no problem. One finger with a good grip will be plenty of pulling power to stop in my opion. I believe the 03 RT and 03 / 04 RS also have servo assisted breaks. Good luck in your search.
    The thing about traveling is, you never want it to end and you can't wait to get home.
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    Michael,
    I've got an '04 1150 GS with the servo partially integrated brakes. I, now, absolutely love them and have no problem with slow maneuvers. When I first got the bike I hated them, but it was just a matter of getting used to the increased sensitivity. Now I never even think about it, and suspect I'd be a little slow on non servo brakes until I got used to squeezing a little harder.

  4. #4
    Oily by Choice ALIENHITCHHIKER's Avatar
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    Michael, I've spent limited time on bikes equiped with servo assisted brakes but have found them to be extremely effective.

    My objection to them is due to their increased complexity and higher service costs.

    However, if I was in need of an adaptation to improve my braking due to a hand or nerve injury I would actually seek out one of these bikes. This may be just the ticket.
    Steve
    Y2K R1100RT

    Ride on ~ Far out

  5. #5
    Zwei Kolben
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    They seem to have an initial bite that is a bit too hard. They seem to work fine, but I prefer my newer GS that still has ABS but no servos.

    My guess is if you are only riding one bike you will get use to them and they will feel very normal.

    Jumping from bike to bike is a pain as the servo bikes do have a different feel.
    93 R100GS, 04 R1150GS Adventure, 05 R1100S Boxer Cup Replika, 07 R1200GS Adventure, 07 G650X Challenge, 09 G450X

  6. #6
    God? What god? roborider's Avatar
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    I love the power brakes on my 05 R12RT. If the servo fails, I might not be pleased with the cost, but I do like them. They are grabby until you get used to them. I don't use the handle bar brake (does front and rear) at low speed, I just use the rear brake and that is not grabby at all. Once you get used to them, they are fantastic. You can brake with one or two fingers and get full braking power.
    Rob C. , Raleigh, NC
    '05 R12RT, R90/6
    2007 CBR600RR & 09 V-Star
    Suzuki DR 350

  7. #7
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    [QUOTE=ALIENHITCHHIKER;471343]
    My objection to them is due to their increased complexity and higher service costs.

    /QUOTE]

    Steve is correct. I've negated the service cost by learning how to do the brake fluid change myself. I do it every spring. It is not difficult, but will consume an afternoon if you do both the wheel circuits and control circuits. Having never paid a BMW shop for the brake bleed I'm basing my est. of $175-$350 on what's been posted on chat groups. I am aware if the ABS unit fails I'm looking at a $1,600 bill for a new unit. Luckily it appears to be a rare event.

  8. #8
    Registered User NavyDad's Avatar
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    Another happy 04 RT rider here. I like the servo brakes on my bike. Once you get used to the feel and the funny noises you should have no problem. I too do my own service and while it does take a bit of time, the job isn't really difficult. Be sure to ask when the fluid was changed last if you look at a used bike. I change mine every spring and I think that will help keep the system healthy and operating normally.

  9. #9
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    Yes, the servo will stop you very well with one finger. ONE CAUTION

    Before you buy, you need to understand that there is a failure mode that turns off the servo. This is referred to as residual braking. One finger will not work well here. IF you do the annual maintenance, they do not fail often. IF if you have this failure then you will have to remove your hand from the grip and pull hard. The number of failure is over represented on this forum. I suspect in any given year, less than 1% of maintained bikes fail. As these bikes age, failures would be expected to increase. Part is still available, expensive like most things motorcycle. They do stop just fine with the failure, just the force increases, just like when a car power brake booster fails.

    Only you can decide your risk tolerance. if on a test ride you want to see how one reacts, then in a clear parking lot accelerate to a reasonable speed, and turn off the key, then operate the brakes. You will need to use both foot and hand, as the linking is gone.

    IMHO it is not a deal breaker for me, and there are other worse failures, like hoses splitting and leaks of fluid, that are much worse.

    As an informed consumer, you decide, and I agree with any decision you make.

    Rod

  10. #10
    Western NY Rider drubery's Avatar
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    I am a noob (New Rider) and recently purchased an 04' R1150RS and was initially troubled by the brakes which resulted in my performing extensive research on them. They are referred to by BMW as the EVO Braking System and were available from 2002-2006. They are often referred to as Servo brakes due to the servo that provides the power assist, it is a pump powered by the electrical system. This is where the annual maintenance comes in for to maintain the pump properly BMW strongly recommends the entire brake system be drained and all the fluid replaced to avoid wear on this expensive pump. The costs quoted for doing this annual service are in line with what I have heard.

    The brakes were too effective, especially the heavier the bike in parking lots. This is especially true for LTs equipped with these brakes. If you do not finesse the front brakes at speeds below 10 mph you will jolt to a stop, even at 1 mph! With bikes weighing a lot even at 1 mph you have inertia built up and that energy has to go somewhere when the brakes say stop, which they do very well. With your tires stopped the rest of the bike keeps moving and a lot of people including me end up dropping them. I did on my first test ride, dumped it!

    I still bought the bike, then had buyers remorse and was scared to use the front brakes which as you know is no good on a bike. I went back the next day and test rode a 650 without the EVO brakes, then I rode the 1150 again. This time I did some basic MSF paddle walking and braking with the front brake only and using just one finger with a lot of finesse. Took the bike out on the road after that and decided to keep her and boy am I glad. I was told in these forums 1 finger in a parking lot and up to three on the road. Given your circumstances I can see the EVO brakes working out a lot better than many other braking systems out there. I am not sure I personally would ever buy an LT with these brakes as I have heard they are worse in a gravel parking lot and with only 500 miles on the bike since delivery I have not brought myself to test them in a gravel parking lot just yet.

    Try and find a bike in the 02-06' range with the EVO/Servo brakes and give it a try, but definitely keep in mind it takes no effort on the front brake below 10 mph to stop. I know use primarily the front brake all the time now, even in parking lots and approaching all stops. I only cover the rear brake to keep the habit in case of an emergency. I do use the rear brake at slow speeds when I want to stabilize the bike. I have found with BMW bikes and the Telelever front suspension that they maintain their stability better and slow speeds even when using the front brakes. Other bikes I have ridden dive a little when you hit the front brake at slow speeds and upset the suspension causing instability. The BMW not so much.

    Overall, I love this bike. Not sure if I am up to the task of changing the brake fluid, bt will definitely get it done annually. Peace, -D

  11. #11
    Seattle-area Rounder OfficerImpersonator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drubery View Post
    I am a noob (New Rider) and recently purchased an 04' R1150RS and was initially troubled by the brakes which resulted in my performing extensive research on them. They are referred to by BMW as the EVO Braking System and were available from 2002-2006. They are often referred to as Servo brakes due to the servo that provides the power assist, it is a pump powered by the electrical system. This is where the annual maintenance comes in for to maintain the pump properly BMW strongly recommends the entire brake system be drained and all the fluid replaced to avoid wear on this expensive pump. The costs quoted for doing this annual service are in line with what I have heard.

    The brakes were too effective, especially the heavier the bike in parking lots. This is especially true for LTs equipped with these brakes. If you do not finesse the front brakes at speeds below 10 mph you will jolt to a stop, even at 1 mph! With bikes weighing a lot even at 1 mph you have inertia built up and that energy has to go somewhere when the brakes say stop, which they do very well. With your tires stopped the rest of the bike keeps moving and a lot of people including me end up dropping them. I did on my first test ride, dumped it!

    I still bought the bike, then had buyers remorse and was scared to use the front brakes which as you know is no good on a bike. I went back the next day and test rode a 650 without the EVO brakes, then I rode the 1150 again. This time I did some basic MSF paddle walking and braking with the front brake only and using just one finger with a lot of finesse. Took the bike out on the road after that and decided to keep her and boy am I glad. I was told in these forums 1 finger in a parking lot and up to three on the road. Given your circumstances I can see the EVO brakes working out a lot better than many other braking systems out there. I am not sure I personally would ever buy an LT with these brakes as I have heard they are worse in a gravel parking lot and with only 500 miles on the bike since delivery I have not brought myself to test them in a gravel parking lot just yet.

    Try and find a bike in the 02-06' range with the EVO/Servo brakes and give it a try, but definitely keep in mind it takes no effort on the front brake below 10 mph to stop. I know use primarily the front brake all the time now, even in parking lots and approaching all stops. I only cover the rear brake to keep the habit in case of an emergency. I do use the rear brake at slow speeds when I want to stabilize the bike. I have found with BMW bikes and the Telelever front suspension that they maintain their stability better and slow speeds even when using the front brakes. Other bikes I have ridden dive a little when you hit the front brake at slow speeds and upset the suspension causing instability. The BMW not so much.

    Overall, I love this bike. Not sure if I am up to the task of changing the brake fluid, bt will definitely get it done annually. Peace, -D
    As the bikes have ABS brakes, the tires won't lock up - at low speed, in a gravel parking lot - anywhere. I'm guessing the bike fell over because it came to a complete stop more quickly than you anticipated, and before you were prepared to stabilize the bike with your feet.

    They are very powerful brakes, and as such need to be used judiciously and with care and precision - just like your throttle and handlebar
    Seattle, WA
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  12. #12
    Rpbump USN RET CPO Rpbump's Avatar
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    Smile

    I quickly learned to "baby" the brakes on my CLC as opposed to firmly squeezing the brake handle on my Sportster. I like the servo assist/ABS system and have so far needed to stop quickly/panic once when a driver abruptly turned into my lane and then stopped. There was no time to anything but brake hard as there was a raised median to my left and traffic to my right. The bike stopped on the proverbial "dime" and I was left feeling anger at the cage driver and pleased by the short distance needed to stop. I was wearing my Hi-Viz Olympia jacket and was ATGATT at the time but the cage driver said that he did not see me. I'm leaning towards the purchase of Moto-lights or a headlight modulator/flasher to increase visability. Trying out your brakes to simulate panic stops should be practiced by all riders as one never knows how alert the other drivers around you really are. Powerful ABS brakes are a godsend, learn to use them to your advantage. Ride Safe

  13. #13
    Western NY Rider drubery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OfficerImpersonator View Post
    As the bikes have ABS brakes, the tires won't lock up - at low speed, in a gravel parking lot - anywhere. I'm guessing the bike fell over because it came to a complete stop more quickly than you anticipated, and before you were prepared to stabilize the bike with your feet.

    They are very powerful brakes, and as such need to be used judiciously and with care and precision - just like your throttle and handlebar
    I'll take issue with this response. Brakes dissipate the energy from your bikes inertia as heat. However at 1 mph there is no space to dissipate the energy as the brakes take hold so quickly until you learn to handle them. In this situation if you give the bike the smallest opening the inertia will take it. In my case I was almost at a complete stop on a slight left to right hill and my bars not quite straight, cocked slightly to the right. The bikes inertia with the hill left to right and the bars cocked to the right, the wheels stopped cold and the bike kept moving down. Or you could say I dropped it with no argument from me. I have a much better sense for the brakes now and do not feel this will happen again. Anti-locks will not function in my opinion on a high friction surface at slow speeds, there is not enough distance traveled for the system to determine lock up.

  14. #14
    Nickname: Droid ANDYVH's Avatar
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    Like any brake system, standard, ABS equipped, servo equipped, the BIG issue is getting familiar with the braking system, and then practicing everything from standard stops to high effort stops. You also need to train the brain for effective braking. I for one do not care at all for the servo brakes and will not own a BMW that has them. But for your needs it may be the answer that allows you to brake effectively.

    A couple of comments based on other posts.

    "IMHO it is not a deal breaker for me, and there are other worse failures, like hoses splitting and leaks of fluid, that are much worse." In my 37 years of riding and working on bikes, I have never seen a brake hose split.

    "As the bikes have ABS brakes, the tires won't lock up - at low speed, in a gravel parking lot - anywhere." NOT TRUE! As mentioned in another post. There comes a point where the inherent lag or hysterisis of the brake system will maintain some braking effect even after ABS has released pressure. This is especially true on lower speed stops on gravel, when the gravel "piles" in front of the tire and acts as a dam to stop the tire. ABS cannot always respond without some tire slide. Do not put all your faith in ABS. Its also why the GS series bikes have an ON/OFF function for the ABS when riding on loose surfaces.
    Get trained! The best "performance" upgrade you can get is YOU. Visit msf-usa.org for training info.

  15. #15
    Old man in the mountains osbornk's Avatar
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    I appreciate my EVO brakes. Without them, I would not own the bike today according to the prior owner. He is sure the bike would have been destroyed and he would have been badly injured without them. A large deer ran out in front of him and he hit the deer far more gently and without wrecking only because of the brakes on the bike.

    I serviced mine this spring. It is not difficult but it is time consuming. You bleed four circuits rather than two and you have to remove the gas tank for access.
    'You can say what you want about the South, but I almost never hear of anyone wanting to retire to the North.

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