Brakes: those magical little things on your front and rear wheel that can stop a machine that weighs 200+ pounds on a dime at high speeds. It’s pretty amazing that you can get so much stopping power from just a couple small brake pads squeezing a brake rotor, right? I think it’s safe to say that other than a well-running engine, your brakes are the most important part on your bike. Go ask any pro, and I’m sure they’ll tell you that it doesn’t matter how much power your engine has – without good brakes, you’re going to have a real struggle.

I think many of us can agree that these days most race bikes come stock with great brakes. So when Adrian from Ride Engineering sent me a front brake caliper to try out on my 2019 KX450 and explained that it would give some additional power, I was a little skeptical to say the least. The stock 2019 KX450 front brake already has excellent stopping power, but my one complaint is that it has a “grabby” feel. By “grabby” I mean the brake lever has a very firm feel when you squeeze it instead of a progressive feel. It’s more of an on/off feeling, where most of the power comes on quickly and abruptly. It can make me a little timid at times – rather than leaving the gas on a little longer and being more aggressive on the brakes later, I might start slowing down a little earlier, fearing the brake might lock up and cause my front wheel to dive or push.

Ride Engineering Front Brake Caliper

How It’s Made

The Ride Engineering caliper is machined from billet aluminum and is offered in two colors: silver and black. I put the black one on the bike, and man, that thing looks rad! The first day riding with it on the bike, I had several people tell me how cool it looks. A couple unique features include the cooling fins to help keep temps down and the oversized pistons that give the caliper its impressive stopping power. Also, it is made from billet aluminum instead of a cast, which Ride Engineering claims reduces the amount of flex in the caliper.

A Ride Engineering Front Brake Caliper Installed

How It Works

Though the Ride Engineering front brake caliper adds even more stopping power, I was told that in contrast to the stock caliper, their caliper has a much more progressive feel. Instead of that on/off feel, Ride Engineering’s caliper allows the rider to better modulate the power and help improve the feeling and connection between the rider’s finger and the brake. If you’re wondering how it’s possible to have both more power AND feel, I’ll explain.

Tusk Steel Braided Brake Line Installed on a Bike

The feel of the brake is very dependent on the size ratio of your caliper piston(s) and your front master cylinder piston. So when Ride Engineering was testing and developing their caliper, they tested several different sized pistons until they found what they felt was the right size caliper piston for optimal braking and feel.

Ride Engineering Front Brake Caliper View on a Bike

Putting It on the Bike

Install was no different than a stock brake caliper – just follow the instructions and you’ll be good to go. You’ll want to be sure to bleed the brakes as part of the install. For the record, bleeding brakes is one of my least favorite things to do, but if you’ve never bled a brake before, you’re in luck! We have a great how-to video that shows you how to do it step by step.

A Built 2019 Kawasaki KX450

At the Track

I hit the track with my newly installed caliper, and the first time I squeezed the brake lever, I immediately noticed the softer feel that Adrian had mentioned. I was so used to the firm feel of my stock brake that it definitely took a few laps to get used to the new feeling. At first I wasn’t sure if I would end up favoring it over stock. Even with the softer feel, the power was incredible. Was it too much power? No, and I really enjoyed the much-improved, progressive feel. Instead of having the grabby, on/off feel I mentioned earlier, I could feel and control the power of the brakes much better.

Jumping the KX450 at the Track

I felt like I could stay on the gas longer and be more aggressive with my braking coming into corners – a recipe for lower lap times – and I could do so without the fear that the brake would suddenly grab and lock up unexpectedly. It also seemed easier to drag the front brake while going through ruts to help keep the front tire planted. It didn’t take long before I realized why top-level riders and factory teams spend so much time and money on brakes that the rider is comfortable with.

Cornering on the Track on a KX450

One more thing to mention: I rode with my stock brake line for the first few rides before going to a Tusk Steel Braided Brake Line. The Tusk brake line helped firm up some of the “squishy” feel that I initially had. Steel braided lines have less flex than a stock brake line, which helps give that firmer feel and maximize stopping power. So if you decide to pull the trigger on this caliper, do yourself a favor and spend the extra money on a steel braided line as well.

Roosting the KX450 on the Track

Final Thoughts

Now for the real question: Is it worth spending your hard earned money on a front brake? First, let me say this: $359 (retail price on rockymountainatvmc.com) is a lot of money, no matter who you are. But what’s ironic is there are many riders who drop upwards of a thousand dollars on an aftermarket exhaust system, which, in my opinion, won’t lower your lap times as much as good brakes will. So when you think of it in that sense, $359 doesn’t seem so bad.

Here are my thoughts: if you’re happy with your current brakes or maybe you’re a weekend warrior who is more concerned about just having fun on your bike rather than lowering your lap times, then this probably isn’t for you, and your money could be better spent on something else. But if you feel like your brakes have a grabby feel, you don’t like how firm they are and you want a more progressive, connected feel, or maybe you wish for more stopping power, then I’d definitely say this is an awesome upgrade that is well worth the money. Yeah, I know it’s not as flashy as that new exhaust you’ve been drooling over or that new set of wheels, but from a sheer performance standpoint, it’s one of the better investments you can make.

Blasting a Berm KX450 at the Track

And that concludes my ride review of the Billet Front Brake Caliper from Ride Engineering. Head over to rockymountainatvmc.com to pick one up! If you have one of these on your bike, leave your comments below and give us your thoughts on it. Do you like it? Was it a noticeable change, and if you could, would you do it all over again?

‘Til next time, I’m Chase at Rocky Mountain. We’ll see you on the trails.

Written by: Chase Cook