Galfer Braking In
Stoppin N with Sandro Milesi
Galfer Braking In
Sandro Milesi is deep in the brake business, his family runs Galfer Braking Systems out of Barcelona, Spain and has been doing that since 1946 when his grandfather founded the company. But off-road has never been a focal point of the company since most of the family is seriously involved in the sport bike side the motorcycling. But Sandro picked up riding dirt bikes here in the US and
of course his eye for the business strayed there too. We caught up to Sandro from his Oxnard, California office to see how 2012 is going.
Motocross.com: So you’ve made a big push into Supercross and motocross?
Sandro: We started in 2011 and got some small teams and a few privateers on our products to test it out and get and feel for the racing and see what it would take to really support some larger teams for 2012. It comes a lot from me going
to a supercross with my son and seeing and seeing all the families there. The paddock has a completely different vibe than I was used to from the road racing and I for sure was not the only guy there with my son. My father was blown away by the phenomenon that supercross is here in the States. I liked it and I knew there was brake knowledge and market share to be gained here.
Who was running Galfer last year?
The Rockstar Suzuki lites team and Hart and Huntington among others, Hart was mostly running the rear brakes.
How did it go?
We learned a lot and we knew what we had to do to get on track for 2012 by the end of 2011 SX season. For instance everyone was loving the performance and the way the brakes were working, the options we had but that all said our stuff was too heavy. We fixed that.
Was it that easy?
We are a smaller operation here in the US than the factory in Barcelona, but I can still call over there on a Sunday night and make sure engineering calls on Monday morning to work on projects with me. For the weight reduction we looked at the carriers and brackets for the oversized supercross kits and went ahead and started making some of the parts here in the US to get it done quickly. We got the weight down to where I’m pretty sure we are the lightest brake kits now, we lost between 200-300 grams. Luckily the factory is quick to adapt. The lighter stuff is now available to everybody and even some of the changes on parts have maintained the same price as before.
So what changed in 2012?
We send Robert Davila to most of the races as our product and tech guy. He has been with Galfer for over 11 years and he takes care of all Road Racing teams for us, so, his experience combined with mine, was a good fit for the SX race teams needs. He brings the product the teams need to all events, and then also services a lot of the race parts on the bikes as needed. People don’t understand how much maintenance can go into brakes to keep them working at their highest levels, not at least at this level of racing. Robert does several check ups on Saturday morning at the track, he will check the rotor thickness and flatness as well as change out parts as needed. He makes sure the floating discs are floating properly and also knows a lot about the lines and tuning the system for the rider’s preferences, which are different for almost every guy, listening to a riders feed back and applying these comments to a brake system its definitely an art not easy to gain overnight, Robert has had great feed back from most of the teams thus far. We have been doing this on the road racing side for a long time now but off-road brings a different set of challenges. We are learning about the team’s use of parts and even some tricks the off-road mechanics have, stuff that we are putting back into the products. We’ve learned a lot about brake fluid flow and how it changes the feel of the brake. Also a lot about durability and how hot the brakes and fluid gets.
Where are the brakes made?
All of the rotors and brake pads are produced tested and engineered in Spain, but we are making about 90% of the Oversize rackets here because the quality of the aluminum and the machine work is very high here in the US. We also make all of the research and development as well as the manufacturing on brake lines here in the US facility. We have access to the bikes easily here for R&D so it makes this kind of work easier for us since we can figure it out quicker.
So what have you learned?
As we got closer to the teams we learned some of the tricks that they used, some techniques or habits were not really great for braking and some caught our attention as possible good ideas. We get to see trick stuff and do a little bit of testing as well. A lot of it isn’t necessary for the regular guy, but these riders are not regular guys. Typically we’ll deploy the best and strongest brake set-up to a team to start out with on their Galfer testing, which may have been a mistake because then we usually start to tune it back, tuning the brakes more for a specific rider on the team, based on things such as hand size, brake feel preference, weight and riding style…. As an example, I was convinced most would use the full metallic ceramic composite pad or the green Kevlar based organic pad, each very powerful and strong brake compounds, but only a few guys used that, the actual braking power was too much…. Most of our teams are using our semi metallic pads, the same ones we designed for the regular guy, the same ones anyone can get a local dealer, which seems kind of weird but that s how most tuned the brakes. I joke with Robert that it was a
novice mistake to think that top riders all want tons of bite and huge brake power. They all say they want that but the way we tune the brakes tells us differently, key words are modulation, feel and most important consistency.
Has it helped business?
We have always had off-road products on the shelves, but they didn’t move the way we have them moving today. Galfer was run by a sportbike family. My father and uncle are into the roadracing and I am into the off-road / dual sport, so it was natural. My budget didn’t match my sales projection for 2012, but I wanted to grow in off-road, and as a family business we understand you are
going to have to invest before you can collect. We didn’t stop doing what we have been doing on the road racing side, we just added the supercross and motocross to it the equation, and Robert hates me a bit more than before. In only eight or nine months we have a boost in brand awareness that I can see, but I need to get people to try our brakes. The motorcycle industry is a little slow to react at the dealer level, what a consumer might want to try its not always at a dealer, but we know this and as time goes by it will change more and more as dealers start to realize that not having Galfer might not be the best move for them. Our Off Road sales are tremendously better than before, and that’s nice to see. Robert and I, as well as my son will keep on going to the races,
and that’s all very fun !!
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