Re: [CR] Bicycle Quarterly's Braking issue, 'Modern Racing Brakes' (long)

(Example: Framebuilding:Tubing:Falck)

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 21:06:44 -0500
From: "Barb and Dan Artley" <>
To: Classic Rendezvous <>
Subject: Re: [CR] Bicycle Quarterly's Braking issue, 'Modern Racing Brakes' (long)

I've been entertained by the response to my original post, and with cabin fever setting in, it seems like a great time to enjoy all this discussion about modulation, response, weight, and braking power. I was at the time thinking that Campagnolo sidepulls had a big part in the development of brakes, but a much larger part in the history of brakes, whether consideration is given to racing or touring, randonneuring, etc. and I just felt that they were underrated in the issue.

I've had brakes that were too powerful for me, and they were pretty much the old standard time line canti's. They're great when the touring bike is loaded or you really need to slow down when lightly loaded, but even optimized with better housing, good lubrication and good standard pads (Mathausers were almost too grabby) a lightly loaded bicycle can be overbraked and modulation only goes so far.

Some times you can't get enough brakes. My tandem has gone through several different brake sets (Barb and I are not that petite), from standard cantilevers to Scott/Suntour self energizing brakes (that had a spiral built into the pivot to actually strengthen braking as the wheel rim pulled the pad forward), a couple variations of aftermarket canti style brakes and finally to the completely off topic linear pulls. Jan's article about the lever arms of different types of cantilevers demonstrates why some weren't as effective. I'm pleased with the tandem's stopping power now, but the old drum (forget it's brand name, Araya?) on my last tandem was good insurance set up as a drag brake for those really long descents, even if it was a boat anchor.

Mafac centerpulls I've owned, racers and criteriums, were decent brakes and the same with Weinmans, but not steller. I never owned their tops of the line. But they never felt as solid as a Weinman 500 or Campagnolo sidepull. Both types of Mafacs squealed or chattered and were practically impossible to get the squeal out. I'm sorry I didn't get one of those Spence Wolf style outer bridge plate stiffeners that showed up on the list a year or so ago for the set of racers that I still own. Working in a bike shop in the seventies and spending a lot of my earnings on new parts, I got to try out the Diacompe Grand Compes and Suntour Superb? sidepulls, Campy clones. They seemed mushier at the time, but the Grand Comps I have on a beater Raleigh Pro are pretty much as good stoppers as the Campagnolo's. I miss the smooth microadjust quick release of the Campy's though.

For me the Campy NR sidepulls (and maybe any good short reach sidepulls) are like thought. When adjusted snugly they're instant on and modulation is like any good bike w/ perfect fit. Braking, like a good ride, becomes an extension of your thought allowing you to take a downhill to your limit, without overreacting, but keeping it just so. I've not had the pleasure of centerpulls that quite do the same for me. I am willing to try any new part though. I'd really like to get a try at those Paul Mafac copies, either centerpulls or cantilevers.

The weight of brakes has never been an issue to me. There just isn't enough difference in brake weights to notice a difference. I notice more when it's one of those days I feel like I've been riding with the brake on for miles. I've stopped to check that more than once.

Happy trails,

Dan Artley in Parkton, Maryland USA