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Straw poll: Vintage brakes that actually brake!

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Straw poll: Vintage brakes that actually brake!

Old 03-29-20, 08:12 AM
  #1  
jdawginsc 
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Straw poll: Vintage brakes that actually brake!

Just wondering what people think. I had ridden only my Cannondale with 105 SLR brakes, and cantilevers for 30 years before I dove back into the hobby. Dual pivot Dura Ace, Record, Chorus even Veloce are stopping machines. It's hard to equate today's brakes with those of yore...so...

1. What vintage brakes do not scare you on a winding hill after experiencing modern brakes? Thought it might be insightful and fun.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:20 AM
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Cheap poorly adjusted brakes are the only ones that scare me.

I am not a huge of D.P. brakes I think it takes too much effort to modulate your speed as they are simply meant to stop you on a pin head.

Properly tuned and with quality fresh pads/blocks any better quality brake should prove to adequate stopping power. After we rode with centerpull and single pivot brakes of all quality levels and I don't recall of hearing of too many serious accidents or deaths because of a lack of stopping power.

One of my favorite bakes, the beautiful and graceful Chorus brake was intended to modulate your speed rather simply stop you as fast as possible. It takes a very strong grip to get the wheels to lock up and I've only done it once or twice. For all there over engineering the vaunted CampI Delta brakes are designed with the same idea which is why people complained about the "Stopping Power" of them.


The beautiful and graceful Chorus Saphirino brake caliper
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Old 03-29-20, 08:23 AM
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Going from my well tuned, Koolstop equipped, vintage brakes to my, dual pivot Dura Ace is alarming. The first stop light at the bottom of the hill I live on is a reminder that modern brakes require a different touch.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:26 AM
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Shimano BR-MT60 and MT62 are my favorite cantilevers. MAFAC Tandems work ok too. Especially if the posts are high and the straddle wire is short.

For centerpulls, MAFAC Racers and Raids work well.

The MAXI-CAR rear drum for tandems is also quite decent, if you can find one where the linings aren't shot. Better, in my experience, than the Sturmey Archer 90mm drums.

I can't stand any of the old long-reach sidepulls. I toured in Switzerland and in Wales with Campy NR sidepulls and every descent was a white knuckler. I'd like to go back with some of the above brakes so I have a decent comparison. Dia Compe and Dura Ace long-reach didn't seem much better on my various commuters. The only vintage sidepull that I thought worked ok was the Dia Compe Alpha 5000. I think they have more mechanical advantage because of their short reach. Basically only suitable for skinny racing tires and no fenders.

And for weird brakes, pretty much nothing beats the Scott Superbrake and the Scott Pedersen SE cantilevers. I have a Superbrake on my Vitus and I put an old set of SE cantilevers on my buddy's Nishiki. They are better than any discs I've tried.

Last edited by scarlson; 03-29-20 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:27 AM
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I like disc brakes.

Maybe not quite what you call vintage, somebody suggested from the 90s, but this bike, mentioned in a couple of other posts, has really good rim brakes. If you pull the brake levers hard, you can lock up the wheels.


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Old 03-29-20, 08:30 AM
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P1010224, on Flickr
To assist these on a down hill run on a tandem.
P1010340, on Flickr
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Old 03-29-20, 08:33 AM
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Differences? Sure, and I really like my dual pivots. But with good, lined housing, good cables, and new, high quality shoes, all of my vintage brakes work well.
Weinmann 506 with modern Ultegra shoes, good housing, and rims with machined sidewalls - very good.
Weinmann centerpulls with fresh cables/housing and shoes - very good.
Mafac Racers with similar upgrades - excellent!
Dia-Compe 730 with similar upgrades - totally acceptable.

Setup, shoes, and cable/housing. Only issues I've ever had was with junk shoes/pads, lousy cables, etc.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:34 AM
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In my experience, even the cheapest brake calipers and levers will provide adequate stopping power, even paired with a cheapo chrome plated wheel (in dry conditions) if everything is adjusted properly, and the pads are new (and cables/housing of good quality). I have had no problem bombing hills on old cheap offbrand bikes with original parts, and stopping confidently at the bottom if needed. Where these brakesets fall short of modern examples, however, is their ability to hold this proper adjustment for a good length of time before needing to be readjusted again - you do have to keep an eye on things.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:35 AM
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Dura Ace 7400/01 and Shimano 105 1050/1 are the best simgle pivot ones in my book.
NR calipers always provided entertaining descents, even with the best pads available.
At this point, every bike in the stable has dual pivot brakes, the oldest being late 80's/early 90's DA 7403.
A huge improvement going down the back side of Cypress Mountain compared to NR's or Mafac's.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:35 AM
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I have zero issue with quality vintage brakes as long as I run quality brake shoes like the kool stops and quality cable and housing. If you can live with the look, aero levers certainly help as well. But I don't have any issues using old school brakes and levers as long as they are set up early even when riding down long twisting descents.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:41 AM
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OH I forgot to put this in post
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Old 03-29-20, 09:08 AM
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A the first time i rode with aluminum rims, bike brakes became good enough for me. They still are.

I love old diacomp centerpulls. Weinmann too.

Last edited by 52telecaster; 03-29-20 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 03-29-20, 09:28 AM
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I'd have to give the nod to centerpulls of most varieties. And for the same mechanical reason, u-brakes and roller cam style brakes.

I'd say the best-feeling feeling brakes I've used are Suntour XC Sport roller cams, due to the rigidity introduced by the beefy arms. The cam works really well.
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Old 03-29-20, 09:34 AM
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These are bad, avoid these.

Frejus020 by iabisdb, on Flickr



These are even worse. Avoid these even more.

Frejus 49 by iabisdb, on Flickr
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Old 03-29-20, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jdawginsc View Post

1. What vintage brakes do not scare you on a winding hill after experiencing modern brakes? Thought it might be insightful and fun.
...nothing frightens me. Everything stops eventually. Sometimes you just need more foresight.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
I'd say the best-feeling feeling brakes I've used are Suntour XC Sport roller cams, due to the rigidity introduced by the beefy arms. The cam works really well.
Simple mechanism, best brake I've ever used
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Old 03-29-20, 10:40 AM
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On another note, has anyone used the Campy Centaur skeleton brakes? Of the more modern brakes, they look like they would melt together with vintage nuovo record stuff.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:43 AM
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Mafac Racers with modern pads are about as good as get if you get them setup correctly. The best stopping brakes Iíve experienced are the Shimano 105 side pulls on my Rivendell.


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Old 03-29-20, 10:48 AM
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MAFAC centerpulls, adjusted poorly with old, hard pads, are the words

MAFAC centerpulls, with new Koolstop pads, adjusted properly, are the best combo of stopping power and modulation around. I have them on Eroica Pimp Bike, and felt as confident as one can be on the hairy downhill after the nefarioius Cypress climb.



Adjusting them properly is the key word. There are a lot of degrees of freedom in them, so lots of opportunities to get them adjusted incorrectly.
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Old 03-29-20, 12:36 PM
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I liked the Suntour Sprint brakes. They modulated quite well and were equal to the Shimano single pivots of the day.



They were in a Faggin I picked up and I remember being surprised by their performance.
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Old 03-29-20, 02:53 PM
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I have found that the brand of caliper and whether it's single pivot, dual pivot, center pull or cantilever does not make a substantial difference as long as the lever arms are fairly stiff and setup is properly done (for cantilevers especially). There's maybe a 30% lever pull difference in the effort needed to achieve the same braking force but that is the only real difference between these different brake types. By far the biggest differences in braking power arise from the quality and newness of the pads, the cleanliness of the rims, the amount of friction in the cable/housing system (i.e. use modern lined housings with your vintage brakes), and whether the the pivots and springs are properly lubricated. If you take care of these things it doesn't matter what brand/model of caliper you have, as long as it is a decent quality model. The one caveat is if you have very weak hands then you might not be able to achieve maximum braking force unless you have a brake with a high mechanical advantage (i.e. dual pivot or center pull).

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Old 03-29-20, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post

And for weird brakes, pretty much nothing beats the Scott Superbrake and the Scott Pedersen SE cantilevers. I have a Superbrake on my Vitus and I put an old set of SE cantilevers on my buddy's Nishiki. They are better than any discs I've tried.
Interesting review. I've never had or tried them but long intrigued. I respect what you've described and as I've never owned them, take mine comments to the back.

Anyways, the complaints and caveat as explained to me by the owner of highly respected tandem producer / past editor of cycling publication was the Superbrake leads to a false modulation feeling, to locking up before one is not quick enough to react or let off. Surely are powerful and good ME but for the behaviour in what brakes are designed to do, its a contradiction and poor design.

I'll add, I really wanted them for our tandem, but still use MAFAC Criterium cantilevers + Arai drum drag brake. BTW- the drag brake uses automotive brake shoe lining guaranteed for the life or 100,000 miles for bike applications.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by rccardr View Post
Dura Ace 7400/01 and Shimano 105 1050/1 are the best single pivot ones in my book.
...
A huge improvement going down the back side of Cypress Mountain compared to NR's or Mafac's.
...and that's why I'm running Shimano 1051 brake calipers on my Eroica bike.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:39 PM
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I still really like old school Campagnolo Record side pulls. I think they have better control than modern dual pivots. If the goal is to get down a descent as fast as possible, I suspect they'd hold their own if not beat modern brakes on a timed descent. Dual pivots IMO have too much MA, which makes them self modulate whenever you hit some roughness through the apex, which means you have to slow it down a bit to compensate. Perhaps the psychological edge of being able to late break with little hand effort makes up for this. I don't know. Also without ridiculous MA you can actually get a wheel in and out without needing to readjust your brakes.

Old school MAFAC centerpulls have plenty of power even compared to modern brakes, if that's your thing. Subjectively lots of brake power for not too much hand squeeze. And BTW, they worked just fine with the original pads BITD. The original pads worked about exactly as well as the modern Kool Stop blacks and felt very similar. Obviously after 50 years, any original rubber pads are useless.

These days, I've gained a new appreciation for Weinman/Dia-Compe/Gran-compe centerpulls. If set up well, the ease of braking is closer to MAFAC than to say Campy record, but the modulation and control is closer to Campy.

With any vintage brake it's important to use 'vintage' technique. Braking with one or two fingers from the hoods is not going to cut it. Get in the drops. That's how it was done and it's still the best way. Technique matters.
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Old 03-30-20, 04:27 AM
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Though it took me a while to appreciate the Mafac Racer, I think them to be the best stoppers that I have used on my vintage road bikes...


The MRs work just great, when properly set-up. And, they work great on alloy rims and super great on these patterned steel hoops (unless wet)...
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