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Rod brakes

Old 03-11-20, 11:12 PM
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Rod brakes

I see alot of old English-style bikes on bike racks here. Here in China, you can see buy a new bike with rod brake. But it is not common anymore. Kids nowadays want MTB style bicycles.

So, how good are rod brakes for generally slow-riding in the city?

I have to ride down 3 levels of parking garage, and have to come down slow.

I can buy a brand new English-style singlespeed bike for only US$ 80.
They have either rod brakes or caliper brakes, to choose.

I prefer the styling of the rod brakes. And it looks dead simple to maintain.

Here is the advertisement. Even comes with 26x1-3/8 wheel.



Last edited by mtb_addict; 03-12-20 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 03-11-20, 11:34 PM
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Marginal braking at best, worse if on steel rims and can result in death squeeze prayer in the rain with city traffic.

Aftermarket Kool Stop salmon pads are an improvement. Cost of pads in the U.S. is 1/4 the total cost of your entire bike example. That's comical right there.

The action of this brake design is most primitive but ridiculous charming for any bike produced today. The force pushes up on the rim and not against opposing friction pad.

She's cute, by the way.
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Old 03-12-20, 12:31 AM
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This fellow seem to like them. He is arguing that if rod brake is adjusted properly, it will work well. But require more work to setup.


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Old 03-12-20, 12:39 AM
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...they work better than no brakes at all, but not much better. Given a choice between rod brakes and cable actuated caliper brakes, it's a no brainer.
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Old 03-12-20, 03:42 AM
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I have rod brakes on my DL-1. They are cool in a funky, old fashioned sort of way and I did, after much work, get a reasonable amount of performance out of them. At least for the speeds I ride. But they are difficult to set up, make wheel removal a pest and are no match for caliper brakes in stopping power.
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Old 03-12-20, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by BigChief View Post
I have rod brakes on my DL-1. They are cool in a funky, old fashioned sort of way and I did, after much work, get a reasonable amount of performance out of them. At least for the speeds I ride. But they are difficult to set up, make wheel removal a pest and are no match for caliper brakes in stopping power.
To convert from rod to caliper, would the rim need to be replaced?
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Old 03-12-20, 08:43 AM
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Rod brakes are generally paired with Westwood style rims. These rims do not have a flat sidewall, but rather a a curved edge which provides insufficient contact area for caliper brakes and causes the brake pads to ride either up over or down under the rim, unless the rim is perfectly round and the pad centred exactly on crest of the curved edge. So, typically you'd have to replace the rims/wheels for a rod to caliper brake conversion.

Edit: I echo the previous sentiments regarding the performance of rod brakes. Brake performance is large a function of the coefficient of friction between the rim and pad materials. Chrome plated steel is far inferior to aluminum in this aspect and given that rod brakes are found on inexpensive models, I highly doubt that they would use premium brake pad material.

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Old 03-12-20, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post

I have to ride down 3 levels of parking garage, and have to come down slow.

I can buy a brand new English-style singlespeed bike for only US$ 80.
They have either rod brakes or caliper brakes, to choose.
If the ramps in the parking garage are steep enough to make braking problematic, a single speed bike is going to be difficult to ride back up
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Old 03-12-20, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
If the ramps in the parking garage are steep enough to make braking problematic, a single speed bike is going to be difficult to ride back up
There is an elevator I use to go up.

I could use elevator to go down too, but it is so much easier and fun to ride down.
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Old 03-12-20, 10:36 AM
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mtb_addict Dude based on your posts in mechanics, you are in china with limited tools, hard to het parts, etc. Forget about an conversion. it is simple even poor calipers will brake better than rod brakes. if you have concern get the bike with caliper brakes and make you life simple
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Old 03-12-20, 10:53 AM
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In my experience, rod brakes work only for very slow riding. Their braking power is much less than caliper brakes. Part of this is due, as said above, to the chromed Westwood rims. When wet, the friction between brake pads and chromed rims is very little, plus the brake linkage has some inherent flex that absorbs some of the travel/force.
I've seen caliper brakes on Westwood rims, but the rounded rim profile wears down the pads very quickly. There are apparently rims made for both rod and caliper brakes, but I've never seen one.
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Old 03-12-20, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
mtb_addict Dude based on your posts in mechanics, you are in china with limited tools, hard to het parts, etc. Forget about an conversion. it is simple even poor calipers will brake better than rod brakes. if you have concern get the bike with caliper brakes and make you life simple
Unfortunately, the bike with the caliper brake is differnt in other aspect. No lugged frame...and no decorative English fork crown. It doesnt inspire me much.


I just found out that, I can buy a pair of brand new aluminum 26x1-3/8 wheel set (front and rear)for less than US$20 here in Taobao.

Last edited by mtb_addict; 03-12-20 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 03-12-20, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
Unfortunately, the bike with the caliper brake is not lugged frame...and no decorative fork crown. It doesnt inspire me much.
I have a rod brake Raleigh Tourist DL-1 which I love to ride. That being said, function trumps form when looking for a commuter bike. Although I value lugs and decorative fork crowns, they will not help when trying to avoid sticky situations especially when braking is needed.

On the other hand, braking efficiency of rod brakes can be increased with the proper know-how. Also, as has been mentioned, if your riding style will not necessitate quick stops while at high speeds, the bike could work for you. After all, in the history of bikes, rod brake bikes have probably been used more than any other bike for commuting.

Weigh the pros & cons, and consider what your riding style will be.

Good luck!

PS - Being this is a biking forum, I should probably tell you to buy both!
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Old 03-12-20, 11:56 AM
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Come on now, this is a C&V forum. Rod brakes are cool! No, they don't work as well as caliper brakes, but they work well enough for a casual commuting situation. Should be fine if you live in a relatively flat area. On the other hand, if you live in a dense urban area, being able to stop quickly when a car makes a stupid turn into you or something is a very useful thing. Caliper brakes on a steel rim are still not going to be great.

As a kid I rode around in a very hilly town with a rear coaster brake only. You get used to planning ahead. There weren't many cars around then.

I've only owned one old style roadster, but it had drum brakes. Those were great. I guess that's not an option here though.
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Old 03-12-20, 12:00 PM
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Rod brakes have no advantage except perhaps for cost. Don't get them.
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Old 03-12-20, 12:26 PM
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I refurbished a Phoenix a few years ago. No comparison to the quality of a Raleigh but it was a functional bike.
Most interesting is the use of a blonde western-looking model to sell them. Effective marketing!
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Old 03-12-20, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by IsleRide View Post
I refurbished a Phoenix a few years ago. No comparison to the quality of a Raleigh but it was a functional bike.
Most interesting is the use of a blonde western-looking model to sell them. Effective marketing!
Looks like the image of the girl was digitally added over the pic of the bike!
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Old 03-12-20, 03:29 PM
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My years with the Raleigh Tourist had me believing that rod brakes were marginal at best. Additing Cool Stop pads turned marginal into barely acceptable.

Then I got the Flying Pigeon last month. For what little time I've spent riding it (rear flat problems), I found the brakes to be just as good as any 70's Raleigh Sports with the stock pads. And they were easier to work on than the vintage British roadsters.
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Old 03-12-20, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
...There are apparently rims made for both rod and caliper brakes, but I've never seen one.
Dunlop offered a Westwood and Endrick hybrid that they marketed as Dunrick rims. They were manufactured under license in Canada by CCM.during the late 1940s and 1950s..

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Old 03-12-20, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by thorstein View Post
Looks like the image of the girl was digitally added over the pic of the bike!
There is something odd about that photo. There was selection work done. Around the handlebar and bell, the shadows under the tires look fake and some of the curb is missing. The puzzle is that her hair against the wood is perfect. Hard to do unless she was photographed in front of a blue screen. But then why all the sloppy lines along her legs that would have been easy to select?
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Old 03-12-20, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BigChief View Post
There is something odd about that photo. There was selection work done. Around the handlebar and bell, the shadows under the tires look fake and some of the curb is missing. The puzzle is that her hair against the wood is perfect. Hard to do unless she was photographed in front of a blue screen. But then why all the sloppy lines along her legs that would have been easy to select?
I didn't look too closely before, but now it appears like none of the things in that picture were actually photographed together. Just a careless copy and paste job in MS Paint or whatever. And that's the outfit the OP wants to buy a bike from.
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Old 03-12-20, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I didn't look too closely before, but now it appears like none of the things in that picture were actually photographed together. Just a careless copy and paste job in MS Paint or whatever. And that's the outfit the OP wants to buy a bike from.
I think I got it...The photo of the girl in front of the wall is original. They had a super clean selection of the bike, placed it in and did a crappy job of erasing the bike around the model. Then they blurred it up to hide their poor work.
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Old 03-12-20, 07:10 PM
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While we're on the subject of new Chinese roadsters, I may as well fill you in on the Flying Pigeon I picked up new (with a flat rear tire) at the Westminster swap meet in February. For all of $50.00. I was planning on doing a separate thread on it over the past month, but working on the garage took all my time.

Overall, the quality is better than I expected, but I had to check EVERY fastener on the bike. All of mine we tightened to what I can best describe as approximately 32 foot-ounces of torque. Everything on the bike had to be tightened . . . . . . with one exception . . . . . . . . the wheel bearing cones which, I swear, were put on with an air impact wrench. I'm amazed that the wheels actually turned. Happily, the hubs were greased. Haven't had a chance to get at the bottom bracket due to haven't gotten around to replacing the cotter tool that I lost in the fire.

I've ridden it three times now, and gotten three flats in the rear wheel for my trouble. The first two were on the inside of the tube, up against the rim strip, not in the tire tread area. Going over the rim and rim strip, I couldn't feel anything that should be puncturing the tube, but put a layer over the black electrical tape over the rim strip. And these were new 40-635 tubes, not the 35-622 that were originally stretched into the tires. The latest flat was from the patch I put on the previous hole not holding.

Gearing is a 46x20 which means it's a bit overgeared for my tastes, although looking at the freewheel I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get it off. Standard thread-on, but there's no gripping point for a freewheel tool. Will figure that one out once I've got the bike on the road regularly. There is, of course, one point in the crank rotation where it's going to rub on the full chain case. And, so far I haven't figured out how to make it stop. Eventually, it'll probably rub a hole in the backside of the case at that point and problem solved. Oh, unlike the vintage British bikes, that chain case is one welded piece, except for the removable disc over the crank sprocket, and the rear cap which unbolts giving access to the rear sprocket, (single, cheap bastards) chain tension adjuster, and removal of the rear wheel. I can see when the day comes to replace the chain, you do so by attaching the new chain to the old one and pulling it thru.

What I have gotten from this bike is a wonderful practice dummy for working on vintage English roadsters. I think I've had the back wheel off and out at least six times now, having gotten practiced to the point where it's no more trouble to do than, say, my 1972 Raleigh Grand Prix. I can set the rod brakes in under a minute and have them work properly after the first time. I do like the way it rides. If anything, the frame angles are slack to the point that my Raleigh Tourist puts faint claim in for sporty handling by comparison.

I do enjoy the bike. Once I've got the bugs worked out and regeared it to match my normal cadence, I can see using the bike in rotation with my two other Raleigh commuters.



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Old 03-12-20, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by BigChief View Post
There is something odd about that photo. There was selection work done. Around the handlebar and bell, the shadows under the tires look fake and some of the curb is missing. The puzzle is that her hair against the wood is perfect. Hard to do unless she was photographed in front of a blue screen. But then why all the sloppy lines along her legs that would have been easy to select?
Bike added to the girl's picture? All around odd!
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Old 03-12-20, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by BigChief View Post
I think I got it...The photo of the girl in front of the wall is original. They had a super clean selection of the bike, placed it in and did a crappy job of erasing the bike around the model. Then they blurred it up to hide their poor work.
Yeah, I think you're right. Weird how the girl and the bike seem to occupy the same space, huh?
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