Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Montréal (Québec)
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The Arai drum brake is not made for quick stops, emergency-style; however, it still compares fairly well to whatever braking you can get from the rear brake. In other words, if you grab the lever very hard, you can skid the rear wheel. It needs to pull a fair amount of cable, therefore it works better with a v-brake lever than with a canti-brake lever. I would NOT recommend having the Arai drum brake as your sole brake (it's a bit like having an oiled coaster brake), but it would work great in conjunction with a rim canti- or v-brake on the front wheel.
Still, the great advantage of the Arai brake is that it's almost impossible to overheat it. So that's a great safety policy for those multi-kilometer long downhills.
Coming back to the original poster request:
1. In theory, you could use a flip flop hub. However, you'll need to buy a 120-mm hub with a 135-mm axle (or something like that, I don,t know the precise measurements) to install a freewheel on one side and a drum brake on the other. It would work, but you would have the worst of both worlds:
– a freewheel, limiting you to 7, or at most 8 speeds, which means little or no availability of indexed shifting;
– an unsupported axle on both sides, meaning more possibility of axle breaking.
2. If you look carefully around, you could get a 135-mm tandem hub, or even a 140-mm tandem hub respaced to 135 mm. In both cases, it means a freehub and the latest technology. Bear in mind that tandem hubs are NOT cheap, except for the Shimano tandem freehub, which is available only in 140 and 145-mm width.
3. "Old bike" most certainly means steel (check with a magnet), in which case you can spread it. I would not spread from 120 mm to 140 or 145 mm, but spreading from 126 to 135 mm can most certainly be done. And spreading to 135 mm makes sense in that you can put any standard "touring" wheel (or spread to 130 mm to install any standard "road" wheel).