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Thread: drum brakes

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    drum brakes

    How limited are drum brakes? I know they have less stopping power and produce more heat in 1 spot but how limited is it actually. The biggest hill I hit regularly I would hit 60 kph if i didnt brake and im on it for lets say 2-3 minutes.
    Would a drum brake explode there? Would it kill me? what about nearby drivers? Would there be a crater?
    But seriously would it work?

    Also the main advantage I see is less maintenance? Is it that much less? Is it worth it in your opinions?

    I know I can google this stuff.. I have... but no one quantifies how bad it is at braking and how little maintenance it is... for good reason.

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    Licensed Bike Geek Davet's Avatar
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    Biggest negatives are that a drum brake with the same braking effectiveness as conventional rim brakes would be large and heavy.

    Drum brakes are often used on tandems, where you have only two wheels worth of rim or disc brakes trying to slow down a bike with 2 people on it. The drum brake is an auxiliary brake used mostly as a drag brake, controlled by the captain, to modulate the downhill speeds of the tandem, which can build rapidly and overcome the regular brakes.

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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    I have the Sturmey Archer drums on a few bikes, I've used the older steel version for years. They don't heat up the tires like a rim brake will and the pads are much large surface area wise so they are better at dissipating heat compared to rim brakes. I just made up a bike with the Sturmey Archer frt drum/dyno and rear 5 speed/drum. It's too salty on the local roads to give it a good test:
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    so heat isnt really a problem? just braking power? Can you brake quickly while descending a hill like the example I gave? I know even if my rim brakes arent perfectly tuned I can still stop quickly... so are drum brakes just a little weaker than rim brakes... or very noticeably weaker ?

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    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    I had a dutch gazelle with some drums on them, and a part had snapped and I had a hard time finding replacement parts for them. They also needed some servicing and/or adjustment but I couldn't find much info online about doing that.

    It seems that discs are way easier to find parts for and a lot more common, and therefore cheaper, than drums. I don't have any experience with discs though, they might not be as low maintenance as drums... I dunno, but I plan on finding out on the next city bike I build.

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    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    I've been using Maillard drums on my commuter bike for about 25 years now. They work fine, but feel mushier than caliper brakes. OTOH, there's no problem with rim wear, and weather doesn't affect them.

    Oh, yeah. I have an Atom drum brake on the rear wheel of my tandem, too. No problems there, either.

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    I've been using Maillard drums on my commuter bike for about 25 years now. They work fine, but feel mushier than caliper brakes. OTOH, there's no problem with rim wear, and weather doesn't affect them.
    so even though they are mushier.. you have never had issues stopping? That is my main concern... I work reasonably hard to avoid death/serious injury

    so heat isnt really a problem? just braking power? Can you brake quickly while descending a hill like the example I gave? I know even if my rim brakes arent perfectly tuned I can still stop quickly... so are drum brakes just a little weaker than rim brakes... or very noticeably weaker ?
    Can anyone speak to maintanance of drum brakes... say for a Nexus 8... impossible maintenance would turn me off of them.
    Last edited by chico1st; 01-04-10 at 04:28 PM.

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    I loosened up the reaction arm of a 70mm X-FD. It may not be the best gear for a clyde or a strong rider, though I guess I was pretty aggressive with it.

    Sturmey drums are easy to maintain. The pads are retained by a pushnut and are easy to change. The front drums have cartridge bearings.

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    Senior member Dan Burkhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    so even though they are mushier.. you have never had issues stopping? That is my main concern... I work reasonably hard to avoid death/serious injury


    Can anyone speak to maintanance of drum brakes... say for a Nexus 8... impossible maintenance would turn me off of them.
    The brakes that are used with a Nexus 8 are actually a roller brake. For low maintenance and long service life in an all weather application, they are tough to beat. Properly set up, they are very effective too.
    The only maintenance required is a periodic shot of special Shimano roller brake grease which is readilly available.

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    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    so even though they are mushier.. you have never had issues stopping? That is my main concern... I work reasonably hard to avoid death/serious injury
    No, I haven't had problems stopping. When my kids were little I used that bike to haul them around in a trailer as well without problems.

    Can anyone speak to maintanance of drum brakes... say for a Nexus 8... impossible maintenance would turn me off of them.
    I've not used the Nexus, but the drum brake hubs on my bike are fairly easy to maintain. You do have a couple extra steps to remove the wheel -- the reaction arm and the cable need to be disconnected. Once the wheel is off the bike, the brake pad assembly just slips out of the hub and you can access the bearings in the Usual Manner.

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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
    The brakes that are used with a Nexus 8 are actually a roller brake. For low maintenance and long service life in an all weather application, they are tough to beat....
    Until I get a flat. The Nexus Roller brake requires me to remove the cable by loosening the anchor bolt. The Sturmey has a quick release. IMHO, the Sturmey is much easier to use, both have about the same braking power, both require about the same amount of maintanence.

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    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    I have the Sturmey Archer drums on a few bikes, I've used the older steel version for years. They don't heat up the tires like a rim brake will and the pads are much large surface area wise so they are better at dissipating heat compared to rim brakes. I just made up a bike with the Sturmey Archer frt drum/dyno and rear 5 speed/drum. It's too salty on the local roads to give it a good test:
    They NEED to be better at dissipating heat, since they should create more heat per square inch. Right?
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    I would always keep the brakes engaged while waiting to cross a street hoping the pads would transfer some of their heat to the drum and then the atmosphere. I think they fade because they get too hot.

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    Senior member Dan Burkhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Until I get a flat. The Nexus Roller brake requires me to remove the cable by loosening the anchor bolt. The Sturmey has a quick release. IMHO, the Sturmey is much easier to use, both have about the same braking power, both require about the same amount of maintanence.
    Which model are you using? I have seen some with no quick release, and I'm quite certain they were the BR im41 rear, but a quick look at this document shows it now has a quick release, so I think that is a recent update.
    http://techdocs.shimano.com/media/te...9830612998.pdf
    All other models of Shimano roller brakes I've dealt with had a qr system.
    Last edited by Dan Burkhart; 01-05-10 at 02:11 PM.

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    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    I went with discs for my winter commuting once the cost of them came down to a reasonable level. That was about 8 or 10 years ago. Very little work needed even in winter to keep them running. Out here in the NorthWET this amounted to spritzing them clean with automotive brake cleaner a couple of times a season when I noticed the pads were not retracting fully and were scuffing lightly when not engaged. And that's pretty good compared to the absolute mess that the rim brakes would be in after only a couple of rainy day commutes. And best of all they don't fade at all even when I do the long and steep run down into New Westminster from up on top of the hill on the Burnaby side. For those that know the area this is pretty high praise for the brakes. And best of all parts and replacement pads are easy to get. Speaking of pads I typically got 3 years out of a set. But truth be known I was riding 3 bikes more or less equally for my commuter and errand riding. So figure on one year per set of pads. The rotors wear lightly as well but should easily last about 8 to 10 years even with winter salt and other crud. The salt may attack the calipers but if you get good painted ones and keep them slicked up with a good car wax or something else non-oily they should be fine.
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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
    Which model are you using?....
    LOL, you're right, I see it does appear to be a QR (it's a BR-70). How does it work?

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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    I went with discs for my winter commuting....
    Disc are best but difficult to retrofit onto older bikes, esp the rear brake. Even the front requires a new fork along with the new hub, caliper/rotor kit.
    For a front drum/dyno: I bought a Sturmey Archer Dynohub/drumbrake hub for $70.
    For disc retrofit: I bought a SRAM/Shimano disc/dynohub for $70, a disk kit for $70 (BB7) and a new fork for $60 (Dimension)

    Still 3x the cost for a disc, they both weight within a few 10s of grams of each other overall.

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    Senior member Dan Burkhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    LOL, you're right, I see it does appear to be a QR (it's a BR-70). How does it work?
    There are 2 different styles of QR depending on the model. The 41 has a fixing bolt that inserts into the opening and slides into a slot. The 70 has a different system seen here.
    http://bike.shimano.com/media/techdo...9830646632.pdf
    It can be a bit tricky to get apart. I prefer the other type.

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    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Disc are best but difficult to retrofit onto older bikes, esp the rear brake. Even the front requires a new fork along with the new hub, caliper/rotor kit.
    For a front drum/dyno: I bought a Sturmey Archer Dynohub/drumbrake hub for $70.
    For disc retrofit: I bought a SRAM/Shimano disc/dynohub for $70, a disk kit for $70 (BB7) and a new fork for $60 (Dimension)

    Still 3x the cost for a disc, they both weight within a few 10s of grams of each other overall.
    Very true. I guess I should have mentioned that my "upgrade" involved a new bike..... Sort of shoots the budget in the foot if the idea is to produce a cheap winter bike. Although I'm not sure those drum hubs are all that cheap either.....
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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    They NEED to be better at dissipating heat, since they should create more heat per square inch. Right?
    No, they can also run at a much higher temp. Rim brake's max temp is limited by the tire's max temp and the rubber brake pad's max temp, very low. Drum brake's max temp is limited by the drum's compostite brake pads max temp, very high. There's square laws involved too, kenetic energy etc.
    Last edited by Mr IGH; 01-05-10 at 06:27 PM.

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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    ...Although I'm not sure those drum hubs are all that cheap either.....
    I don't understand. I can buy a SA drum on ebay right now for $50, I can buy the drum/dyno for $80.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    No, they can also run at a much higher temp. Rim brake's max temp is limited by the tire's max temp and the rubber brake pad's max temp, very low. Drum brake's max temp is limited by the compostite drum's brake pads max temp. very high. There's square laws involved too, kenetic energy etc.
    Yep, I run SA Elites on my brevet bike and have had zero issues in 20+ years.

    While descending a very steep hill at 50+mph in France in '91 I had to grab a few handfuls of brake lever to panic stop for a red light (blowing it would have been fatal). I managed a text book, controlled stop at the signal. The guys I was riding with caught up and one asked "Who burned a clutch?" I said "Watch this" and spit on my front hub. The 'sizzle' was telling of how hot they can get.
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    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    OK, thanks, Mr IGH.

    Drum brakes are tempting for me to try, but I can't justify the expense, given that my rim brakes are working fine for me.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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    While descending a very steep hill at 50+mph in France in '91 I had to grab a few handfuls of brake lever to panic stop for a red light (blowing it would have been fatal). I managed a text book, controlled stop at the signal. The guys I was riding with caught up and one asked "Who burned a clutch?" I said "Watch this" and spit on my front hub. The 'sizzle' was telling of how hot they can get.
    So if you just slammed on your drum brakes would you fly over your bars? I guess thats the most braking power I ever really need

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    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    How limited are drum brakes?
    Would pretty much depend on what kind of riding you're planning to use them for, and perhaps your hand strength. I've got a pair of old Sachs drums on my main commuter and don't consider them limiting at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    I know they have less stopping power...
    I can lock both wheels, even on high friction surfaces, what more can you ask for?
    Admittedly, locking the front takes a tad more effort than on some imaginary "average bike", but it's still easily doable.

    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    ...and produce more heat in 1 spot but how limited is it actually....
    For my commute - not an issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    Would a drum brake explode there?
    Highly unlikely, it may possibly fade some.
    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    .. the main advantage I see is less maintenance? Is it that much less?
    Less maintenance, and more consistent braking performance regardless of weather. Even discs can change a bit in rain and humid conditions.
    Mine were far from new when I got them. I had them apart and realized that I needn't have bothered. Since then I've had them apart once more to try to sort out a brake squeal issue, and really couldn't see any traces of accumulated wear.

    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    ..Is it worth it in your opinions?
    For my commuter - definitely.

    Quote Originally Posted by chico1st View Post
    ..no one quantifies how bad it is at braking and how little maintenance
    it is... .
    If I had reduced hand strenght, had serious descents on my route, or prioritized weight I probably wouldn't have used drums. But for acceptable, dependable performance on the commuter I think they're ideal. The issues I've had is with brake squeal, and for the rear to find the right balance between no drag at idle and lockup before bottoming out.
    Do note that this isn't something I've really worked on, I slapped the bike together mostly by bits I had around. It is entirely possible that a new set of cables/wires, maybe with another lever would cure this.
    As far as spares goes, there aren't any to available to these brakes. But I've checked with a local workshop who does industrial brakes and clutches, and they're willing to resurface the brake shoes for a reasonable cost.

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