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  1. #1
    Perma-clyde Alox's Avatar
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    Road bike rim brake caliper suggestions

    Hi,

    I've got a re-purposed road-bike with 80's vintage Shimano 600 calipers, paired with flat-bar brake levers. I'd like for my wife to use it, but she complains that it takes too much grip strength (she has tendinitis that makes it painful for her to grip things tightly) to activate the brakes. She thinks that the return springs in the calipers are too stiff.

    Does anyone have recommendations for an inexpensive replacement set of brake calipers that combines the following qualities:
    - Not a recessed bolt mount
    - Compatible with flat-bar levers
    - Long / variable reach (this was a 27" wheel bike converted to 700c wheels)
    - Clearance for 700C x 28 tires, fenders are optional
    - Most important: the force required to actuate the brakes is less than that required for an 80's vintage Shimano design. Would a dual-pivot design require less force? Center-pull?

    I'm aware that there are other braking technologies (coaster brake, hydraulic discs, cantilevers) that might serve her better, but I'm trying to get her interested in the activity of cycling, before buying a new / different bike (with different brakes) for her.

    Thanks in advance!
    Nowadays I've got me two good wheels - and I'll seek refuge in aluminum and steel;
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Dual pivot designs do reduce the lever pressure needed to accomplish the same level of braking and Shimano and Tektro still offer "long reach" (47 - 57 mm) dp brake models. The Tektros are quite reasonably priced but replacing their OEM pads with Kool Stops is usually a good idea.

    Finding nutted (as apart from recessed) mounting will be a bit more difficult but there are two approaches:

    1. Drill the rear of the fork crown out with a 5/16" drill which will let you mount recessed front brake calipers on an older fork. You will need a second front brake for the rear or continue to use the current sp brake there.

    2. You can mount the rear brake in front and fit the nut inside the fork crown to hold it in place and use the front brake in back where the longer bolt will let you use an external nut.

  3. #3
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Center pull brakes. they will have more leverage than side pull type, as lever arm is on the opposite side of the brake
    from the pivot. So will be an easier grip.. would use the same brake lever as for cantilevers, on the straight-bars.
    Do require a housing stop attached to the steerer tube, on the fork, and the rear seat post bolt
    will usually support a brake hanger for the rear brake's housing stop.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Because of a couple of issues here related to your wife's carpal tunnel thing I'm going to deal with your points in a mixed up way.

    - Long / variable reach (this was a 27" wheel bike converted to 700c wheels)
    When you swapped over you increased the reach from the pivot to the pads. This increases the force needed to achieve the original stopping force. Most will not notice this issue but because of your wife's CT issue this is just one point that is adding up to the overall problem.

    - Most important: the force required to actuate the brakes is less than that required for an 80's vintage Shimano design. Would a dual-pivot design require less force? Center-pull?
    A set of longer reach dual pivot Tektro calipers will greatly reduce the lever effort needed compared to what you have now. I've done this swap on two bikes of my own that were originally 27's converted to 700 and the reduction in lever effort just with the caliper swap was amazing.

    - Not a recessed bolt mount
    Tektro makes a bunch of longer reach calipers that will work but I'm just not sure of which exact model has the long bolt and regular nut style. You may need to email them directly on that aspect to know which to order. The sets you're looking at are the R538, R556, R365,R358 and R316. I know that the 538 and 556 are both the sorter stud tubular nut models. But it's not hard to drill the back of the fork to 5/16 to accept the tubular nut and only slightly more complex to do the rear bridge.

    - Clearance for 700C x 28 tires, fenders are optional
    Won't be a problem at all with any of the noted models. One of the bikes I converted is running with 28's using the R538 calipers and there's gobs of clearance.

    - Compatible with flat-bar levers
    This may be your biggest downfall on two counts.

    First off most flat bar levers these days are designed to pull a lot of cable to use with linear or V brakes. This is not suitable for any of these sidepull calipers as it again reduces the leverage ratio and will make her have to squeeze that much harder. What you need to find is some old cantilever levers that have the much shorter pivot to cable barrel end distance to raise the leverage ratio. The lever swap combined with the switch to the dual pivot calipers will combine to greatly reduce the pressure she needs to achieve an easy stopping power. A suitable option if you can't find any old cantilever levers is to get some Avid Speedial levers. These have a little adjustable shuttle for the cable that can be dialed in and out. In this case you would dial it so the shuttle goes inwards as far as it can towards the pivot. This would make these levers compatible with the caliper brakes. When dialed out they are then compatible with linear or V brakes.

    Second, if you're using mountain bike flat bars on this bike you have to realize that the simple flat design twists the bones in the rider's wrists so the forearm twin bones are all wound around each other. And that takes the carpal tunnels with them. If you can do a handlebar swap to a style like a ^-^ or upside down W shape then the angled grip areas will allow her to ride with her forearm bones in a much more neutral position and the carpal tunnels will similarly lay in a nice path that doesn't make them apply pressure to the forearm bones when flexed for braking efforts. Also by moving her hands back a little with these bars it would also take a little more weight off her wrists which would further reduce the discomfort. Being in Vancouver you're in luck. I recently bought a set of bars with the bend style shown in my little graphic from Sports Junkies down on Broadway just on the east end of the block where MEC is located. The bars were aluminium, cost was about $12 and the size is compatible with mountain bike levers and stems.

    On top of this I also highly recomend an immediate swith of the brake pads on whatever brakes you get to the Koolstop salmon colored ones. The initial bite and overall feel of these pads is one that again produces more stopping power for less lever effort.

    But the pads alone will not do the trick. The setup you have right now is stacked too much against using any single one correction. If she's having a hard time of it then you need to pretty much redo the brakes AND swap out the handlebars. You basically need to convert the bike to an upright sitting cruiser to take the weight off her wrists and to let her arms form a very neutral and natural reach to the bars and levers. This last bit you'll get from using the ^-^ shaped bars and by setting the angle of the bars in the stem and the levers on the bars so that they are neutral to your wife's reach to them. A good way to set this up is have her sit on the bike and with her eyes closed just naturally lift her arms to where she THINKS the bars and grips are located while not twisting her wrist and hands out of their natural resting position. This last bit may take a few tries if she's not really sure and keeps trying to put her hands into the position she remembers the flat bars forcing on her. Doing all this will cost you on the high side of $100. But the good news is that if the bike otherwise fits her half way decently that you would not require a different bike if she enjoys riding. But keep in mind that the casual upright seating position demanded to take her weight off her wrists is not going to make for a spirited and sporty riding speed. There ARE options for folks that want to ride fast and have CTS but that's a whole other ball of wax. Just now it sounds like you're just looking to make it practical for her to join you on some rides for fun and sightseeing and maybe a few grocery errand rides. For that a nice casual bike that doesn't leave her in pain be fine.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Some levers are still made for Cantilever type brakes , you need to be mindful of what you are buying..
    Avid 'Speed dial' levers are said to be able to adjust the leverage in the lever in a range between the 2.

    V brake at the wheel has a lot of leverage, the matching brake lever has rather low leverage,

    more cable is pulled when the lever's fulcrum is further from the work being done..

    With a lower leverage in the brake caliper, the leverage in the hand lever is increased.. its a balance..

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Center pull brakes. they will have more leverage than side pull type, as lever arm is on the opposite side of the brake from the pivot.
    This is how double pivot calipers differ from older single pivot types and why they are more "powerful" for a given lever pressure.

  7. #7
    Perma-clyde Alox's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestions BCRider (and others). I'd already swapped out the flat bar for a 3-speed style bar that places the Mrs' hands in a more favourable neutral position. You're right in assuming that this bike is meant as a sightseer / grocery getter.

    Given my hardware limitations, (no cabe stops, and a rust-frozen stem that can't be removed) I think that I'll look into getting a set of Tektro dual pivots, and setting them up super-close to the rim. With Salmon-coloured pads.

    I'll follow up with results in the future!
    Nowadays I've got me two good wheels - and I'll seek refuge in aluminum and steel;
    Takes me out there for just a little while, and the years fall away with every mile...
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  8. #8
    cab horn
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    Some of the OP's requirements are dumb including:

    1) Non recessed bolt mount <- really, it's one drill bit or alternative sheldon method. Closes off so many options it's ********.
    2) Compatible with flat bar levers, really that means looking for a flat bar lever that's compatible with cantilevers. There's plenty of them.
    3) Long reach, how about a NUMBER, 27" to 700c doesn't tell us anything definitive
    4) Clearance for wide tyres <- moot

    Reducing the force required to actuate the brake is easy. Bend the springs on the old single pivots, up and it'll reduce the spring back force. If the lever incorporates a return spring, remove it. Looking for a new dual pivot brake is not the answer. Is the OP also aware that some flat bar levers have reach adjustment built in? That will also help.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Operator, did you miss the bit about the OP's wife suffering from CTS and that she has a difficult and painful time squeezing ANY brake lever? Given that situation there is nothing at all wrong with pulling out all the stops and building up as responsive a braking system as possible. And did you also see the part where this is being done on a budget before buying a nice bike to see if she likes riding and can operate the controls?

    What you posted is fine for our regular gronks but the OP has a pretty special set of circumstances to deal with in this case. And now that he has a line on the brake caliper reach figures I'm sure he can measure and get what he needs.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  10. #10
    Gear Hub fan
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    Harris Cyclery carries the externally nutted Tektro longer reach brake calipers in two different reach ranges, 47-57mm and 55-73mm IIRC.
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  11. #11
    Senior Member cod.peace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tatfiend View Post
    Harris Cyclery carries the externally nutted Tektro longer reach brake calipers in two different reach ranges, 47-57mm and 55-73mm IIRC.
    and here's some Tektro flat-bar levers for caliper brakes: http://www.velo-orange.com/teflle.html
    old steel Specialized Hardrock

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by cod.peace View Post
    and here's some Tektro flat-bar levers for caliper brakes: http://www.velo-orange.com/teflle.html
    they carry the nutted Tektro brakes, also

  13. #13
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    whatever you get for brakelevers make sure you can adjust them for her reach. if the lever is closer to the bars she will be grabbing it with the middle of her fingers rather than just the tips (like us real cyclist LOL)
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

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  14. #14
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Bianchigirl raises an excellent point. Tuning the position in all aspects will count for just as much as having the optimum components. To add to her note about reach you'll want to set the levers so that when her fingers are extended to reach the brake levers that her wrist, back of the hand and fingers all form as straight as practical a line when her fingers are on the levers. Anything you can do to avoid a bend at the wrist will further ease and straighten the carpal tunnels where they pass by the wrist.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  15. #15
    Perma-clyde Alox's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your helpful replies. I had already bought a pair of adjustable reach brake levers, and the 3-speed (not flat) handlebar, adjusted to keep her hands in as straight a line from the elbow to the grip as possible. I even cut the brake cable housings as short as was functional, and lubed the cables to reduce losses due to binding and housing flex. The next least expensive thing to change is the calipers and I wasn't sure what the best choice would be.

    I'd seen the Tektros on the harris cyclery page, but wanted to learn other people's experiences to see if it would be worthwhile before I made the purchase.
    Nowadays I've got me two good wheels - and I'll seek refuge in aluminum and steel;
    Takes me out there for just a little while, and the years fall away with every mile...
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  16. #16
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    I got a set each of the R556 and the R538. Both were EXCELLENT upgrades over the single pivot calipers on the bikes from the early days. They are nicely made in every way that counts and perform flawlessly for me despite using them in some very slod and sloppy weather back when I commuted to work. You will NOT be dissapointed if you get any of these double pivot Tektro road brakes.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  17. #17
    Perma-clyde Alox's Avatar
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    BC Rider,

    Just one more question: did you swap out the Tektro pads for salmon Kool Stops? If so, can you point me in the direction of the correct model of pads? If not, it's no biggie, I'll figure it out.
    Nowadays I've got me two good wheels - and I'll seek refuge in aluminum and steel;
    Takes me out there for just a little while, and the years fall away with every mile...
    -Steve Earle, "The Other Kind"

  18. #18
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    I sure did. And I'm sorry that I did not mention that in the post above. On the two I got with the holders and cartridge pads the original Tektro pads were prone to biting in and galling away bits of aluminium off the rims. But at 200'ish lbs I'm not kind on this stuff. The Koolstops both fixed the galling issue and made the brakes a little more responsive so less lever effort was needed.

    I got my "Shimano compatible" slide in pads to fit the holders off Ebay. With the lower number series they do not have the holders but instead come with regular pads. There's a number of salmon only or salmon and black combos. Any will work. Or you can even use the thinline MTB pads. If you use these longer ones and the brakes are squeal monsters you can shorten the contact area a little by cutting away the leading segment up to the first split line. I did that on a set that was squealing like a stuck pig and nothing at all I did would fix it. Removing the first leading segment totally fixed the issue.
    Last edited by BCRider; 08-04-10 at 11:27 PM.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

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