Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Montpelier, VA
Bikes: The keepers: 1960 Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix, 1968 Ranger, 1969 Magneet Sprint, 1971 Gitane Tour de France, 1973 Raleigh Tourist, 1973 Lambert, 1973 Schwinn Super Sport, 2 - 1988 Rossins
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Assuming you're looking at vintage, possibly hitting the local second-hand/recycle bike shop to keep the cost down, I'll drop two words on you: Weinmann centerpulls.
I'd always considered them the best centerpull brake 30 years ago, and when I started putting together a parts drawer for possible projects, I picked up about four pairs of Weinmann calipers, spent an evening pulling them down and going over the alloy with metal polish, and now I've got a container of clean, new-looking brake calipers just waiting for the next project. They're strong, well-built, stop very well once you've dropped by the LBS and picked up a new set of pads, oh, did I mention they're extremely common be they branded Weinmann/Dia-Compe/Schwinn/Raleigh or whatever which means they're incredibly cheap while still being a quality product.
Don't want to mess with something as old as centerpulls? Go Shimano or Dia-Compe top end sidepulls from the 70's. Here again, damn good quality for not much money.
Mafac brakes are good, have to be set up right to really work well, noisy, and will cost you a fair bit more (they're not as common) for no appreciable advantage.
Universals, er, I never was too impressed with them.
Campagnolo sidepulls are the best, but there's this little matter of cost . . . . . . Zeus were good, assuming you can find them. Ditto Favorit (they were Czechoslovakian ripoffs of Campy), but once again we're talking hard to find.
Deranged Few M/C