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  1. #1
    Ex-Lion Tamer Bklyn's Avatar
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    Center-Pulls Bad, Side-Pulls Good?

    I've got a Fuji fixed-gear conversion circa 1983. It came with center-pull brakes. I'd like to switch to a front side-pull brake.
    Here are my questions.
    • Before I get too far into this, I'm not imagining the superiority of side-pull brakes to center-pulls, am I?
    • The wheels are 27". Reach would be a problem only if I had switched to 700c wheels, right?
    • Are there any issues I'm not even considering? Will the bolt on, say, a Shimano Ultegra side-pull be either too short or too fat to work with my fork?

    Thanks for your help.
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  2. #2
    Seρor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    Not all side pulls are created equal. Same with center pulls. I have bikes with center pulls that stop just fine. The pads, rims and adjustment make more of a difference than whether center pull or side pull.
    The search for inner peace continues...

  3. #3
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    I'd look into better brake pads first. Then maybe alloy rims if you have steel but that seems to matter mostly when it rains.

    If you need longer reach brakes, check out rivbike.com or velo-orange.com

  4. #4
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    IMHO, (after changing brake pads) I'd change to aero levers before I change brakes. Aero levers provide more mechanical advantage and improve your braking power. (But pads first).
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  5. #5
    Senior Member kpug505's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bklyn View Post
    • Before I get too far into this, I'm not imagining the superiority of side-pull brakes to center-pulls, am I?
    As stated earlier center pulls are fine with new pads and alloy rims.
    • The wheels are 27". Reach would be a problem only if I had switched to 700c wheels, right?
    Correct. Assuming the new caliper you want to use is the same reach.
    • Are there any issues I'm not even considering? Will the bolt on, say, a Shimano Ultegra side-pull be either too short or too fat to work with my fork?
    Being an early frame I would assume the current center pull caliper does not have a recessed brake bolt and uses a nut on the outside rear of the fork. If the new caliper is for recessed your going to have a problem....You'll have to drill the fork or swap a different bolt into the new caliper.
    Kelly D
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  6. #6
    Ex-Lion Tamer Bklyn's Avatar
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    Thanks for your advice. Though I suspect many of you to be shills for the Kool Stop Corporation, I'm much happier just buying brake pads than rejiggering my whole setup.
    I was under the impression (surely fostered here, somewhere) that center-pulls were mechanically inferior to other brakes. Happy to have been disabused of that notion.
    Quote Originally Posted by unkchunk View Post
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  7. #7
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    Centerpull's, in terms of mechanical design alone, are a more reliable mechanism for transmitting equally leveraged braking force to both sides of the rim concurrently than standard design sidepulls are. In that regard (and most regards), they're really much better.

    It all starts to all apart a bit when you get to the downsides. Centerpulls typically weigh more, require cable hangers (which can't be too flexible or they'll compromise action and power), are typically more complex and there are more adjustment points for proper setup (which requires more mechanic hours $), require a longer pull lever and so, typically don't feel as solid upon application. C'pull arms are typically spread wide to allow for best tire clearance and rim removal and wider stance forces the pads to connect with the rim farther along the pivot swing arc. This tends to wear the pads unevenly and and requires mindfull adjustment to compensate as the pads wear (more mechanic $ and though this really applies to all bicycle caliper brakes, it's more of a problem with the wider stance C'pulls require)

    Dual pivot sidepulls, which successfully mimic centerpull mechanical action, simplify most of the setup problems with C'pulls though they're typically still heavy, just like c'pulls .

    Modern incarnations of the dual pivot concept, like the Ti2 racing, KCNC and the EEbrake are some of the most interesting designs in the pantheon and give riders the best of both worlds (though they'll look a bit strange on your vintage Peugeot). Paul's Racer brakes are an interesting modern, summation to strictly centerpull evolution as well.

    Danny



    Quote Originally Posted by Bklyn View Post
    Thanks for your advice. Though I suspect many of you to be shills for the Kool Stop Corporation, I'm much happier just buying brake pads than rejiggering my whole setup.
    I was under the impression (surely fostered here, somewhere) that center-pulls were mechanically inferior to other brakes. Happy to have been disabused of that notion.

  8. #8
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    I'll gladly shill for KoolStop all day long. They turned my Dia-Compe center pulls (from Rivendell) from death-traps for the unwary into pretty good brakes, even with non-aero levers. Good pads really make that big a difference.

    As for the reach issues going from 27" to 700c, the difference in brake pad placement is 4mm. If you can lower your current pads 4mm or more, you can switch over to 700c with no issues.
    "I'm in shape -- round is a shape." Andy Rooney

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannyg1 View Post
    C'pull arms are typically spread wide to allow for best tire clearance and rim removal and wider stance forces the pads to connect with the rim farther along the pivot swing arc.
    Danny
    +1
    And not only tire clearance, but fender clearance as well. Centerpulls are sometimes the best option (along with perhaps cantis, which are basically a form of centerpull) for touring, randonneuring, pass hunting, commuting, and all-rounder type frames. Not that there aren't some sidepulls with longer reach (i.e. Tektro), but centerpulls offer good bang for buck where 28mm and up tires and fenders are involved. As mentioned, pads and levers are key to good performance - so are cables and housing. I have older Mafac Racers on my Bleriot with Kool Stop pads and Tektro aero levers, and they work quite well.

  10. #10
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    For those that say centerpulls are more complex than sidepulls...

    I think that when many people proclaim the superiority of side pull over center pull, they are talking about dual pivot side pulls, which from my minimal exposure are at least as complex as center pull brakes.
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  11. #11
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Picchio Special View Post
    +1
    And not only tire clearance, but fender clearance as well. Centerpulls are sometimes the best option (along with perhaps cantis, which are basically a form of centerpull) for touring, randonneuring, pass hunting, commuting, and all-rounder type frames. Not that there aren't some sidepulls with longer reach (i.e. Tektro), but centerpulls offer good bang for buck where 28mm and up tires and fenders are involved. As mentioned, pads and levers are key to good performance - so are cables and housing. I have older Mafac Racers on my Bleriot with Kool Stop pads and Tektro aero levers, and they work quite well.
    Have they deafened you from the omnipresent "Mafac squeal" yet?
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  12. #12
    Glutton for Punishment
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
    Have they deafened you from the omnipresent "Mafac squeal" yet?
    There is no such thing as 'omnipresent squeal' if you set up a brake properly.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mswantak View Post
    There is no such thing as 'omnipresent squeal' if you set up a brake properly.
    First time out, 36 miles, not a single squeal. Second time out, I did get some from the front brake, but it lessened by the end of the ride. I'm betting I can adjust it out. The Kool Stop pads do seem to help. Overall, I'm very impressed by the braking, and the retro calipers do give the bike a cool touch - they're the only vintage part on the bike. Competitions would probably be even better, and are generally more sought after. But these seem fine.

  14. #14
    Don't call me sir cmdr's Avatar
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    My weinmann centerpulls with Dura Ace pads are maximum stopping power. They almost rival the Mavic SSC dual pivots that I have. Those are scary brakes!
    1969 Bob Jackson, 1989 Schwinn Paramount, 2004 Santa Cruz Blur, 2011 Specialized P-3, 2013 Salsa Colossal Ti

  15. #15
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    If my centerpull's were squealing I'd try to retrofit (futurefit?) brake cartridges that have an orbital mounting system to them and toe 'em in. I'm not a fan of the old 'take a wrench and bend' the aluminum Mafac arms to fix it. Bending aluminum is never a good idea, especially on critical component like a brake.

    Danny

  16. #16
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    I've ridden through many brakes eras since the 60's. I would say that centrepulls are better for most people than the old side-pulls if only because the darned things stay centered. The very slight downside is that they require a bit more hardware and so they weigh a little more (which was probably why they were abandoned in the racing world).

    For a modern bike, nothing beats the dual-pivot side-pulls though.

  17. #17
    Glutton for Punishment
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannyg1 View Post
    If my centerpull's were squealing I'd try to retrofit (futurefit?) brake cartridges that have an orbital mounting system to them and toe 'em in. I'm not a fan of the old 'take a wrench and bend' the aluminum Mafac arms to fix it. Bending aluminum is never a good idea, especially on critical component like a brake.

    Danny
    +1 on that. I get sets of Stickyfingers (okay, no 'stinkyfingers' jokes, now) at the LBS, and they work great.

  18. #18
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mswantak View Post
    There is no such thing as 'omnipresent squeal' if you set up a brake properly.
    True in theory, very hard to attain with some Mafacs in practice. They worked pretty well (many TdF bikes were equiped with them from the mid-50's to the mid-70's) but if you were among the unlucky, you could dial them in for hours and still have them announce that you were braking to anyone within half a mile.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    If you look at the Velo Orange blog for March 24th you'll se some replacement shoes with smooth posts that have ball mounts to allow angle adjustment.

    He also says that they are going to be producing their own version of the Mafac Competiton, the "Vafac".

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtdrop View Post
    If you look at the Velo Orange blog for March 24th you'll se some replacement shoes with smooth posts that have ball mounts to allow angle adjustment.

    He also says that they are going to be producing their own version of the Mafac Competiton, the "Vafac".
    I've been keeping an eye on that. While they're intended for the Vafacs (and Paul Racers I believe), I'll bet they'll be worth trying on the Mafacs.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Picchio Special View Post
    I've been keeping an eye on that. While they're intended for the Vafacs (and Paul Racers I believe), I'll bet they'll be worth trying on the Mafacs.
    Take a close look at the picture of the Mafac RAIDs.

  22. #22
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    All else being equal, centerpulls are superior to single pivot sidepulls (been there ... done that). As others have noted, you need aero handles, incompressible cable housings, stiff cable stop bridges, KoolStop salmon brake pads, and aluminum rims.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  23. #23
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    All else being equal, centerpulls are superior to single pivot sidepulls (been there ... done that). As others have noted, you need aero handles, incompressible cable housings, stiff cable stop bridges, KoolStop salmon brake pads, and aluminum rims.
    I hope nobody gets the idea that they should use compressionless shift housing for their brakes from reading that.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mswantak View Post
    +1 on that. I get sets of Stickyfingers (okay, no 'stinkyfingers' jokes, now) at the LBS, and they work great.
    Not to wade right into a bad joke but, what are 'stickyfingers'?

    Danny

  25. #25
    Senior Member sykerocker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longfemur View Post
    I've ridden through many brakes eras since the 60's. I would say that centrepulls are better for most people than the old side-pulls if only because the darned things stay centered. The very slight downside is that they require a bit more hardware and so they weigh a little more (which was probably why they were abandoned in the racing world).
    Don't underestimate the element of style in the evolution of brake calipers. You can certainly remember way back when, when all quality brakes were centerpulls except for those that were the ultimate . . . . Campagnolo Nuevo Records. And having Campy sidepulls made your bike something special (to the point that some of my friends would spend weeknights polishing Weinmann sidepulls to give them the same look).

    And then Dura Ace copied the Campys, followed by Dia-Compe, followed by . . . well, you get the picture. No doubt there were mechanical considerations in there, too, but I'll always be convinced that style and status had some credit in there.
    Syke

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