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  1. #1
    NYCPistaRider
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    Improving performance of old Campy brakes

    I have a nice set of early 1970s Campagnolo brake calipers on my bike, but they are awfully tough to use. I get almost no braking power by squeezing the levers when my hands are on the hoods, and even in the drops it is tough to get the bike to stop quickly. I am beginning to think this setup is just unsafe. Anybody have any recommendations for how to fix/adjust this problem? My mechanic recommended replacing the brakes with modern ones, but I'll do that only as a last resort.

  2. #2
    Forum Admin lotek's Avatar
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    first thing I'd do is replace cables, maybe housing if they're really old
    and bind alot, and keep them adjusted for minimum lever movement.
    The best thing I can recommend is get new brake pads, Something like
    the Kool Stop salmon which is the same as the old Matthauser brakes which
    was "the" modification back in the day. They make them to fit into the old
    super/nuovo record brake pad holders.

    Marty
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  3. #3
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    I have had the same experience; they are arguably the best-looking, worst-performing brakes I have ever owned. I think the problem is a combination of a very stiff return spring and a wide angle between the control arms. (The latter reduces the effective leverage from the cable.) In my case, the long reach of the Campag. levers does not help, either. With the Bianchi, I have substituted shorter-reach Shimano brake handles, new cables, and KoolStop pads, but the stopping power is still marginal. (With Shimano pads, my brakes were actually dangerous.)

    What I find particularly interesting is that I have a set of Galli sidepulls on my Peugeot, also with black KoolStop pads. Despite their slightly longer reach because of a slightly looser frame geometry, the Gallis provide significantly better braking power than the Campags. The only obvious difference between the them is that the control arms on the Galli calipers are more nearly perpendicular to the cable and parallel to one another than those of the Campags, so more of the tension on the cable is directed toward squeezing the pads together.

    I have bought a set of dual-pivot Shimano calipers and plan to put them on the Bianchi, which I have kept all-Italian except for German tyres and an American saddle. Safety first!
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

  4. #4
    Forum Admin lotek's Avatar
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    Another thought is if you do replace them, go with something period
    correct but better performing. I really like Modolo brakes, and the
    Master professional in polished silver looks great on any vintage bike.
    John, the worst performers by far (IMHO) are Modolo Kronos, very
    agressive looking brake that didn't even work well as a speed modulator
    let alone a brake.

    Marty
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  5. #5
    NYCPistaRider
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    Cables and housing are brand spankin new. It is really a bummer because they look so darn nice. But I will probably end up replacing them with (gasp!) shimano R600 long reach brakes, because I end up riding very slowly on a very fast bike because i am terrified at not being able to stop.

  6. #6
    SLJ 6/8/65-5/2/07 Walter's Avatar
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    Best single pivot brakes I've ever used were/are DiaCompe "Royal Gran Compe" 400s matched with aero levers. My particular ones are white. They're currebtly in a parts box but will ride again.

    I too am underwhelmed with vintage Campy calipers. In fact the only non-vintage equipment on my otherwise all S. Record Basso are dual pivot Records.

    “Life is not one damned thing after another. Life is one damned thing over and over.”
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

  7. #7
    JRA...
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    Hey, as Campy liked to say, they're for modulating speed, not for stopping...

  8. #8
    pluralis majestatis redfooj's Avatar
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    non-aero brake levers arent meant--or , rather, arent effective--from the hoods. ya just cant get enough force / leverage. aside from that, do as everyone else suggested and replace the pads. also, i guess your rims dont have machined braking surface? it makes a BIG difference

  9. #9
    cliff
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    Hi there
    I replaced some 70s calipers on my old steel Bianchi last year. They were very stiff even with serious rebuilding and servicing. The replacements were Campag Grandsport and with them I stuck on a set of Shimano 400 aero levers. Your calipers might be a lot better with new cables, blocks and some penetrating oil in the right places and as someone else mentioned nicely cleaned rims (stoned)
    The Record aero levers look to be the best, but they cost a bit - my old bike didn't really warrant the expense as it is an old touring frame.
    I use Zipp brake blocks in my best bike - they really are the best thermally conductive blocks around for both carbon and alloy rims.

  10. #10
    sch
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    It is not just the Campy's that are poor brakes by current standards, the DuraAce set on my Titan,
    cerca 1976 didn't work very well either. They did look good, but as a pad change didn't help much,
    I finally mounted up some 105's. They worked much better. Steve

  11. #11
    H23
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    I'm not convinced its the design of the brakes.

    They are side-pulls-- this type of brake has been around for hundreds of years (okay, maybe only 100 years). I mean: brake calipers, pivot, shoes. What can really go wrong? Is the design _really_ that different from today's sidepulls?

    I would dissassemble, clean, lube, and re-assemble according to "textbook" instructions. Most likely the problem is with your cables. It would not hurt to replace the shoes either.

    Another possibility is that your levers somehow have the wrong mechanical advantage for this type of brake, but I doubt it.

    Once I refurbed and old bike with gran-compe aero levers. The owner complained that the brakes were not working properly. It turned out that whoever last rebuilt the brakes had neglected to put a ferrule on the housing inside the lever. The brake lever was dragging the housing with the cable. Some levers don't need a ferrule others (like this one) do.

  12. #12
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by NYCpistarider
    ... I end up riding very slowly on a very fast bike because i am terrified at not being able to stop.

    This is a sure sign that something is wrong and its not because its a 1970's campy brake caliper.

    Even in the 1970's bicycle riders needed to stop.

  13. #13
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    This is a sure sign that something is wrong and its not because its a 1970's campy brake caliper.

    Even in the 1970's bicycle riders needed to stop.
    As the owner of 1970s Campag. sidepulls, 1959 Weinmann Vainqueur 999 centerpulls, 1970s Mafac Racer centerpulls, 1980s Galli sidepulls, and a 1988 SunTour RollerCam front / Shimano U-brake rear combination, I respectfully disagree on empirical grounds. Even with all other factors (pads, cables, levers, etc.) as equal as possible, the Campag. sidepulls are noticeably inferior to my various centerpulls, which in turn are not quite as good as the Galli sidepulls, which are about on par with the very effective brakes on my mountain bike.

    Particularly troubling to me, from an analytical standpoint, is the difference between the Gallis and the Campags., despite the relatively short reach on my Bianchi frame. I need to do a more detailed analysis of both leverage and spring tension to explain the difference. I also plan to test a pair of 1990s Shimano dual-pivot sidepulls on the Bianchi (close your eyes, purists!) against the Campags.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

  14. #14
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    ...
    Particularly troubling to me, from an analytical standpoint, is the difference between the Gallis and the Campags., despite the relatively short reach on my Bianchi frame. I need to do a more detailed analysis of both leverage and spring tension to explain the difference. I also plan to test a pair of 1990s Shimano dual-pivot sidepulls on the Bianchi (close your eyes, purists!) against the Campags.

    That would be interesting to look at.

    I think you'll find that the leverage difference between the Galli's vs Campy's is small-- definately not enough to explain a wild difference in braking capability. I think you'll find the mechanical advantage of both brakes to be about 1.0 (distance cable moves / change of distance between brake shoes).

    The caliper spring + brake lever advantage is likely not an issue. Perhaps you can get a rough idea by squeezing the pads to the rim w/thumb and forefinger. However, if you can squeeze the pads to the rim with just two fingers, it would be even easier with 3 or 4 fingers and the mechanical advantage of a brake lever, right? The purpose of the spring is simply to keep the pads off the rim when not braking.

    I just don't think that today's sidepulls are drastically better than they were years ago. Clearly non-sidepulls have more mechanical advantage (at the expensive of other features) , perhaps the original poster is not used to the decrease in mechanical advantage?

  15. #15
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    That would be interesting to look at.

    I think you'll find that the leverage difference between the Galli's vs Campy's is small-- definately not enough to explain a wild difference in braking capability. I think you'll find the mechanical advantage of both brakes to be about 1.0 (distance cable moves / change of distance between brake shoes).

    The caliper spring + brake lever advantage is likely not an issue. Perhaps you can get a rough idea by squeezing the pads to the rim w/thumb and forefinger. However, if you can squeeze the pads to the rim with just two fingers, it would be even easier with 3 or 4 fingers and the mechanical advantage of a brake lever, right? The purpose of the spring is simply to keep the pads off the rim when not braking.

    I just don't think that today's sidepulls are drastically better than they were years ago. Clearly non-sidepulls have more mechanical advantage (at the expensive of other features) , perhaps the original poster is not used to the decrease in mechanical advantage?
    I concur that traditional sidepull calipers were designed with roughly 1:1 leverage, whereas the levers had about 4:1, and this did not vary substantially from one marque to another. I'll like your suggested lever travel versus pad travel experiment; I'll report my findings in a future post.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

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