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Old 10-02-12, 07:33 AM   #1
MightyLegnano
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All old road bikes have weak brakes?

Every road bike I've tried seems to have weak break calibers. Is this because the brake pads are smaller?
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Old 10-02-12, 07:38 AM   #2
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All I have is old road bikes, never tried long enough a bike less then 20 years old and my favorite is my 1984 Bianchi. I think they brake fine but as I never tried anything different I can't compare!
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Old 10-02-12, 08:27 AM   #3
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It really depends on the caliper design. There differing mechanical advantages/disadvantages of single pivot, dual pivot, center pull, v-brakes, cantiliver. Some have a stronger pull than others. Brake pads, of course play a role but are essentially dependent on how hard they are pressed against the rim to stop the bicycle.
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Old 10-02-12, 09:06 AM   #4
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Those road bikes are like classic Bugatti Automobiles; made for goin', not stoppin'.
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Old 10-02-12, 09:19 AM   #5
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Every road bike I've tried seems to have weak break calibers. Is this because the brake pads are smaller?
NO!

IMO, there is skill to using brakes!
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Old 10-02-12, 09:28 AM   #6
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NO!

IMO, there is skill to using brakes!
A skill often learned the hard way after doing a faceplant on the pavement.
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Old 10-02-12, 10:10 AM   #7
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AN old bike may have old pads that have hardened with age, or may have chromed steel rims, which never stopped well, or both. Aluminum alloy rims are a huge improvement over steel, and modern brake pads do a much better job than their ancestors did.
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Old 10-02-12, 12:00 PM   #8
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What price point are you looking at ? 10K euro or 200?

fresh brake pads in a double pivot high end brake caliper,
is what the Pro's ride,

do you understand brakes in races are not always used to stop completely?

Last edited by fietsbob; 10-02-12 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 10-02-12, 12:28 PM   #9
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Every road bike I've tried seems to have weak break calibers. Is this because the brake pads are smaller?
Ummm what road bikes have you tried?!?!?!
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Old 10-02-12, 12:53 PM   #10
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Brakes just slow you down anyway.
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Old 10-02-12, 06:44 PM   #11
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It is my understanding that single pivot caliper brakes have less leverage (push against the rim with less force for a given amount of force pulling the lever) than dual pivot calipers - but I may be wrong about this.

Also old hard brake pads, steel rims, non-coated cable housing, etc, usually add up to crappier brakes on older bikes. My primary ride right now is an old 10-speed converted to a 8 speed internally geared hub, and the brakes are original, working to what I believe is the best they can be, and totally suck.
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Old 10-03-12, 11:38 PM   #12
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With a good setup, and new pads, materials, cables, etc etc., road bikes with skinny tires have a harder time slowing down because of...

*drumroll*

...skinnier tires.

There's really two places where braking friction happens -- at the brakes themselves, and where the tire meets the road. You can slow down harder if you have more rubber on the road.

Still, you should be able to brake fine on a road bike. Just pay enough attention to your surroundings, don't ride at 35 mph in tight quarters (unless you're in a bike race, of course, or keeping up with street traffic), and plan ahead to avoid accidents.
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Old 10-04-12, 08:44 AM   #13
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Set-up, and luck also have a large effect. My first good bike was a '81 Schwinn Traveler with steel rims, original brake pads, housing and cables, and safety levers. Somehow it had excellent stopping power. My Schwinn Mirada has alloy rims, modern brakes with new pads, new cables, and some new housing, and it does not brake very well. I'm blaming the safety levers, which are probably being switched out tonight, along with the rest of the old housing.
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Old 10-04-12, 09:10 AM   #14
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To me it seems like it is all dependent on pressure (if housings suck, just need strong hands!), and friction coefficient of wheel/pad. This is assuming your brake levers don't touch the bars when you squeeze them.

On my World Sport, the front brakes suck because the levers touch the bars. Once I get the wheel straightened out better I can tighten up the cable and hopefully it won't touch anymore and it should work fine. This is with dry rotted tires and old pads.

I don't think the tire width has a huge impact unless your front tire is locking up on you before the rear wheel lifts off the ground. My bike with 23c tires stops a lot faster than my bike with 32s...
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Old 10-04-12, 10:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Set-up, and luck also have a large effect. My first good bike was a '81 Schwinn Traveler with steel rims, original brake pads, housing and cables, and safety levers. Somehow it had excellent stopping power. My Schwinn Mirada has alloy rims, modern brakes with new pads, new cables, and some new housing, and it does not brake very well. I'm blaming the safety levers, which are probably being switched out tonight, along with the rest of the old housing.
Hmm, possibly. What I wonder is if the cable pull of those levers isn't right for the newer calipers.

Hlxdrummer, what about the brakes on each of your bikes that you mentioned -- are they the same kind, or is one cantilevers and the other dual-pivot calipers, something like that?

My commuter has cantis, and I've "de-tuned" the front with a lot of toe-in so that it won't judder under hard braking. My road bike has modern dual-pivot calipers and I can set the pads to stop as hard as I want. My MTB, with hydraulic discs and fat knobby tires, will lift its rear wheel if I yank on the front brake (no doubt helped by the suspension, too). I had a 'cross bike for a while with mechanical discs and 32mm tires which stopped really well; the discs were on par with my rim-braked bikes in dry weather, but they worked all the time in wet weather.
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Old 10-04-12, 01:03 PM   #16
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What kind of bikes are we talking about? Upperend racing level machines? Midlevel "Sport" bikes or cheap bottom of the line bikes?

all of my road bikes mount sidepulls and they all work great as far as I am concerned. I think performance is somewhat subjective to the rider and what that person is used to. Personally I think the idea of being able to 'Stop on Dime" is overrated. Granted there are times when a panick stop is in order but in recent memory I can't think a time when keeping my wits about me wasn't more benificial than having brakes that may stop me 2 seconds faster.

Only one of my bikes mounts DP brakes and that is more a fashion statement as I wanted all black components for a change of pace. Otherwise my old single pivots do great service even the "cheap" Suntour (DiaCompe) Alpha 5000 brakes on my '87 Bianchi.
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Old 10-04-12, 01:14 PM   #17
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AN old bike may have old pads that have hardened with age, or may have chromed steel rims, which never stopped well, or both. Aluminum alloy rims are a huge improvement over steel, and modern brake pads do a much better job than their ancestors did.
This is the answer. Aluminum alloy rims stops much better and the newest pads are night and day difference. Pads like Kool Stop, yellow Swiss, and even Shimano pads of recent years with softer compounds are much much better.
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Old 10-04-12, 05:19 PM   #18
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Hmm, possibly. What I wonder is if the cable pull of those levers isn't right for the newer calipers.

Hlxdrummer, what about the brakes on each of your bikes that you mentioned -- are they the same kind, or is one cantilevers and the other dual-pivot calipers, something like that?

My commuter has cantis, and I've "de-tuned" the front with a lot of toe-in so that it won't judder under hard braking. My road bike has modern dual-pivot calipers and I can set the pads to stop as hard as I want. My MTB, with hydraulic discs and fat knobby tires, will lift its rear wheel if I yank on the front brake (no doubt helped by the suspension, too). I had a 'cross bike for a while with mechanical discs and 32mm tires which stopped really well; the discs were on par with my rim-braked bikes in dry weather, but they worked all the time in wet weather.
They both have the same design. Not sure what it is called, but single pivot with the brake cable going parallel to the wheel, but to the side of the pivot point. The World Sport brakes suck right now cause the Diacompes flex and I don't have the cable as tight as it should be (or it will rub with the out of true wheel) and the lever hits the bars.

I also have a new appreciation for either nicer wheels or disc brakes in the rain. To get to school I walk my World Sport through my back yard and up onto the street in front of my house. There is then a fairly steep but short hill that goes to an intersection I turn at. Normally I jump on, shift up a few gears and stop at the bottom of the hill no problem. Well it had just rained and the wheels must have gotten slightly wet and when I hit the brakes they hardly did anything! Not the most fun experience although they dried up fairly quickly lol!

I place a lot of importance on being able to stop quickly. When I am doing fun runs/going fast I take the Trek and I have had it up on the front wheel multiple times
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Old 10-04-12, 06:18 PM   #19
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Very interesting responses, really! Thanks for your input!

The bikes are: an early 70's Legnano Corsa, late 70's Mercier tour de france, and an other early 80's pegeaut for which I don't have much info.

Someone mentioned safety levers, and indeed the mercier which seems to have the weakest brakes has those (I don't know but for city use those are great, atleast for me). So, maybe it is indeed that!

Also, the housing and wires might be factors in the problem as well! I'll check it out!

The truth is I haven't had much experience with modern road bikes, so I can't affirm the knobby tires=better braking theory. It makes sense though.

NOW I'm guessing that, these road bikes have small pads and old, so not so efficient, calipers. Also old brake levers aren't that solid. Adding skinny tires and more aggressive sitting position, it creates a feeling of bad breaking. That's my theory.
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Old 10-05-12, 10:05 AM   #20
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Does the Mercier have Mafac Racer centerpulls? Those were great brakes. If you replace the pads with KoolStops designed for Mafacs, you'll be stopping on a dime.
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Old 10-05-12, 11:50 AM   #21
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The bikes are: an early 70's Legnano Corsa, late 70's Mercier tour de france, and an other early 80's pegeaut for which I don't have much info.
Did they have old brake pads or fresh new ones? It's kind of important.

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NOW I'm guessing that, these road bikes have small pads and old, so not so efficient, calipers. Also old brake levers aren't that solid. Adding skinny tires and more aggressive sitting position, it creates a feeling of bad breaking. That's my theory.
What? You're just regurgitating your crummy theory from the first post, as if you didn't read anything in between.
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Old 10-05-12, 12:14 PM   #22
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I'll rechime, I've got plenty of sidepull calipers from the 70's.. all stop very very well.. not shocking they're from touring bikes. I also have some center pull mafac racers, when dialed in epic stopping power for the era.. my dual pivot early 90's shimano brakes certainly stop better, but I splurged for better brakepads for them otherwise they're on par with the others when dialed in, crummy brakes are crummy brakes no matter the era, and if you REALLY want to stop with an old caliper, throw some mtb levers on with them and don't cry to me if you crush your rim
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Old 10-05-12, 04:41 PM   #23
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Phil_Gretz, Unfortunately no I had the chance one day to get them but for some reason I didnt...


ThermionicScott
, ofcourse it has fresh pads, only museum bicycles have old pads.

Why do you call my theory crummy? All responses were very interesting, I already said that. I'm '
regurgitating' the theory because having added to it elements like skinny tyres=less friction and safety levers makes it more complete for people to argue about. Jeez, if I was your doctor I'd prescribe you more hill training for your uptightness...

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Old 10-05-12, 05:00 PM   #24
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Modern dual pivot brakes have excellent stopping power and offer great mechanical advantage which makes for a lighter pull but this does not mean that older designs cannot offer the same stopping power.

Quality centre pull brakes with the right set up will offer the same power albeit with a little more pull required, Mafac Racers are excellent but do suffer from flexy hardware so replacing the hangars with stiffer ones helps. An old trick was to press the front hanger against the frame to eliminate the flex it has.

The Zeus centre pulls I run on my Cooper with conventional Campy levers should come with a warning that they have immense stopping power, they are fitted with Matthauser pads which are the same as Kool Stops.

Likewise, cantilever brakes can also provide excellent stopping power although the set up and proper set up is critical.

Most single pivot brakes fall between centre pulls and dual pivots in the general stopping power department, the single pivot Ultegra brakes on my racing bike stop my 150 pound self in a hurry and rider weight does play a role in all of this.
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Old 10-05-12, 05:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyLegnano View Post
Very interesting responses, really! Thanks for your input!

The bikes are: an early 70's Legnano Corsa, late 70's Mercier tour de france, and an other early 80's pegeaut for which I don't have much info.

Someone mentioned safety levers, and indeed the mercier which seems to have the weakest brakes has those (I don't know but for city use those are great, atleast for me). So, maybe it is indeed that!

Also, the housing and wires might be factors in the problem as well! I'll check it out!

The truth is I haven't had much experience with modern road bikes, so I can't affirm the knobby tires=better braking theory. It makes sense though.

NOW I'm guessing that, these road bikes have small pads and old, so not so efficient, calipers. Also old brake levers aren't that solid. Adding skinny tires and more aggressive sitting position, it creates a feeling of bad breaking. That's my theory.
We used to call "safety levers" suicide brakes, as often you cannot get enough good leverage to quickly stop a bike... and the length of levers meant that they tended to bend or deflect when squeezed hard... all of which means... you don't stop well.
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