Originally Posted by NJWheelBuilder
You'd think someone would come up with a good brake solution for tandems.
There are quite a few good brake solutions for tandems; however, not all tandems are sold with optimal set-ups and in some cases, what works well for one team may be inadequate for another.
Lightweight racing or performance tandems fitted with dual pivot or differential calipers from Shimano & Campy provide excellent stopping power and are usually trouble free. No, they won't stop your tandem as quickly as your 1/2 bike and it's not realistic to expect that level of performance given the weight differences between the two fully loaded machines. However, calipers only end up on custom, high-end, or "racing" tandems as the default brake for tandems has always been cantilever brakes, to include the linear pull models, often times with an Arai drum brake for teams over 400lbs, folks who tour, or who just don't favor high speed descents.
As for the cantilevers, the most simple models from the 90's like Shimano's LX and XT models as well as some of the boutique models from Pauls or Strange Brakes seemed to work well-enough and were also relatively trouble free if they were properly adjusted. However, "power" was certainly well off from what most captains expected based on how their personal bike's brakes performed. Personally, I never had a problem with this any more than I do when I jump out of Debbie's 2,300 lb Honda S2000 which stops in only 113' from 60 mph vs. my 6,000 lb '02 Suburban with 4 wheel discs that stops in about 164', which is 20' less than what it took for my '97 Suburban with front discs and rear drums.
Enter the V-brakes mated to the various adapters, e.g., Travel Agent, World Class, and BPB to allow integration with STI & Ergo levers and all hell broke loose. The linear pull brakes & cable adapters now provided gobs of clamping power that often times overpowered the forks, seat stays, and rims that transmitted that power though those skinny little brake pads which seem to be where the most obnoxious and higher pitched squeals come from. That's not to say there haven't always been brake issues for tandems, but V-brakes certainly didn't reduce them and, in some respects, created an entirely new line of business for the aforementioned V-brake adapter manufacturers as well as the folks who sell after market brake pads, brake-boss stiffeners (aka, boosters), brake cables & housing, as well as the boutique cantilever brakes. As for the folks like ourselves who didn't see a need for large diameter tires or mud guards which are ostensibly what preclude the use of caliper brakes, we simply slap on OEM pads every few years as there aren't any "hot mods" to improve calipers as none are really needed. For folks who do need large diameter tires and mudguards, Shimano's R600 long-reach calipers can be specified when having a custom tandem built.
However, finally after some 30 years of screwing around with disc brakes for tandems they are becoming mainstream, in both on and off-road applications. There are many, many postings in the archives related to tandems and discs that go into ad nauseum detail but it suffices to say, if you can ignore some of the junk science floating around regarding Avid's mechanical discs, the darn things are really awesome for use as a primary rear tandem brake. Not all teams can use them, but I'd venture a guess that any team who has been OK with cantilevers or calipers can easily jump to a rear disc to gain improved net stopping power for their tandem. Teams that have often times felt they needed a drum or have one on their tandem and rarely use it can also reap the benefits of a rear rear disc. Dual discs, although rare, continue to hit the streets on Cannondale's RT1000's and unless I've missed the reports, the nay-sayers aren't out there pointing to massive failures and saying "I told you so" during the past two years.
Anyway, as I said at the outset of this note, not all tandems are sold with optimal set-ups and in some cases, what works well for one team may be inadequate for another.
Oh yeah, sometimes something as simple as a little lube applied to all the moving parts on a rim brake can eliminate brake squeal... weird.