Controlling an Arai drum brake
I will be installing an Arai drum brake very shortly to control our descents when we go riding in the NC mountains next month.
The question I have is, which type of control to install to apply the brake. I was leaning towards a friction shifter on the captain's bars but Mel at Tandems East felt stongly that using a brake lever on the stoker's bars was a better choice. I respect his many years and miles of experience compared to our next to none, however I have read endorsements of the friction shifter method from other accomplished tandemers.
Another consideration is that we live and ride mostly in FL where there are no long descents, so I would like to be able to remove the whole setup when not in mountainous terrain. It would be nice not to have to retape the bars every time the brake is installed or removed.
What do folks on this forum do on their tandems? What is your rationale for the setup you use? Pros or cons of either approach?
Thanks in advance for any help sorting this out for me.
I asked a few folks the same question as we, being a TX team, were planning a trip to Tahoe. Most seemed to lean toward the friction shifter as that's all I've ever seen other actually use.
I have seen some teams mount the friction shifter on the stoker bars for the stoker to actuate. I would not like this set up at all for myself. It's of my opinion that the captain should have full controll of the bike. Steering, hand brakes, shifting, actuating drum brake on decents should all be handled by the captain. I'd feel the same way if I was the stoker for our team too. I want the person steering to have all to tools needed to keep the bike upright and safe.
Bar-end index shifter (aka, Barcon) on Captain's right hand drop-bar end.
Rarely used, so stoker-captain coordination of brake operation is not something we have much time to practice. Therefore, it's just less complicated for me to manage the application of the drag brake on those rare occasions.
For some teams, giving the stoker control of the brake does "involve them" more in the operation of the tandem but Debbie's never indicated she feels she needs a greater role in operation of the tandem.
Regarding bar-end, vs thumbshifter vs extra brake lever... what ever works. If you use bar-end shifters instead of STI/Ergo or downtube shifters, the bar-end shifter isn't viable for the captain. This is why the thumbshifters were originally adopted for use with Arai drag brakes on tandems. The downside of thumbshifters is that they clutter up the tops of handlebars. As far as stokers using a mountain bike or drop-bar brake lever, again, that's a personal choice thing. The drop-bar brake lever on a stoker bar could certainly be problematic since it's likely that it would interfere with the captain's leg. The mountain lever would certainly work. To be honest, I don't think I've personally seen a Arai drum brake operated by a stoker using a mountain bike brake lever. I've seen lots of bar-end shifter operated Arai drum brakes and a few thumbshifter operated set-ups.
A lot of the different tandem set-ups for brakes, shifters, and handlebars take on a regional flavors dependent on what set-ups are favored by the folks who sell tandems If the regional flavor suits your needs go for it. Ultimately, you'll need to figure out what works best for you.