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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 02-06-09, 08:12 AM   #1
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Quad Brakes on a Tandem: Looking for tips!

I've had in my possession for about 2 years, a 30 year old, heavy, Schwinn Twinn Sport. I found it on CL for a deal, and I couldn't resist.


I'm in the process of customizing this tandem into a fully upright bike, to enjoy rides with my wife or daughter. I live in the mountains. I don't tend to have long descents, but I often come upon steep, short to medium ones, which inevitably have a stop sign at the bottom. Braking is a key factor, not just for the stopping, but also for modulation, in order that I don't scare the-you-know-what out of my stoker.

So I've decided on four brakes, two center pull rim brakes, and two internal hub drum brakes. My question is what is the best way to actuate the brakes? I've read Sheldon Brown's advice on this (although he really only covers 3 brakes, two rim and one rear drag brake). His advice is to actuate the rim brakes with traditional levers, and the rear drag brake with a ratcheting thumb shifter. This is how I'm currently set up (mounted on the top tube), and I find it less then satisfying.



So here's what I'm considering: First using levers which pull two brake lines. My tendency is to go with the right to actuate the center pull rim brakes, and the left to engage the drum brakes. If I go this route, is there any advice on making one brake (front or rear) engage before its mate?

My other option is to use two ratcheting thumb shifters mounted on the handlebars just above or below the lever mounts (I will use Suntour barend shifters for the gear changing, so no confusing the two).

Have any of you tried this? Can I learn from your experience? Thanks for the guidance.
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Old 02-06-09, 08:42 AM   #2
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My guess is that two newer caliper brakes may get you what you want stopping wise. Perhaps other people can chime in on that. For the sake of the question however: While I've never put one on my bikes, I have used and seen on other people's bikes home made cable tension balancers to operate multiple brakes with one lever while allowing different total displacement. If you want I can try to dig up a picture or draw something.
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Old 02-06-09, 08:45 AM   #3
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My guess is that two newer caliper brakes may get you what you want stopping wise. Perhaps other people can chime in on that.
Probably not with the stock steel rims...?
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Old 02-06-09, 09:20 AM   #4
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My suggestion is get a set of aluminum rims and dump the steel rims braking power will increase dramatically!!! 60% more braking over steel it will stop not just slow down as the steel wheels fill like they are doing.
I know this because I had a a tandem that I turned into a project it had steel rims, I played with and putting aluminum wheels and new brakes improved braking instantly.
That project is here with some of the parts I changed on it, sold it but it was a fun project. http://www.jtgraphics.net/tandem_bike_project.htm
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Old 02-06-09, 09:43 AM   #5
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Probably not with the stock steel rims...?
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My suggestion is get a set of aluminum rims and dump the steel rims braking power will increase dramatically!!! 60% more braking over steel it will stop not just slow down as the steel wheels fill like they are doing.
I know this because I had a a tandem that I turned into a project it had steel rims, I played with and putting aluminum wheels and new brakes improved braking instantly.
That project is here with some of the parts I changed on it, sold it but it was a fun project. http://www.jtgraphics.net/tandem_bike_project.htm
The original rear wheel with hub drum brake arrived at the wheel builders yesterday. That hub, along with a new front hub drum brake will be laced to new aluminum rims. I should have mentioned I was ditching the old steel rims in the first place. I do realize this will help with braking, especially in wet conditions.

I guess I'm interested in fail-safe redundancy. After all, I'll have precious cargo in the stoker's saddle.

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My guess is that two newer caliper brakes may get you what you want stopping wise. Perhaps other people can chime in on that. For the sake of the question however: While I've never put one on my bikes, I have used and seen on other people's bikes home made cable tension balancers to operate multiple brakes with one lever while allowing different total displacement. If you want I can try to dig up a picture or draw something.
This would be interesting to see. Thanks for looking into this for me.
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Old 02-06-09, 11:06 AM   #6
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I've had precious cargo on our tandem (my stoker/wife) for over 34 years.
Never have had a need for triple or quads brakes in over 220,000 miles of tandeming.
We do live in hilly/mountainous terrain (Arizona desert is NOT flat!) and have tandemed in lotsa states.
Alloy rims and good brakes/brakepads + how you apply brakes is the best combination.
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Old 02-06-09, 11:26 AM   #7
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I understand the precious cargo statement! besides myself I'm also precious cargo I also take Wife, Grandkids and my dog sometimes in a trailer.
You might consider a different set of brakes also for better performance.
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Old 02-06-09, 03:14 PM   #8
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If you do stick with quad brakes, I'd suggest that you set them up so that both front brakes are actuated by one lever, and both rear by the other.
Or, give your stoker control over the rear hub, and you handle the rim braking. You could check that out before doing the front hub brake/wheel build, since most any front wheel would fit that dropout.
I think that the quad braking is overkill.
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Old 02-06-09, 03:40 PM   #9
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If you do stick with quad brakes, I'd suggest that you set them up so that both front brakes are actuated by one lever, and both rear by the other.
Or, give your stoker control over the rear hub, and you handle the rim braking. You could check that out before doing the front hub brake/wheel build, since most any front wheel would fit that dropout.
I think that the quad braking is overkill.
I thought about this (right lever actuates both rear brakes, left lever actuates the front), but Sheldon Brown advises against this. His argument is that the pull required is different between a drum brake and a center pull brake.
http://sheldonbrown.com/tandem-brakes.html

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Control Setup...3 X 2

So, for a heavy load in hilly terrain, you need 3 brakes: 2 on the rims, and 1 on the rear hub. How are you going to operate 3 brakes with 2 hands? Dual-cable levers.

One traditional solution has been to use a special brake lever for one hand that pulls two cables. I don't recommend this setup; here's why:

* If the dual lever operates both the rear rim brake and the rear hub brake, the hub brake will not engage. This is because hub brakes generally require more cable pull than rim brakes.

* If the dual lever operates both rim brakes, you have no way to operate the front brake independently of the rear. The ability to use the front brake alone is essential for safe riding, especially with a lighter stoker, or while riding stokerless.
I'm wondering if the these types of levers will be able to solve this problem by having the front brake engage first and the rear slightly after the front as I grip the lever harder?



BTW, the Quad brakes is a done deal. The wheels are at the builder's as I type.
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Old 02-07-09, 06:44 PM   #10
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What about two levers for the captain and two levers for the stoker? I've always found that the rim brakes are enough for any kind of instantaneous braking needs, but on long downhills when you've built a lot of speed sometimes those additional brakes can come in handy to keep your rim brakes from overheating. Just ask your stoker to go ahead and put the brakes on....has worked for me.

IMHO, two rim brakes and a drum in back are very nearly perfect - with the stoker controlling the drum.
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Old 02-08-09, 01:14 AM   #11
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Dual use cable splitter

On my MTB tandem I use a cable splitter on the right brake lever for both rim brakes, and just rear drum off the left brake lever. My wife and I cycled a lot of really steep (>20%) small roads in Japan and never had an issue with excessive speed or total brake failure. The key is good brake pads and well maintained drum brake. If you glaze over your drum brake pads (over use) you will have problems the next time you need that brake.

I have no back to front sequence delay set between my rim brakes. I have both rim brakes adjusted to contact at the same time. Ive never had a problem with braking control issues between front and back braking. I always use my drum brake just like Id use my rear rim brake on my road bike, and only go for the dual rim brake when I really want to slow down fast or stop.
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Old 02-08-09, 05:54 AM   #12
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Not offering a means to the solution, but I will mention that you should be certain of good cable routes with a minimum of bends or excess cable.

I was noticing in the photo from the first post how much excess cable is installed. The cable run is very long exiting the levers and going nearly high enough to poke out an eye.

Also the drum brake close up, shows a cable route of twisting inside and outside of seat stays. This does not appear a direct route.

To gain a better lever action, you might consider replacing some cable housing sections that don't need to move, such as along frame tubes, with SIS type shifter housing if possible.

I don't have any testing numbers or hard facts, but wouldn't a replacement from those center pulls to a dual pivot road brake gain grounds in the stopping department.

In regards to having one lever operate both ends of the bike, I'm not sure I would like it. While it may be fine on dry terrain, on wet, or inconsistent terrain you may prefer more rear brake than front. A rear wheel lockup is easily managed, but having the front wheel skid can instantly be bad for you and your cargo. I would be more inclined to keep the systems isolated, one lever for all rear braking, one lever for all front braking, or go multiple levers.

There are some photos kicking around the net, probably on MTBR.com of a guy who has a multi brake and multi lever setup on his Ibis mountain tandem, if time permits I'll look for a link.

Hope it works to your expectations.

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Old 02-08-09, 06:26 AM   #13
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The linked post is from the guy I mentioned with his quad brakes. There are some photos in early posts to give you an idea of his lever setup. I realize this may not work for you, but I did see you mention that your bike will be converted to an upright tandem, so if that includes a flat type mountain bar, maybe it will work out.

Enjoy

http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=373852

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Old 02-09-09, 04:47 AM   #14
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PMK,

Thanks for this link. Very informative and a different approach with the levers which I might need to fall back on. I'd worry, however, in a panic situation I'd grab the wrong levers!

I will also be more careful with cable placement on the rebuild. Part of what you see I inherited on this bike when I bought it from CL. The other part was me making do with what I had on hand at the time. I had promised Mrs. PB that I'd not spend any more $ on this until I was certain I knew what I wanted to do, plus sold off something I wasn't riding to fund this project.

Thanks for the tips!
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Old 02-10-09, 08:32 PM   #15
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Hey Pastor Bob,

Would it be so bad if you grab the wrong brake as long as it's the proper wheel (front or back)? If going this route (four levers), I would suggest that you make it so that the primary (rim?) brakes be where your hands would normally be. The "other" position can be for the drum (drag) brake. I have found that properly adjusted brakes with good pads on aluminum rims pretty stop us pretty quickly. We are 425 lbs plus weight of bike plus towing another 100 lbs+ and the bike stops pretty well on front rim and disk rear.

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Old 02-12-09, 06:15 AM   #16
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Hey Pastor Bob,

Would it be so bad if you grab the wrong brake as long as it's the proper wheel (front or back)? If going this route (four levers), I would suggest that you make it so that the primary (rim?) brakes be where your hands would normally be. The "other" position can be for the drum (drag) brake. I have found that properly adjusted brakes with good pads on aluminum rims pretty stop us pretty quickly. We are 425 lbs plus weight of bike plus towing another 100 lbs+ and the bike stops pretty well on front rim and disk rear.

Brian
I definitely will keep the four lever option open. The levers I pictured arrived earlier this week so they will be a first try. I have about $15 in them so if they don't work, not too much lost.

Going back to the four lever set up. I wonder if instead of using the barend levers (I'm using old Suntour ratcheting friction shifters for gear changing), a pair of different sized old school MTB type levers could be mounted side by side? The inside one could have a short lever (centerpull rim brakes), and the outside one a long lever (drum brakes). The outside lever would be rotated (probably downward) 10-15 degrees, in order that when squeezing both levers, one lever would not impede the other.
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Old 04-18-09, 07:39 AM   #17
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I've been working on my '79 Schwinn Twinn Sport for about two months, and finally took it for a solo spin last evening. Everything functioned well: Shifting was smooth and responsive, the timing chain nice and quiet, and the quad brakes worked better then expected! Overall I'm thrilled!



I want to thank every one for their suggestions, guidance and help. You provided me with many various avenues to explore. In the end it has been a great project, a good education, and overall I'm very pleased. I do hope to have it powder coated sometime in the future. I plan to match a rarer 1960s Schwinn color called Terra Cotta.

Here are a few of the specs:

Drivetrain: Huret Eco Duopar RD and Duopar FD, Suntour barend ratcheting shifters, Suntour Perfect ultra spaced 6 speed freewheel (14-32), Sugino crankset 48-40-30. The rims are Alex 27" ones from Nashbar and the tires are Panaracers 1 & " with kevlar. I'll probably use SPD pedals in the front and platforms in the back.



Timing Cranks: Moved to the left side from the right. Added the single speed pulley for tension. I wanted to add an eccentric BB but my shell was not large enough. Eventually I made the right hand captain's crank arm out of a crankset I pulled off a junked Peugeot.



Brakes: Originally it had a front sidepull caliper and the rear drum. Now it has rim DiaComp centerpulls, as well as front and rear drum brakes in the hubs. The levers are dual pull MTB syle. The right lever pulls the centerpulls and the left the drum brakes.



Frame & Accessories: I added the chrome fenders, rear rack, front bar bag, Brooks B-72 saddles, and Northroad captain & upright stoker bars. The grips are leather ones from Nashbar.

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Old 04-18-09, 10:31 AM   #18
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I thing Guad brakes have more stopping power, but maybe only in the Road Cycling forum.
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Old 04-18-09, 11:54 AM   #19
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I thing Guad brakes have more stopping power, but maybe only in the Road Cycling forum.
I think if an active participant in the Road Cycling forum caught a look at my contraption he/she would just think I was out of my mind. And then I would tell them it probably weighs well over 50 lbs. and they would have a coronary!
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Old 04-19-09, 09:04 AM   #20
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Glad to see the steel rims are gone.
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Old 04-19-09, 10:43 AM   #21
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What about two levers for the captain and two levers for the stoker?
Simple, relatively cheap, and you can check all 4 brakes individually to be sure they are working. That's what I would do.

That Atom hub brake takes a lot of cable pull. You'll need a V-brake lever for that.
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Old 04-27-09, 08:20 PM   #22
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What about two levers for the captain and two levers for the stoker?
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Simple, relatively cheap, and you can check all 4 brakes individually to be sure they are working. That's what I would do.

That Atom hub brake takes a lot of cable pull. You'll need a V-brake lever for that.
So far I'm very pleased with the quad brakes and the dual pull levers. I need to still take it for a shakedown ride and give it a few more agressive stop tests. Regardless of what works well for some, I know the comfort level of my stokers, and I really don't want her to grab a brake in a panic.

Hopefully I can give an update before the weekend is over.
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Old 04-28-09, 06:20 PM   #23
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So far I'm very pleased with the quad brakes and the dual pull levers. I need to still take it for a shakedown ride and give it a few more agressive stop tests. Regardless of what works well for some, I know the comfort level of my stokers, and I really don't want her to grab a brake in a panic.

Hopefully I can give an update before the weekend is over.
That is exactly why the first thing I did after getting my tandem was remove the stoker's brake lever. There's nothing quite like being leaned into a sharp turn and having the person who is not steering decide it is time to slow down.
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