To date, Arai has been the sole source for drag brakes. However, they are no longer being produced and a replacement was -- when I last checked -- still in the development and test phase. I've asked for an update from Tom and will report back once I hear from him. In the mean time, there are a lot of Arai drums to be had on the 2nd hand market and some of the tandem builders and specialty dealers have built up some inventory, so if one is needed they can still be acquired without too much trouble.
Originally Posted by JeffandKathy
Yes, Gear-to-Go Tandems is still alive and well. For any of the speciality tandem dealers, your best bet is to call or drop them an email. They don't have the kind of sales volumes and inventories to justify the expense of a full-blown on-line catalog like the big Etailers. Additionally, few if any tandem parts are a one-size fits all, to include Arai drum brakes, as there are different axle sizes to consider, as well as different reaction arm and cable configurations.
Originally Posted by AngelGendy
An Arai drum is the only set and forget brake.
Originally Posted by JeffandKathy
As for discs, the answer is No, and no. You don't set and forget a disc (or rim) brake nor do you want to apply constant braking force with a disc (or rim) brake while descending. You must manage brake heating on long descents by alternating your fore and aft brake use so that you don't unintentionally overuse the rear (most commonly over-used) or front brakes and induce brake fade or some othere type of brake-related issues.
Disc brakes have more heat capacity than rim brakes which makes them a good fit for tandems as it removes some of the very anxiety that you're having about your brakes. However, as you note, if you're looking for a way to scrub off speed over prolonged descents and/or to alleviate hand cramps from excesive brake use, a drum will be your best friend.
While you probably know all this..., I'm always reminded that we have lurkers and folks who search the archives to consider, hence the slight elaboration.
My recommendation is to do what you're already doing, but with a a more narrow aperature. More specifically, you'll want to check with other folks who ride tandems in your local area, perhaps vis-a-vis the Colorado Tandem Club. See what they're experience has been and what they recommend if you're unsure.
Again, there are two ways to go about determining if you need a drum.
(1) Buy one and if you don't use it a lot, no big deal: it's your choice to leave it on the bike or in a box "just in case".
(2) Get out and do some riding and be conservative on the descents.
-Don't let your speed build up to a point where you will need to use massive brake force to slow your tandem. Again, there are many ways to safely manage descents on a tandem that has only rim brakes. If you find that you're encountering challenging descents after a few rides, get the drum.
- Don't hunker down over your bars: sit-up, open up your chest cavity and get your knees out... and have your stoker do likewise so that your torsos and legs catch more air: air resistance will always scrub off a few MPH and sometimes that's all it takes.
- Alternate the use of your front & rear brakes so that you give each hand a chance to recover while allowing your rim and brakes to cool off for a few moments, and so on.
- If you feel like you're over-using your brakes and they're starting to glaze-over and fade from outgassing (as evidenced by a tell-tail grinding sound and feel), stop messing around and safely bring your tandem to a complete stop and let your rims and brakes cool before heading down the road again.
- Anticipate the need for a brake cooling stop as you crest big climbs. Obviously, what goes up must come down so plan ahead and force yourself to make a few stops on those challenging descents before your brakes and hands start to voice any complaints.
More GOOD info on the Arai Drum can be found here: http://www.precisiontandems.com/arai.htm