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What can I do to improve Universal 68 Sidepulls?

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What can I do to improve Universal 68 Sidepulls?

Old 04-16-24, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
FWIW, I was happy with mine for years, and replaced them with Campy Record (1st gen) only after a crash bent my front brake. If not for the crash they'd still be there.
I had a suspicion you also had first hand experience.
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Old 04-17-24, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
I would do whatever I could to keep any Tektro product away from such a nice looking bike. Modern, cheap aero levers will look rotten. Try period-correct Modolo, Campy or even DA ... with new Kool-Stop refills.
I think Weinmann drillium levers look fine, as well as being more comfortable than the Italian ones, but they're possibly a bit low-rent for serious classics.
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Old 04-17-24, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
I would do whatever I could to keep any Tektro product away from such a nice looking bike. Modern, cheap aero levers will look rotten. Try period-correct Modolo, Campy or even DA ... with new Kool-Stop refills.
i agree completely (except for the DA. I'm not a Shimano fan.)

I think Weinmann drillium levers look fine, as well as being more comfortable than the Italian ones, but they're possibly a bit low-rent for serious classics.


I use Weinmann levers on some of my French bikes as more reachable replacements for the long Mafac levers. They work well and fit the era. I don't worry unduly about whether they are classy! And this bike, as I mentioned above, is pretty ratty. Lots of scars and discoloration. I think that as long as I avoid turkey levers I'll be ok.
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Old 04-18-24, 04:17 PM
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Make sure you have Ferrell on the cable housing.
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Old 04-18-24, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Texpe
Make sure you have Ferrell on the cable housing.
Yep, got 'em. (If you were looking at the first photo in the thread, that is the "before" pic when I first got the bike.)
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Old 04-18-24, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Texpe
Make sure you have Ferrell on the cable housing.
In the photos he posted the ferrules are clearly visible
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Old 04-18-24, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by grumpus
In the photos he posted the ferrules are clearly visible
Je suis une femme, mon cher.
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Old 04-18-24, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Aubergine
Je suis une femme, mon cher.
Je suis désolé, excusez moi s'il vous plâit Mlle. (That's about as far as I can get on my own.)
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Old 04-29-24, 02:58 PM
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Update. I finally had a chance to try the Universal calipers with some other levers. They worked much more comfortably with both Campagnolo and Weinmann. I decided to use the Campagnolo levers because they're scratched up so fit in with the rest of the patina. And just to be sure I'm not missing anything with the calipers themselves, I have on order a Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner (thanks to another thread here) and will be sure they are fully cleaned, polished, and greased.
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Old 04-30-24, 01:08 PM
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I had 68s on a road bike back then and tolerated them for a half year before replacing them. No reason to stick with marginal brakes. I’d get Tektro brakes of the appropriate size. If you want period appropriate brakes Superbe made some nice brakes. I had a set of Superbe centerpulls that were ok and looked nice.
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Old 04-30-24, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by LeeG
I had 68s on a road bike back then and tolerated them for a half year before replacing them. No reason to stick with marginal brakes. I’d get Tektro brakes of the appropriate size. If you want period appropriate brakes Superbe made some nice brakes. I had a set of Superbe centerpulls that were ok and looked nice.
I agree with you re marginal brakes. I have boxes of possible calipers and levers tho so I won't need to look for any Tektro bits. If the Campa levers don't do the trick I'll toss on some Nuovo Record or Mafac calipers. I've been satisfied with both those combinations, and they fit the vintage of the bike.
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Old 05-18-24, 05:01 PM
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Finally had time and inclination to swap out the brake levers on the Mercian. I replaced the Universal levers with Nuovo Records. I have not road tested them (it's pouring here) but just testing the brake action on the stand shows a big improvement. Smoother action all around, and lever pull effort is easier. I'll report back once I try the bike out on the road, hopefully tomorrow.
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Old 05-21-24, 01:05 PM
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Glad to hear you are on your way. I've had people try my bikes and tell me that my brakes don't work. They work fine. I eventually learned that I have unusually strong hands which is strange since I'm not a big muscular guy. I have those hand strengthener exercise thingies, and I can squeeze them really hard many times, more than anyone else who has tried them. Who knew? Now I understand why people like new brakes so much better than old ones. Also, I recently tested my hands again, and I noticed my left hand is stronger even though I'm right handed. Maybe it's from cycling for most of my life and primarily using the left brake.

So yes, single pivot calipers aren't for everyone, especially since newer brakes work so much better. I did have those Universal 68 brakes, and the levers were brutal because of their low leverage. I was able to use them, but they took more effort than any others.

Also, most men generally have stronger hands than most women do.
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Old 05-21-24, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Glad to hear you are on your way. I've had people try my bikes and tell me that my brakes don't work. They work fine. I eventually learned that I have unusually strong hands which is strange since I'm not a big muscular guy. I have those hand strengthener exercise thingies, and I can squeeze them really hard many times, more than anyone else who has tried them. Who knew? Now I understand why people like new brakes so much better than old ones. Also, I recently tested my hands again, and I noticed my left hand is stronger even though I'm right handed. Maybe it's from cycling for most of my life and primarily using the left brake.

So yes, single pivot calipers aren't for everyone, especially since newer brakes work so much better. I did have those Universal 68 brakes, and the levers were brutal because of their low leverage. I was able to use them, but they took more effort than any others.
Thanks. I'm not overly strong, I don't think. Most of the improvement from the Campa levers was due to the easier leverage, but I also noticed that they were much smoother acting than the Universal levers. Together the combination appears to be smooth and powerful. Certainly, the calipers are stiff and responsive, so no fault there.
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Old 05-22-24, 06:45 PM
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@Aubergine, the Campy levers have better leverage, and the pivot that the cable attaches to is also of a large diameter. This reduces friction. They're very nice levers, and the price is almost justified.
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Old 05-22-24, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
@Aubergine, the Campy levers have better leverage, and the pivot that the cable attaches to is also of a large diameter. This reduces friction. They're very nice levers, and the price is almost justified.
They are certainly my favorite levers. They work very well with Mafacs as well, which I have on several bikes.
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Old 05-23-24, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
@Aubergine, the Campy levers have better leverage, and the pivot that the cable attaches to is also of a large diameter. This reduces friction. They're very nice levers, and the price is almost justified.
FWIW, there are other levers with the same geometry as Campagnolo, e.g. SunTour "Superbe," Modolo, some Gran Compe models, etc. that don't carry quite the same degree of brand-premium as Campagnolo.
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Old 05-23-24, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson
FWIW, there are other levers with the same geometry as Campagnolo, e.g. SunTour "Superbe," Modolo, some Gran Compe models, etc. that don't carry quite the same degree of brand-premium as Campagnolo.
True, but I'm going to be picky here and point out that there are differences. As far as I know, Gran Compe always used the attachment method of a band which held a nut whereas Campagnolo uses a bolt in the band. The Campy way is more crashworthy in my experience. Also, seeing how everything eventually degrades, the quality of Campagnolo's materials seem to be better, as they degrade more slowly. I'm speaking of my observation of rusting and wear from use and abuse. This doesn't matter to some people, and the differences are small enough not to be practical for most people, but I have observed them. When I was a shop mechanic, my eye tended to notice these two parameters (wear resistance and crashworthiness). I prefer Shimano, Campagnolo and MAFAC brake levers because they hold on tight.

I can't argue that you get more usage per dollar with the high end stuff, just that you get fewer problems over time. I'm usually pretty frugal, and I don't buy top line stuff often.
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