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What Performance Improvement in Vintage Levers?

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What Performance Improvement in Vintage Levers?

Old 11-30-18, 06:27 AM
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What Performance Improvement in Vintage Levers?

I did some searching and couldn't find a definitive answer: on my bike with crusty entry-level ITM brake levers, is there a significant (i.e., "noticeable", "appreciable") improvement in braking performance, if I were to replace them with something nicer, like drilled Campy Victory or Record levers? Of course, it would be a significant aesthetic improvement, and I'd probably do it for that reason alone.

Or are all vintage brake levers more-or-less always going to be significantly less effective than ergos (which I'm more accustomed to)?

Thanks for any insights!
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Old 11-30-18, 07:24 AM
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It seems to me that there's a lot more to improving the brakes than just the levers .
You have to think of the whole system - Levers, cables, calipers, and pads.
There are improvements that could be made to any or ALL of the components, to get good brakes.
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Old 11-30-18, 07:29 AM
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What performance issue are you trying to resolve? Is it actual stopping capability or how you get to full capability?
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Old 11-30-18, 07:32 AM
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I don't know if you would have much improvement with those levers, I've never used ITM. You may get some improvement with aero levers, but that is all for not with the wienman 605 calipers. I think I would swap those first.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:15 AM
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Not sure, but maybe levers with metal bodies instead of plastic which became quite common in the late 70's and into the 80's, might have a more positive, solid feel to them..... I'm saying that because I had noticed more flex on my plastic bodied levers like my CLB aero levers, than what I feel with my Weinmann Carreras, which has a cast aluminum lever body.
Also, be sure to adjust your cables to have the least amount of slack as possible to get the most positive feel from your levers. It' similar to bleeding air out if your car's braking system. That, combined with proper brake cable routing on your handlebar and frame will maximize braking performance..... beyond that, you might have to go to a more modern brakeset to do better.

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Old 11-30-18, 08:53 AM
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Cheers for the replies & feedback.

Certainly better calipers combined with modern levers would improve braking performance. By "improve", I mean greater stopping power and easier to activate with less effort, from a wider variety of hand positions, e.g. from on the hoods, as opposed to having to be in the drops.

I've got new pads, cables, and housings, and everything is well cleaned and adjusted. I'm confident the calipers and levers I have are working about as well as they can be expected to, based on how they were designed.

But it seems the ease-of-use of older non-aero levers are limited by their design, in that the direction of cable pull is going to make it more difficult to use from anywhere but in the drops. It's more about where the pivot point for the lever is, and the direction of pull on the cable. And it doesn't seem to me that getting fancy vintage Campy Super Record levers is going to change anything (except the aesthetics, which I mentioned earlier might be worth it, in itself!).

I was just wondering if maybe that wasn't exactly the case, e.g. if old Suntour Superbe levers were different, etc.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ridelikeaturtle View Post
Or are all vintage brake levers more-or-less always going to be significantly less effective than ergos (which I'm more accustomed to)?
There are presumptions built into your question. If used in the manner of modern ergos, all vintage levers will be less effective. Vintage levers were designed to be actuated from the drops. People did not ride on the hoods all the time. You can feather your speed from the hoods with vintage levers, but you won't get anywhere near full braking power.

Possibly a greater problem in your case are the Weinmann sidepulls. Those were wimpy brakes even BITD. They are very light, but also very flexy, with less than great stopping power. As a start I'd recommend putting some Kool Stop or equivalent brake pads on there. That should help. The pads are half the brakes.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
There are presumptions built into your question. If used in the manner of modern ergos, all vintage levers will be less effective. Vintage levers were designed to be actuated from the drops. People did not ride on the hoods all the time. You can feather your speed from the hoods with vintage levers, but you won't get anywhere near full braking power.

Possibly a greater problem in your case are the Weinmann sidepulls. Those were wimpy brakes even BITD. They are very light, but also very flexy, with less than great stopping power. As a start I'd recommend putting some Kool Stop or equivalent brake pads on there. That should help. The pads are half the brakes.
That pretty much confirms it then - I just need to adjust my expectations, and that's fine. Thanks!
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Old 11-30-18, 09:38 AM
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There's a limit to what braking power you can extract from a brakeset, based on how the calipers and the rest if the system was originally engineered. Again, to maximize what you can get out of it, you will need to eliminate any source of flexure, stretch or compression in the system that does not contribute to braking. Sure, better pads will help, but if you do not tune the whole system to its best potential, you will still end up with mediocre braking performance from your brakeset......
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Old 11-30-18, 11:09 AM
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I have used a lot of different levers and if aesthetics are not an issue, I prefer these guys to just about anything else that I have used...


They are very comfortable, very easy to reach and pull and the hoods will wear out, with use, not rot out with the passing of time, as so many others do. Have the set above fitted to my Bianchi which I keep and ride in Jamaica...
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Old 11-30-18, 05:33 PM
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Modolo composite levers are the best performers I have, not the most comfortable. Compared to some STI’s anyway.
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Old 11-30-18, 07:16 PM
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@ridelikeaturtle, before you jump to conclusions consider this. I have to disagree with Salamandrine's statements.

Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Vintage levers were designed to be actuated from the drops. People did not ride on the hoods all the time. You can feather your speed from the hoods with vintage levers, but you won't get anywhere near full braking power.
I ride on the hoods maybe 90% of the time. The rest of the time I ride on the tops or ramps. I brake from the hoods virtually all the time. I can skid the rear wheel by braking it too hard, and I can lift the rear wheel by braking the front too hard. I've done both unintentionally. I never brake from the drops. I could and always thought I would in a panic situation, but I really don't need to. Well, on our tandem I do every so often and it does help. I ride down to the drops almost never, only when struggling into a fierce wind, and when I'm fighting that hard to go forward I have no trouble stopping!

Braking from the hoods is easy. You just reach your fingers around to the levers and rotate your wrists downward. But you can do that most easily if you can actually reach them. For me that means placing the ramps horizontal, with the levers positioned on the bar the "usual place", i.e. with the bottom of the drops in line with the ends of the levers. (To me that looks better aesthetically too, but that's personal preference. Some people disagree.)
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Old 11-30-18, 07:32 PM
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Leave the levers, buy a Tekro dual pivot caliper for the front. Mo' stopping power, less effort.
There are incremental improvement with various levers, Randyjawa probably has a good option, but I bet that a dual pivot caliper will improve stopping power most.

My fingers get used hard every day, I just came back from a holiday where my bike there had Dual pivot calipers, vastly superior to my Vintage Campagnolo brakes.
My fingers appreciated it. It is enough of a difference that I will probably migrate many of my bikes to more Modern calipers, keeping the vintage ones for show or sale if/when I sell those bikes.

The one single pivot caliper that surprises me are any of the Campagnolo monoplaner calipers. Not a dual pivot but as they are so stout in arm design, they perform very well.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:05 PM
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Winemann brakes suck BIG time. I ride an '84 Peugeot that I bought new. It had Winemann brakes on it. They were crap from day one. I can't tell you how many kinds of pads and shoes I tried on it. Nothing worked. They would slow me down but if I needed to make a panic stop I'd've been in deep doo-doo. About a year ago a friend gave me a set of Ultegra dual pivot side pulls. I put them on and WOW!!! After 34 years I can actually stop, not just slow down and they look period-correct unless you're a total purist. I used the original Winemann levers and all is well. My advice to you is to ditch the POS Winemann's and get some decent brakes. Spend a little $$ and get the best you can afford. Like they say, "Buy once, cry once". Don't waste any more time, $$ or effort on the Winemann's.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
@ridelikeaturtle, before you jump to conclusions consider this. I have to disagree with Salamandrine's statements.



I ride on the hoods maybe 90% of the time. The rest of the time I ride on the tops or ramps. I brake from the hoods virtually all the time. I can skid the rear wheel by braking it too hard, and I can lift the rear wheel by braking the front too hard. I've done both unintentionally. I never brake from the drops. I could and always thought I would in a panic situation, but I really don't need to. Well, on our tandem I do every so often and it does help. I ride down to the drops almost never, only when struggling into a fierce wind, and when I'm fighting that hard to go forward I have no trouble stopping!

Braking from the hoods is easy. You just reach your fingers around to the levers and rotate your wrists downward. But you can do that most easily if you can actually reach them. For me that means placing the ramps horizontal, with the levers positioned on the bar the "usual place", i.e. with the bottom of the drops in line with the ends of the levers. (To me that looks better aesthetically too, but that's personal preference. Some people disagree.)
I agree. I can brake from the hoods on non-aero no issue. I have stronger than normal grip strength from my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training, I always assumed that helped quite a bit.
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Old 11-30-18, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
@ridelikeaturtle, before you jump to conclusions consider this. I have to disagree with Salamandrine's statements.



I ride on the hoods maybe 90% of the time. The rest of the time I ride on the tops or ramps. I brake from the hoods virtually all the time. I can skid the rear wheel by braking it too hard, and I can lift the rear wheel by braking the front too hard. I've done both unintentionally. I never brake from the drops. I could and always thought I would in a panic situation, but I really don't need to. Well, on our tandem I do every so often and it does help. I ride down to the drops almost never, only when struggling into a fierce wind, and when I'm fighting that hard to go forward I have no trouble stopping!

Braking from the hoods is easy. You just reach your fingers around to the levers and rotate your wrists downward. But you can do that most easily if you can actually reach them. For me that means placing the ramps horizontal, with the levers positioned on the bar the "usual place", i.e. with the bottom of the drops in line with the ends of the levers. (To me that looks better aesthetically too, but that's personal preference. Some people disagree.)
I think it's more than personal preference. Vintage brakes were not designed to be braked from the hoods. It's not just my opinion, it was the prevailing wisdom of the C&V pre brifter era. Sure, you can brake from the hoods, I do it at least half the time, but power and control suffer. It's fine for cruising around town or on the flats, but in the mountains or whenever serious braking is needed, it's bad technique, pure and simple. Besides that it's downright unsafe to descend on the hoods. In fact it isn't even that great of an idea to descend on the hoods with modern levers, though it can be done.
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Old 11-30-18, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Jon T View Post
Winemann brakes suck BIG time. I ride an '84 Peugeot that I bought new. It had Winemann brakes on it. They were crap from day one. I can't tell you how many kinds of pads and shoes I tried on it. Nothing worked. They would slow me down but if I needed to make a panic stop I'd've been in deep doo-doo. About a year ago a friend gave me a set of Ultegra dual pivot side pulls. I put them on and WOW!!! After 34 years I can actually stop, not just slow down and they look period-correct unless you're a total purist. I used the original Winemann levers and all is well. My advice to you is to ditch the POS Winemann's and get some decent brakes. Spend a little $$ and get the best you can afford. Like they say, "Buy once, cry once". Don't waste any more time, $$ or effort on the Winemann's.
Jon
Weinmann did make a really good brakeset thst even the Pros were seem to have been OK with (Do have to mention that the calipers might have been made for them by DiaCompe, as rumors seem to say....)
That would be the Weinmann model 400 Carrera,the version with the metal front pivot bolt with a small hex shape at the end for centering and pivot bolt tension adjustment. I have it on my Peugeot PY10FC and have been very satisfied with the brakeset's performance. I guess it is true though that a lot of their low level models were quite horrible. I still remember how bad the basic Weinmann side pulls were on my PH10s, back in the early 80's crappy feel, lots of flex and you cannot modulate the. Worst thing was, I had to re-center both calipers after almost every ride..... Ended up upgrading them to a bit better Weinmann 500 (Can't remember the exact model number, but could be 505) series brakeset with quick release, brakes better and had an OK quick release, but still had to re-center them more than my other brakesets.....
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Old 12-01-18, 12:47 AM
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In descending order of importance:

Pads
Calipers*
Levers*
Cables/housings

*although the differences between lever pull ratios can sometimes put levers above calipers. It depends.
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Old 12-01-18, 04:00 AM
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I agree with Salamandrine. I can use old brake levers ok from the tops, unless I need the strongest braking. Then I have to hit the drops to get the best leverage.

To go back to the OP’s question, though, it strikes me that the lever bodies are longer than most, and similar to Mafac levers. Going to a lever with a shorter body will improve the leverage when braking from the tops. I can attest to this because I have one bike with Mafac levers, and braking requires a lot more force than it does with shorter Weinmann or Campy levers.
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Old 12-01-18, 11:47 AM
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Typical aero levers will give you about 10 percent more braking force (at the cost of 10 percent farther travel) than non-aero levers.

You can improve almost any set of brakes with new cable housings and KoolStop pads. The rear (Weinmann 999 centerpull) brake on my Peugeot had become almost worthless before I replaced the cable housing, which made a HUGE difference. (I hadn't really noticed for awhile, because I normally use just the front brake, unless checking speed on a long descent or trying to avoid a disastrous front wheel skid on wet pavement.)
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Old 12-01-18, 01:07 PM
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Levers, calipers, housings and cables have all gotten better so perhaps we spend more time on the hoods because we can. Maybe traditional bike fitting is changing with the technology.

Carpal tunnel surgery forced me to be more careful and move into the drops anytime I sense there may be a sudden need for some strong braking, especially with single pivots.

I'm usually comfortable in the drops and like to be there. My back is probably the only part of my body that remains unaffected by age, the rest of me requires a constant supply of anti-inflammatories. Post ride whiskey helps too.
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Old 12-01-18, 02:11 PM
  #22  
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I'm running cheap, flimsy-looking 1980's Weinmann calipers and levers with the basic style of Matthauser pads (slid well down in the slots to reach 700c rims).
Even with the original, 33-year-old lined housings (now lubed with GripShift grease) the braking power is very good.
I had a UPS truck pull in front of me, failing to yield as I was going at least 25mph, the day after I installed the old, basic Matthauser pads. I was really pleased with my ability to stop in a hurry!
It's important that the caliper pivots be verified as free-moving before hitting the road, and that the entire run of cable and housing has no deformations or interference.
I also tend to relax the return spring's pre-load force on any vintage single-pivot calipers, which makes for a very surprising decrease in lever effort.
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Old 12-02-18, 10:31 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Leave the levers, buy a Tekro dual pivot caliper for the front. Mo' stopping power, less effort.
There are incremental improvement with various levers, Randyjawa probably has a good option, but I bet that a dual pivot caliper will improve stopping power most.
This sounds like the best bang-for-the-buck, and the best starting point.
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Old 12-02-18, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by natterberry View Post


I agree. I can brake from the hoods on non-aero no issue. I have stronger than normal grip strength from my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training, I always assumed that helped quite a bit.
I'm not sure if you're being serious, or this is a satirical response to a borderline-mansplaining post. Either way, LOL
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12-27-14 03:01 PM

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