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Old 11-20-07, 10:41 AM   #1
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Universal Super 68 brakes worth upgrading or using?

I really wish the NOS hoods werent so expensive I'd keep the levers. I'm debating on keep the brakes and using Tektro brakes. Do these brakes have good stopping power with kool stops? I really like the light weight.
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Old 11-20-07, 01:40 PM   #2
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I really wish the NOS hoods werent so expensive I'd keep the levers. I'm debating on keep the brakes and using Tektro brakes. Do these brakes have good stopping power with kool stops? I really like the light weight.
Ive had more than a few bikes with the Universal Super 68 brakes and all Ive done was switch out the brake pads to something new like the Kool Stops you mentioned, give it a try and youll see how well they work
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Old 11-20-07, 03:00 PM   #3
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Just paid $40 for some NOS hoods on the bay. I just hope that they turn out to really be NOS.
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Old 11-20-07, 03:03 PM   #4
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Keep the calipers. Replace the pads with KoolStops. Replace the brake cables, including the housings. If you want a 10% boost in your braking power, consider period-incorrect aero brake handles.
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Old 11-20-07, 04:25 PM   #5
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consider period-incorrect aero brake handles.
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Old 11-20-07, 04:42 PM   #6
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there was a guy in italy selling boxes and boxes of full sets of NOS universal super 68 brakes, levers and calipers, I passed because they were pricey and I didn't have a need for them, I suppose I could have used them but didn't need them. I forget how much he wanted but I'm sure it was less than what they'd go for on the bay. I couldn't believe how many set he had.
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Old 11-20-07, 05:28 PM   #7
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May be just a rumor, I thought I read somewhere once Universal brakes were prone to fractures.

Anyone else hear this?
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Old 11-20-07, 05:42 PM   #8
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Ive never heard this rumor but that doesnt mean its not true I can tell you that Ive had many a pair of these brakes and have used them for a long time and have never had a problem with them fracturing
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Old 11-20-07, 07:07 PM   #9
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BRAKE PADS: _ The original red pads found on ALL of the old Universal brakes caliper models are BAD and should be replaced with ones which really work. They typically had cotton fibers molded onto them which I believe was to help keep them from disintegrating or melting when you were flying down those Italian Alps and really heating up your rims. Over the decades the rubber even on NOS brake pads has now dried out to the point where you may as well be using polished metal against your rims to try to stop, and the fibers only make them worse. Fortunately, you can find great replacement pads without much difficulty.

BREAKAGE? _ It was not the calipers but the brake lever bodies which actually DID fail, and far too often. The aluminum would fracture at the bottom side of the section your fingers would wrap around. This was simply because of the design, which happened to put a lot of stress on that section if the handlebar clamps were excessively tightened. I still have (and use) some of the levers, which I think are great. Just be sure to NEVER over-tighten the clamps.

HOODS: _ Unfortunately, there are really no "Good" fitting modern replacement hoods for these. The levers all had cable adjuster "chimneys" welded onto the top of the lever body making it far more difficult to find anacceptable substitute than most other levers. So, you're stuck with either a VERY poorly fitting modern hood, or the expensive original gum hoods which are very nice... that is, until they begin to dry, crack and deteriorate once exposed to the elements.

Typical Universal levers - these were used on most models.


Inside the body - showing the clamp bolt holding plate
-which is actually butted against the bottom.



Worst case... the plate on this one had pulled against the bottom of the alloy body
- until it eventually cracked... and finally completely broke off.



A good modern replacement pad and holder on a center-pull model


I bought these Scott-Mathauser pads with holders online not too long ago.
They look quite similar to the originals, fit fine, and work GREAT.

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Old 11-20-07, 07:18 PM   #10
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Yes, the levers will break, usually on the body, and the calipers will break if you try and bend them for toe in. The Scott-Mathauser pads are great, I'm always looking for those. Other than that, Universals work as well as any other brakes from the period, except Campagnolo. The levers have kind of a long reach, so best for big hands.

Beautiful Frejus, I have a early 60s one I'm working on, blue and white, but its pretty beat. That one is the classic Frejus color scheme!
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Old 08-05-17, 02:47 AM   #11
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Just a quick question. when did they make the Universal Super 68 version?
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Old 08-05-17, 06:26 AM   #12
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Check Velobase
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Old 08-05-17, 07:52 AM   #13
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Just a quick question. when did they make the Universal Super 68 version?
With most Universal brakes, the model number is the year of introduction. The 68 was introduced in 1968. It was a popular choice on high end, boom era, Italian models as an alternative to Campagnolo, to hit a lower price point. It was eventually superceded as Universal's top sidepull model by the Corsa 77 and Competezione CX but remained in production for at least a couple of years after that.
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Old 08-05-17, 10:20 AM   #14
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I think I had Dia Compe hoods on my Universal levers for many years. I don't remember the exact model, but I did have to cut the hole out a bit. Maybe I could track them down.
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Old 09-22-17, 04:59 PM   #15
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With most Universal brakes, the model number is the year of introduction. The 68 was introduced in 1968. It was a popular choice on high end, boom era, Italian models as an alternative to Campagnolo, to hit a lower price point. It was eventually superceded as Universal's top sidepull model by the Corsa 77 and Competezione CX but remained in production for at least a couple of years after that.

Thanks for the info!
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Old 09-22-17, 08:33 PM   #16
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They are nice light weight vintage brakes. Honestly I wouldn't use the original Universal Levers or hoods...but they are also really light weight

I felt more secure using a Tektro lever and Universal brake.

The bodies are weak...that is so true.. That being said I'd be happy to give you my spare universal parts, I don't have the cable clamps but do have the levers.

I think they are comparable to Mafac in stopping power. However the super 68 levers are honestly a liability...I think your odds of eating the pavement are far greater on universal levers than a Lambert death fork

So as your attorney and spiritual advisor I would suggest you use another lever.
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Old 09-23-17, 12:04 AM   #17
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I think they are comparable to Mafac in stopping power. However the super 68 levers are honestly a liability...I think your odds of eating the pavement are far greater on universal levers than a Lambert death fork
It wouldn't be any fun to have your lever crack off while riding, but why would that make you crash? On an old Huffy in my high school days, I had the entire brake lever/housing fall off the handlebars and swing down into my front wheel causing me to do a complete front flip over the bike, but if just a lever cracked off, I think you'd be a little stunned but why crash?
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Old 09-23-17, 05:39 AM   #18
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The failure is usually associated with an impact or tightening the lever too much. I have ridden may miles with cracked lever bases and didn't know until I replaced HB tape. That said, If you don't want to work with them, don't. Kinda like old British sports cars.

I have a few sets with even more levers. All the exposed part polish up beautifully. However, they have been part of a significant number of 60's, 70's and 80's high end complete bikes and paired with Mod 61 center pulls

Another down side is the shape of the lever. Not really conducive to braking on the hoods.

[IMG]2008-06-14 08.02.35, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 09-23-17, 10:44 AM   #19
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So the 61, 68 and even later levers all have the same design "flaw"?
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Old 09-23-17, 10:56 AM   #20
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If the lever cracks while you are going fast down a hill, there is a chance you might make the frame shimmy...and lose it.
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Old 09-23-17, 06:45 PM   #21
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As to the replacement hoods cracking, I took off perfectly good Campy aero levers on my '64 Legnano and put the old Universal levers back on to comply with Eroica rules in 2016. I bought new gummed hoods on Ebay for $40, which included the little black adjuster rubber boots. The boots are already rotting off, and the gummed hoods are showing serious deterioration. Now that the aero levers are back in style (allowed) for Eroica, the Campys may go back on. The reason I changed them in the first place, was the original Universal hoods were destoyed and I got the aero levers for less money than rellacement hoods many years ago. The Universal gummed hoods are a little wider and more comfortable than the Campy aero hoods ... until the Universals rot and fall off.

I use the slightly longer Shimano style modern pads and shoes as shown on the blue bike above, on my Universal 61 calipers. The problem I have is the horizontal lever pivot screw keeps backing off, causing a bulge on the hood side. I've tried loctite, still backs off, any ideas?
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Old 09-25-17, 05:58 PM   #22
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After being suitably freaked out by this thread, I removed (read destroyed) my crusty and hard original hoods to see if my levers were cracked and the housing was fine with no signs of cracking anywhere. So now I have to decide to either purchase a pair of the poorly wearing newer Universal stamped hoods or just ride nude. They really don't look all that bad without the hoods.
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Old 09-25-17, 07:46 PM   #23
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I purchased 3 pair out of Italy made from the original tooling and they have worn well. Did you source them from the same supplier?
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Old 09-25-17, 08:33 PM   #24
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Robbie Fellows makes reproduction hoods for both Campagnolo and Universal brake levers. The quality is very good. PM for his contact info.
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Old 09-26-17, 11:11 AM   #25
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Universal levers had low leverage, requiring more force from the hands. Use them only if you have big, strong hands.
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