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Phil Wood Disc Brakes

Old 09-10-12, 06:48 PM
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Phil Wood Disc Brakes

I'm considering a tandem that has Phil Wood disc brakes.

Anybody using these? Are they really dangerous? Are they serviceable at all (I read that there are no replacement parts available)? Do they have any value?

The frame appears to not have mounts for any other style of brake...If I buy it I might have provisions for cantilever brakes added to the front fork and traditional disc tabs added in the rear.
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Old 09-10-12, 08:21 PM
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I think that the status of those brakes is "do not use".

Also, I believe that the hub threading for the disc is obsolete, such that I was able to buy a brand-new Phil tandem cassette freehub with those threads (looks like a flip-flop hub but it's not) for $45 new. This was a hub that originally sold for almost $400 in 1995 or so.

I narrowed the axle and built a touring wheel set with that rather heavy hub using 36/40-hole Mavic Module-4 700c rims.
You should see how wild that the dish is on this wheel, but it was carefully built with lightweight spokes and has endured 15 seasons of light use so far with no spoke loosening.
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Old 09-10-12, 08:32 PM
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I also found this discussion: https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...nce-with-these

Here, somebody mentions that they are simply drag brakes and not meant to be the only braking system on the tandem.... From the pictures I've received, it looks like the bike I'm interested in is only fit with these Phil brakes. Hmmmm...
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Old 09-10-12, 09:33 PM
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I like this one:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Dale...item4abbf0b2c6

At least it has cantilevers too including one Phil, If I was local to it, I would consider it.

There was another tandem on ebay recently with only Phil brakes, I would not keep it that way.

Long ago there was a lengthy discussion on the CR list (the bikelist.org version) that had quite a bit of info and rants about the Phil brakes.
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Old 09-10-12, 09:44 PM
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i'm not sure wood disc brakes are a good idea...
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Old 09-11-12, 02:32 PM
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I have a set of these brakes. In a box. They came on a 1980 Bob Jackson tandem with Phil hubs (the threads, BTW are standard freewheel threads and with adapters can be fitted with modern disc brake rotors). I used them for a while. They are adequate, but not great. Their reputation for badness rests on early models occasionally failing catastrophically:all the teeth on the asbestos disc that engaged the hub would simultaneously shear off, leaving the rider with a totally ineffective brake. No warning, just braking one moment, coasting the next. Apparently Phil dealt with that little glitch, but when asbestos was taken off the market, he couldn't find an acceptable substitute & stopped making them. They are heavy and not too pretty, but nicely engineered and finished.

The tandem was fitted with duplex brake levers: two cables each working one PW disc and one cantilever each. I got rid of the Phils when I realized that the cantis by themselves were good enough, and that the PW brakes weighed over a pound each which I had to lug up & down the stairs every time we took the bike out.

I wouldn't use the PW brakes on a tandem. Even if they are the later design, the friction material is at least 30 years old and not to be trusted. I'm sure you can drill the fork and brake bridge (or make one if necessary) for calipers.
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Old 09-11-12, 08:50 PM
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I picked up the bike tonight.

The seller mentioned that these brakes were the later ones and that he sent them back to PW at some point and had them "re-machined". Not sure what he meant by that. He told me he used them for years and thousands of miles and they worked better than any brakes he ever used before or since.

The rear is not drilled for a brake, but I'm going to see if it's robust enough to handle a standard dual pivot caliper. I think i will then move operation of the rear disc to the stoker (she would be more comfortable with some control) and then have the captain control the calipers and the front disc? Not sure exactly what I'll do, I need to think on it some more.

I'll likely start a thread for the bike. It's beautiful mix of lugs and fillet brazing (remnants of a 531 decal), Phil Wood: brakes, hubs, bottom brackets, pedals and 1/2 of the headset. Top half of headset is Campy SR, Super Champion 27" 48 hole rims, Mafac brake levers, TA cranksets (one of them with four chainrings), campy seatposts, Brooks Pro saddle, Selle Italia Anatomic saddle, Cinelli bars and stem...mostly junk.
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Old 09-11-12, 09:42 PM
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Phil Wood Disc Brakes

Pics or it didn't happen. I'm eager to see more detail on your machine.
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Old 09-11-12, 09:48 PM
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I'll get pics up tomorrow hopefully. Paint has been touched up in a few spots, but overall it's in fantastic condition. I took it for a spin around the block solo and was grinning from ear to ear.


Originally Posted by aixaix View Post
I have a set of these brakes. In a box. They came on a 1980 Bob Jackson tandem with Phil hubs (the threads, BTW are standard freewheel threads and with adapters can be fitted with modern disc brake rotors). I used them for a while. They are adequate, but not great. Their reputation for badness rests on early models occasionally failing catastrophically:all the teeth on the asbestos disc that engaged the hub would simultaneously shear off, leaving the rider with a totally ineffective brake. No warning, just braking one moment, coasting the next. Apparently Phil dealt with that little glitch, but when asbestos was taken off the market, he couldn't find an acceptable substitute & stopped making them. They are heavy and not too pretty, but nicely engineered and finished.

The tandem was fitted with duplex brake levers: two cables each working one PW disc and one cantilever each. I got rid of the Phils when I realized that the cantis by themselves were good enough, and that the PW brakes weighed over a pound each which I had to lug up & down the stairs every time we took the bike out.

I wouldn't use the PW brakes on a tandem. Even if they are the later design, the friction material is at least 30 years old and not to be trusted. I'm sure you can drill the fork and brake bridge (or make one if necessary) for calipers.
Thanks for the detailed post, I appreciate it. I'm interested in learning more about fitting a standard disc brake rotor to the rear...I would trust a BB7 a lot more than the PW.
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Old 09-12-12, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by frantik View Post
i'm not sure wood disc brakes are a good idea...
There's a splinter group that thinks otherwise.
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Old 09-12-12, 08:36 AM
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There's a splinter group that thinks otherwise.
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Old 09-12-12, 08:39 AM
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My Jack Taylor tandem is fitted with a rear Phil disc. I plan on employing it as a drag brake with a friction shifter.
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Old 09-12-12, 09:32 AM
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As a drag brake, the PW should be fine. The big advantage over a conventional disc set-up is that it doesn't need any braze-ons.

FWIW, when I first got them, they rattled like crazy. Setting them up on the frame took a little time, but once I had the stops (that brace against the stays & fork blade) in the right places, they were quiet. The stops are supposed to have rubber bushings on them, but they fall off. If yours are missing you can use slices of rubber hose with the right inside diameter.
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Old 05-13-13, 09:07 PM
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Sorry to resurrect an old thread.

I have a Paramount with a Phil Front Disc on it. It is a relatively recent aquisition, but at this juncture I really like the performance and the look. I have a couple questions;

1) How do you determine if you have the old or the updated version?

2) aixaix, have you used a modern disc with yours?

3) any more experiences out there to share?

I have not disassembled mine yet but it looks more like a drum brake than a Disc. I can't see the disc itself. Anyone have pictures of theirs so I kind of know what they look like before I have mine in 100 pieces on the kitchen table?

Thanks




EDIT; I watched with a good light source and could see the disc being pushed inboard against the cup shaped backing plate. I see a tiny bit of wear in the teeth. This will be a special occasion rider so I can keep an eye on those but hopefully aixaix has a source for the replacement disc (if I understood him correctly).

.

Last edited by 2112YYZ; 05-13-13 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 05-13-13, 10:22 PM
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If it is a third brake on the bike (it is, right?) it shouldn't be a problem.

I can clearly see the disc in your photo, btw....

They were certainly elegant looking things, that's for sure!
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Old 05-13-13, 11:31 PM
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No, the original owner dropped the front caliper, probably because this unit does a good job. Not sure he was aware of any controversy.
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Old 05-14-13, 12:59 AM
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I put an old Weinmann centerpull caliper on the front of my old Holdsworth tandem (since sold) after one of the canti studs broke off.

Surprisingly, the caliper hauled the tandem down from speed just fine, using Kool-Stop pads.

Heavier bikes/riders and taller hills/mountains might require additional braking devices. Mine had an Arai drum, which aside from it's grabbi-chattery-ness after lengthy non-use, was a reliable drag brake that could skid the rear tire.
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Old 05-14-13, 06:28 AM
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Two issues I remember with the Phil disc.

First was disc teeth shearing, which could cause a catastrophic failure. Remedied with updated discs with thicker teeth. Can't remember if you can see this well with the disc installed or not, might need to remove the disc. Thicker teeth means the cross-section of the disc was thicker at the teeth, if the disc was, say 3mm thick, the toothed section was 5mm thick. Just making up those numbers, btw.

Second issue was with the bumper plate being too thin, allowing the bumpers to bend under extreme/sudden braking forces. Also a catastrophic failure, the entire brake unit would rotate until one brake arm jammed into the fork blade, locking up the front wheel and pitching rider over bars---unless the teeth sheared, in which case you'd be kinda OK. We discovered this problem when the shop owner tried a front brake panic stop, on my bike, in our parking lot. Trashed my fork, had to replace it to ride home that night. Phil said that hadn't ever happened before, sent through some shorter/thicker plates after a couple of weeks. Phil said he'd make a running change to the new plates, but we were scared off and decided not to carry the brake. Don't know if this was ever acknowledged/documented, couldn't tell you how to check if your bumper plate was an updated one.

I used the brake with an updated disc (Phil replaced my original disc) and the new bumper plate on my commuter for a while after that, but I was young and invincible. I would not trust one of these as a primary brake on any of my bicycles.



Originally Posted by 2112YYZ View Post
Sorry to resurrect an old thread.

I have a Paramount with a Phil Front Disc on it. It is a relatively recent aquisition, but at this juncture I really like the performance and the look. I have a couple questions;

1) How do you determine if you have the old or the updated version?

2) aixaix, have you used a modern disc with yours?

3) any more experiences out there to share?

I have not disassembled mine yet but it looks more like a drum brake than a Disc. I can't see the disc itself. Anyone have pictures of theirs so I kind of know what they look like before I have mine in 100 pieces on the kitchen table?

Thanks




EDIT; I watched with a good light source and could see the disc being pushed inboard against the cup shaped backing plate. I see a tiny bit of wear in the teeth. This will be a special occasion rider so I can keep an eye on those but hopefully aixaix has a source for the replacement disc (if I understood him correctly).

.
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Old 05-14-13, 12:27 PM
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PCB, do you know of any stash of parts anywhere?

My bumper plate is very robust, but would be great to find a updated disc somewhere.
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Old 05-14-13, 01:41 PM
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I know of no source for parts.
Like many others, I have taken them off our tandem and stashed them under a work bench because they are too funky to toss.

Although it is a true disc brake, it works more like an automotive clutch. The disc spins with the hub: when the brake is applied, the disc is clamped between two stationary plates around its full circumference.

It is clever, but I don't think it is elegant. It is heavy and complicated, and a bear to set up and adjust. It makes removing and especially installing the wheel a pain. It stops well when it is adjusted properly, but no better than cantis.

Unreliability is only one reason I don't use them.
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Old 08-24-15, 10:18 PM
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Apologies for jumping into an old thread, but I just got a Jack Taylor Touring tandem with cantis and front and rear Phil Wood discs. Sounds like I will want to take off the Discs, according to most folks. Although the main concern seems to be catastrophic failure, is the other concern that you risk exposing yourself to asbestos fibers? Do they actually disintegrate during use?

Most importantly, if I remove them:
1. Can I just unthread them and still use the Phil Hubs (which seem in good shape)?

2. Also, can I install an Arai Drum brake (assuming I can find one) as a drag brake in the back? Will it thread onto the Phil Wood hub? I will need a third brake to ride Dairyland Dare with the tandem next year (some very steep descents).

Thans for your help.

Originally Posted by aixaix View Post
I know of no source for parts.
Like many others, I have taken them off our tandem and stashed them under a work bench because they are too funky to toss.

Although it is a true disc brake, it works more like an automotive clutch. The disc spins with the hub: when the brake is applied, the disc is clamped between two stationary plates around its full circumference.

It is clever, but I don't think it is elegant. It is heavy and complicated, and a bear to set up and adjust. It makes removing and especially installing the wheel a pain. It stops well when it is adjusted properly, but no better than cantis.

Unreliability is only one reason I don't use them.
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Old 08-24-15, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by prof.gfr View Post
Apologies for jumping into an old thread, but I just got a Jack Taylor Touring tandem with cantis and front and rear Phil Wood discs. Sounds like I will want to take off the Discs, according to most folks. Although the main concern seems to be catastrophic failure, is the other concern that you risk exposing yourself to asbestos fibers? Do they actually disintegrate during use?

Most importantly, if I remove them:
1. Can I just unthread them and still use the Phil Hubs (which seem in good shape)?

2. Also, can I install an Arai Drum brake (assuming I can find one) as a drag brake in the back? Will it thread onto the Phil Wood hub? I will need a third brake to ride Dairyland Dare with the tandem next year (some very steep descents).

Thanks for your help.
Bearing in mind that it's been years since I've even seen a Phil disk brake, much less worked on one:

1: Yes.
2: Yes, although I think the Phil hub that accepts an Arai drum brake has a different axle. Consult Phil Wood or Tandems East.
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Old 08-24-15, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by prof.gfr View Post
Apologies for jumping into an old thread, but I just got a Jack Taylor Touring tandem with cantis and front and rear Phil Wood discs. Sounds like I will want to take off the Discs, according to most folks. Although the main concern seems to be catastrophic failure, is the other concern that you risk exposing yourself to asbestos fibers? Do they actually disintegrate during use?

Most importantly, if I remove them:
1. Can I just unthread them and still use the Phil Hubs (which seem in good shape)?

2. Also, can I install an Arai Drum brake (assuming I can find one) as a drag brake in the back? Will it thread onto the Phil Wood hub? I will need a third brake to ride Dairyland Dare with the tandem next year (some very steep descents).

Thans for your help.
Greg?? WOW and Congrats on the bike! I look forward to seeing this one.

Fun mentioning the DD with tandem. I've been seriously wanting to do the same with the Santana. Its all set with stump pulling gearing. Anyways, this bike has the Phil hubs plus a rear Arai drag brake. That's all its supposed to do- just scrub a little and help minimize heat with the main calipers. And with the added gross weight of a tandem, brakes get mighty hot.

Check often on the BF tandem thread or other tandem sites others offering, changing out. Also, I'll check into another fellow who has a 27" wheel set-up tandem ready. Vintage. I believe he updated his tandem with modern disc.

https://www.philwood.com/products/hubspgs/tandemhubs.php#

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Old 08-25-15, 12:05 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by 4Rings6Stars View Post
I'm considering a tandem that has Phil Wood disc brakes.

Anybody using these? Are they really dangerous? Are they serviceable at all (I read that there are no replacement parts available)? Do they have any value?

The frame appears to not have mounts for any other style of brake...If I buy it I might have provisions for cantilever brakes added to the front fork and traditional disc tabs added in the rear.
Dangerous!

Do NOT use.
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Old 08-25-15, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by prof.gfr View Post
I just got a Jack Taylor Touring tandem with cantis and front and rear Phil Wood discs. Sounds like I will want to take off the Discs, according to most folks. Although the main concern seems to be catastrophic failure, is the other concern that you risk exposing yourself to asbestos fibers? Do they actually disintegrate during use?
The problem with the original Phil disc brake is that the friction disc used a splined interface with the brake, and those splines could shear off, leaving you with no brake. Here's one in the process of failing:


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