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The Way Of The (Mafac) Racer

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The Way Of The (Mafac) Racer

Old 09-02-14, 05:38 PM
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jyl
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The Way Of The (Mafac) Racer

I was corresponding w/ another BF'er about this and that. He mentioned a solution to a problem I've been having with some Mafac Racer brakes. I realized that, despite having these brakes on a number of bikes over the years, there is much I don't know about then. It is a subject worth study, I think. Mafac Racers are plentiful, cheap, sturdy, and definitely C&V. Everyone's parts bin has a few sets. So why not get the most out of them?

Here is the topic I propose for you ladies and gentlemen:

The identification, modification, beautification, optimization, drilliumization, and general procurement, setup, care and feeding of the humble but worthy MAFAC RACER brake. And its longtime companion, the MAFAC LEVER(s).

Inspire, instruct and illuminate me (us). Please. Extra credit for pretty pictures.

P.S. I believe other Mafac products too could ease their way into this thread without upsetting anyone. I'm partial to the toolkits myself.

Last edited by jyl; 09-02-14 at 07:59 PM.
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Old 09-02-14, 05:53 PM
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Can we throw in the cantilever brakes also?
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Old 09-02-14, 06:05 PM
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I only have set le Competition. I like them. But I've always found getting the angle of the pads set properly is a bit of a struggle.
I tend to hold the brake shoe with the jaws of a large Crescent wrench while I snug down the nuts.

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Old 09-02-14, 06:08 PM
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…and they work pretty well with these after-market levers.
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Old 09-02-14, 07:58 PM
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What is the difference between Racer and Competition?
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Old 09-02-14, 08:34 PM
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Some details... straddle cables are completely different; hence outboard ends of calipers are quite different; calipers of Competition appear to be thicker and stiffer than Racers.
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Old 09-02-14, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
I only have set le Competition. I like them. But I've always found getting the angle of the pads set properly is a bit of a struggle.
I tend to hold the brake shoe with the jaws of a large Crescent wrench while I snug down the nuts.

a...back in ancient times, this was the only way to do it, and I've seen (not done myself, thankfully)
at least one caliper busted by aggressively setting the toe in by bending with a crescent.

Now that we have shoes that work on these brakes with smooth studs and a set of adjustment washers,
I usually just replace the old pads and retaining hardware to allow easier adjustment with canti pad setup.

Most models of cantilever calipers use a "smooth stud brake pad." The brake pad is fitted with a non-threaded stud. The stud fits into a hole in a bolt head that secures to the caliper arm with a series of convex and concave washer and spacers. This system allows the pad face to adjusted to correct positions described above. Generally, it is easiest to adjust brake pads after the caliper arms are correctly positioned. The brake pads may prevent this. Loosen brake pad-fixing nuts on both sides of cantilever and lubricate threads, curved washers and washer-to-arm contact points

Park Tool Co. » ParkTool Blog » Cantilever Brake Service.
I think I've already mentioned elsewhere that if period authenticity is not a consideration, I use a lever with a built in quick release.
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Old 09-02-14, 09:12 PM
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I have Racers on my Peugeot UO townie. They are fitted with modern canti brake pads. I have used mountain levers as well as vintage non-aero road levers and the braking has always been excellent. The MAFACs have a "feel" that is among the nicest I've ever experienced.
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Old 09-02-14, 09:23 PM
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I consider these to be some of the nicest brakes ever made, with modern pads and the right hardware (the stock Mafac hangars are pretty flexy) their performance is excellent... Kool Stop makes replacement pads for the stock holders too.

I have some original Mafac cantis on my '57 Peugeot and they work quite well despite the Chrolux rims... black Kool Stop pads have worked best as the salmon pads squeal a lot more.

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Old 09-02-14, 09:49 PM
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I've just been out in the garage tearing apart the rear brake on my '77 Peugeot project. Need to buff the springs out and polish the aluminum. The chrome bolts are OK, but the shoe clamp covers are rusted. I'll buff them with the grinder wheel wire brush and leave the good chrome on the tops. The red bushings are amazingly still red for the most part. Its a simple mechanism, hope it works ok. I used modern Dia -Comp pads, just cuz I had 'em. THe Mafac levers and hoods will be re-used.
And Sixty-Fiver, that old bike is super cool! ^^^^^^

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Old 09-02-14, 10:39 PM
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MAFAC Racers don't seem to care what levers you use; they like them all, as far as I can see.

I have successfully "adjusted" toe-in by giving my brake pads a quick slide in my belt sander. We don't need none o' them fancy angled washers.
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Old 09-02-14, 10:51 PM
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I appreciate the reach adjustment. Accomodates a switch from 27" to 700C rims. Plenty of room for fenders.

Why were they called "Racers"? Was this actually the racing model?
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Old 09-02-14, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
…and they work pretty well with these after-market levers.


And what, pray tell, is the manufactrer of these Aftermarket Levers?
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Old 09-03-14, 12:19 AM
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It's not squealing or screeching, it's... singing really, a sweet little French lullaby, "Coming to a gentle halt". Ha ha, well I'm a big fan but sometimes I have problems with the levers' reach and in a couple of instances I made a fix for these:




A rubber strip inside the lever house, cut down to fit and with a hole for the cable, brings the tip of the lever about 1 cm inwards. Works great and is practically invisible.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:38 AM
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I know Racers respond well to cantilever(post mount obviously) mountain bike shoes. Damn near the best brakes in my garage. All BS aside, the mountain bike shoed Racers are close to V brake power!

The other brakes that rate as highly with me are Universal Mod. 61 centerpulls, and Mod. 77 sidepulls that are now on my Competition. I had them on my Trek 510 about 4-5 years.,,,,BD
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Old 09-03-14, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by elcraft View Post
And what, pray tell, is the manufactrer of these Aftermarket Levers?
Those are Campagnolo Record levers. With black hoods that came with the Nuovo Gran Sport brakes.
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Old 09-03-14, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by CMAW View Post
It's not squealing or screeching, it's... singing really, a sweet little French lullaby, "Coming to a gentle halt". Ha ha, well I'm a big fan but sometimes I have problems with the levers' reach and in a couple of instances I made a fix for these:




A rubber strip inside the lever house, cut down to fit and with a hole for the cable, brings the tip of the lever about 1 cm inwards. Works great and is practically invisible.
Great idea! I only have Racers and MAFAC levers on one bike, but I too find the reach to the levers from the drops to be a bit far. This is a great work around. Thanks for the tip!
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Old 09-03-14, 06:23 AM
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No kidding. Very clever, CMAW.
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Old 09-03-14, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
What is the difference between Racer and Competition?
Competitions have brass bushings at the pivots. Other differences are mostly cosmetic.
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Old 09-03-14, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
I consider these to be some of the nicest brakes ever made, with modern pads and the right hardware (the stock Mafac hangars are pretty flexy) their performance is excellent... Kool Stop makes replacement pads for the stock holders too.

I have some original Mafac cantis on my '57 Peugeot and they work quite well despite the Chrolux rims... black Kool Stop pads have worked best as the salmon pads squeal a lot more.

I'd love to have a set of those set up on a bike- if just for the "historicalness" of them.
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Old 09-03-14, 07:19 AM
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Old 09-03-14, 07:38 AM
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Only problem I can see with most MAFAC brakes is that it is nigh impossible to find the little rubber half hoods for them.
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Old 09-03-14, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
Only problem I can see with most MAFAC brakes is that it is nigh impossible to find the little rubber half hoods for them.
For real. With as many people on this forum you see looking for replacements, you'd think some enterprising aftermarket manufacturer would make new replacements.
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Old 09-03-14, 09:20 AM
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jyl-

Mafacs were the brake of choice for racers and tourists alike during the later 50s, 60s and early 70s due to their stopping power and modulation. There is a Tour photo of Jacques Anquetil here showing his Mafacs. The straddle cable was adjustable at the caliper arms which allowed for fine tuning the brake's power and feel. Constructeurs like Herse and Singer actually preferred to install Racers due to their "tuneability" in preference to the later Competitions, 2000s and 2000 GTs with their fixed straddle cable lengths. When added to brazed on pivots, Mafacs are formidable stoppers. Early Racers had brass lined pivots and brass washers but the 1960s French love for everything Delrin resulted in the red plastic pivots we are all familiar with. The photos below show my current setup on my 1960s Bertin C 37.




Sixty Fiver is right about the Kool Stop replacement pads. They slide right into the stock shoes and make an excellent upgrade from hard, dry OEM pads. They even have the brand name hidden inside the holder so you have an uncompromised restoration, if that is your goal, with brakes that actually work! If you ditch the whippy, flexy OEM Mafac cable hanger for a robust steel one, you will find the brakes are greatly improved as well. Racers and their Mafac kin are one of the few instances of old kit being as good or better than new.
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Old 09-03-14, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by icepick_trotsky View Post
For real. With as many people on this forum you see looking for replacements, you'd think some enterprising aftermarket manufacturer would make new replacements.
Perhaps not very cost effective once you figure in the tooling, etc. Also, that little metal tab at the rear to hold the half hood down to the lever body might be tricky to deal with in manufacturing. I suspect if they could sell fifty thousand pairs, some outfit might try making them. But there is a relatively limited demand.
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