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Old 04-04-10, 04:36 PM   #1
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Yet another brake question.

Yet another brake question. A bit of a variation on the Ďdrag brake or notí theme.
(and yes, Iíve read quite a few of the posts on brakes)

The Context:
My wife and I have been riding the tandem for the past 9 or 10 months. Weíve done around 2000km and our typical ride now is around 50 to 70 kms. We live in a reasonably hilly area with a couple of 400-500 metre (1300ft-1600ft) climbs and a 780 metre (2500ft) climb. V brakes front and back. We did the research, read the threads and decided against a drum drag brake and things have been ok. Iím quite experienced in descending and we descend pretty quickly. Oh yes, itís a KHS Alite with 26Ē wheels, Vittoria Rubino Pro slick (1.5) pumped up to 85-90 PSI. Our weight around 350lbs.

Getting to the question:
Weíre heading to Switzerland to do the National Route 9 Ė Lakes Route Ė in June for our first tandem touring trip. The descents donít appear to be any different to what we have experienced around here, however, we will be loaded for touring. Our preference is still not to get a drum drag brake for one trip (or maybe one trip a year ) but I guess thatís what Iím trying to decide now. We will probably use Vittoria Randonneur Pros (1.50) for touring as there are going to be some patches of unsurfaced path although we are still not sure if weíll stick to the Rubinoís

The Questions:
How do you tell if youíre in trouble with rims about to overheat?
Are there brake pads that lessen the likelihood of this happening?
Do you think we really need a drum drag brake?

Any advice/comment would be appreciated.

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Old 04-05-10, 05:56 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by GLA View Post
The Questions:
How do you tell if you’re in trouble with rims about to overheat?
Are there brake pads that lessen the likelihood of this happening?
Do you think we really need a drum drag brake?
It depends on how straight the road is coming off the passes and, of course, the gradient. The more switchbacks there are, the more you need a drum brake. I would suggest that if the gradient is above 6-7%, the descent is long AND there are a fair number switchbacks, you should install a drum brake because you will need to do more braking to keep from flying off the end of the switchback.

If the descent is steep but more or less straight, you might want a drum brake also if you are touring with a fair bit of stuff. The touring load increases your terminal velocity.

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Old 04-06-10, 06:57 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by GLA View Post
How do you tell if you’re in trouble with rims about to overheat?

When the brake pads glaze over, you can hear and smell the off gassing. At that point you're losing braking capacity, and its a sign you need to get off the brakes, or get off the bike.

Another sign is simply to touch the rims. If they're so hot you can't hold a finger against them, they're likely hot enough to create the risk of a blow out. U nortunately, you pretty much have to get off the bike to do this test.
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Old 04-14-10, 08:55 PM   #4
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I can't tell by your post if you have ever loaded your bike for touring. The Europe descents are known for being long, and with full touring set-up the drag brake is a necessity in my opinion. We are fine on about any descent without our touring load, but when we add the bags - gotta go to the drag brake on long or steep stuff. Way too much heat and fade without. It's possible to control our set-up without the drag brake on steep or long descents, but without it feels like the system is on its outer limits. If you haven't loaded for touring yet, try it now and see how your set-up performs. If you haven't ridden with touring bags, are you purchasing for the occasional big tour? If so, why not add a drum brake? FYI, we are 350+ team, and more with bike and bags.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:41 AM   #5
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I live in Switzerland, and know most of the roads on that route quite well. There are certainly roads here where I would recommend having a drum or disc brake, especially with touring gear (i.e., roads which have at least 1000m descent at >7% gradient, and may be twisty), but if you're sticking to the Route 9 Lakes route then you will not find any of those. The major descents on that route are only about 300 metres of continuous descending, then you will be rolling down gently valleys losing altitude very gradually. The only exception to this may be the descent down to Lake Zurich - the profile shows 500m descent in 10km, and that is on a pretty small road, so it will be twisty. However, lugging around an extra brake for this one descent doesn't seem worth it - just stop and let the brakes cool once or twice during that descent to be safe instead. I don't know that bit of road personally, but I have cycling friends up in that part of the country that I could ask if you wish. If you do want to add in a few of those more serious climbs and descents for which I would recommend an extra brake, which I think are more than worth it, then I can certainly make a lot of great suggestions.

The National Cycle Routes in Switzerland are a good idea, but I would advise against sticking to the suggested route religiously. They prioritize taking you onto the lowest-traffic roads possible at the cost of all other factors. Frequently, there is an alternative road that has only medium to low levels of traffic, but the national route will use a different nearby route that is even quieter, but the quieter road will be far more undulating, convoluted, and difficult to find the directional signs on. In these situations, I would often choose the slightly larger, slightly busier road, which is normally still not very busy. Keep in mind that there are very few large trucks in this country because most freight is carried by rail, most drivers are very courtious to cyclists, and the roads are in excellent condition (they spend a lot of money on them) - it is a cyclist's paradise.

On the Route 9 Lakes Route in particular, I would recommend the following changes from the suggested roads:

Montreux - Chatel St Denis: I would go up via Blonay, and take the road on the east side of the Veveyse river to Chatel St Denis. The suggested route up from Vevey is a smaller road but gets extremely steep for one or two kms of 10-15%, not fun on a tandem with touring gear. The road on the east side of that valley is much more constant and easier climbing. After you leave Blonay, the road is very quiet. Also, the part along Lake Geneva of the suggested route between Montreux and Vevey is urban and full of traffic lights, and often has buildings between the road and the lake, and so is not worthwhile. In fact, I would start this route from Lausanne, and go along the lake from there to Vevey, which is probably the nicest stretch of road anywhere around Lake Geneva, right along the lakeshore with terraced vineyards on the other side.

Gstaad - Zweisimmen: The official route takes you along a small road on the south side of the valley, the more major road goes along the north side of the valley. To climb out of Gstaad, it's probably nicest to use the smaller road, but once at the top of the pass, Saanenmoser, I would switch onto the major road for the descent to Zweissimen. The road is a little busy, but you'll be flying downhill almost keeping up with traffic, and there are no major turns to worry about. The alternative stays on the south side of the valley and is very quiet, but undulates up and down several times and you don't get anywhere fast on it, you just tire yourself out for no reason, which frustrated me.

Zweisimmen - Spiez: The official route keeps you off of the major road in this valley, and takes you on minor ones instead. The more minor ones will be more fun, because the bigger road is quite busy, especially in the lower part of the valley. However, be prepared for navigational issues trying to stay on the official bike route.

Interlaken - Brienz: This is the part where I really encourage you to avoid the suggested route. The suggested route goes along the south side of Lake Brienz and may be the longest and roughest section of unpaved road of the whole trip. I know people who have done it and they all made it sound like it is more of a trail than a road, and really struggled on it and did not have fun, plus there are lots of short and steep climbs and descents. I've never actually done it because of the bad things that I've heard about it and the alternative is the normal road along the north side of Lake Brienz, which is one of the most beautiful roads to cycle on in the whole country! There is still not much traffic on that road because there is a separate motorway that takes most of the traffic (which is mostly in a tunnel on the south side of the lake), plus the road is very wide, and I believe it has bike lanes in several sections. The road on the north side of the lake is very popular with cyclists, and you'll see why, it is mostly flat with only a few short, gentle gradients, and the views are incredible. Don't even bother trying to mess with the trail on the south side, the road on the north side is something that is not to be missed!

Meiringen - Luzern: The main road in this section is very traffic-heavy, and so I would recommend sticking to the alternate bike route when possible. However, I don't actually know what the alternate route is here because both times I've gone that way, I've just put up with the heavy traffic in that section.

Beyond Luzern, I'm not very familiar with the roads, but by this time you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect and so you can make pretty good decisions yourselves.

As for tire sizes for the sections of unpaved roads that you will find if you stick to the official bike routes: On my single touring bike, I would be happy with the 700x28mm tires that have a very light tread that I always use. On the tandem, I might go a little larger than 28mm. I would expect that the 26x1.5" slicks that you mentioned should have no major problems, but hopefully they have a small amount of tread on them to bite into the dirt a bit when climbing and braking. As far as I'm aware, the sections of unpaved roads on this route are mostly in the flatter parts, and there are no major descents on unpaved roads. The exception to this would be the steep undulations on the south side of Lake Brienz, which as I said above, you should completely avoid.

If you need any more info, then please ask.

Last edited by Chris_W; 04-15-10 at 10:05 AM.
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