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Chain stay mounted roller cam for touring

Old 11-04-23, 05:30 PM
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Chain stay mounted roller cam for touring

I have a frame with chain stay mounted roller cam brake and initially planned on moving them to the seat stays, but someone mentioned to me that the seat stays are not stiff enough to handle the load of the roller cam brake. Figure I can fab a brake stiffener, but am thinking about just leaving them under the chain stays.

Anyone here have experience touring with chain stay mounted rear roller cam brake? How much of a hassle is it for rear wheel service? Pros and cons?
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Old 11-04-23, 09:22 PM
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A friend had these on his MTB in the early 1980s. Read This
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Old 11-05-23, 02:26 AM
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Thanks for the link to the article. I have set a few of them up over the years, but have never lived with them. Fortunately I do not find them difficult to adjust, but one note in the article brought me back to reality. Age. If I have an issue with them on a tour there may be a problem finding replacement pieces. Guess I will mount cantilever studs on the seat stays and fork to go with traditional cantilevers. What color should I paint the frame? LOL
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Old 11-05-23, 03:06 AM
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I rode a Cannondale M-500 with roller cam brakes for over 30 years. The first 10 were on rough single-track trails, riding hard enough to trash at least 10 rear derailleurs (thanks to the low ground clearance---24" rear-wheel Beast of the East bike). The 30-plus years after that, I commuted on the bike. Never a single problem with the brakes.

Adjustments? As you know, all you need are an Allen wrench and a cone wrench. Most cantilever brakes are touchier to adjust.

Parts? They originally came with brake pads with threaded posts, but they take conventional cantilever pads perfectly well. The only other parts you might worry about are the cam plates and rollers. I used the originals on my Cannondale until I retired the bike, and they showed no signs of wearing out then.

To keep dirt out of I did use Suntour's leather "sweaters" (as we called them in the Cannondale shop where I worked) to enclose the cams and upper part of the arms to keep mud out of the rear brake. But Saran Wrap or the equivalent would work just as well.

On the plus side: I've never had a set of cantilever brakes that adjusted so easily or worked better. In particular, I always liked that I could easily set them to have plenty of stopping power with a gentle squeeze of the brake levers.

It never occurred to me that there would be any reason to replace them with cantilevers. As in Rick's linked article in the post above, the first word that came to mind when I read the opening post was "robust." Of all the moving parts on my bike, the roller cam brakes would have been about the last I'd have worried about.
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Old 11-05-23, 08:24 AM
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Trakhak, thanks for the valuable input. The only thing I am concerned with is the spring. If it breaks it is the end of the road. I will take a few trips on the bike and evaluate. If I recall correctly the purpose of the design was to reduce hand effort for the applied braking force.
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Old 11-05-23, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Trakhak, thanks for the valuable input. The only thing I am concerned with is the spring. If it breaks it is the end of the road. I will take a few trips on the bike and evaluate. If I recall correctly the purpose of the design was to reduce hand effort for the applied braking force.
If I remember rightly, the springs are both thicker than those used in cantilever brakes and under far less tension. High-quality steel, too, as with most springs.

Edit:

Not that they'd ever be likely to break, but it occurs to me that, if a spring broke, you could easily cut up an inner tube or just use a rubber band across the top of the brake arms, below the rollers, as a substitute. And even if both broke, the worst that would happen is that the pads would contact the rim, but with no force applied until you squeezed the lever.

The more I think about it, the sorrier I am that my current utility bike doesn't have roller-cam brakes. They're Shimano cantilevers that depend on a fragile plastic piece to anchor the spring, and one of those is cracked on the rear brake.

Last edited by Trakhak; 11-05-23 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 11-05-23, 09:36 AM
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I would quit being a worry wart and ride the bike till it dIes and the brakes will still be there. My friend had been so excited about those brakes that he had hired a welder to mount the studs on his MTB. He had his bike for several days after getting those brakes before the 14 year old thief stole it off his porch.
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Old 11-05-23, 03:54 PM
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Anyone have pics of the Suntour booties for the roller cam brakes?
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Old 11-06-23, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Anyone have pics of the Suntour booties for the roller cam brakes?
TiHabanero :

Here's mine (shown upside down). It saw a lot of use, obviously. Suntour sold them in pairs, but the front brake didn't need one, since mud didn't splash onto that brake.

The two holes next to the Velcro strips fit over the brake arm pivot bolts, the hole above them and below the faded Suntour XC logo fits over the front of the cam plate bolt, and the hole in the strip at the top (which folded under the cam plate) fits over the back of the cam plate bolt. The flaps with the Velcro strips overlap behind the brake, of course.


Last edited by Trakhak; 11-06-23 at 06:17 AM.
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Old 11-06-23, 07:17 AM
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Trakhak, thank you very much for the image. Looks like I will be making a copy of this with some mods from some suede I have on hand.
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Old 11-06-23, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Trakhak, thank you very much for the image. Looks like I will be making a copy of this with some mods from some suede I have on hand.
FYI, it measures a bit over 14.5 mm wide and 14 mm from the tip of the long flap to the semicircle cutout at the bottom.

Note that the holes for the cam plate bolt are offset a bit from the center, because the bolt is itself offset in the cam plate.

One last thought about the reliability of Suntour's roller cam brakes: they're probably the most insanely overbuilt bicycle brake design ever conceived. I can't imagine anything short of a blow from a sledgehammer damaging them.

Last edited by Trakhak; 11-06-23 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 11-14-23, 05:29 AM
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Finally got around to detailing the brakes and found some knucklehead had over rotated one of the brake arms for increased spring tension and bent the return spring. As they are unobtanium I bent it back into shape as best I could. This kind of thing does cause one to pause and ask, is touring on odd-ball vintage stuff such a good idea?
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Old 11-14-23, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Finally got around to detailing the brakes and found some knucklehead had over rotated one of the brake arms for increased spring tension and bent the return spring. As they are unobtanium I bent it back into shape as best I could. This kind of thing does cause one to pause and ask, is touring on odd-ball vintage stuff such a good idea?
Seriously? Roller cam brakes are by far the most overbuilt bike brakes ever manufactured. I've never heard of any roller cam breaking or wearing out. I'd worry about almost anything else on a touring bike failing before any part of a roller cam brake.

With regard to the springs: spring steel is high-quality steel and can stand up to repeated bending without a problem.

And, as I pointed out earlier, if you were to turn out to be the one person in the history of the world who managed to break a roller cam brake spring, all that would happen is that brake pad would be able to flop in and out, toward and away from the rim, with no pressure behind the brake pad. Granted, you might hear some gentle scraping from time to time, when the pad happened to drift toward the rim.

But to fix it, all you'd have to do is tie a strip of inner tube around the upper brake arms, just below the rollers, to pinch the arms together. The brake would still operate properly and give you full braking power. You might need to replace the strip of inner tube sometime within the next couple of thousand miles, though.

(I once had a spring anchor break off of my commuter bike's front derailleur, rendering the spring useless. I used a strip of stretched inner tube to replace the spring. If anything, the derailleur shifted more smoothly with the inner tube repair. I used the bike that way for another couple of months before I got around to replacing the derailleur.)

All that said, it seems as if you're never going to be happy with your roller cam brakes and will continue to think up reasons to ditch them, so you probably should get some posts brazed on and install a set of cantilevers or V brakes, if only for peace of mind.
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Old 11-14-23, 05:31 PM
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"you probably should get some posts brazed on and install a set of cantilevers or V brakes, if only for peace of mind."

That was the original plan, remove the roller cam studs and install canti studs, relocating the rear to the seat stays, however after a quick ride on the thing after I picked it up I realized I liked the brakes. Just batting around the idea of keeping them as is, that's all. I will shut up about it now.
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Old 11-14-23, 07:58 PM
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"you probably should get some posts brazed on and install a set of cantilevers or V brakes, if only for peace of mind."

That was the original plan, remove the roller cam studs and install canti studs, relocating the rear to the seat stays, however after a quick ride on the thing after I picked it up I realized I liked the brakes. Just batting around the idea of keeping them as is, that's all. I will shut up about it now.
I like to improve my bicycle experience with better parts when available. What you want to do is not an improvement. You already have the most powerful mechanical rim brake that I know about. Changing to Canti studs would add to the cost for a downgrade. If you really want to replace these brakes because of something worn out or broke instead of welding on an old frame. You can replace them with U brakes.

Last edited by Rick; 11-14-23 at 08:15 PM.
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