Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Improving the stopping power of old single pivot brakes

vintage single speed Raleigh weinmann brakes
Love your vintage road bike with single pivot side pull brakes but don't love the scary braking performance? Before you ditch the calipers for a modern dual pivot design, follow our easy tips for improving the stopping power, you may be surprised at the results.

1. Replace the brake cables
Many vintage bikes from the 1980's are used as cheap runarounds and basic servicing is often neglected. Replacing a grimy dried out set of 10 year old cables with a fresh new set will work wonders and ensure the power you are putting in at the levers makes its way to the calipers is not lost along the way.

2. Clean and grease the calipers
To do this job properly will require removing the caliper from the bike, taking it apart and thoroughly cleaning before re-greasing the re-assembling.

This will ensure they move as freely as possible and the maximum amount of power is applied to the brake pads.

3. Buy some decent brake pads
Do not underestimate how much difference a good set of brake pads can make.

My first road bike was a Raleigh , it came with the original Weinmann single pivot side pull brakes and some worn out pads which needed replacing.

I first bought some generic non-branded brake blocks and the braking was still pretty terrible - in the wet it was dangerous.

Unfortunately, due to the long reach and small distance between the brake caliper and front fork / seat stays, it is unlikely that you will be able to fit a modern brake pad carrier.

This will make your options for replacement brake pads pretty limited - however all you need is Kool Stop Continental's in the Salmon compound.

The Kool Stop Salmon compound is an extremely well regarded aggressive compound for excellent braking in the wet and dry.

I bought them after reading many positive reviews online and since fitting these the braking performance of my old Weinmann brakes has been completely transformed, especially in the wet.

The braking feels more progressive as well as out and out stopping power.
kool stop continental brake pads
Kool Stop Continental brake pads
Before fitting the Kool Stops I was sure the Weinmann calipers would need to be replaced, however for me the bike now feels safe and this is no longer required.

Still not good enough?
Remember, the pro's used to descend The Alps at race speed using this style of brake set up, so they should be able to provide a reasonable level of stopping power.

If none of the above options work then your best option would would be to upgrade the calipers to a modern dual-pivot design. However, fitting modern calipers to a retro bike frame can come with its own complications.

Also the non-aero brake lever design does not give any where near as much mechanical leverage when operated from the hoods, so upgrading to the newer aero design will also allow you to put more power through the levers.

Having problems with your old brakes? Or had a good experience of the Kool Stop Continentals? Please leave your comments below.

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