28 June, 2006

Centerpulls Are Swell

Today sidepull brakes, particularly the double pivot variety, are seen as the pinnacle of brake technology. But I would argue that centerpulls are the best brakes ever made, particularly if they are mounted on brazed on bosses.

Sidepull brakes became popular when Campagnolo came out with their version for racing bikes. Campy brakes were superbly made, very smooth, lightweight, and expensive. But they did not, and still don't, stop as well as a cheap set of centerpulls. Campy and others realized this and eventually made dual pivot brakes, which could be thought of as a type of centerpull. Double pivot brakes do stop a lot better than single pivots, but the problem with double pivot brakes is that they are hard to modulate. That is they seem to be on or off. With centerpulls, on the other hand, it is easy to apply just a little braking, or a bit more, as required. And there are other advantages.

Unlike other brakes, centerpulls get wider (above the pivots) when they are applied so they don't squeeze fenders.

Though they have almost as much shear stopping power as cantilever brakes, the centerpull's mounting posts are higher so there is less impact on fork flexibility. And centerpulls are easier to set up.

Centerpulls got a bad reputation because they were standard equipment on millions of crappy bike boom ten speeds. Most were not set up properly and a few were total garbage. The squealing attributed to centerpulls is mostly due to poor quality brake pads.

Interestingly, today we see only the most expensive custom bikes, plus the Rivendell 650b production bikes, equipped with centerpulls. The new Paul Racer centerpulls cost well over $100 apiece.

So as far as I'm concerned, this whole sidepull thing is just a fad that will go the way of banana seat bikes.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, another velo-orange product idea - repro straddle cables for MAFAC Competition and Top 63 calipers, as these are no longer available anywhere that I can find (affirmed by the irrepressible Sheldon "Franco-phile" Brown).

Mark said...

Chris,

What do you think of the Mafac Racer brakes? I have one of those little TA front racks that won't work with the Diacompe Mod 750s. I was thinking of replacing the Mod 750s with Racer's. I think I can get NOS for around $50. Any thoughts on whether it is worth it or not so that I can mount the TA rack?

Cheers,
Mark

Steve H said...

Mark,

Get the Mafac's. With a little love, and maybe some new pads, they'll work great. My next bike will have Mafac gold-plated Competition brakes, just like on Bernard Thevant's bike when he won Le Tour twice.

Steve H

Chris Kulczycki said...

Mark,

I think the racers are great; I have a pair and like them.

Chris

david_nj said...

Any of the Mafac brakes are wonderful. I have a bike with Competitions and another with Racers. The Competitions seem to be a little more strongly built, and have a finer finish. But they both work fine. I'm going to have a set of bosses brazed onto my Kogswell frame, so Mafacs can be mounted in the old-school fashion. It's not hard for a builder to do, then they just locally match the paint and voila.

The bosses mean that one cannot use a TA front rack though -- you have to go up the food chain and get a front rack that can bolt on at the brake pivots and then bolt on to the bosses on the front of the fork blades. Hard to find, and a pain, but elegant as hell and hopefully worth it.

It's not all that easy to find the Mafac levers that are not drilled, and have the knurled metal cable adjusters. Those look really super.

Chris Kulczycki said...

David,

Who is installing your bosses and what is the cost? Also, what color are you repainting the frame. I'm thinking of having my Kogswell done in chrome powdercoat.

Also, why not have little eyes added to the front of the fork for a proper front rack as in the photo of the blue Toei? It should be easy to have matching fittings welded onto a a Nitto M-12 rack.

Anonymous said...

I have a pair of Paul Racers (bolt on) and I think they are great. No play and the braking power is great. Yes, they are expensive but it worth it coming down hill at 35+ mphs. Next frame will have braze on for centerpull for me.

david_nj said...

Chris,

There's a local frame guy who can just pop them on; it locally screws up the paint. Maybe we can get the repainting done cheaper if we send both frames for chrome powdercoating; chrome powdercoat would be fine with me. AND *drum roll please* I was going to get the "Kogswell" lettering hand-painted on in approximately the font that you and M. Herse so judiciously chose. ;-)

Not sure I understand your comments about the M12 rack though. That frikking design stinks. The rack sits way proud of the top of the wheel, which is most inelegant. There's really no way I can see to correct it. A proper front rack should (IMHO) be dead horizontal and at a tangent with the fender. The threaded thing on the M12 rack is way way too long. (If anyone wants a brand new one, call me. Because it sucks.)

But ... the Toei rack is PERFECT!!! Hint hint hint that would be a ->very<- nice design for the V-O front. Yes everything must be just so on the bike for it to fit properly. But life is short, and art is long. /djd

Anonymous said...

Mark said:

What do you think of the Mafac Racer brakes? I have one of those little TA front racks that won't work with the Diacompe Mod 750s. I was thinking of replacing the Mod 750s with Racer's. I think I can get NOS for around $50. Any thoughts on whether it is worth it or not so that I can mount the TA rack?


The Racers may not have enough reach. Let me suggest the Mafac RAID instead. It goes to 83, I think, even a bit more reach than the Diacompe 750. My Kogswell P/R is mid-slot with the RAIDs. The TA rack fits fine on it. And, with Kool Stop canti salmon brake pads, it's performance as a brake is outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Mafac centerpull brakes are amazing when they are brazed on. Hard as heck to find the bosses but you can cut the existing bosses, which are pressed into, the existing aluminum piece. After they are cut out you then have to get creative and do some fabricating and monkeying around. Not impossible just requires patience.
Chris Allen