I have some good news and some bad news for Nick Adams, regarding his front brake. In the article on his Panther in RC170, he says: ‘ The front brake is just feeble. Perhaps it will improve in time, but I don’t hold out much hope.’
The bad news is that it won’t improve in time. At all. Ever. The good news is that the brake is not feeble – it’s just plain old worn out! So all he has to do is replace the worn bits – certainly linings, and possibly shoes, pivot pin and operating cam. Get it bedded in, and it will work just as well as it did back in olden times, when Panther owners used to take the wife and nippers in a chair up and down the Pennines and the like.
Do I have X-ray vision? Nope – I just look at the included angle between the brake arm and the operating cable. For maximum efficiency, when the brake is pulled on hard, it should be just less than 90 degrees. Once it goes beyond 90 degrees, the efficiency drops off like a lead brick. I know the brake arm itself is curved, but take a line through the brake arm bearing and the clevis pin where the cable attaches, and compare that with the line of the cable. You can see that, even with the brake lever completely released, the angle is already beyond a right angle – once the brake lever is pulled, it will be much greater than 90 degrees, guaranteeing a feeble front brake.
If Nick can find a repairer who can fit oversize linings, skim the drum so it’s running dead true, and skim the linings so that, when pulled on, the brake linings exactly match the internal radius of the brake drum, I bet a dram of single malt scotch to a tin of coke that he will scarcely believe the improvement.
Nick is not alone in not appreciating the importance of the angle between brake arm and cable. A while back, Frank, you had a ride on a C15, and in your article on the bike you described the front brake as ‘relaxed’. If you compare the angle on that C15 brake with the one shown in the accompanying factory photo of a brand new bike, you’ll see exactly why it had so little grip. In fact, I’m quite surprised it had any!
So, when ‘some bloke down the pub’ tells you that ‘British brakes were always rubbish!’, ask him how riders of those old Brit bikes coped with the likes of Porlock Hill – especially with an unbraked sidecar attached – or how Goldies in the Clubman’s TT races pulled up for the hairpin bend at the bottom of the mountain, when they’d been hitting close to 120mph on the way down!
The moral of the story is, if something on your bike as critical as the front brake is not working properly, then fix it before you kill yourself, or – even worse – you kill somebody else. Don’t tell me that you always allow plenty of distance for braking to allow for your poor brakes. If a small child dashes out into the road in front of you (been there, done that, scared the living daylights out of me), you need brakes that work.
It’s also worth remembering that every motor insurance policy has a get out clause which says that if you fail to keep your bike in roadworthy condition, they can and will refuse to pay out on a claim. How much do you think that would come to if you maimed somebody for life? Jack Enright, member 5590