Real Classic - - Letters -

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

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