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Awesome Retro Mechanical Bicycle Brakes

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retro bicycle mechanical brake calipers and lever

I spotted this while riding around Finalborgo, the medieval walled town that’s one of three boroughs in Finale Ligure, Italy, following Cannondale’s mountain bike team camp. Actually, this is one of many really cool bikes and hacks we spotted while ducking in and out of alleys, paths and streets, but the rest will pop up as Pics of the Day soon.

What makes this one worthy of its own post is the brakes. Before cables were cool, there were rods and pivots, and this one has them in abundance! Click through to see one serious set of linkages…

retro bicycle mechanical brake calipers and lever

The brake handles rotate through the handlebar and pull the first rod up. That rotates a lever and pulls another rod along the downtube.

retro bicycle mechanical brake calipers and lever

That one rotates a lever at the bottom bracket…

retro bicycle mechanical brake calipers and lever

…which pulls a rod connected to another lever at the top of the seat tube. That one pulls the brakes up and puts them in contact with the rim.

retro bicycle mechanical brake calipers and lever

The best part is that someone’s still riding this daily!

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19 Comments
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Iowa Cyclist
Iowa Cyclist
9 years ago

Very cool. Nice to see it on the street, as a daily, instead of a museum or someone’s “personal collection” and never ridden. Great to see the mechanical-ness of that system. Thanks for the post!

trexor
trexor
9 years ago

Are those KoolStop pads?

Federicos
Federicos
9 years ago

Why so much astonishment? It’s a kind of a common italian city bike till ’60, like hundred others… Do you want one? XD

Jay Darby
Jay Darby
9 years ago

A guy that regularly comes into my bike shop tried to order tires for a bike very very similar to this one. His was a “Raleigh Tourister” model according to what was left of some of the paint. The rod brakes were really cool to play with and poke at… but their stopping power wasn’t anything but questionable. Sadly…. he wouldn’t part with it. My horde of bikes will be missing something like that for ever it seems.

Bas Simons
Bas Simons
9 years ago

you can dredge these kind of bikes out of the amsterdam / utrecht canals without any issue. they do have a rear rack tough. and a stand that pivots around the rear axle.

Steve
Steve
9 years ago

We see these occasionally in the shop in Boston. We don’t work on them….

Greg
Greg
9 years ago

FWIW, tires, tubes and brake pads for these bikes and Raleigh DL1 Tourist bikes are available at your local bike shop through the company I work for, J&B Importers.

Fred Zeppelin
Fred Zeppelin
9 years ago

Not only has this style (“rod” brakes is the typical name) of brake been around seemingly forever, they are still manufactured brand new in India and probably China and other places as well.

1Pro
1Pro
9 years ago

there is more of this style rod actuated stuff in the world than new fangled brakes. thats is for sure.

get out a bit more.

Gillis
Gillis
9 years ago

These are a dime-a dozen in Europe. I saw them everywhere when I studied in Denmark and Scandinavia. Still cool though, thanks for posting something different.

Gillis
Gillis
9 years ago

I saw them a lot in Katmandu as well, now that I think about it. The rickshaws even had them.

mudrock
mudrock
9 years ago

A lot of parts to keep lubricated. Not sure why rod brakes persisted so long on city bikes. Cable brakes have been around forever: racing bikes and tourers have had them since the 20s. Rod brakes were never on race bikes, in fact: the stopping power is terrible.

Luiggi
9 years ago

Hey, bikes of that breed are in good shape and still being manufactured in India. Even more, you can still see plenty of them on every street here in Argentina. Even more, I’ve seen them in Germany, Italy, France and Spain.

Maybe the States are overpopulated with fixies, 27.5 and 29er bikes, but the rest of the world still runs these bikes nowadays on a daily basis… Google Eastman Products (the India-based company, not the broke one from Rochester, NY) and take a look at some classic bikes still being massively produced. And believe me, no Colnago, Pinarello, or Breezer in this world could claim they have seen as many miles go under their wheels as this particular model…

Charlie Best
Charlie Best
9 years ago

The above mentioned Raleigh Tourister was made with these brakes until the 1980s.

One here from 1982ish : http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_W_mSCG_sJJM/TBz4k46ocVI/AAAAAAAAANw/BkAeuZBc9sI/s1600/Picture+8.png

Gross
Gross
9 years ago

like others have said these are still alive and well. They are manufactured by the thousands in India and China with a large portion being imported into Africa. The proper name for this style of brake is called “Phillips” style, although “rod” brakes is commonly used as well. When set up well they actually work pretty well. getting them set up right however requires a little more Captain Kirk than Mr. Spock.

Matteo
Matteo
9 years ago

freni a bacchette 🙂

Androo
Androo
9 years ago

Flying Pigeons from China still have ’em.

These guys are everywhere in Africa, too.

But yeah, the brakes are really only to slow you down. If you’re going downhill, they aren’t going to stop you.

JCL
JCL
9 years ago

My neighbour rides his everyday, living in Belgium 🙂

Paul
Paul
11 months ago

What was the brand and model of the bike?

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