Recently I overhauled a few of the Mafac Racer brakes I had in my bin. Why? Perhaps to keep the demons at bay. Anyone involved in the vintage bicycle “industry” (an apt word involving boatloads of industrious activity) knows that Mafac centerpulls are the best. However, Mafac Racer brake calipers are ubiquitous, and therefore of very little re-sale value. In a few thousand years, archaeologists will find these brakes in their dig sites and ponder their significance.
One of the nice things about Mafac Racer centerpull brakes is that they can accept these little T.A. front racks, which bolt directly on to the arms. On the above brake I have added a vintage looking battery powered headlamp, which clamps conveniently on to the supplied T.A. bracket. The little rack is really only good for strapping on a rain jacket, loaf of bread, or tiny tool kit, but it does come in handy as a light mount, and looks very elegant.
Overhauling brakes is really a very easy process, and simply involves disassembly, cleaning, polishing, lubrication, and reassembly. I won’t detail the steps here, as there are many other resources on the web and in print (Dr. Coles to the rescue), to help you through the process. If you want to spend far more money than your brakes will ever be worth overhauling your Mafac centerpulls, you can purchase a restoration kit from Compass Cycles for about $125.00 or so. As I was overhauling these Mafac brakes, I found that I didn’t need to replace any parts – they just needed to be cleaned and lubricated. Mainly, the steel bolts and nuts can rust, and sometimes the red washers can disintegrate – although that is pretty rare. These brakes were meant to last, and they do. I didn’t need to replace any parts on the brakes I overhauled – including the washers, which really held up well over many decades.
One exception to the devaluation of Mafac brakes is the consumer demand for and rarity of Mafac Raid brakes. These are extra long reach brakes that can be used to accomplish a 650b conversion. It is difficult to find these brakes, and I have horded the few sets that I have on hand.
One of the things that fascinates me about Mafac brakes is how un-glitzy they are. The stamped logos are odd and unprofessional-looking, and it seems strange to me that their model names include quotation marks. Yet, engineering-wise, these are far superior to many of the competitors out there. A rare example of substance over form.