Braking News

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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.

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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.

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Mafac Dural Centerpulls

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.

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Mafac Raid Centerpull Brakes

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.

7 thoughts on “Braking News

  1. Hi Nola, that was funny when you hypothesized people in our distant future digging up numerous examples of Mafac Racers. Were they medical devices, used to close wounds in emergency situations? Were they home devices, used to assist in taking tops off of stubborn jars? Who knows!
    How many of these sets; Racer, Dural, RaId did you re-furbish? All of them in that collection at top? Did you polish the calipers?
    When I built the Grubb, I decided on Mafac Course 121 levers, which are beautiful, but I wanted side-pull calipers, so went with 40’s Phillips Vox Populi and Fibrax pads.

    • It is interesting the Mafac does such a nice job on the elegance of their levers, leaving the brake calipers to look quite utilitarian in comparison. I always polish the caliper arms if I am going to overhaul the brake set – why not?! How are the Fribrax pads working for you?

      • The Fibrax 269’s do stop well and silently, even in the rain. I got a bit lucky, because these 40mm blocks almost are touching the front of my fork!

  2. Hi, Nola-

    Nice job on the overhaul and TA rack addition. The MAFAC family of centerpull brakes makes for a cheap but effective vintage set of stoppers especially with KoolStop pad inserts. As you observed, the little TA racks are rather inadequate by themselves but their real purpose is as a front handlebar bag support as per the attached links’ photos. Then they will accommodate a fairly heavy load and any awkward shaped stuff you can cram in the bag.

    https://bertinclassiccycles.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/velo-orange-bertin-handlebar-bag/

    Are you adding the restored assembly to one of the mixtes or perhaps the Mercier?

    • Hi Jim – thanks for you comments. I haven’t loaded up the little TA rack with a front bag for fear of collapsing it – maybe I’ll give that a try. I have used the Kool Stop inserts with luck, but they can be noisy. As an alternative on my Meral I am using VO’s smooth post “squeal free” canti brake shoes – and they are working really well.

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