More Clearance with Single Pivot Sidepull Brakes

Shimano 105 dual pivot sidepulls

I’ve been wanting to mount some wider and more comfortable tires on my 1990’s Terry Symmetry, which was built during the sad era of zero brake clearance for wider tires.  Even after switching from the 650c rims which the bike was designed for, down to 26″ 559s, I had no room for fenders with the 32 cm (actually measuring at 28mm on my rims) Paselas I was using.  But, since I mounted the fenders without going underneath the fork crown and brake bridge, I wondered if I could use some wider tires which might provide more comfort than the competent but harsh riding Paselas I’ve been using.

So, I purchased a set of Schwalbe Kojak 26 x 1.35 tires.  Since, there are almost no tire options available for road bikes running 26 inch tires, and while I usually do not care for Schwalbe’s offerings, I was left with these Kojaks as the only choice as an alternative to the Panaracer Paselas.  The Elk Pass tires offered by Rene Herse Cycles that I had previously tried proved to be so flat prone that I could no longer tolerate them.  When I mounted the Kojaks, which were very difficult to install on my rims, the Shimano 105 dual pivot brakes contacted the tires, so I knew I was going to have to figure out a different brake option that would provide better clearance.

Dura Ace single pivot sidepulls

Fortunately, I am not the first cyclist to crave wider tires on a road bike, and to push the limits of tire clearance.  There are many forum posts and websites devoted to finding solutions to this problem.  A number of possible solutions to the tire clearance problem exist, but the clearest path involved choosing single pivot sidepulls, which can generally offer better tire clearance than their dual pivot counterparts.  While dual pivots are super easy to set up, I’ve never been put off by single pivot brakes, except for: see below!

Weinmann 600 sidepulls

First off, I tried these Weinmann 600 brake calipers, which were sitting in a NOS box in my parts bin.  Handling these calipers and using their hardware proved shocking:  these brakes come with very low quality bolts, and some of the nuts had been cross threaded.  So, this low quality brakeset has been set aside.

Dura Ace Centerpulls

But, then I thought:  what about switching to centerpull brakes?  That would mean installing front and rear hangers, but could be an option to consider.  I dry mounted these first generation Dura Ace centerpulls but they actually proved to have less clearance than the Shimano 105s.

So, I tried out a number of different options ranging from the very nice Dia Compe BRS 200s (which didn’t have quite enough brake reach on the rear brake), to these oddball Dia Compe AC 600s (pictured last), which feature a strange offset angle for cable routing, apparently to reduce wind resistance, which is nothing short of ridiculous.  And, they have no quick release mechanism, a must for any brake caliper.

Rear caliper installed backwards

Front caliper with much more clearance.

Finally, I settled on a set of Shimano 600 single pivot sidepulls which are actually the matched set to the Shimano crankset I’m using on this Terry.  But, there were several problems to deal with.  There as less clearance in the rear than in front, so I mounted the rear brake backwards, which provided a few more millimeters of clearance.  Since this bike is designed for recessed brakes, it was also necessary to deal with the too wide opening for the nutted bolt.

Bikes designed for recessed brakes should not use nutted brakes unless care is taken to find a way to center the bolt inside the too wide opening.  In this case I used a leather washer which snugs into the recessed area, and then a larger washer to cover the area.

At the rear, clearance is good (relatively speaking) and performance seems okay for now.  Cable routing was odd, and I’ll think about a different solution, as there is some friction on the rear cable.

Here’s the bike with the Kojaks installed and the Shimano 600 single pivot brakes, with the rear brake installed “wrong” on the front of the seat stays.  We will see what happens when I take this bike out to test both the tires and the brakes.  I’m hoping for a more comfortable ride on the Kojaks and no decline in braking performance.  A long test ride will prove illuminating.

12 thoughts on “More Clearance with Single Pivot Sidepull Brakes

  1. I ride the paper-thin and paper-light Elk Pass (559 X 29, 178 grams) on our local Rio Grand riverine bosque dirt, here in goathead country, by using Orange Seal — **Regular formula, not the Endurance formula** — in my tubes*, and they do fine; far fewer flats than with 559 X 1.35 Kojaks without sealant, though the Kojaks were tolerable (3 punctures per week). Sure, sealants are nasty, messy things, but compared to patching over 150 flats per year, far, far better, since they let you use wonderful fast tires in places where the goathead plant abounds.

    *The Endurance works well in the also paper-thin 622 X 60 Big Ones (29.6″, 60.5 mm wide, 450 grams!) tubeless at sub 25 psi pressures; so does the regular formula, but the Endurance doesn’t dry out quite as fast, and seems to leave even less dried goop behind, tho’ the Regular isn’t bad; far better than Stan’s.

  2. Forgot to add that the old, single-pivot Dura Ace brakes I use on my custom 26″ Rivendell Road gave me ample clearance for fenders over the 26″ X 1.35″ Kojaks.

  3. I had Shimano 600 brakes on a mid eighties top level Trek and not having any experience with them , found them easy to set and adjust . For single pivot brakes they performed as good as anything I had seen , even one of my favorites(other than Campy NR) Gran Compe NGC400. Joe

    • The 600s are really nicely finished. My set was on my old 1984 Davidson. I sold that frame a few years back but kept all the Shimano 600 components. Good stuff.

  4. There are conical washers made just for mounting brakes in the too big hole. Or maybe it’s a standard part for something else and happens to work. They do work perfectly and mount straight first time no effort. I get mine from Andy at Yellow Jersey. He has a drawer with many many of them.

    Sometimes the hole was drilled very badly and torch work is required. Most often just the right washer and done. Tested for years, hard braking, no issues.

  5. I am looking at restoring my dad’s late 1950s Flying Scot 531 “clubman” style frame and I have the opposite problem. The clearances are so great that the brakes he fitted are some Weinmann 730 single pivot sidepulls ( I think they are a little higher quality than the base model, anodized or something like that ). The rim is so far below the brake bolt that braking force ( mechanical advantage ) is very poor. The brake arms are so long that they move noticeably when applied. It’s a 27-1/4″ frame. I would like to fit something like a Shimano 600, on the front at least, in order to make the bike a little safer in situations like fast descents or just being loaded up. I can envisage having to make some kind of bracket that goes behind the fork crown and braces on the fork blades, and maybe mounting the brake on the “wrong side”. That could get ugly when trying to turn the fork of course. Was just wondering if there are known solutions to this kind of problem ( there doesn’t seem to be anything unique about it )

    • Hi Ed,
      I’ve encountered this problem on a few bikes dating back to the 50’s. I’m not sure why this was done, as this issue seems to be unique to performance bikes using narrower tires. However, an extreme solution would be a shorter replacement fork, but I don’t think you’d ever want to do that with this bike. Sheldon Brown used some DIY brackets to drop a set of shorter reach brakes down low enough to contact the rim:
      Also, Campagnolo made a brake drop bracket which is compatible with their products. I’ve seen these come up occasionally on eBay. Another idea would be to go with centerpulls and use Mafac Raid’s which should have enough reach. Good luck!

  6. I am late to the party but find myself here as I journey the internet researching brakes for a new build. I have also considered reusing some take off Dia-Compe center pulls from an old Schwinn of mine which would require using a cable hanger, as you mentioned. I was curious about your Dura-Ace center pulls. In the picture you provided, the levers of the center pull caliper are touching the tire, but there is no tension pulling on the straddle cable. If the straddle cable was under tension, and the levers were pulled off the tire to a nominal operative position for riding, how much clearance is there between the main body/frame of the center pull caliper and the tire? My curiosity and I thank you!

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