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.

7 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.

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