Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Retro Hit: Putting on the Brakes

Campagnolo's Record brakeset defined quality for several decades. A near-perfect design with a host of well-thought-out features added up to a classic item that would last almost forever (we used a set of 1980s Record brakes on our Paris-Brest-Paris bike last year). Their only weakness (in the minds of some riders) was their less-than-stellar stopping power, which led some wags to dub them "speed attenuators," better at slowing than stopping.

Record brakes would eventually give way to more "modern-looking" designs, and ultimately to the much more powerful dual-pivot designs that dominate the market today.



  1. Yes these are definitely cool brakes. When these first came out in 1969 they were at the time an outrageous $60.00 per set. The performance of these were light years beyond what was otherwise available at the time; comparatively Universal centerpulls, Mafac Racer centerpulls which were something like $8 or $10 per set!
    Within the year this Campagnolo innovation was the de facto standard in the pro peloton.

  2. If you wanted brakes that wouldn't stop you rode Modolo World Champion. Their advantage were a few grams lighters and with a better quick release.

    Those made the Campagnolo (or the Dia Compe clones) brakes look like dual pivot with power assist.

    The Modolo brakes were really dangerous

  3. I found the old Campy brakes to have all the stopping power one would ever need. I never had trouble locking the rear wheel or doing a stoppie with the front brake. The required a manly squeeze but when you get used to it it becomes normal. The difference between them and the center pulls of the time was like the difference in vacuum assist and manual brakes on cars. Power brakes had a light touch but made modulation more difficult because of less brake feel. Manual brakes were controlled more by the force applied than the pedal distance.
    Campy brakes were stiff because they had less mechanical advantage than centerpulls. The advantage for Campy was the pads did not have to be as close to the rim as centerpulls. Opening the quick release to clear a wobbly wheel wasn't a problem because there was still plenty of stopping power.
    Short reach brakes increased the mechanical advantage so most riders found them "more powerful." I remember in the early 1980's several nice bikes coming from the factory with standard reach brakes on back and short reach on the front. I thought this was a great combination. It provided clearance in the back with easier pull in front. Campy had a similar idea using single pivot brakes on back and dual pivot brakes in front. It puts the stopping power in front where it is neaded but keeps the rear light and stiff.