Drum brakes: anyone ever use them?

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RickyTickyTac
Participant
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I’ve been thinking it would be cool to build a set of drum brake wheels for my commuter bike, but before I drop the money on them I’d like to get some feedback from people who have used them. They don’t seem to be very common, the only hubs I’ve found are made by Sturmey Archer and I have found no complete drum brake wheelsets available. Anybody know anything?


brian j
Participant
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I used a set for about a year on an REI commuter I had. They worked well in all conditions. There are some drawbacks, though–they are heavy, and the cable connection point was often awkward to manipulate (read: kinda sucked when I got a flat).

I wouldn’t turn down a bike that had them, but I’m not sure I’d seek them out. All things being equal, I’d probably prefer mechanical discs on a commuter.


RickyTickyTac
Participant
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Thanks. The all-weather capabilities is what really drew me to them. I’m using regular caliper brakes right now and there is a big drop off in performance in the rain. They do have some cheapo pads on them, though. A nice set would probably cure that for the most part.

Mechanical discs would be cool, but I’d need to get a new frame for that! Or have mine heavily modified.


brian j
Participant
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I’d assume you’d need to get some cable stops if you went the drum route, plus attachments for the brake arms.

Pick up a set of the salmon Kool Stop pads–they will make a difference.


Chris Mayhew
Participant
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Brian beat me to it. Get the pads, they make a world of difference.


BradQ
Participant
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Drum brakes do work in all conditions, but also require special frame fittings, are really heavy, and not many shops have experience servicing them. You’ll most likely need a custom wheelbuild too.

Spend your money on good pads and new compression free housing and cables first.


edmonds59
Participant
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I find that rims with machined sidewalls make a huge difference over unfinished sidewalls. I have one pair of wheels with machined sidewalls, I think they’re Bontragers, they feel almost grooved. With good Shimano pads, riding in the rain they lose almost nothing.

Also replace your brake pads every 2 to 3 years whether they are worn out or not, they just harden up.


RickyTickyTac
Participant
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Thanks for the advice, guys. I think I’ll try the Kool Stops. I’m still so tempted by gadgetry, though. You have to admit, the drum brakes are just cool


eMcK
Participant
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I’ve got a bike with a front Shimano drum brake. Squeezing the lever on that bike is more of a suggestion to stop than a command.


RickyTickyTac
Participant
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Is it a roller brake? I’ve heard bad things about those.


mark
Participant
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i have a rear shimano roller brake on my nexus hub and it works average 100% of the time… there has never been a time when i haven’t been able to immediately lock up the rear wheel, I would never want it as my front brake though, there is a lack of modulation that could be frightening on a front brake, also i don’t know that it would be powerful enough.

if you have posts for it on your fork you might want to consider v-brakes and see if you like them better, they should provide a bit more power. also if you have a steel rimmed wheel consider just getting a new alloy front wheel too… that might be all you need.


eMcK
Participant
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I might be a roller brake, not really sure.

It suits the bike pretty well anyway, something you get used to, like driving a 67 Chevy van with no power steering or brakes.


John
Participant
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I’m not sure what kind of rims you’re using, but steel rims are terrible when wet (well, terrible in general). Aluminum rims with decent brake pads work fine, though do get dirty. For me, one of the biggest benefits of running a fixed gear commuter was keeping the bike a bit cleaner. I imagine drum and disc brakes have similar benefits.


RickyTickyTac
Participant
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I have nice alloy wheels, my pads are just the ones that come with regular tektro road brakes. I might just be too picky, but they really suck when they’re wet.

John, I agree that keeping everything cleaner is a big plus. Bringing my bike into my apartment after a wet ride often leads to crusty dried up brake dust goop stuck in my carpet. And no, I’ve never heard of tarps or any other kind of carpet-protecting devices.

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