Saturday, July 31, 2010

Refurbishing Dia-Compe 500 Caliper Brakes

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Above: This is a Dia Compe 500 Caliper Brake off the Nishiki Sebring I have been restoring. Other than being "dingy looking" it appears to be well worth refurbishing. You always want to check for cracked or bent parts before refurbishing brakes.
Above: The first thing I like to do is release the spring. I do this by grabbing the end of the spring and moving it over or past the stopper. This takes the tension of the brake. And will help prevent injury or parts being lost. This is particularly important with center pull caliper brakes as they are tightly sprung. NOTE: This method does not work with (double sprung) center-pull brakes. So use EXTREME CAUTION when taking double sprung calipers apart.
This might be the most important thing for a first timer. Only take one caliper apart for cleaning/polishing. This way you can use the still assembled brake as a reference. There are lots of washers and spacers and plastic bushings and it is very easy to forget what went where. If you only have one caliper "fixed gear bike" you might want to take some detail photographs to use as a reference.
Above: The brake caliper (right) shown re assembled with new Jag Wire x Caliper brake Shoes. For me it`s automatic to replace the shoes. Most of the bikes I rebuild or restore have been in storage 10 to 30 years. And even good brake shoes are inexpensive "in bulk" So it`s better to just replace them if you can. I feel the same way about brake and derailleur cables. Good quality cables are also inexpensive in when purchased in bulk. Shown are some of the products I use most often. Note: The detailing brush has fine brass bristles (not steel). Brass is much easier on the metal,chrome, etc. Also you can see the White Lightning Clean Streak used for parts cleaning. And for chrome I use Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover. And the Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish that I use for Aluminum and Alloy parts polishing. I also use Mother's to clean-out bearing cups. It breaks down the hardened grease rings you often find in bearing cups. I also use Mother's on chain-rings to removed caked-on grease and dirt from the sprockets. As always You want to read the "CAUTIONS" on the products carefully. And use any protective equipment recommended.
Above: I am also restoring the rear wheel off a Miyata and the Rim, Free Wheel, Pie plate and Hub as well. While I feel very strongly about replacing components that should be replaced. I feel just as strongly about refurbishing components that are still very usable. This 6 speed free wheel unit was a mess due to neglect. But after a good cleaning and lube it has many trouble free miles ahead. The free wheel & pie-plate were removed cleaned / polished. The hub and rim were both polished. The spokes were cleaned with a fine brass detail brush and with some light cleaner/de greaser. The axle and bearings were removed de greased and reassembled with fresh grease. And the wheel was trued on the wheel truing stand. As you can see it looks pretty fresh. I`ll never understand why everyone is always so quick to throw stuff away. I guess it is just easier to buy new.
Below: A not so current progress pic of the Nishiki, I will have more soon.
Well that`s it for now (7-31-10) I will be doing some more posts about the Nishiki Sebring real soon. I did repaint the road fork and it came out real good. the bike is pretty much finished. I am waiting for delivery on the "used" correct Sun-Tour ARX front derailleur. And there is some more paint touch up to do as well. And I will be making another attempt at taping the handlebars in the modern correct way. Funny thing, on the instructional video I have been watching about "taping the handle-bars". I just noticed, the finish tape on the already taped side of the bars is unraveling. And I`m talking about the other side of the bars that was just taped before they shot the video. That is by the way a "non issue" when you do it the old way. Not that the new way is not better. I`m just saying...
Till Next Time, Ride safe and remember to always RESCUE,RESTORE&RECYCLE
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  1. Why do you favor Jagwire?

    Also, you can tell a bike I've had apart because I leave the pie plates off. I also avoid putting "safety levers" (aka suicide levers) back.

  2. Hey Steve,
    About Jag-Wire cables and brake shoes. The cables were by far the best affordable cables I have tried to date. I have found that when I cut the Jag-Wire cables they don`t typically fray or come unwound like many of the other inexpensive cables I have tried. The shoes are also very reasonable, and I don`t have trouble with them being squeaky. And they have a decent size breaking surface compared to a few of the other "old style" shoes I have tried. I did recently try some Avenir cables and was disappointed. When I cut them they unwound like cheap mason line. And I was using the same cutters I always use. With the Jag-Wire I always know what I am getting.
    I did a bike a while back that was a ten speed but I converted to a 12 speed. To make it work I had to toss the pie plate. And I have quite often not bothered with the plastic pie plates. If they are badly yellowed or cracked I just toss those as well. So I`m open-minded about the whole pie-plate thing. About the suicide levers I do re-use them from time to time. Honestly the college crowd seem to like them. I am talking about the "casual rider" college student.
    P.S. Lately I have been buying cables from the bulk supply at my LBS at 2.00 a pop. They are fantastic cables. And they are stainless steel and seem to be braided. I will have to find out the brand. The only down side is they don`t come with covers. But when I get low on covers I just order the Jag-wire basics with covers. Next time I am at the LBS I`ll find out who makes the cables they use. I think they only sell these to their regulars.
    Hey Steve, How does one re-use the old levers without re-using the suicide levers. Can the threaded post they mount to (on the lever) be changed? Or can the post be cut-down and still work? Let me know your thoughts on that. Good to hear from you. I hope all is well with You and Yours. Cheers,Hugh

  3. In most cases, you can saw off the posts and then install hoods. Some may unscrew but I haven't seen any. I much prefer cyclocross crosstop brakes for "top of the bar" braking.

  4. Thanks Steve,
    The hoods are a good idea, they would definitely hide the unsightly cut. And hoods (Especially Gum-Hoods) look great anyway. Cross-top
    brakes. Is that the two lever system where the levers share a common cable? I had that on my "Super Mirage" A huge improvement over suicide levers. I always tell riders "Only use the suicide-levers to slow-down. If you need to stop use the lower levers. There is a reason they call these suicide levers"
    Thanks for the info. Cheers,Hugh

  5. I usually leave the suicide levers on bikes that I know are going to novices. I've recently been selling a lot of restored mixte frames to girls in my area and they only feel comfortable with either a flat bar, or drop bars with suicide levers. By the time I was done sawing those off and then ordering new hoods for them I would have wondered why I didn't just buy some new aero levers. They're cheap, improve braking and are 10 times better looking. To each his own though.

    Also, in regards to cables and housings (is this what you meant by "covers"?) I bought a huge box of black jagwire housing (50M worth) and a similarly big box of Jagwire Basics cables for brakes and derailleurs. With the amount of bikes I've seen you go through, I would recommend doing the same. My friend's work at local bike shops so they order mine for me at cost, but even at retail these bulk boxes will save you some dough in the long run. Just a thought. Have a good one.

  6. Hey Greg, I was just telling Steve from Texas that the suicide levers are popular among "casual riders" (aka novice) that I sell most of my bikes to. And I too am a huge fan of Aero levers. Nashbar offered a nice looking set for under 20.00 . Although I haven`t seen them offered lately. I`ve been ordering Tek-Tro as of late. I haven`t tried cutting the post down and putting on the gum hoods. But I`m always open to trying something new. (If it suits the bike)
    And I stand corrected, I did mean housings. Thanks for the reminder. And I will definitely look into purchasing cable(s) and housing in bulk. You know personally, I`m not a big fan of suicide levers. But the bottom line is 'Give the customer what they want, Or someone else will"
    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.

  7. I know it runs a few bucks extra, but installing a second brake lever inline on the top of drop bars is much safer than suicide levers. I also think it looks far better, whether with some hacked Dia-Compe or aero levers. I wonder if "safety" would be enough of a selling point to change convince your customers to just try them out.

    Hugh, I'm also still drooling over that Raleigh Sprite you have. I can't believe it hasn't been snatched up yet!

  8. Hey Everett,
    I agree 100% "suicide levers" are nowhere near as good as a second in-line lever. I always warn people that they should be used only to slow the bike. But if you actually need to stop, they need use the lower or primary lever. Can you tell me what it costs (including cable)to make the switch. Also where these levers are available? And I will pass that info along.
    Yeah, The Sprite is a fantastic "survivor". Eventually the right person will come along. I too am surprised it has not sold yet. Especially with the huge digital photos I have been using on craigslist. I might just give up and start riding it myself!
    P.s. With the depressed economy here in Michigan
    It is tough getting a good price even for a 100% re-built vintage bike. And trying to compete with
    the "Dust um off & call em all original" crowd is no picnic either. Not that I`m
    Good hearing from you, Cheers,Hugh

  9. It seems that inline levers are generally called cross levers. Alfred E. Bike and Nashbar have decent prices on the Tektro's. I haven't installed any myself, so I'm unsure of how much cable they gobble up. I'm thinking though that it's probably a good idea to replace the cable anyway, but you may be able to re-use the housing. The Tektro's will set you back about $20, plus whatever your cable costs.

    Agreed on the Craigslist issue. I don't even want to think about it any further....

  10. Hey Everett,
    Thanks for the info. I think I`m gonna do a set (cross-levers)on one of my upcoming projects. I`m thinking they might require a special cable. But I`ll find out about that from A.E.Bike or Harbor Country Bike or Tree Fort Bikes "All Three Good Michigan Suppliers"
    About the CL Issue. I agree, Sometimes it`s better to just "let it go"
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend (:

  11. Sorry Stainless,
    I do not publish comments with links to unrelated web-sites. Good-Luck with your brakes.

  12. Try ebay for cross levers. Tektro 720s are all over the place and cost less than $20 shipping included.

  13. Hey Anonymous,
    Thanks for the tip. I have only recently become comfortable using E-bay. I need to stop thinking of E-bay as a last resort. E-Bay is a wonderful resource for any bike hobbyist or restorer.

  14. I am restoring a early 70's Nishiki International. I am replacing all the cables and housings. Which cable set do you think would work best on this old of a bike? I like to use the highest quality parts available.


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