Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mafac "Racer" a primer in 3 parts

Iconic and Sexy
I am not sure if the word sexy really applies to bicycle parts but if any part deserves the name its the iconic French Center-pull known simply as the racer.  You might think I am a bit nuts to say this, and I don't blame you, but this French brake is so damn sexy a California precision parts maker resurrected it decades after its peak during the bike boom.
Paul Racer high polish
Ok enough lusting over bike parts, onto the primer part of this piece.

Part I-Looks
To start the Mafac Racer just looks different.  The much more common Weinmann center-pull brake is, well, common looking.  Simple design, sticker to identify it, straightforward, gets the job done without alot of fuss.

And then we have the racer, with its engraved logo its parenthetical name and slightly more curvaceous looks- magnifique!


Part II-Straddle cable

The straddle cable continues the theme for Weinmann, simple.  I had an instructor who loved the phrase " A blind dog with a note in its mouth can figure that out"  I think that applies here, one piece, slips right in badda bing badda boom your done.

For the Mafac its a bit more of a process, I am sure the French had an idea behind this design...not sure what that idea was but I am sure they had one.  First you start with your parts- 5 of them as the cable crimp is optional.
First thread the cable, I use a down-tube shifter cable, through the pivot piece (right side of brake) so that the cylinder that would go into your DT shifter provides the cable with a stopping point.
Then take apart the nut, bolt and spacer on the left hand arm of the brake so you thread the other end of the cable.
Once you have the cable threaded into the left side nut put the spacer back in place.
And finally snug the nut onto the end so you can tighten it down.
At this point you can choose to put on the cable end crimp, or not, I do as I really dislike frayed cables.  You got all that right? The blind dog would need a bit of help with this system.

The only reasons I can come up with for this design are that; A) it allows you flexibility with the length of the cable and B) you can use a more common shifter cable for this rather than a special straddle wire with rounds on both ends.

Part III-Brake Shoes

Again I think a contrast with the Weinmann system is in order and as with the straddle cable it is in a word simple.  Insert threaded post shoe in slot, secure with nut. Done.  Que the blind dog, and adjusting is simple you can move the pad up, or down.
Our friends at Mafac once again take a more complex approach but this time I think I see the sense of it.
Yes you get to deal with 5 parts for each brake pad but with that complexity comes the ability to move the pad not only up and down but also in and out and you can do some toe in/out if you have a squeaky brake issue.  Being able to fine tune stradle cables I am not so sure about but being able to fine tune brakes I get.

So there you have it my friends the Mafac "Racer" Iconic, Sexy and a bit quirky but all in a days work if your going to refurbish French bikes.

Until next time; Ride.Smile.Repeat.

Post Script or 
Part IV-Brake Pads.  

Reader Anniebikes comments reminded me I should have included a blurb about brake pads.  The Racer comes with an early version of a "cartridge" brake shoe that allows you to replace just the rubber brake pad and not a whole shoe.  Kool-Stop makes replacement pads for the Racer in both salmon and black.  They retail in the $20-25 range for a full set of 4.
You will notice in this post that I am not using the original brake shoes and pads, I have a set of Kool-Stops I am saving for a UO-10 project that is in the queue, in this case I took the advice of Grant at Rivendell Bicycles and am using the Dia Compe grey matter pads with non threaded posts.
They fit the Racer's just fine, my only concern is they are longer than the originals and I am not sure if that will cause any issues once I get the wheels mounted.  I will certainly add a note if there are any issues.  These pads cost $8 for a set of 4 and I figured going the bargain route was appropriate for this particular bike -the AO-8.  A comparison shot of originals vs the Canti-Style
Ok now I think I can close this post out - thank you Annie for asking about brake pads!

22 comments:

  1. I often tried to tow in my Weinnmann brakes with a pliers and a bit of force to eliminate brake squeal. Usually worked well enough. The racer pad setup reminds me of my canti mounts. Tough to setup but flexible.

    Love reading your no nonsense take on restoring usable classic bikes. Looking forward to your next project.

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    1. Mr.Dan thanks for stopping by, I agree those Weinmann can be tough to tow in and brake squeal is annoying enough that I see using the brute force approach.

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the posts always nice to find another fan of classic bikes.

      Ryan

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  2. This post is rather timely. I have a Peugeot UO 14 with these brakes, which are very new to me. I think they are sexy too! Since I'm dealing with a squeaky brake I was reluctant to replace the brake pad as I love the metal shoe hood (for lack of a better term) on the original. Front brakes do not squeal, just the rear. I presume they are the same age as they look identical. I see I can use the same type of brake pad I use on my cantilever system - at least it looks similar if not identical to the one in your last photo. Or, after inspecting your process, I could just as easily take the whole shebang apart and clean it.

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    1. Annie I glad you brought up brake shoes, yes I am using some Dia Compe grey matters I got from Rivendell BUT kool stop sells replacement pads (4 dot) for the Racer's. You can slide your old, probably hard, brake pads out of the shoe hood and slide the new ones in-I use a flat head screw driver to "persaude" them to come out . They are a bit more expensive than the grey matters but keep that classic look. I have a set of these for a UO-10 that is in the refurb queue. I will pass along some wisdom from my friend Hugh take them apart one at a time that way if forget how they go back together you have a template to help you out. Glad this post was useful for you and please post pics of your UO-14 project.

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    2. Thanks for the advice on the red brake pads. I like those! As for pictures of my Peugeot, here are some links to my blog posts:
      original:
      http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2013/07/1983-peugeot-uo-14.html
      first updates:
      http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2013/08/peugeot-uo-14-first-updates.html
      Making it mine:
      http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2013/10/peugeot-uo-14-making-it-mine.html

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    3. Glad to Help Anniebikes, the 4 dots are classic. Thanks for the links to your UO-14 I think they refer to those simplex DT shifters as "spoon shifters" because they resemble the small spoon you would get with your espresso at a street-side cafe in Paris -or at least that is what I like to think. Regardless they are beautiful, you have a fine mid range road bike there.

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  3. Funny I was just working on both these brakes last weekend, as I happen to be refurbing an old Peugeot with the Racers fro my wife, and had found a Weinmann in the junk box to put on a fixie I'm building for myself.

    I was pleased to find the appropriate 1-piece straddle cables for the Weinmann on the big online auction website. I hear they are getting scarce these days.

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    1. L-Cave thanks for coming by glad this topic was timely. I don't suppose you have any pics of the Peugeot you are refurbing for your wife? Always love to see the old French bikes getting love. I too have a stash of the 1 piece straddle cables socked away, I made sure I built up a reserve after ordering the wrong length cables early on (300mm vs 110mm), that is one nice thing about the racers you just need the ubiquitous down tube shifter cable.

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  4. This is the beauty of bikes. The simplicity of such efficient parts to achieve the purpose, is what has always attracted me to working on bikes. I had to replace a headlight on my truck last week. Well, this required taking apart part of the air intake system to get to the back of the light. I had parts all over the place and it still took little elf fingers to get the old light out and the new light in. Drives me nuts which is why I don't work on cars. They have made a simple light replacement a huge process.
    I like bikes.

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    1. Well Coach that is why I ride (and drive) old steel. Not that my '84 ford pickup is all that old. In fact, it ain't near old enough and so now I am hunting down a 1975 or older F150. Why '75 or older, I ask? Because that is how old a sturdy and reliable truck has to be to be to be exempt from California smog control regulations. Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not bragging about roaring out to Cali and screwing up what's left of the good air out there but I insist on owning gear that I can repair with my own two hands and that includes bicycles (of course) and whatever motor vehicle I am forced to own because of my damnable trade. It is carpentering, as you know; if it had been writering like I wanted I wouldn't even own a motor vehicle. But since I chose early on in life to use words like carpentering and writering I got cut from the Olympic Literary Team way back around 1973 and so I have to drive a truck, sometimes.

      OK. I'm glad we had this talk.

      tj

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    2. Last car I had that I could work on was a 1974 VW Beetle so I hear you on wanting something a bit older and simpler to work with.

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    3. Ryan, did you have that book to fix them? The big white book with the big rig binder so you could turn the pages. That was a VW owners bible. I got married and during that insanity time (still going on by the way) I sold my 73 bug for a pick up to haul my wife's horses around. The second bug I had that I wish I still had!

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    4. Jim if you mean "How to keep your Volkswagen Alive for the complete idiot" then yes that is exactly what I had and the help of a buddy who also owned a Bug although his was a '68.

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    5. That's the one! I wish I still had that book along with one of my old bugs.

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  5. Meanwhile, Ryan, I want to start prepping Little Miss Dangerous for the PCH. Any thoughts? She is still single speed and that of course won't do. I was just over at anniebikes describing my old LeTour as a "long rider." True enough for the Florida flats but she will soon enough be introduced to the Tortilla Flats which ain't all that flat.

    Just free-associating here, typing for its own sake. But Spring approaches and Carradice bags and headlights are on my mind, Randonneur keeps popping into my head. I won't ride that long but I want a bike that can.

    tj

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    1. Hi TPC I emailed you separately with some ideas on this topic.

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  6. Hi guys..n awesome thread! Dies anyone know the earliest and latest years that Mafac "racer" brakes were fitted to French racers?

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    1. Hi Ideal, thanks for stopping by I do not know when the racers were last fitted to French bikes but I am guessing a google search might give you some clues

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  7. Hi saw your post--thought it was really interesting. I have a question for you though. I am trying to replace the shoes in my Mafac racers but I cant seem to get them out of the eye bolts. Mine are off of a 1970's peugeot, and I don't want to damage the parts if I can help it.

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    1. Hi Unknown not sure I understand what you mean by eye bolts...? can you send a picture? I find to get the old pad out of the brake shoe housing-in the last picture at the bottom or the article the housing is that metal part on the left side that the rubber brake shoe slides into- I use a small flat head screw driver to get between the housing and the brake shoe and then ease it out

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  8. hi again--The only reason I ask is that I couldn't get the shoe (that is the brakepad slot and stem) out of the bolt that connects to the prong. My assumption had been that those can come completely out but that is not the case. Do you know of any places that might sell replacement mafac housing for the brake pads?

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    1. I would check with places that sell used bike parts, bike "kitchens" etc. or ebay. A number of places sell the pads (koolstop) but I don't know of anyone who sells new shoes.

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