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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I have this 80-something Schwinn World Sport that I picked up at a yard sale. I've cleaned it up and upgraded bits where necessary, but the brakes are a real achilles heel. I've replaced the pads (which would have surely been toast anyway), cables, and tried various levers. I've heard braking response described as wooden, and that's pretty accurate here. The levers and cables are new, but even when I give the levers a good squeeze, the bike barely slows. I've cleaned the braking surfaces on the aluminum rims. The only link left is the calipers themselves. They are old dia-compe side-pulls, and I can't believe they were this bad off the dealer floor, or you would have seen a lot of dead schwinn riders. Any suggestions? Are there good replacements for the dia-compe calipers for cheap (it's a $5 yard-sale find, after all)?

Thanks,

Jim
 

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Game on, b*tches!
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Diacompe side-pulls are usually pretty good. I have one on my "good bike" right now. Great stopping power. Are you sure the cable end has the right size ball? I know that when I was building up an old Bianchi from the same era I had to get an adapter to have the ball fit properly into the levers (today's cables have smaller ballz-poor fellas!). That may be your problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yup, the new cables in the new levers fit perfectly. The only other thing I haven't replaced is the cable housings, but they seem intact and solid. Maybe that should be my next thing to try...
 

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Maybe it is the leavers.

You said you have tried a few, but maybe they don’t match the calipers. I was told that leavers have different mechanical advantages (pivot point to cable trunnion)

If the leavers you are using have less of a mechanical advantage than the ones that were designed for the calipers, it would take a lot of effort with little results.
 

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Take the front wheel off the bike and squeeze the brakes at the pads. Does it move smoothly and without a lot of force needed?

I have an old BMX bike that has sat for a few years. One day I pulled the bike out to and noticed that the brakes were non-existant. Turns out that the brake return springs were sticking to the notches in the arms. I took the brakes apart and cleaned up everything at the pivot as well as wiping down the spring, especially where it contacts the arms. The brakes started to work again.
 

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Incredibly slow
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Does your Schwinn have "safety levers"? If so, get rid of them as they only reduce the amount of travel in the main levers.
 

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Compression and flex.

Once the brake pads push against the rim with enough force to gently slow you down, housing compression and caliper flex are probably eating up any additional force you're putting in at the brake lever. New, good-quality housings should improve things a lot.

For what it's worth: Compared to brakes on today's bikes, your Schwinn brakes probably would have felt lame right off the dealer floor. In those days, manufacturers saw little sense in selling recreational riders brakes which can pitch them over the handlebar until the riders learn to "modulate" braking force. Somehow we all survived anyhow . . . :)

As others have said, the levers also might not give you much of a mechanical advantage. That's probably also by design. If you ever have the chance to take a 1970s Campagnolo Record equipped bike for a spin, you'd be amazed how much force it took at the lever for the brakes to even begin to slow you down. The manufacturers certainly knew how to design brakes that would lock a wheel in an instant, but most people didn't want that.
 

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Not all pads are created equal. If you haven't tried them I'd give Kool Stop Salmon brake pads a whirl. I've got a fixie and the frame was designed for 27" wheels (early 70's 4130 cromoly Panasonic). I'm running 700c so needed a long reach brake caliper. I bought a NOS Diacompe caliper that's pretty low end, nothing special. With Kool Stop Salmons it stops like a champ, and that's with only a front brake.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
wim said:
Once the brake pads push against the rim with enough force to gently slow you down, housing compression and caliper flex are probably eating up any additional force you're putting in at the brake lever. New, good-quality housings should improve things a lot.

For what it's worth: Compared to brakes on today's bikes, your Schwinn brakes probably would have felt lame right off the dealer floor. In those days, manufacturers saw little sense in selling recreational riders brakes which can pitch them over the handlebar until the riders learn to "modulate" braking force. Somehow we all survived anyhow . . . :)

As others have said, the levers also might not give you much of a mechanical advantage. That's probably also by design. If you ever have the chance to take a 1970s Campagnolo Record equipped bike for a spin, you'd be amazed how much force it took at the lever for the brakes to even begin to slow you down. The manufacturers certainly knew how to design brakes that would lock a wheel in an instant, but most people didn't want that.
Thanks for all the feedback. Part of the problem is I'm comparing them to Ultegra brakes on my roadie and Hayes hydraulics on my MTB. Still, they are scary bad.

I have replaced the levers with new aero-style Tektros, and now new Shimano Deore levers designed for V-brakes (trying various bar configurations as it's to be a town bike).

I'm going to try squidward's suggestion of cleaning up the pivots and spring contact points. This bike did sit outside for a while. If that doesn't help, new cable housings are next, then I'll just live with it.

Jim
 
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