Thursday, April 22, 2010

The hour I first believed

So, the fact that rod brakes are marginal at best, and completely lousy in the rain is common knowledge amongst roadster lovers  Instead of smooth braking, I get a rattling jerky gradual slowing when I apply Minerva's brakes.
I've just been going slow and being even more conservative than usual these last couple of weeks.

And everyone talks about how much worse they are in wet conditions, so I was debating whether to ride home after this afternoon's thunderstorms, or bail and take the T.  Since it looked pretty clear, and the roads looked reasonably dry, I decided to bike home.

About halfway over the longfellow it starts to sprinkler,  and although it never really starts to pour, it gets steadily harder, and there are lots of leftover puddles in the bike lane.  I'm trying to decide whether to gut it out or bail and walk home, when I have to brake suddenly-  and got a big double handful of NOTHING.

Fortunately I wasn't going very fast, and wasn't panic stopping, just slowing a bit.
But boy do I sure believe the stories now about how lousy rod brakes are!


  1. All I can say is you are braver than I am to even have the debate!

    My first SERIOUS bike had center pull brakes and steel rims, and I will never forget the first time I tried to stop in the rain going down a hill. Two blocks later, I had the opportunity to reflect on the merits of effective wet weather braking.

    It is a wonder that cycling fatalities weren't exponentially higher in the olden days...

  2. yep, rod brakes do indeed stink in the rain.

    i rode my rod-brake raleigh to work a couple of weeks ago in the rain, and experienced the same thing. actually, maybe not quite as bad, but close. i had one fistful of nothing, the other fistful a slight drag.

    i've considered trying the leather lined "rain stop" rod brake pads, but i've held off.

  3. Glad you are okay! And yes, those rod brakes have close to zero stopping power when they get properly wet. Having said that, I too get occasionally caught in the rain on my DL-1, in which case I go veeeerrrryyy sloooooowllly and take side streets. I am really keeping my fingers crossed that my coaster brake conversion will work out. I already have the hub and have sent it to Yellow Jersey to build me a wheel with it. Hopefully will have the whole thing back in a week or two to install on my bike!

  4. Ha ha! I have that very same problem with my Flying Pigeon in Los Angeles, where 'it never rains' (um, it rains). And just as Velouria, I ride slow in the wet. I also adjust my brakes to be really close to the rim, even bending that yoke-shaped piece so there's as little play as possible.
    That said, there's nothing like a fine, cool shower on an upright bike with fenders and a leather, sprung saddle.

  5. Has anyone tried retrofitting Kool Stop pads for rod brakes? I'm thinking it might help; they definitely help a lot with caliper brakes on steel rims.