Raleigh rod brake repair at Flying Pigeon LA bike shop

In this video I make an attempt to describe a repair job we did on an old Raleigh roadster from the late 1970’s. The audio has some issues, but this is my first ever attempt at voiceover, so please forgive me. The music was supplied by my ukulele.

A bunch of cleaning and some shining was done on the bike, we reset the cotters with some high quality cotters (using a Bike Smith Design cotter press) we stock. The tires (or “tyres”) were changed out for some new Schwalbe Delta Cruisers HS 392 in creme. We stock these tires in creme and in creme with a reflective sidewall. They come in a bunch of sizes – the size you see in the video above is 28 x 1 1/2″ (aka 40-635, or 700B).

The rod brake work consisted in us pounding out the old rod brake pads and then spending about two months tracking down replacement inserts from a domestic manufacturer. We found some, in black AND in salmon. Ridiculous! The last batch of rod brake pads I bought took an earth-moving PayPal postal service transaction in a New Delhi bicycle market involving an uncle and a lot of hassles. Now you can call up Ye Olde Flying Pigeon and order some in a jiffy. They run $25 for a set of four pad inserts, and really only work on old Raleigh brake blocks.

The brakes on the rear of the bike gave me the most trouble. Rear rod brakes are always the worst to setup. Once you have to move one brake clip you know you are in for it.

First, the rear brake pads have to be setup in the stirrup so that they are parallel to the face of the rim. In the rear, this is hard to do since access is blocked by a kickstand, crank arm, or chain case.

Second, the brake clips have to be adjusted to account for “toe-in” as well as the distance the pads will be from the rim. Sounds fine until you try to do the work and see that the slightest squeeze inward or outward from the brake clips moves one pad closer, the other farther away and at a weird angle. You end up walking around the rear of the bike, fiddling with the both clips, until they are set so that each pad is parallel to the rim, about 2mm away from the rim’s braking surface, and is not being squeezed too tightly inwards (pads can hit spokes and rod brake action will be horrible due to friction of stirrups against clips), nor too loose outwards (stirrups will jump out of clips on bumpy roads).

Third, the brake clips are typically secured to the frame with horrible, low-grade, flat head bolts. These are notorious for slipping and sending your flathead screwdriver plunging into your palm or finger. Wear a falconer’s glove if you don’t want to bleed.

Finally, rear rod brakes have an extra rod sleeve that adjusts for forward and backward movement of the rear stirrup. This should not be pulled tight, as rods tend to slip when they are set up holding a lot of tension and the bike rider pulls hard on the brake lever. Don’t let this piece dangle loosely, as this will also affect brake performance negatively.

Once the rear pads were installed I ran through the gears on the bike, checked a bunch of other stuff, and then installed a brand new Brooks B66 in honey as well as matching leather ring grips.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of the final product, but I am sure it will show up in some cycle chic photo shoot some day.

If you are looking for Raleigh rod brake blocks, or replacement inserts, Flying Pigeon LA sells them. Shoot us a line at info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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  1. christina bellah
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I have a 1959 flying pigeon bike and would like to know what it is worth if you could possibly help me
    Thank You

  2. Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Well, we sell brand new Flying Pigeon bikes for $400 in our shop. Since the bikes made in 1959 and the bikes made in 2014 are pretty close in terms of materials and looks (almost identical) I am guessing that the condition of the bike and the story behind it is what will make it worth $400 or more. I am not an official appraiser of bike prices – the market for used bikes is. It is worth what you can sell it for or it is worth what you are willing to part with it for.

    If you need help fixing it just drop by the shop. If you don’t live in the LA area maybe we can help your local shop track down any parts you need to get it running again.

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