|"A disc brake from Shimano! It is the new look on bicycles. When you have it on your bike you've really got it made" Odd that the main selling point seems to be style more than function.|
Any knowledgeable Schwinn fans probably know that Schwinn had a disc brake as well. It was introduced as an option on their Sting-Ray "Krate" series of bikes and on the Manta-Ray (a 24" wheeled Sting-Ray) in 1972-73. I don't believe it was offered on any of their 10-speeds, and the catalogs I've seen don't even list it as an option on the tandems, for which one would think it could have been marketed as a drag brake.
|The first Orange Krate, as pictured|
in the '68 Schwinn catalog. Notice
the bike's inspiration in the
So, if disc brakes were so great and apparently all the rage, why didn't they catch on?
I can't speak from experience, since I've never ridden a bike with these early disc brakes, but I can only imagine they didn't live up to the promises. They also look like they were heavy as hell, so they certainly weren't going to be found on higher end bikes. Another thing to notice is the ad copy that says "It offers a smooth, shock-free braking force that prevents the wheel from locking and skidding." I don't know what they mean by "shock-free" braking (something to do with grabbiness?) but if the brakes couldn't be locked up, how powerful could they have been? Going along with that, these rear-wheel-only disc brakes play into the false notion that one overwhelmingly finds with entry-level bike riders -- that braking on the front is dangerous, and the rear wheel should be the main brake. The opposite is true, but many inexperienced riders were convinced that a strong brake on the front would lead to taking a header over the bars.
No doubt that today's disc brakes are much better than these early versions. And today's discs aren't likely to disappear like some fad after a few years. Nevertheless, even though these early discs shown here are old enough to be called "retro," they aren't anything for a retrogrouch.