Monday, February 3, 2020

Gathering Parts - Brakes and Levers

As I'm highlighting my various choices of components for my early '80s Specialized Sequoia, so far I've described my choices for wheels and drivetrain components. Today's installment is on brakes.

The Sequoia was designed for "normal reach" brakes - which means those with a range from about 47 - 57 mm. It seemed to me that the perfect choice for keeping consistent with the era was to use vintage SunTour Superbe brakes (mod. 4700). A lot of brand-new Sequoias probably left bike shops with these brakes installed. In my view, these were the first Japanese-made brakes that really rivaled the quality and finish of Campagnolo's brakes in every detail. Up to this point, other Japanese-made brakes, even top-of-the-line ones like Shimano Dura-Ace, were very nice overall, but maybe in some small area, like the quality of some of the smaller parts (like cable adjusters, or the quick release mechanism) would leave something to be desired. These ones really nailed it, and subsequent brakes from SunTour, Dia Compe, and Shimano would actually surpass the best by having not only excellent materials and finish, but lighter and smoother action as well.

As I understand it, these are the second version of the Superbe brakes. The first version having a somewhat "lesser" quick release mechanism - whereas these have a truly deluxe (and smoothly operating) eccentric cam, obviously modeled after the Campagnolo design. The Superbe brakes were made for SunTour by Dia Compe.

It's hard to tell these were ever used. Even the pads look almost new. I may end up replacing the pads, however, as these are likely to be pretty hard by now. I believe Scott-Mathauser makes replacements for these holders, and their "orange" pad material isn't that far off from the original rusty brown color used by SunTour. Something to consider.
For levers, I'm faced with a choice:

These original Superbe non-aero levers are in great shape - except for the fact that they need new hoods. Original SunTour-branded rubber hoods are nearly impossible to find, and I haven't seen reproductions. However, these take the same hoods as the classic Campagnolo Records, and there are some no-name or aftermarket branded hoods that will fit. The ones from Rustines come to mind (available from Velo-Orange, last time I checked). I like the slotted/drilled levers, and these ones are almost completely free of scrapes or blemishes. They would be a good, traditional choice.

Then again, I also have these mid-'80s Dia Compe aero levers that are likewise in excellent condition. Aero levers first started coming into popularity about the same time my Sequoia was built, so they would not be out of place. This pair (AGC 251 - circa '86) are an improvement over the earliest versions of aero levers in that they have a return spring built in for smoother operation. They look great, have a nice shape overall, and the hoods are soft. If I were trying to do some kind of perfect "period correct" restoration, right down to the dates of all the components, I might balk at putting 1986 or '87 levers on a 1982 bike. But it's my bike dammit.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for more. . .

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