Rod Brake Mechanic in North London?

SamW

Member
Hello,
I have just joined so forgive me if this is not the right place for this kind of post: I wondered if anyone can recommend a bike shop or mechanic who will repair rod brakes in North London (I am in Wood Green). When my daily use bike clapped out completely, I, perhaps foolishly, bought a Triumph Roadster, of I think the late 50s, over Gumtree about 18 months ago because it looked fun then realised on the way back from buying it the brakes were virtually non-existent with new pads and adjustment needed. I tried to get several bike shops to repair them but most (even those who say they do vintage) wouldn't touch rod brakes as they all said it is impossible to get them good enough to use safely and too time consuming. Eventually I found a bike shop that would repair them, which they did at considerable expense, but I don't think they did a good job in adjusting them; I know rod brakes are a primitive technology but they were pretty poor even in dry weather though online posters suggest that they can be adjusted to be reasonably OK (I have only ever had calliper-braked bikes before so am not comparing their performance to something very sophisticated). Anyway, I've been slowly and gingerly riding all over town on the bike for a year but over this summer the brakes got even worse -- perhaps, due to the hot weather, metal expanded or the pads wore? -- anyway the brake pads only seemed to make proper contact when the brake levers were really squeezed all the way up and even with a long stopping distance I have had to put my feet down all the time to brake. So this time I tried to adjust them myself following guides online, including helpful posts on this forum. But I have no mechanical aptitude or experience at all, couldn't understand most of the posts (about bending the stirrups into better shape and that sort of thing) and at the end of a frustrating day all I have succeeded in doing is snapping off one of the angle-sided brake pads and damaging most of the nuts by trying to turn them with an adjustable spanner! I would therefore be very grateful for any recommendations of someone nearby who might know how to work on rod brakes and be interested in a repair gig.
Sam
 

Paulus

Started young, and still going.
Location
Barnet,
Hello,
I have just joined so forgive me if this is not the right place for this kind of post: I wondered if anyone can recommend a bike shop or mechanic who will repair rod brakes in North London (I am in Wood Green). When my daily use bike clapped out completely, I, perhaps foolishly, bought a Triumph Roadster, of I think the late 50s, over Gumtree about 18 months ago because it looked fun then realised on the way back from buying it the brakes were virtually non-existent with new pads and adjustment needed. I tried to get several bike shops to repair them but most (even those who say they do vintage) wouldn't touch rod brakes as they all said it is impossible to get them good enough to use safely and too time consuming. Eventually I found a bike shop that would repair them, which they did at considerable expense, but I don't think they did a good job in adjusting them; I know rod brakes are a primitive technology but they were pretty poor even in dry weather though online posters suggest that they can be adjusted to be reasonably OK (I have only ever had calliper-braked bikes before so am not comparing their performance to something very sophisticated). Anyway, I've been slowly and gingerly riding all over town on the bike for a year but over this summer the brakes got even worse -- perhaps, due to the hot weather, metal expanded or the pads wore? -- anyway the brake pads only seemed to make proper contact when the brake levers were really squeezed all the way up and even with a long stopping distance I have had to put my feet down all the time to brake. So this time I tried to adjust them myself following guides online, including helpful posts on this forum. But I have no mechanical aptitude or experience at all, couldn't understand most of the posts (about bending the stirrups into better shape and that sort of thing) and at the end of a frustrating day all I have succeeded in doing is snapping off one of the angle-sided brake pads and damaging most of the nuts by trying to turn them with an adjustable spanner! I would therefore be very grateful for any recommendations of someone nearby who might know how to work on rod brakes and be interested in a repair gig.
Sam
Welcome to the forum Sam. It is many years since I had a rod braked bike, middle 1960's, so I am not much help I'm afraid. Maybe start with some old style AF spanners 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 9/16, that sort of thing so you don't do any more damage with an adjustable.
There is a LBS in Friern Barnet, The Cycle Store. https://thecyclestore.weebly.com/ You could try them as Ashwin used to be a mechanic some years back at Shorters.
Failing that there is Johns cycles in Barnet. http://www.johnscycles.co.uk/

Post some photos of your bike, we like photos.

Good luck
 

swee'pea99

Legendary Member
There's a bloke called Rob Sargent who has a shop called Sargent & Co which is near Clissold Park - half way between you & Islington. He's the go-to guy for anything a bit vintage - I'm sure rod brakes would be right up his street.
 
OP
S

SamW

Member
Welcome to the forum Sam. It is many years since I had a rod braked bike, middle 1960's, so I am not much help I'm afraid. Maybe start with some old style AF spanners 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 9/16, that sort of thing so you don't do any more damage with an adjustable.
There is a LBS in Friern Barnet, The Cycle Store. https://thecyclestore.weebly.com/ You could try them as Ashwin used to be a mechanic some years back at Shorters.
Failing that there is Johns cycles in Barnet. http://www.johnscycles.co.uk/

Post some photos of your bike, we like photos.

Good luck
Thank you for the advice, and I will give those shops a try -- it is proving difficult to find bike shops that are accepting new repair jobs because of the upsurge of work with lockdown.
 
OP
S

SamW

Member
Welcome to the forum Sam. It is many years since I had a rod braked bike, middle 1960's, so I am not much help I'm afraid. Maybe start with some old style AF spanners 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 9/16, that sort of thing so you don't do any more damage with an adjustable.
There is a LBS in Friern Barnet, The Cycle Store. https://thecyclestore.weebly.com/ You could try them as Ashwin used to be a mechanic some years back at Shorters.
Failing that there is Johns cycles in Barnet. http://www.johnscycles.co.uk/

Post some photos of your bike, we like photos.

Good luck
By the way, what does LBS mean?
 
OP
S

SamW

Member
There's a bloke called Rob Sargent who has a shop called Sargent & Co which is near Clissold Park - half way between you & Islington. He's the go-to guy for anything a bit vintage - I'm sure rod brakes would be right up his street.
I tried him but he is not accepting repair jobs any more because he is devoting his time to restoring a sailing barge for cargo!
 
OP
S

SamW

Member
Welcome to the forum Sam. It is many years since I had a rod braked bike, middle 1960's, so I am not much help I'm afraid. Maybe start with some old style AF spanners 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 9/16, that sort of thing so you don't do any more damage with an adjustable.
There is a LBS in Friern Barnet, The Cycle Store. https://thecyclestore.weebly.com/ You could try them as Ashwin used to be a mechanic some years back at Shorters.
Failing that there is Johns cycles in Barnet. http://www.johnscycles.co.uk/

Post some photos of your bike, we like photos.

Good luck
PS Phone camera also bust but photos to follow when I get that sorted!
 

midlife

Guru
Rod brakes are tricky but when you work out the logic with what lever does what they are not a black art. Problems are usually the blocks and the rims not being clean and aligned.any pics of what you think is wrong?
 
OP
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SamW

Member
A couple of probably very stupid follow-up questions:

i) If I can't find a mechanic to repair them and try again myself, now that I have snapped one of them I need new 'angle-sided' brake pads. They seem to be available at various lengths, 45mm to 58mm long (probably others too, that's just from a cursory Googling). How do I know which to get -- do I get the same as I have already or is it simply the longer the better, as more contact area for braking?

ii) When I snapped the brake shoe I was trying to fix it at an angle which meant more of it would touch the rim at once, by tightening it slightly at an angle to the piece of metal on which it sat, rather than flush against the base of that piece of metal (that piece of metal, which the is itself attached to the stirrup of the rod brake approximately perpendicularly and parallel to the wheel and might be what is referred to as an anti-vibration plate?) because it seemed that the front of the brake pad (which was also more worn and curved) touched the rim before the back of the brake pad. Did doing this makes sense or was it a crazy thing to try to do?!
 
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