The best rim brakes ever made

Every once in a while, a bicycle part comes along that is so good, it transcends the bike it’s on. Like the Chris King headset. So good that owners move it from bike to bike as they progress.

If you ride a lot you know that parts generally don’t last – it’s the nature of the game – but the King headset does.

Avid Arch Supreme

Avid Arch Supreme

Another part on this level, was the Avid Arch Supreme brake. It was a set of V-brakes with an arch connecting the brake arms. Though to be more accurate, the arch connected the pads. This forced the pads to move in a straight line into the rim when you pulled the brake lever, rather than in an arc.

Ingeniously, the  arch also provided for the spring tension adjustment. Rim brakes need to be adjusted so that both brake pads hit the rim at the same time. You would tighten or loosen a tiny screw on the brake to increase or decrease spring tension, moving one pad closer, the opposite pad further away.  With the Arch Supreme, all you did was loosen the knob at the top of the arch, move it left or right – which moved the entire brake assembly – until both pads were the same distance away, and tighten the knob again.

On top of all this, everything was CNC machined, the pivots had sealed bearings, and the clearances were better than any other brake I have ever touched in my life.

Avid Ultimate

Avid Ultimate

I lived with a guy that bought some and he had me install them. Once installed, there was zero play at the brake boss, but perfectly smooth movement. He also bought the matching Avid Ultimate levers and Flak Jacket cables.  This was about 1998, and that package set him back about $600.

I just found a set of Arch Supremes on eBay, for CDN$272, and that’s a damn lot of money for v-brakes. But in my mind, that’s not too much. Not if you’re going for late-model vintage perfection, like a Rocky Vertex Team Scandium, or a Kona Hei Hei Ti.

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Avid-Arch-Rival-Supreme-Mountain-Bike-Front-and-Rear-V-Brake-Deluxe-Vintage-/111565853901?pt=US_Brakes&hash=item19f9d7d4cd

 

Bridgestone

The part of industrial giant Bridgestone that makes bikes, started doing so in 1949. Some were called Kabuki, some called Anchor (pretty crappy name for a bike I figure), and today they still make track bikes for Japanese Keirin (track) racing. However, it’s the mountain bikes from the mid 80’s on that I really care about.

I read on a forum not too long ago that even when new, Bridgestones were old-fashioned. Once my jimmies were sufficiently un-rustled, I realized that this was pretty accurate. They never made a mountain bike from aluminum and they were really late to the suspension party. In 1994, I’d guess they realized they were making bikes that just weren’t going to be popular, and decided to pull the plug on North American operations, rather than get modern.

MB-5

MB-5

What was unique about them, was product manager Grant Petersen. At this time, what a lot of companies did, was simply buy a bunch of Shimano DX component groups, and a bunch of XT groups, put them on two frames, and there was two price points done.  The reason for this was the discount Shimano offered for buying the entire group. And we’re not just talking brakes, and front derailleurs, but even the little plastic guide for the derailleur cable that goes under the bottom bracket.

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Schwinn

As I’ve mentioned before, TeamCow is about the bike. To that end, I’m going to step it up in the next few months and write a little piece about each of the vintage manufacturers that truly matter.

We’ll start with what was once the biggest bicycle company in the world, Schwinn.

Schwinn AeroCycle

Schwinn AeroCycle

Some of you I’m sure are wondering if this is because they sell cheap bikes at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t always this way – at one time, Schwinn completely dominated the American market. Like Xerox meant photocopy, and Kleenex meant tissue, Schwinn meant bicycle.

However, they ignored what was happening in the rest of the world, and ended up trying to sell very old fashioned bikes to a market that wanted lightweight ten-speeds.

They fought on bravely for a while, getting help from an upstart Taiwanese maker (you may have heard of them, they later became Giant) but their infrastructure was too old, their leadership too out of touch.  They eventually went bankrupt in 1992, though continued to operate, but then declared bankruptcy again in 2001.

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Mountain Bike Action

It’s not a stretch at all to say I wouldn’t be where I was today with mountain bikes had it not been for Mountain Bike Action.  I read it for months without really understanding what was going on, but it was so exciting.  Every other month there would be a bike you’ve never heard of, that they just raved about.

January 1988 MBA

January 1988 MBA

Where I lived at the time, you’d see Specializeds, Nishikis, Treks, maybe a Rocky Mountain.  Which were all good bikes to be sure, but they weren’t exotic.  Not like Yetis, or Kleins, or Serottas, or Savage Terminators.  Learning that bikes like this existed showed me that something really cool was going on.

I think you can attribute a lot of it’s coolness to editor Zapata Espinoza, because after he left in 1993, things really went downhill.

(See what I did there?)

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