Adding Front Brake to Middleweight Bike - Problem Solving Help?

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SpiceAndLemonade

On Training Wheels
Greetings!

I have a late 1958-1961 Snyder/Rollaway/Firestone that I am getting into comfortable rideable condition and I'm wondering how I would go about adding a front brake? I realize that traditionally, this style of bicycle has coaster brakes (and they do work), but with my abilities/skill level as a rider I don't feel all that comfortable riding without any handbrakes at all, especially around in the hilly and busy neighborhood I live in.

I've taken it to two reputable bike shops in my area and both have essentially told me it's inadvisable to add a front brake by drilling into the frame. Reviewing the bike myself as I have taken it apart to clean it up, they are very correct - the front fork pivots inside the frame with some sort of bearing, plus the vintage badge is also right there... so that is a whole can of worms I don't think I want to deal with. (I am a novice bike mechanic at best, so I ask for your patience about bike mechanics and fixing/assembling bikes as we move forwards here.)

However, I've done some searching and found this part that I think would work on my front bicycle fork... if I can find it? I realize this is a Schwinn part (and hopefully this isn't going to cause any pain for the mix and match on brand and era here) and as I've scoured eBay for the past two days I can't find anything that's even close. I did find a few archived posts here at CABE for this request as well, and folks have pointed others towards this website (originally in Japanese) which offers replica parts for the same style of front fork. I've sent a message to the seller in hopes they may answer (here's hoping they're willing to answer messages in English!), but the last restock looks like it was in October 2020...

So I need some problem solving help... should I spend my time looking for this part? Or should I try something else? I've attached some images of the front fork of my bike. I'm not certain this would be the right answer since from my searching it looks as though on the Schwinn bicycles this part was designed for, there is a tapped hole underneath but not on my Firestone. However I think it's the right direction? Any thoughts?

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SpiceAndLemonade

On Training Wheels
Good point... There are fenders to consider reaching around as well within this design... Is it difficult to find large enough brake calipers for that? I suppose this will require some measuring with the wheel actually on... Being a novice, I'm not entirely versed in all of the brake options available out there.
 

Rivnut

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
The Schwinn middleweights with front caliper brakes had a fork that accepted a long bolt the held the front fender via a 90 degree bracket and also was the axis for the front calipers.

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49autocycledeluxe

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
"I've taken it to two reputable bike shops in my area and both have essentially told me it's inadvisable to add a front brake by drilling into the frame."

first, you need to drill the fork, not the frame. second, bike shops sell bikes and parts and tune up late models, they don't do much else that would require actual thinking. they advise against drilling because they don't want to be held liable on the off chance something happened (which will not be happening.)

I'd drill a hole through the fork right where that little divot is and not give it a second thought. first gather up all your parts. put the fenders on if you have fenders. you will need to get the proper size brake calipers for the size tire and wheel you are running. I'd bet 90% of them will be for skinny tire bikes.
 

J-wagon

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Being a novice, I'm not entirely versed in all of the brake options available out there.
The easiest route would be v-brake clamp-on post adapters but clamp may not fit your fork legs. Otherwise modifying to mount caliper is up to you, be prepared for "fun", I did sample mock to illustrate various considerations:
Select appropriate Caliper brake, different sizes such as left is shorter than the right in pic:
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Quick mock up with sample forks not designed for calipers shows that Caliper mounting bolt too short, with spacer on place, no room for nut to thread
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The thickness of fork mount area about 1.5". So the Caliper brake bolt has insufficient length to be bolted on in my example.
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This was just a quick and dirty mock up. Good luck!
 

SirMike1983

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Adding a caliper to the bike shown in the original post is not going to be easy, though it may be doable. The fork is not a candidate for the 90-degree bracket to mount a caliper and it is not drilled across for direct mount of a caliper. Also, the area of the fork where the caliper would mount has a ridge running across it and is not flat.

To mount a caliper you would need to measure and drill a properly sized hole as shown in post #7. You would then need to custom make a braket or modify a brake ferrule to jigsaw against that ridge in the fork column so that the brake sits flush against the mount. The reason for this is you want the caliper to stay straight and not twist in position. You also don't want the arms to flex much when applying the brake.

As mentioned in post #7 you need an adequately long brake center bolt. Some calipers allow the use of a custom bolt or a hardware store bolt but some do not.

Your question about reach is a good one. You will need the caliper arms to reach around the fender and over the wheel down to the rim sides. Long reach calipers are available but the reach is limited by the fact that long reach tends to flex more when being applied.

Having said all this, I would think that a fork blade-mount brake system like an add-on cantilever would work. Frankly, I wouldn't want to mess with the fork crown or the steerer column on that bike in the original post. It seems like too much work to me and I'd go the v-brake/cantilever/fork blade route.

One other option is a British fork blade-mounted caliper akin to the old Philco brake.

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The above fork is not drilled for a caliper, but a front brake can be mounted if the brake clamps to the fork blades. An original brake of this type will not be cheap but does add another option to all the work described above. You would need to look for a model with a little extra tire clearance width, but they do have generous vertical clearance for fenders.
 

Andrew Gorman

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
"Fun" when adding caliper brakes is an understatement, especially working around fenders! Schwinn made a clamp on set of cantilever brakes in the early 1950's that could work, or just use a hub drum brake- that will work right out of the gate. Or, just be prepared to drag your feet when necessary.
 
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