Adding Front Brake to Middleweight Bike - Problem Solving Help?

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AndyA

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Yes, you should add a front brake. A front brake works much better than a rear brake and adds redundancy. You can either drill your fork as recommended by 49autocycledeluxe or swap out the fork as recommended by SchwinnFinn63. I have used both approaches. In your photos, your fork looks quite drillable. The spot to drill would be where there is a small slot. First two photos below show a bike that I drilled. Third photo shows a couple of styles of forks that could be swapped in. Finding a donor bike shouldn't be hard, but remember that you have to match for wheel diameter, steering tube diameter, and steering tube length. Have fun!

1646706


1646707


1646708
 

SpiceAndLemonade

On Training Wheels
Thanks for the bike knowledge. Knowing that I will need to accurately measure for the brake caliper travel over the fender and that I need to consider the fact I may need to modify a set of brake calipers is a good point as well as accounting for the flex factor and preventing the brake from twisting while stopping.

I have a contact locally who is a engineer/amateur machinist who is into problem solving and bicycles who I may try to bribe with pizza and beer to help me out. I think my main concern would be making sure that the hole is drilled accurately, so the use of a drill press would be helpful. I'm willing to drill the fork if necessary, but there is also a vertical hole drilled for the fender screw already and I'm not sure if that would interfere? I think a few posts pointed out there was a "divot" there already, that's where the hole for the original fender screw is - it probably doesn't show very well in the original photos I posted.

Good to know I've got some options to try out for a few different solutions, including both drilling and not drilling, as well as swapping in new parts. I appreciate the support of adding a front brake also - the safety insurance is worth it to me to spend the time to figure it out.
 

AndyA

Wore out three sets of tires already!
I may need to modify a set of brake calipers
I think my main concern would be making sure that the hole is drilled accurately, so the use of a drill press would be helpful.
There are two principal factors relative to caliper brakes: 1) the reach of the calipers, as shown in the photo posted by J-wagon. You have to be able to adjust the pads to contact the rim. And 2) the length of the central bolt. Front brakes typically have longer bolts than rear brakes, depending on how they are mounted. Also see J-wagon's discussion of bolt length. Note that calipers are easily disassembled and switched onto bolts of different lengths.

A drill press is always a nice thing to have or have access to, but for this purpose, simple measurement and eyeballing will get you well within tolerances. Oftentimes calipers must be bent a bit to get good alignment with the rim and some toe-in to prevent squealing.

Have fun!
 

Andrew Gorman

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
There is a bike co-op in Minneapolis with a couple of locations. They will be happy to help you sort out the brake installation AND have a lot of used parts available so you can find what will fit. and guide you along as you do the work. Just a suggestion!
 

SpiceAndLemonade

On Training Wheels
There is a bike co-op in Minneapolis with a couple of locations. They will be happy to help you sort out the brake installation AND have a lot of used parts available so you can find what will fit. and guide you along as you do the work. Just a suggestion!

Thanks Andrew! I will definitely check them out... I've heard good things from other friends in Minneapolis about The Hub. 👍
 

WillWork4Parts

Wore out three sets of tires already!
It was pointed out, but not sure if clarified, what rims are you running? I would expect to see drop center rims on a bike of this era....and as far as what I've tried before, they do not cooperate well at all with caliper brakes.
Buying a drum brake wheel with cable and brake lever attached would be the simplest solution.
 

WES PINCHOT

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
IF YOU WANT A GOOD FRONT WHEEL BRAKE, GET A SCHWINN "FOREWHEEL DRUM
BRAKE". THEY ARE NOT CHEAP, BUT I HAVE HAD THEM ON ALL MY RIDING SCHWINNS.
YOU MAY HAVE TO GET OR MAKE A SIMPLE BRACKET TO FIT THE FORK LEG THAT ANCHORS
THE ARM OF THE PORK CHOP. THE FRONT WHEEL HUB WOULD MOSTLY BE FOUND ON A
BALLOON TIRE FORK OR ON SOME OF THE SCHWINN TANDEMS. I HAD A MIDDLEWEIGHT
SCHWINN AND WAS ABLE TO USE THE SCHWINN FORE WHEEL DRUM BRAKE WITH S-2 RIMS.
 

partsguy

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Dealing with rim profiles, fork drilling, and fender clearances is too much grief when there are caliper-optioned forks and fender available for swapping, or just upgrade the bike to something mid level.

That’s my two cents…swap the front end or swap the bike.
 

Oldbikeguy1960

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Post a photo of your whole bike please, especially the wheels. It will help a lot with suggestions.
Coaster brakes are very dependable, especially on older bikes like yours. I do understand wanting extra braking, however
Don't be afraid of drilling the fork. No matter how complicated some try to make it, the job comes down to measuring and drilling ONE hole. No PhD involved. The hole you see is the machine target for drilling it for a caliper if needed.
Most forks other than flat blade solid steel Ashtabula style (old Schwinn) forks are the same fork whether they were drilled or not. That bracket you show is for one of those forks and probably wouldn't fit properly on the fork you have. The other manufacturers rarely made two forks to do one job, they made one fork to do two jobs.
Same with fender bolts. One bolt for both jobs. Most of the fender mount bolts are vertical drilled as well. Unless the fender bolt has been changed for something longer due to loss of original bolt, the bolt will clear the caliper bolt. If it is long take it to a hardware store and buy one that matches with an Allen type (internal hex) or standard head, not a screwdriver type head. You will thank me later if the bolt gets rusty.
The measurement is already there. DO NOT try to hand drill both holes in one action as it is hard to hold the drill perfectly straight. If you drill the holes as I suggest you can run the drill bit through both holes together afterwards and align the holes within tolerances. Or use a drill press, your fork bearings might like a cleaning and some fresh grease anyway.
Modern BMX bike steel calipers properly installed, with good pads (more on that below) will work as well for your purpose as higher cost calipers some may suggest from race bikes or new from the local bike shop. They will also clear middleweight fenders fine. If you are into it (I am) you will find what you need on one of the millions of new bikes Americans discard every year because the tires went flat or the paint color is out of style. Just don’t use the pads, they are most likely made from rust and cow dung.
Like another member said, the caliper ends can be gently bent to align with the wheels, and on steel calipers this could be done to align them to drop center rims as well, although I never had to do so.
A lot of bikes came from the factory with drop center rims and caliper brakes. I don't like it either but they work after the pads wear in or you sand them on a belt sander to cut an angle horizontally on them.
Buy good pads not the cheap things at Wal-Mart. Look for the RED ones, they are a better stopping coumpound in the old pads and are better wet than the black ones. Buy some nice ones from eBay, or I may have a spare set or two.
Another solution (not my favorite) is the bolt on caliper brake adapters. They bolt onto the fork legs at any point needed and are still available here and on eBay reasonably. Schwinn and Resilion both made them, the resilion version may cost less but it may take a week or two to get them from England. They use a cable similar to a GYRO cable on a bmx trick bike. I do not like them because they scratch up paint on the fork and if tightened too much or the set bolt tightend they can dent the fork a little.
Drum brakes are nice, I use them on some of my musclebike builds on frames that arent made for caliper mounting (ie: Schwinn) but the Schwinn Fore Brake, while an excellent choice is way too expensive to use on an old middleweight fun bike. It will also make the bike, wheel or even the hub (by cutting the spokes and brake cable) prone to theft. I would suggest a Sturmey Archer, Akai, GRI.ME.CA, or even the knockoff wheels with drums installed. There are cheaper ways than eBay if cost is a factor (it is for me).
Feel free to contact me or I am sure some other knowledgeable members who will be able to walk you through this, or check with the bike co-op. Someone there I bet spokes wheels and may build you a wheel for parts cost only (I would but too far away) or even a modest fee that would be worth it and still way less than a Fore Brake alone. If you like that enough buy a rear to match and put a single speed BMX sprocket on it, or if you use Sturmey Archer get an AB hub and have a 3 speed with minimal setup.
Not a sales pitch, but I have a spare AB hub here to do a 3 speed rear and can get front brake hubs from England if you decide you like the idea. Nice shiny chrome, and everyone knows that while chrome may not (always) get you home, it may get you somewhere. And it is fun to polish!
I also have a GRI.ME.CA 36 hole rear here, but they aren't as shiny. What I did see of your bike says SHINY!
Am I at 5 pages yet? Just checking.
Rob

My name is Rob, and I approve this instructional.
 
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