We now offer Compass centerpull brakes with a backing plate for bolt-on mounting, in limited quantities. Many customers have asked for this: Wouldn’t it be nice to get the superlight weight and superior performance of these brakes on an existing bike?
A backing plate connects the pivots with the fork crown, which makes it possible to bolt these brakes onto any bike with brake-mounting holes in the fork crown and in the rear seatstay bridge. You’d get much better performance than most other long-reach brakes, which often suffer from excessive flex and offer only poor braking performance.
For us, the problem was cost: A backing plate requires a new forging die, which is very expensive. We would have to sell hundreds of bolt-on brakes to amortize this cost. We could CNC-machine the plate, but then it would have to be much larger to offer the same strength, negating the light weight and elegance of the forged Compass brake arms. What to do?
At this point, I was reminded of Preston Tucker, who introduced his revolutionary “Torpedo” in 1948 (above). Unable to get his new torque converter transmission ready in time for the car’s launch, Tucker’s engineers realized that transmissions from old Cords could be used in the new Tucker. So Tucker’s team scoured scrapyards to recover these transmissions, which were rebuilt with strengthened parts and installed in the first Tuckers.
I realized that the backing plates we needed also were lying around in parts boxes and junk bins: They had come off old Mafac Raids when builders used those brakes with brazed-on pivots. In fact, I had a set myself, left over from building my René Herse way back before Compass brakes were available. The backing plates don’t wear out – any play in the bushings comes from wear of the aluminum arms, not the steel pivots – so the old Mafac backing plates remain as good as new. We found a number of these, and had them refurbished and polished by our friends at Norther Cycles in Portland.
Now we are offering the Compass centerpull brakes with backing plates. The brakes are sold individually, with all the hardware needed for bolt-on mounting. If your frame has recessed brake holes, you can either use the supplied bolt and nut, or you can modify the bolts and use recessed nuts.
Of course, the backing plates add some weight and flex, so they’re not the ultimate solution. If you are thinking about repainting your frame anyhow, just have a framebuilder add the braze-ons and use our standard centerpulls. That is what Steve Frey did on his “hot-rodded” Trek (above), which we featured in the Winter 2016 Bicycle Quarterly. Or add braze-ons to the fork (as well as rack-mounting eyelets) and use a bolt-on brake on the rear, where you don’t need that much braking power.
Quantities of the bolt-on centerpulls are limited by our supply of backing plates. And if you have a spare set of Mafac Raid backing plates (distance between pivots: 75 mm), or a spare set of bolts and hardware for bolting the backing plates onto the frame/fork (all models), please get in touch. Like Preston Tucker, we are paying good money for what otherwise would be useless parts.