Board index Flathead Power-Technical Questions, Answers, and Suggestions 45 Flatties WLC brake blues

WLC brake blues

Post Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:27 pm

Posts: 7

I have had one season of riding my freshly restored 1942 wlc.
I bought it from the widow of the restorer, so my knowledge of the the bike is pretty much based on what I learn as I go....

That said, I had some brake troubles last summer.... Brakes seem to have too much travel, even when (seemingly) adjusted right and tight.
I have tried centering the rear brake shoes and even took the rear brake apart and had thicker linings put on the shoes.
Still, there is too much travel on the pedal and linkage and after one hard press on the brake, it will fade to the point of no stopping power at all.

The front brake is very near the same problem.

I ride the bike according to it's age, so it's not abuse related

Is there any good hints or even usable tricks and experiences that you can share with a Harley novice, I'd be most grateful!



Post Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:18 pm

Posts: 923
Location: South Provence of FRANCE

if i have well understood your problem : i got your solution .

i met this problem many times by the past .
original (used) pads and drum ...
not dead-enough to be changed .
and ... i don't want change for repops ...

i resolve this by tack-welding two small metal-plates on the aera where the brake-pivot works .
common steel is enough . ( try different thicknesses before )
most of the times : 1.5 Mms thick is great .
and the result is incredible .

Post Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:03 am

Posts: 1654
There are various fixes to improve the brakes a bit but there is no getting past the fact that the Harley's of the day are large, very heavy machines with small brakes, and what braking power they do have biased towards the rear. They WILL overheat and fade very quickly, they WILL NOT stop the bike, and you have to deal with it
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Post Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:17 am

Posts: 923
Location: South Provence of FRANCE

yes Brit : but this is an OTHER problem .

brakes are poor on ol'harleys , okay . but there's a way to make them work better .

for example : 19 owners on 20 don't EVEN know how to correctly tune them . ( front or rear ) that's a FACT .

Post Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:21 am

Posts: 923
Location: South Provence of FRANCE

answer to Mike is "YES"

Post Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:45 pm

Posts: 1654
Shimming the heel of the brake shoe is an old method of expanding the brake shoes slightly further and applying a Bit more bite, true. You pay for it in terms of increased brake shoe wear.

I've also tried making a heavier, shorter front brake cable using a "universal" clutch cable supplied for grass track and speedway bikes. That helps a bit, and it being Teflon lined also helps.

That 2LS conversion helps.
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Post Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:43 pm

Posts: 251
Location: Hudson, Florida
45 Brit, I keep broken clutch cables here just for conversion to front brake use, why throw out a very good replacement cable. I think Milwaukee Belle has a very good point in the fact that 9 out of ten riders have no idea as to how to properly adjust and check their mechanical brakes when installing new shoes or pads. They are told they are junk so no effort is put into making them right. Sometimes it takes several attempts at centering the shoes to get it right I use a soft lead pencil to mark my shoes and take the wheel off as many times as it takes to make sure full contact is made before riding the machine.Any thing less and the shoes will wear from use and you will never be able to center them again. Properly set up and they need no special babying to stop or easy riding.

Post Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:28 pm

Posts: 1654
Well, careful set-up always helps. I've always felt that the early-70s banana caliper brakes got an unfair press; I had them on an Electra Glide and they really weren't bad at all once you got them properly set up.
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:27 am

Posts: 251
Location: Hudson, Florida
I have often found that the service and shop manuals we have are missing small but very important steps. Even before the computer age things that most thought of as common knowledge were left out to save space. After all by the 40's everyone should know how to set up a set of new brake shoes it was common knowledge no need to dwell on it. Now 70+ years after the fact most have a hard time understanding a very simple concept because these things were handed down through word of mouth and not written. We live in a time when parts are expected to go from box to machine and just work and if they don't the manufacturer must be at fault. Fact is brakes never worked until they were massaged and tinkered with, our old worn out generators and voltage regulators are a good example of this. I always love the look on a new enthusiasts face as they are saying wow and you say this is called polarizing is this simple flash really going to make my system work?

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:53 pm

Posts: 1654
That's a key point. Most things DO go from box to site and work first time. It's people like us, still marooned in a universe of incorrectly specified repro parts, repro parts copied from parts that didn't fit when new, and parts that are really not quite correct but that's what was copied, that still need these skills.

That said, I discovered a long while ago that you could assemble an 8" single-side BSA brake from any random collection of parts and it would work better than anything you could ever build from Harley parts, and a bit of fettling would improve it more, and I've used them ever since
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:52 pm
Pa Site Admin

Posts: 5843
Location: Ohio USA

Could this possibly be one of your problems. I saved this from another topic way back when. Click on the image to enlarge it. Pa
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:57 pm

Posts: 251
Location: Hudson, Florida
Thanks for sharing lost knowledge Pa, 45 Brit I guess we are all comfortable with parts we have become familiar with.To you a British made bike is a wonder unto itself and I have to admit a good running Triumph or BSA has a sound like no other although to most of us here who are unfamiliar with them they are a royal pain in the rump. The main thing is old machinery needs the extra care and proper amount of tinkering before it becomes a part of us and most things can be made to work reasonably well.

Post Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:50 am

Posts: 1654
The thing about the brake cam being "handed" is a classic example if the sort of once-common knowledge referred to earlier.

Regarding British bikes being a "thing of wonder"' , yes and no. Most post-War designs are essentially ongoing exercises in over-stressing a basic design which was very advanced in its original form - a 500cc engine developing less than 30bhp. Harley 45" flatheads are, for my money, the most advanced examples if the type anywhere. I do most of my racing using Jawa engines because their designers out-paced BSA's mighty competition shop on the back of an envelope - there's nothing in a 2-valve Jawa that BSA couldn't have made, long before.

On the other hand, the cycle parts are a classic exercise in disregard of engineering design. The 45 frame and transmission layout represents something long abandoned elsewhere.

In terms if brakes, a BSA brake us superior to a Harley one not because of any mystical properties or rose-tinted specs, but because it has a stronger drum and backplate and a swept area about 50% larger. Simplez. People used to fit them to 45s not because it was easier - because the lathe work involved is harder than fettling a set if brake shoes - but because the parts were easy to find and cheap, and the resulting unit far out-performed the best you could achieve using Harley parts.
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Post Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:46 pm

Posts: 976
Location: Markt Einersheim, Germany

Last edited by George Greer on Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

Post Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:52 pm

Posts: 1654
Tried that but the 45 outlasted them all.... The Ariel/45 I owned in the 70 s is still in use, saw it at the VMCC a couple of years ago. The one I owned in the late 80s has been under restoration for more years than enough, fingers crossed on that one.

Actually the racing bikes are no different, the JAP gets people going "ooooohh!!" In the paddock but its the 2 valve Jawa that brings in the points and it hardly sees a spanner from one meeting to the next.

None if which alters the original point, that the front brake in a 45 isn't up to the job and it's simple to change that
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

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