Mafac! Mafac? Mafac!

I’ve had more than one elder cyclist tell me the same story about Mafac centerpull brakes. I’m not sure if the story is fact or fiction, but it goes like this. In the 1960s and 70s, when european professional racers equipped with Mafac brakes would descend long grades, they would roll up beside a fellow racer (presumably one equipped with Campagnolo brakes), put a hand on his back (to slow themselves down), and by way explanation, or perhaps warning, exclaim, “Mafac!” 

For about a year, this story struck fear into me about running vintage Mafac brakes on rides with lots of long downhills. However, once I had my Mafac Racers set up with new Kool Stop salmon brake pad inserts, they had plenty of power, and nice modulation. True, they were no modern dual-pivots with silky smooth action, but they were perfectly safe, and fetchingly handsome. Both Paul Components and IRD have copied, or riffed on Mafac designs. One thing I love about Mafac Racers is that they were probably the most democratic brake calipers ever produced. In their day, Racers were just as likely to be found on mixte with a wicker basket in the market as they were on a Tour de France racer.  



  • Reply
    S. Spielman
    June 21, 2016 at 4:42 am

    The Mafac story is true, but it applied to their early version of LS sidepulls. The pads were small and were composed of that incredibly hard rubber that Mafac stubbornly insisted on using…(and it hardens further with age)…Like you, I am really surprised at how well Mafac brakes work when paired with modern pads. As for the LS sidepulls, Mafac revised the pads a little and improved the braking quite a lot. I have a pair of the very last ones before Mafac shuttered the operation -the short reach LSX model and the braking is not bad at all (after I filed off the hardened surface layer)…

    • Reply
      The Beautiful Bicycle
      June 21, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for the confirmation Steve. I don’t have any experience with Mafac sidepulls and didn’t know the extra hard rubber pads were the likely culprit.

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