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Old 05-07-2014, 09:55 AM   #1
dan74
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Default Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

I've always been of the persuasion to consider a true vintage chop to be drum brakes only. Of course, I wasn't actually there back in the day and this is really just an opinion that has formed from old magazines and talkng to others who are equally as anal about this shit as myself.

I'm beginning to come round to the idea that stopping is good and want to explore disc setups!
So for period freaks like me, what disc options were there "back in the day" before discs were actually introduced as stock in 1973? I've just bought a 1972 Superglide, I'm looking to run this bike as a swing arm chop. It has a juice drum out back but seems to have a much later non-original dual disk front end, possibly 80's? Ideally I'd like to retain the disc stopping power but bring it back more in line with the age of the bike. I've heard the name AirHeart banded about...

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Old 05-07-2014, 10:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

grimeca drum brakes were popular in europe in the 60's if you wanted to stop real quick with a drum brake......still out there NEW or on Ebay....4 leading shoe,Italian made and real quality......worth a look anyway............
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

i used FL lowers on my pan and GMA dual calipers. kick ass set up (although kinda fugly)

i'd attach a pic but it seems that i am not smart enough. my profile shot shows them (but its small).
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:28 AM   #4
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Quote:
Originally Posted by magnum45pete View Post
grimeca drum brakes were popular in europe in the 60's if you wanted to stop real quick with a drum brake......still out there NEW or on Ebay....4 leading shoe,Italian made and real quality......worth a look anyway............
WOW auction place 900.00-1400.00 hope there cheaper in Europe
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:34 AM   #5
Richard D
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

I am interested in this as well. I know disks stop well but I hate the way they look, especially on a period chopper.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

What about Hurst? That was a popular setup wasn't it?
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:17 PM   #7
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

I remember a few chops with disks back in the day, and Hurst brand disks seems to strike a bell, me and my buddies running radical chops in the 60's and 70's ran no front brake, you know the symptom, allballsnobrains....

But somehow we survived that stupidity....

As I'm (slowly) resurrecting my old original '62 chop (never sold it, stuck it in a storage shed in 1990), it is going to get good brakes in front, probably a disk! I've got two of the original duo-glide front drum brake setups, and neither of them is worth a shit for stopping, barely functional as a "hill holder". I've often wondered about re-engineering the internals on those brakes, to use way better shoes, and put way more clamping force on them during stopping. Still might look into that.

I also put disk brakes on the front of my '55 Chevy gasser, '48 ford truck front axle, flip front, blown Olds motor, stick shift, and got criticized that it was not "accurate" with the disk brakes, screw 'em, I did it the way I wanted, and as I drive that rig daily, I am damn glad to have great brakes in that car! Am heading the same way with the '62 Chop.

BTW, the original rear juice drum brakes on my '62 have always worked great, when they're strong enough to skid the tire, they are fine, you don't need any more. Just need more up front !
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlebike View Post
WOW auction place 900.00-1400.00 hope there cheaper in Europe

still a shit load of cash here but bloody nice brakes!!!....were realy ment for race use....Isle of Man TT sort of period racers usualy get them...
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Back when Honda came out with their disc brakes in the late 1960s my boss and his friends started putting them on their choppers here in San Francisco…as one of my bosses was a factory race mechanic for HD, his Honda brake design setup was actually used by team HD before eventually making it into production a few years later.

My survivor panhead dual disc honda setup was designed and built by Norm Weiss. He also turned the discs themselves from stainless steel, which he told me took two weeks on the lathe(!)

here's the best pic I have of the brake setup:

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lo...lm1o1_1280.jpg

and this is what 40 year old brake fluid looks like(!)

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh...lm1o1_1280.jpg
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:59 PM   #10
Early Iron Motorcycles
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Most of the guys i ran with back then, ran Hurst Airheart if they were running disc.
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:39 PM   #11
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

thought of doing yrs ago but couldnt be stuffed = what about hydraulic drum ?
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:58 PM   #12
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Thanks for the replies everyone.

The hurst setup is definitely my favourite so far. I'd be happy to roll with that, do they bolt up to any existing legs or are we talking custom fab?
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Old 05-07-2014, 04:52 PM   #13
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

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Originally Posted by Early Iron Motorcycles View Post
Most of the guys i ran with back then, ran Hurst Airheart if they were running disc.
I bet that tiny disk isn't much better than the stock front drum.
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Old 05-07-2014, 05:00 PM   #14
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

You can still get "Airheart" brakes (Hurst has been dropped) and rebuild kits from: http://www.airheart-brakes.com/partsheets_airheart.html
Airheart is owned by Tolomatic a Midwestern Co. that makes industrial Gearboxes, Actuators and industrial brakes. That is what these brakes started out as, Hurst used the Airheart brakes and made the adapters. You can still do this also, buy the small diameter Disc and Caliper set from Airheart and make the adapters, they also have master cylinders . They also have rebuild kits for all you guys that have old Hurst/Airheart setups that need to be rebuilt.
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Old 05-07-2014, 05:11 PM   #15
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

PM have made nice little 2 Spot callipers for years and they work great. JB used to make nice sharp master cylinders to which I really liked. I've always liked the look of twin disc front ends as it makes the bike look more business like but each their own.
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Old 05-07-2014, 05:13 PM   #16
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Disc brakes were first used in racing after having been invented for the aviation world.
On popular cars Jaguars were the first to feature them and they had a little emblem cautioning the driver's behind them of the disc's stopping power.
Girling were the manufacturers of these parts but they were all ugly as hell and never made it to the bike world. The only caliper attractive enough for a custom application was the Halibrand Lobster (think '84 Corvette rear looking w/fins etc.) and I am sure some made it to the show circuit.
The boom of Karting introduced us to a first mechanical and then hydraulic setup from the Hurst Corporation which was later bought by Airheart.
These little calipers were good enough looking and people fabbed their own brackets and such to but them on Sportsters and Triumphs. They were never effective enough for road racing. Here the Honda 750 set new standards and for 1969 the Triumph factory fabbed brackets for their racers to use a Honda disc on the ubiquitous Triumph front end.
So to answer your question you have to figure out which period exactly do you want to adhere to?
1950s drum only
Mid 1960s beginning of Hurst
Late 1960 Triumph front end and a Honda 750 maybe?
By 1972 nobody with a chopper cared about front brakes anymore as the die was cast with long front ends with small spool wheels. The functional chopper had ended about then.
Then by the mid seventies the Digger happened and reintroduced the Hurst now commercially available from the Norcal shops.
Hope this helps.
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Old 05-07-2014, 05:19 PM   #17
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

Yes, the will be a quiz at the end of the class.
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Old 05-07-2014, 08:02 PM   #18
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

i don't know about anyone else but we ran whatever we could lay hands on. in 1973 my panhead longbike with an extended 45 springer ran a double leading shoe honda 160 wheel up front and a stock mechanical on the back. i stuffed it halfway through the side of a pinto or was it a vega ? damn drugs...........
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:26 PM   #19
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

First custom bike I remember seeing with a disc brake was a Matchless that belonged to a guy I knew. It was a rigid, custom, all molded and painted a light purple, with lotsa chrome, small tank, etc. The guy used a 750 Honda disc and caliper on the back, running off the Honda handlebar master cylinder. No brake pedal. No front brake either. I remember thinking it was cool as hell. This would have been around 1970.
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:10 AM   #20
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Default Re: Disc brakes on choppers pre '72

I've got a dual disc Hurst Airheart setup on my current project, with the 150 series calipers. Not expecting it to do a great deal, but should be better than a mini drum.



PM has recently brought out a vintage looking caliper for front discs. I'm planning to run this on a mid star hub with disc adaptor on another project, should provide decent stopping power.

http://www.performancemachine.com/mo...n-caliper.aspx

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