Fred Flinstone brakes

Yabba Dabba Do!

Good working brakes are a must on a tadpole trike. We laugh at ol’ Fred Flintstone and his braking system, but don’t ever try this on a tadpole trike. In doing so you are asking for “leg suck” to occur and that isn’t a laughing matter.

Most trikes have disc brakes.  disc brake on tadpole trike

A few have drum brakes. drum brake on tadpole trike

And fewer still have caliper type brakes. caliper brake on tadpole trike

To the best of my knowledge caliper brakes are only found on homemade trikes. I don’t think any manufacturer of trikes use them other than for a parking brake on the rear wheel. When I made my first tadpole trike I used brakes like this. They were lousy when it came to braking power. Panic stops were an impossibility. I would advise anyone building a tadpole trike to stay away from this sort of brake. (Your life may depend upon it!)

If you insist on caliper brakes at least use the newer cantilever type as they work much better. caliper Cantilever brake

Disc brakes are most commonly used for a good reason. Quite simply — they work the best! Disc brakes have replaceable pads which eventually wear and need to be replaced. Proper adjustment of disc brakes is essential for them to work effectively and provide optimal stopping power. Being exposed to the elements they are susceptible to various things such as getting foreign matter on them, getting damaged (usually bent rotor discs), getting wet from rain, snow or mud. So they need to be kept clean and if damaged repaired or replaced if repair isn’t possible. For bent rotor discs they make tools to use to straighten them. Of course, if they are bent too much they need to be replaced. Of course, in using the tools to straighten a bent rotor the person doing it needs to be knowledgeable and skilled or they would probably just make things worse.

rotor toolrotor tool in use rotor tool in use 2 rotor tools

Drum brakes have been around for a long time and it is hard to fault them. They have some distinct advantages over disc brakes. They don’t provide as much stopping power as disc brakes but they are nearly trouble and maintenance free in comparison. In short, they simply work! They don’t do very well when going down a mountainside road as they overheat badly and fade out so if that is the kind of riding you do you should stay away from them unless you want to try flying on a tadpole trike (flying off the edge of a cliff that is). The landing would be the worst part of the experience.

I previously mentioned disc brakes being properly set up so I thought I would touch on this before ending this article. There are two types of bicycle disc brakes. One has a fixed (non-adjustable) side. The other one has both sides adjustable. The one with both sides adjustable is far better. The most popular and no doubt the best of the brands is Avid. Their single side adjustment brake is the BB5. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy as I think they are junk in comparison to their other model. My trike came with BB5 brakes and I had nothing but trouble with them almost on a daily basis as they would not stay adjusted. Their other model with both sides adjustable is the BB7. I really like it. I spent the money and changed out my brakes upgrading to the BB7s. I am so glad I did. I complained to Catrike about the BB5s, but it fell on deaf ears. I shared that if you look up Avid BB5 brakes in a search engine mostly what you will find is many thousands of user complaints about them … not staying in adjustment. Catrike was very defensive when I wrote them about this matter but later they started using the BB7s only on their trikes. Anyway, I am glad they finally did this as there is a world of difference. Now with the BB7s I rarely have to do any adjusting of the brakes.

I never had any exposure to and experience with bicycle disc brakes until I bought my Catrike Trail. So I had to learn about them and how to work on them (adjust them and replace parts on them). One would think that ideally the rotor should be centered in the caliper. Much to my surprise Avid say the BB7 should be set up off center in the caliper. This is brought out in the first video below. On the BB5s I found that I had to set it up with the rotor off center toward the non-adjustable side with only a small gap of space in between. I usually used a common “business card” to space the rotor away from the non-adjustable brake pad. Then I would adjust the other brake pad over within the same space using the business card so that when the brakes were applied the rotor would not be pushed way over sideways as would happen if the rotor was simply centered in the caliper. As long as there is no rubbing occurring with the BB5s adjusted this way I describe I found this worked the best. The problem is no matter how they are adjusted they won’t stay in adjustment. It was maddening and frustrating dealing with them.

Here is a video illustrating how to go about adjusting the Avid BB7 disc brake:

This next video covers several different aspects of disc brakes. It most concerns eliminating rubbing sounds being emitted from the disc brake.

And here is a video illustrating how to replace the brake pads in an Avid BB7 disc brake:

Keep disc brakes clean and oil free. If you should get oil or grease on the rotor and it gets onto the disc brake pads you can be sure the only cure for the pads is to replace them as once they get oil on them they are pretty much ruined. The metal parts can be cleaned using a solvent such as alcohol. (Be careful using solvents around plastic as plastic can be destroyed by some solvents.) I have tried cleaning disc brake pads which had oil on them using solvents and even “baking” it out of them. It didn’t work. I ended up replacing them.

I have only covered mechanical disc brakes. There are also hydraulic disc brakes. I have never had them nor never worked on them so I am not going to attempt covering them here. They are far less common on tadpole trikes but they are installed on some.

Having good properly working brakes on your tadpole trike will help you to …


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