21 October 2016

HP-Turbo: A "Lost" Brake From Weinmann?

If you bought a new ten-speed bike of better-than-marginal quality during the '70's Bike Boom, there's a good chance that it came with Weinmann brakes and/or rims.

Most made-in-Chicago Schwinn bikes had one or both until about the mid-1980s.  So did many European bikes, if they didn't have Mafac brakes or Rigida rims.

Nobody ever got really excited about most Weinmann products:  They weren't flashy, but they usually did their jobs and their prices were reasonable.  The best example of this was their "Vainqueur" center-pull brake, which came on everything from the Schwinn Paramount (the touring model) and Raleigh International to the Schwinn Continental and Raleigh Grand Prix.  It was even found on some bikes from French constructeurs and English bespoke builders, who would attach the brakes to brazed-on bosses.

Probably the one product the company produced that was noticeably different from its competitors was their concave rim.  Its unique shape was said to give it superior strength to other rims.  I don't know whether the shape had anything to do with it, but I know (because I used to commute on a pair) it was strong--and noticeably heavier than other alloy rims.

In the late 1970s, Weinmann tried to modernize its offerings.  That is when they brought out the concave rim.  Around that time, they also introduced their "Carrera" brake, meant to compete with Campagnolo.  The quality was excellent and the finish beautiful.  However, it lacked the flats on the center bolt that allowed the brakes to be centered with a hub cone wrench (a nice Campy feature adopted by other brake-makers). Their quick-release device, apart from its finish, was no different from the one on the less expensive models. It had only "open" and "closed" position, while Campy's could be opened or closed partway to allow for wheels that developed wobbles.  

Another attempt to appeal to appeal to the ultra-high-performance (or simply rich and fashionable) market resulted in their version of the "Delta" brake--which, as "Retrogrouch" and others have suggested, may have been made for them by Modolo.  I never used Weinmann's or Campagnolo's Delta brakes, so I won't argue about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, some users claimed. There is no denying, however, that Campy's version may well be the most beautiful brake ever made.  Weinmann's had a more high-tech (for the time, anyway) look, and was available in black as well as silver.

A few years later, Weinmann came up with another interesting and unique brake:

The HP-Turbo was introduced in 1984.   I could find little information about it (I discovered it in an eBay listing), so I don't know how long it was produced.  I also couldn't find testimony from users, so I have no idea of how effective, or not, it may have been.

From what I can see, it's a centerpull brake with the straddle wire coiled around cams to which the brake shoes are attached.  I am guessing that the cams push those shoes into the rims, and that the arrangement is intended to somehow magnify braking power or modulation by increasing the mechanical advantage.

As I said, I am only guessing:  I may have been a mechanic, but I have never been a mechanical engineer.  For all I know, the brake might have been a revolutionary idea for which the cycling public wasn't ready.  Or, perhaps, some people tried it and found that it was complicated and, perhaps, the cams or other parts of the mechanism clogged with dirt or gunked up with grease. (They don't look very well-protected.)  Maybe it cost as much as a good sidepull brake, which came on about 90 percent of new bikes at that time, or cantilevers, which came on most of the rest of new bikes.   Or people thought it was just too ugly to put on their nice bikes.

Whatever its fate, I am curious about it.  


  1. Weren't the Campy Deltas known tongue in cheek as not really brakes but "speed modulators". The Weinmann brake may have indeed been very good but I think you're on the right track when you suggest it died of homliness.

  2. You're making me miss Mafac brakes...

  3. Huh, I've never seen the Turbos before. Those look clunky, like something you'd see on a BMX or mtn bike.

    The Weinmann vainqueurs are such good, no-nonsense brakes. Also, I like how I can take a set that appears to be hopelessly crudded-up and within a half hour can have a mirror shine on 'em and with new pads they will work as good as new. And as common as they were, they're still pretty inexpensive to buy and easy to find.


  4. Phillip--"Speed modulators." Yes, I've heard that. In fact, Campagnolo said as much about their brakes--and not just the Deltas.

    Steve--They were probably the best brakes available in their time. Nothing wrong with them. All they need are modern cables and pads.

    Wolf--What I just told Steve about Mafacs also applies to Weinmann centerpulls. I tell people that if they get an old bike with Weinmanns (or Mafacs), keep them: modern brakes aren't more effective at stopping.

  5. I recall the Weinmann brakes. This brings back fond memories from the time I had begun riding. I started out pedalling a Ross Eurosport and noticed the cooler bikes a notch or so up had Weinmann brakes. I recall the concave rims too. I guess they were the antithesis of the later aero rims.

  6. Carl--Ah, yes, Ross Eurosport. As I recall, it had a faux-lugged frame, ashtabula cranks and Shimano Lark or Eagle derailleurs. The first shop in which I worked sold them.

    Funny that you say that concave rims were the antithesis of aero rims. Visually, they are. And it seems that Weinmann stopped making concave rims right around the time aero rims came out!

  7. The main problem I remember form the Weinmann concaves was that on a wet day, the rain would pool up in the rim and penetrate the spoke holes and generally making a nuisance of itself. You'd always have a small pool of filthy black water sitting there.
    Much celebration greeted the arrival of my first pair of grey anodised Mavic MA40s.

  8. Dan--I had similar experiences with the Weinmann concave rim. It was strong, yes. But for most people, and for anything besides an around-the-world tour with full camping equipment, the MA40s are strong enough, and a good deal lighter. And, as you say, concave rims collect water and dirt. That is more than a cosmetic issue: It could actually lead to corrosion around the eyelets and inside spoke nipples.