It is almost two years since I got the front hub I am currently using on the DL-1. In that time, it has been built into two different sizes of wheel and used on two different bikes (originally bought for use on the Kona Africa Bike) and probably done around 5,000 km in all weather. In all that time, I never actually got around to exchanging the V-brake lever I had been using it with for the proper type of lever (a cantilever-type one), until now.
I found a pair of Sturmey Archer drum brake levers on eBay for a decent price, so I decided I would indulge myself with some improved braking performance. The new levers improve the modulation of braking, whilst allowing very strong braking to be performed without extremely hard pulling of the lever. The only reason I put up with the wrong type of lever for so long is that I have relatively strong hands, so I was still able to get the braking power I needed just by squeezing extra hard. The new levers male hard braking much easier, whilst giving a slight performance boost over the old ones. They are also fairly aesthetically appealing, and I would recommend them to anyone with drum, roller, caliper or cantilever brakes.
The only problem with the new levers was that I found the front drum started to lock-on after very hard braking. After first checking that cable-freeze wasn’t the cause of the problem, I decided that I should take a look inside the front drum. Sturmey Archer drum brakes are mechanically very simple and easy to work on (although they generally require little in the way of maintenance). Disassembly is straightforward:
Brake mechanism slides out from drum
Brake mechanism (top)
Brake mechanism (underside), showing the brake shoes
After cleaning the brake dust from inside the drum and re-assembling it all, I took the bike out for a test ride. The front brake is as powerful as it ever was after almost two years of heavy use and no-longer locks-on after very hard braking. This is the only maintenance (or real cleaning) I have done to it in that whole time. I feel that it is a real shame that drum brakes are not more popular, especially when I think back to all the time I’ve spent adjusting and maintaining other types of bicycle brakes during the time I have been using this one, both on my own bikes and those of friends and family.