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I have a Gazelle city bike that has a badly braking front brake. It's a drum brake as depicted here and here.

When I squeeze the brake levers fully it doesn't touch the handlebar, so that's not the bottleneck.

How can I improve the braking power of such a drum brake?

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One thing to check is the angle at which the cable approaches the lever on the hub. It should be as close to 90 degrees as possible, at the point where the cable has been pulled as tight as possible. This gives you the best leverage. If that isn't the problem, and the brake is not simply worn out or in need of internal service, you need a different lever on the handlebar. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 20 at 12:47

As bicycle mechanic in the Netherlands, I see a lot of these brakes. The drum shoes can become harder due to wear or age or something. They can also become a bit uneven.

  1. Remove the brake
  2. Use a good metal file to remove a very thin piece of the drum shoe
  3. Make sure the entire drum shoe has a 'new' surface, and make sure this surface is even
  4. Clean the drum with brake-cleaner or some other de-greasing stuff
  5. Re-assemble and enjoy your quality retro bike

If the drum is to worn out, you can easily replace it.

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This is just like an automobile brake and would be fixed using the same techniques.

First make sure the lever is moving freely, and is not "bottoming out" due to the cable being too tight. (To adjust the brake you do not tighten the cable but rather adjust the eccentric that is opposite the lever pivot. Then adjust the cable to match.)

Lubricate the pivot lightly, but do not get any lubricant on the drum or shoes. If need be, wash off any oil or grease on the drum/shoes and wipe with a naptha-moistened cloth, then sand the shoes lightly to remove any glaze.

Examine the shoes to make sure they are not worn out, and examine the drum for serious scoring.

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