I'm interested in getting an old roadster/Dutch bike and I came across a Raleigh Royal from the '80s:

Raleigh Royal roadster

I like that it has rod-actuated brakes rather than coaster brakes, but how well do rod brakes actually work?-- I've only used caliper brakes and so have no idea how they work. The bike is far away from where I live so I can't easily ask for a test ride, either.

Thanks for the help.

  • 2
    Badly. There's a reason "modern" bikes use cable operated brakes (modern meaning since at least the 1940's). Wikipedia has a tiny be about them
    – Nuі
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 23:09
  • @Nuі "Modern" bikes use hydraulic disc brakes. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:27
  • That's bizarre. It presumably is a 3-speed rear hub with no brake, and there's no other rear brake obvious. The front brake mechanism is not clear, but presumably is a hub brake (which may be "ok" or may be lousy). By 1980 most countries were requiring two sets of brakes on bicycles, so it's hard to see where/how it might have been sold. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 23:45
  • (I don't think that grip shifter looks very "authentic". I doubt that such a shifter was used in, say, 1948. But looking online I see that rod brake bike are still sold in Asia, so this may be an Asian bike.) Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 23:51
  • Looking online I see that rear rim brakes were often placed along the chain stay (which would be behind the chain guard), to there may be rear rim brakes that are reasonably effective. There's no obvious rim brake on the front -- must be in the hub. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


What you have there is a replica of a WW2-era bike. That doesn't look like a traditional rod brake (see the Wikipedia link above). It's hard to tell what's going on, but I don't see any braking mechanism at the rim. So the brake must be in the hub (the oversized hub could be holding a generator - except there's already a generator on the other side of the fork).

If the bike was made in the 1980s, they probably put in something that stops the bike effectively while still looking "vintage". This is pure speculation though.

My advice is to buy the bike if you think it looks cool (which it does). If the brakes suck, you can always replace them with something else.


At least on the bicycle in question (having now ridden it), the rod-actuated drum brakes on it could never be described as "high-performance brakes" but definitely can stop the bike within about a foot to a meter when biking at roughly 20 km/h. Fittingly, the bike is heavy --- really heavy: I'm guessing it weighs well over 20 kg. Therefore, getting it to a speed much greater than that (which could cause braking worries) takes a lot more effort than on e.g. a relatively modern road bike, and so the braking doesn't feel "inadequate" for the riding style facilitated by the bike. Even better is that the bike behaves exactly the same in the wet, which cannot be said about e.g. road bikes with caliper brakes.

  • Heavy bikes aren't necessarily bad... you'll have a hard time breaking the frame so with care and maintenance it should last many years.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:35

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