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I am getting tired of my Mafac Racers on my old Peugeot UO-8 and am looking for a modern side pull style brake upgrade. Are there any brakes that are good conversions to replace Mafacs? Anything I should be aware of before I buy something?

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  • Well, on an old french bike, the brakes aren't the first thing I'd look at-- it would be the stem, since some are notorious for failing. Why do you want ot replace the mafacs?
    – Batman
    Feb 6 '17 at 20:28
  • The bike is in great condition overall, and there's really nothing wrong with the brakes other than me just wanting more mechanical advantage that the side pull brakes offer. Although I am intrigued about stem failures. What about the stem fails? @Batman
    – lulubelle
    Feb 6 '17 at 20:36
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    A lot of bikes from that era had AVA/ATAX/possibly other stems which were prone to cracking (which leads to failure, which is not good). I don't know if the UO-8 was ever sold with such a stem. Have you tried playing with the transverse cable?
    – Batman
    Feb 6 '17 at 23:51
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    What don't you like about the Mafac Racer brakes? My experience is that they perform very well, last long, and are pretty lightweight. You should use modern brake pads though (Koolstop has some that fit in the original pad holders, but you can also fit other canti pads). Centerpull brakes such as the Mafac ones have one advantage compared with long reach sidepulls: The pivots are closer to the brake pads, and therefore the most important section of the arms is much stiffer.
    – bhell
    Feb 8 '17 at 18:47
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    Be aware that some MAFACs are not bolted to the frame or fork by a central bolt but use a proprietary method, rather like direct mount.
    – Carel
    Feb 9 '17 at 13:09
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I have a 1975 Peugeot UO18 that I turned into a commuter. I replaced the wheels with 700c contemporaries. The UO18 is the mixte version of your UO8 road bike, so almost all the components are almost the same.

Like you, I found that the original Mafacs sucked so I replaced them with Tektro R559 Long Reach Brakes. These had the requisite 55-73mm reach that I needed to fit my smaller 700c wheels. You'll find that the main issue is that most contemporary road brakes don't have the right amount of reach so it's very slim pickings.

A note about reach (from the comments): With my 700c wheels, I'm near the limit of 73mm required reach in the front and 70mm at the rear. With 27" you should be in the middle as the 700c is 8mm smaller than 27". You can measure your current reach quite easily with a ruler. I tossed my mafacs so can't help sorry.

tektro r559

I am using them with the original brake levers. I really should get contemporary levers but right now I can't ride this bike so it's in storage.

PS: please, please do change the stem on your bike if you have a one piece aluminum one. They are known to snap with horrible consequences.

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  • Do you know what range of reach I would be looking at for 27" wheels? I have not upgraded to 700c (but I know I should). And thanks for the picture! I noticed that the brake pads can be shifted up and down.. would this also work for my wheels I have now?
    – lulubelle
    Feb 7 '17 at 3:27
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    For 700c, I'm near the limit of 73mm required reach in the front and 70mm at the rear. With 27" you should be in the middle as the 700c is 8mm smaller than 27". You can measure your current reach quite easily with a ruler. I tossed my mafacs so can't help sorry.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 7 '17 at 3:28
  • No worries! They will probably work! And I just checked my stem and noticed that they are in fact ATAX. Yikes! Thanks for the warning! What stem would you recommend getting that will replace mine? I'm going to replace it immediately as I ride this bike every day.
    – lulubelle
    Feb 7 '17 at 3:32
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    That's a separate question! French stems are sized weird.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 7 '17 at 3:33

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