Brake Arcing Service by Race Tech

| 4/11/2017 12:00:00 AM

Race Tech’s proprietary tool in place to machine the 1973 BMW R75/5 front drum. Photo courtesy Race Tech

Race Tech brake arcing service

After reading my vent a few issues back about the poor front brake performance on my 1973 BMW R75/5, vintage suspension specialist Matt Wiley at Race Tech contacted me, asking if I knew about Race Tech’s brake arcing service for drum brakes. Briefly, brake arcing  involves machining the brake drum so that it’s perfectly round, then matching the brake shoes to the drum for optimum contact. Back when drum brakes were the norm, brake arcing was common, but with the advent of disc brakes it’s become an increasingly rare and specialized service. After talking with Matt, I decided to test the concept.

Before sending my wheel off for service, I checked it against Race Tech’s requirements. First up was inspecting for any loose spokes; they must be properly tensioned and the wheel must run straight and true. Re-tensioning the wheel after machining runs the risk of pulling the drum out of shape, negating any improvements. Next was thoroughly cleaning the brake backing plate before installing new shoes (you can use your old ones if they’re good, but why would you?) and making sure the brake cams were properly lubed. Following that I inspected both wheel bearings (if they’re old or suspect, replace them), then I confirmed the wheel axle was straight before shipping the wheel — complete with brake backing plate and axle — to Race Tech in Corona, California.

Black lines act as cutting guide; when they’re gone, the drum’s done. Photo courtesy Race Tech

Getting true

At Race Tech, the wheel is set in a work stand supported by its axle. The inside face of the drum is then marked with black squiggly lines. Next, a specially made cutting tool designed by Race Tech founder Paul Thede is centered on the wheel axle. An air-powered rotary cutting head attached to the tool is adjusted to just touch the drum face. As the cutting head spins, the tool slowly revolves around the drum, the cutter removing metal as it does. The black squiggles act as a guide, showing high spots as material is removed; wherever black still shows, the drum hasn’t been cut. This is done in multiple passes, the cutter removing as little material as possible with each pass until a clean surface remains.

9/3/2020 10:02:33 AM

There is more braking power in your drum brake than you know. I figured this out on an R5 Yamaha just as discs were becoming common. I would suggest that M/C Classics give this a try and report to their followers. Grind the center one third of the lining down to eliminate contact with the drum. This leaves a pad fore and aft on the shoe. This evidently creates a wedging effect when forced into the drum, or at least that was my theory. Brakes do not need a huge pad area as discs show us and I learned with my AJS. Just getting out of a RH cast and too weak to stop the R5, I was able to safely ride again with this modification. Currently I have substantially improved the front brake on my Nighthawk 250 this way.

9/3/2020 8:38:35 AM

Skill is in turning the shoes when they are partly on, not when they are sitting back off the cam. And the forks were made to work with 3 wt fluid, not 15, so you are getter getting the correct springs than jamming the forks solid with oil. The secret to getting drums really working is to let the shoes, or backing plate,, float so the whole shoe is in contact with the drum, not just the end furthest from the pivot

9/3/2020 8:13:18 AM

What is the thinking behind the article's recommended rear shoe / front shoe bias for setup? In all types of twin shoe brakes (single leading shoe, double leading shoe, four leading shoe, - even SIX leading shoe in some very exotic racing brakes) optimal performance is found with ALL shoes synchronized as closely as possible to engage evenly.

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