Atom

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French Atom drum brake hub, times two, laced to vintage Mavic rims.  Two of these wheels were gathering dust in the back of Two Wheel Drive.  The bearings and brake action were smooth, and the wheels were mostly round. I repacked the hubs with fresh bearings and grease, and lightly sanded the brake shoes.  I trued and tensioned the wheels, and used one of my favorite bike tools to pull out some low spots in the rim– the Overland Rim-True Straightener formerly made in Grand Rapids, MI.

Nice hubs; in an era before disc brakes, an excellent alternative to rim brakes in rain, mud, or snow.  Geoff Apps outfitted many of his early bikes with LeLeu drum brakes.   Below, the hubshell acts as the braking surface.  Both hubs use nine 1/4″ balls per side.

Edit: Geoff Apps installed French LeLeu brakes to his early prototypes.  These brakes, unlike the offerings from Sturmey-Archer and others, featured a floating cam which powered both pads evenly.  This allowed more even braking and pad wear.  For a time, David Wrath-Sharman was manufacturing high-quality brakes with a similar design.  Read more about his hub brakes in this great interview on 63xc.com.

Also, an interesting discussion about hill-climbing bicycle geometry and some talk of hub brakes can be found in this thread.  Also featured, my new favorite fatbike which is fitted with very nice fenders and modern Sturmey-Archer hub brakes.

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The two brick colored surfaces are the brake pads, and can last for many thousand miles without service.  The brake is actuated by pulling a cable, which operates a cam and expands the brake ring outward.  The springs return the brake shoes to the rest position.  Ultimate stopping power is adequate, modulation is very good.  I sanded a light glaze off the brake pads.

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Atom, Fabrique en France.

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