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Rear Hub Brake
 
This was the real Achilles heel of the bike. This is not really a major problem unless you want to keep your tandem original, because you can substitute the wheel for one with a modern tandem hub/brake unit. It may well have been replaced already on your tandem. if not here's what you can do.

Hub details
 Originally fitted was an "Atom" hub with integral drum brake. This hub was designed for a light moped (the Mobylette I believe) and it is possible that parts are still available in France via their enthusiastic owners club. I have just heard that there is a moped spares supplier that is holding stocks of spares for the Atom Hub. He is Barry Ward of Wednesbury West Midlands emailbwace@msn.com
 

What to do
 
The axle/spindle originally fitted was too thin and bent or even broke. Even if it only bent, this put the bearings out of adjustement and readjusting the bearings is a long and tedious procedure, involving disconnecting the drum brake cable unbolting the wheel removing the brake assembly and adjusting the cones. It is many a time I have had to do this on the road when carrying panniers and/or a child on a child seat. In the early 80's a thicker 12mm axle was used and early hubs could be upgraded to use this item by drilling out the brake unit to accept the thicker axle. This was better but still bent under load and the bearings alwas seemed to be a bit loose! Recently I have been able to fix this problem by using a hardened steel axle from SJS Cycles in Bridgwater England. I also bought a standard 10mm mountain bike rear axle and cone set from a local bike shop and used the cones and locknuts from that and the hub has given no problems since. This axle is nice and long so you can upgrade to a 7 speed freewheel if you wish (you will need to widen the rear droputs though see the section on gears) However I must confess to retiring mine recently as I was offered a new old stock tandem wheel with screw-on hub brake for a very good price.

The hub brake was also quite ineffective for 28 of the 29 years I owned the bike. However, I latterly cleaned and degreased the brake drum and roughed it up with sandpaper and did the same with the shoes (wear a mask please, because the linings may contain asbestos which is injurious to health). Since then it has been much better. If you need to replace the shoes, the UK Tandem Club can direct you to a supplier that can reline them for you.

The other problem with the rear hub is that it is designed for screw-on freewheels. These are still available, but only use the highest quality freewheels as the cheap ones will fail! I have found Shimano Megarange freewheels to be OK so far, but I have a had a cheaper Shimano fail after a couple of rides.

Unless you are very keen to maintain originality, I would advise you to fit a modern tandem hub with freehub. This will make upgrading gears much easier too. You will need to cold set the rear dropouts to be wide enough for your selected hub (usually 140 or 145mm). How to do this is detailed on Sheldon Brown's website and the procedure described does work. I have now done 5 bikes successfully.see
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-spacing.html

The Shimano XT tandem hub (8/9 speed 145mm OLN) is ideal and is threaded for a screw-on drum brake, like the Araya this is a fantastically efficient brake but has recently gone out of production. However they still come up occasionally on ebay (get one if you see one!). Don't worry about the brake linings wearing out by the way as they are reputed to last for about 40,000 miles and can be relined anyway!
I have recently fitted a Sturmey Archer XRD-C rear hub to one of our tandems, this is a more modern version of the Atom hub. It has a built in drum brake and a freehub to fit a modern 8 or 9 speed cassette or a 7 speed cassette with a spacer. It fits the existing brake mounting fine, but you may need to cold set the rear dropouts slighty to 130mm. The reaction arm (just) fits to the braze-on fitting of the frame without modification. It seems to be a high quality product with smooth running cassette bearings. Other people have used them on tandems without problems. We have usded ours off road for a year and had no problems, so its seems to be up to the job.

You might be thinking about upgrading to disc brake, like many modern tandems. If you do this, you will need a suitable hub and you will need to get a framebuilder to braze on the mountings for the disc brake, which will require repainting of the frame. However if you are getting the frame refinished anyway, it would be worth considering as the screw on hub brake is no longer made. There are no disc brakes designed for tandems at the moment and there is the risk of the pads overheating on long descents , but some tandemists are using heavy duty down hill mountain bike disks. You can convert your screw on hub brake hub to disk using
this gizmo from DT Swiss for about £20 available from SJS Cycles SJS Cycles Part Number: 12727