Its funny how I read and hear about Rod Brakes, or what some call, roller brakes. For the most part, its all bad news.
Rod Brakes scare most mechanics. They don't understand them. They say they do, but if they cant adjust them to work, they don't.
The brake is simple. Its multi pivots and binder bolts confuse the best Wrench. They for the most part, don't know where to start.
Let me first say, Adjusted correctly with fresh pads, Rod Brakes work great. I have used them in the Berkshires, Green Mountains and in the Whites. Hurricane Mountain Road comes to mind. A hill so steep its scares the rider of any style braking system.
The first thing to understand is that most Rod Brake bikes were never set up correctly to begin with.
Out of the box, they were never right and when delivered to the customer, they were never adjusted. Figure you have only ridden rod brakes that were not set up correctly if you don't think they will ever work safely.
The quick fix is to raise the Handle Bars. About 1/4 inch will suffice. This by design of the brakes will move the pads closer to the front and rear rim at the same time.
Next, make sure the pads are hitting the rim correctly, Out of line brake pads wont stop the bike, so loosen the holder and with a rosin or rubber mallet, knock them into line.
The most important thing about Rod Brake Adjustment is Brake Lever Throw. If you don't have enough throw, you wont have enough leverage. To adjust this, its time to do some metal bending.
Hold the lever at the out most boss, or handle bar mounting. Be careful not to allow the boss to be used as a bending point or else you could strip it from the bar and then its all over.
Hold the bar and lever and bend down on the lever. Its soft enough that over time, you will need to do this again. The bend for most unadjusted rod brake levers will be about 1".
Proper adjusted rod brakes will have the bike stopping safely. It take a little time for the pad and rim to adjust, but over time ,they will smooth out and cause less front end shutter. Remember, wet steel rims need to be warmed and wiped before sure stopping. In the rain. I like to ride with the brakes on every once in a while.
The DL 1 is my bike of choice for deep snow, winter commuting. Big wheels and just the right tire cross section are perfect and with these simple tips about adjusting rod brakes, will have you stopping as well as any cable style system.