Stopping Power

The V-brakes on Swifty scooters do their job, they stop you when the lever is pulled. No fuss, nothing fancy. Yes, fine tuning their setup gets the most from them but compared to disc brakes they are somewhat lacking, a bit old school. I think there’s room for improvement.

My initial thought was to fit disc brakes but that would mean sending the frame and forks off to a frame builder to have suitable mounts welded on to both frame and forks, that is assuming the Swifty frame and forks are compatible with this idea, which I suspect they are. And also assuming I could find someone who would take on the task. Both frame and forks would also need a paint job, adding further expense and hassle. A complete set of brakes, new disc-compatible wheels hubs would also be required as well as two wheel builds. I suspect it would all cost more than the original price of the scooter itself and doing both the Swifty Zero and Swifty Air would be, well, a fortune.

My next thoughts turned to a fine bicycle I had back in the early 90’s, a Cannondale M800 “Beast of the East” mountain bike which came fitted with Magura hydraulic rim brakes. Incidentally it was yellow, the same colour as my Swifty Zero. My recollection from back in those days was that Maguras could stop you in a six pence which was pretty amazing. I even remember cycling down a stream bed and the brakes still worked. (This was in the days before disc brakes were common place on bicycles).

A few hours spend on the Internet came up with the ideal product, Magura HS33 rim brakes. Two sets were bought, for front and rear, along with a bleed kit, spare hydraulic fluid with the grand name of Royal Blood and a few spare small parts. Total cost around £130.00 (other cheaper versions are also available). The brakes actually come fully assembled, filled with fluid and only need installed to be ready for use but I would need to shorten the hydraulic hoses for use on the Swifty and needed a few spares. Next came installation.

With the supplied instructions somewhat lacking, I spent some time on the Internet looking at instructional videos, how to install and adjust the brakes, how to shorten the hoses and finally how to fill and bleed the brakes. Other than the bleed kit mentioned above, no other special tools were required, I had everything I needed in the tool box.

Installation was fairly straight forward. First task was to remove the existing V-brakes, bag them and store away for possible future use. Next, I drained the fluid from the brake hoses and disconnected them at one end. I needed to do this to thread the rear hose through the Swifty frame, shorten both hoses and also slightly shorten the rear hose loop as it was getting in the way of the footplate and at rish of being damaged.

The most difficult part was fishing the rear hose through the scooter frame. I initially tried using a draw wire but with the stiffness of the hose that just didn’t work. The solution was to feed the hose from the bottom and catch the end in a loop of wire made from an old brake cable inner wire.

Another issue – no easy project this – was that the brake levers were so far inwards on the handlebars that they were sitting at an odd angle, resulting in the lever not being parallel with the grips. They looked odd and were uncomfortable to use. My options were either to fit shorter grips or use a longer handlebar. As I had spare handebars available for previous bicycle builds, the latter was ideal. I had one 40 mm longer and it worked a treat. Only issue was that it was matt black rather than the polished finish on the original bars. However, I’m planning some custom paintwork in the future, so no worries.

After installing the brakes themselves, I filled the brakes with “Royal Blood” brake fluid (love that name!) and bled them, then aligned and adjusted the pads to the correct distance from the rim, all as shown in the online videos. After a final check that all bolts were at the correct torque settings, it was off along the street for a test scoot.

The verdict. Well, I would say they are better than the V-brakes and you can easily lock the rear wheel if you pull the brake lever hard. With normal gentle braking, they are much the same as V-brakes. But are they worth the cost and bother of installing them? To be honest, I’m undecided and will give them a longer test before coming to a final verdict. I want to compare them to the V-brakes on the Swifty Air for a while. More to follow in due course.

Copyright ©2018 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.