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Mafac Models: Racer | Competition | GT


Mafac Brake parts from Harris Cyclery

Note: We no longer have any Mafac parts. This page is for reference only.

We love old French bicycles,

but it can be hard to find parts for those built to older French standards and dimensions.
We stock repair parts to help keep yours on the road.

Mafac centerpulls were widely considered the finest brakes available from the 1950's through the late 1960s, when Campagnolo started making brakes. Probably more Tours de France have been won by bicycles using Mafac brakes than any other brand, except Campagnolo.

Many cyclists and collectors who came of age after Mafac's glory days sneer at these brakes, because they mainly associate them with low-end bike-boom 10 speeds, but they are wrong to do so.

Mafac brakes are light and powerful, reliable and effective. The worst thing that you can say about them is that they are prone to squealing.

The most common model, the Racer, features adjustable mechanical advantage. By varying the length of the transverse cable you can fine tune the mechanical advantage to provide the desired power/feel with whatever type of levers you are using. These brakes are found on a very wide variety of older French bicycles; I would divide these into two classes:

  • Collectors items, suitable for restoration.

  • There are also a lot of other older bikes that are just nice old bikes for riding. While many of the parts on older French bikes may be obsolete by modern standards, the frames often have very pleasant riding qualities.

    Some riders may wish to upgrade them with more modern shifting systems and other parts. Others may want to convert them to fixed-gear use, or just to use them as "beaters."

    I get a lot of inquiries from people with such bikes wishing to "upgrade" the brakes to something more modern. My general advice in such cases is to keep the Mafac (or Weinmann, or Universal) centerpull calipers, but to upgrade the rest of the braking system:

    • The calipers should be lubricated, either by oiling the moving parts, or disassembling and greasing them. Lubrication points include the pivots, the spring coils, the places where the spring ends press against other brake parts, and the points where the transverse cable attaches to the brake arms.

    • Modern cables and modern lined cable housing can go a long way to reduce the internal friction, and generally improve the braking. See my article on Cables for tips on cable installation and optimization.

    • Modern brake shoes will offer considerably better braking performance. I particularly recommend the Kool Stop brake shoes in the "salmon" colored model.

    • Modern "æro"-style brake levers. Æro levers are generally an improvement over the older type. They have a bit more mechanical advantage, and the pivots are located differently, making it possible to get fairly serious braking from the position where the rider's hand is on top of the lever hood. Non-æro levers normally permit the use of this position for gentle deceleration only.

Bicycles that originally came with Mafac or other centerpull calipers normally have considerably more tire clearance than newer high performance bicycles.

While this is a Good Thing in general, since it permits a wider choice of tires and the option of using fenders even with fairly wide tires, it makes them incompatible with newer brake calipers. Newer calipers don't usually have long enough arms to reach the rims. This is particularly an issue as many of these older bikes were originally fitted with 630 mm (27 inch) wheels, but have been upgraded to 622 mm (700 C) wheels which put the rim 4 mm farther from the brake mounting hole.

This is not really a problem, however, because Mafac calipers provide as good braking performance as anything made today, once the rest of the braking system has been brought up to date.


Mafac Models: Racer | Competition | GT


The Mafac "Racer"

The "Racer" is by far the most common Mafac model. image

Note: We no longer have any Mafac parts.
This page is for reference only.

MAF-53Arm boltN/AHolds the arm to the bridge
MAF-53ANylon washerN/ABlack
MAF-61EYokeN/AComplete with anchor bolt, nut & washer.
MAF-64Brake pad
N/AMafac "Patins a Ventouses" ("suction-cup pads")
The genuine article. Just the rubber refills, not the metal holders.
Mainly recommended for restorations...if you're more concerned with performance than with "authenticity", use Kool Stop Eagle 2 pads.

It is also possible to re-fill the Mafac holders with the Kool Stop Campagnolo refills, but they're a bit longer so they'll hang out the back end, unless you trim them down.

Brake pad
25% longer tandem version (5 bumps instead of 4).
Anchor Bolt
N/AAnchor bolt, nut & washer for transverse cable.
MAF-455NNylon bushingN/ABlack
MAF-456EEye-bolt assembly
N/AHolds brake shoe to arm. Includes 2 special washers, nut.
MAF-457Return springN/A
MAF-469Transverse cableN/A
You might as well use a shift cable for this.
MAF-491EFront Center bolt assemblyN/AIncludes radiussed washer, nut.
MAF-493ERear Center bolt assemblyN/AIncludes radiussed washers, nut.
MAF-499Rear Housing StopN/AAttaches to seatpost bolt.
MAF-1463/64Brake shoe completeN/A
4-bump shoe in holder.
MAF-663-664Tandem brake shoe completeN/A
5-bump shoe in holder.
MAF-LeverBrake Lever N/A
Brake Levers WITHOUT Hoods
MAF-HoodBrake Lever Rubber HoodN/A
Brake Lever Hoods with adjusting barrels.


The Mafac "Compétition"

The "Compétition" is a later Mafac model


MAF-4069 Compétition Transverse cable Gone forever, sorry! Don't bother asking!

Most other parts for this model are interchangeable with the Racer


The Mafac "GT"

The "GT" is an even later model, with a quick release built into the caliper..


MAF-5469 GT Transverse cable

Most other parts for this model are interchangeable with the Racer


For brake parts not actually made by Mafac, see our Brakes Page

For other hard-to-find French parts, see our French Parts Page


In addition to this commercial page, we have a very useful page of technical information and tips about older French bicycles.


Articles by Sheldon Brown and others
Beginners Brakes Commuting
Fixed Gear
Frames Gears &
Tandems Touring What's
Wheels Sheldon


Web site by Sheldon Brown

Sheldon Brown's Hotlists

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