Restoring Brake Hoods
Better to have worn and even crumbling old brake hoods than none at all, is my opinion. Sometimes you come across bikes advertised as “restored” only to notice that the brake hoods are missing. Bare metal lever bodies are ugly and detract from the aesthetic of a vintage bike, regardless of the brand of that may be installed. There is a certain ugly nakedness to them all without their hoods. Restoring brake hoods is not a hopeless task.
Mafac Racer Brake Levers
Mafac Racer brakes were the popular choice for many French bike brands in the steel bike era. Introduced in 1952, these brakes were the choice of Anquetil, Poulidor and many other famous riders. From low end bikes to competition models, Mafac’s “Racer Brakes” were the stoppers on most French road bikes sold before the 1980’s. There is a simple elegance to them, and they have a classic design that has become an icon of French cycling. They deserve their place: they work well, are easy to maintain and are virtually unbreakable. Here is a blog about adjusting them.
The brake hoods were dry and quite brittle, with a peculiar grey coating due to their age. If the hoods don’t have rips and tears, then they are definitely worth keeping. Replacing these vintage hoods can be expensive and sometimes it makes more sense to replace the levers completely. In this case, I applied coconut oil onto the hoods, gently massaging it into each hood and trying to bring them back to life.
After brushing off any excess oil with a soft cloth, the hoods immediately changed colour and looked better. However, I was aware that this improvement may not last and a few days would be needed to see if there were any lasting changes. Keeping them out of the sun, I checked them a week later and the difference was clear: the hoods had regained their original colour and looked great. Their texture was softer and more pliant, giving them a new lease of life.
Don’t Give Up On Old Brake Hoods
Unless they are perished or torn so they can’t stay in place, old brake hoods can be more resilient than they look. I don’t imagine that the oil will go rancid over time or the effect will be temporary, if another application is needed then it can be done again. Original hoods are becoming difficult to find, so any way of improving them must be a good thing. Most of all, anything is better than having bare levers ruin the look of your vintage bike!