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Adjusting the Retro Hydraulic Brakes

As this is being written (September 2004), the rear and sidecar brakes on the Retro Sidecar model are hydraulic drum brakes and the front brake is hydraulic disk. With time, changes may be made to the braking system that may incorporate improvements or design changes.


The rear brakes on the Retro cannot be adjusted at the master cylinder without inviting lockups - just like a car. For some reason, the brake shoe wear adjusters were omitted on this model.

I have worked around this with the following procedure. This is NOT an official factory process so use it with caution.

The first step was to accurately determine the point at which the pressure release hole was uncovered in the master cylinder. I did this with the following procedure:

1. Had the wrench that adjusts the master cylinder play ready.

2. Deliberately adjusted the master cylinder up (by degrees),

3. Drove a short bit with stop/go usage and checking the brake until it did start to drag when hot. (I made sure it did NOT get way hot, just enough for it to start dragging.)

4. At the point where it was dragging, I pulled into a lot and shut it down, in neutral. I could feel the bike drag when I pushed it back and forth. I loosened the master cylinder adjustment until the bike's wheel suddenly broke free - the hole was uncovered! Then I turned it about 1/8 turn more just to be sure.

I never had a recurrence of rear brake drag since then, it's been 5000 km including Blue Ridge Parkway use.

Now, as to the pedal height - Since the wear adjusters are missing, the only method left is to tighten the emergency brake cable. It ultimately pulls on the same mechanism the shoe adjusters would use, and as the shoes have seated in I have tightened the cable at the central nut on the emergency brake handle. So far, brake shoe wear between sidecar and bike is balanced enough that this can be done without either wheel dragging with the emergency brake off. If the wear on one side should start to gain, I will either look at a way of tightening one side more, or, more likely, just trade the shoes from bike to hack.

With the above methods I have a somewhat better and firmer pedal on the Retro with its hydraulic brakes than I do on the Tourist, which has cable drum brakes on all three wheels.

Vance Blosser

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