Back around the summer of 2008, rumors began circulating that production of the Arai drum brakes was being discontinued. We’d actually heard about this back in March 2008 from a very reliable source and, in fact, the last production lot had already been run and whatever builders and dealers had in inventory was pretty much what there was.
However, we also learned at the same time (March ’08) a replacement was being developed that would address future requirements for a drum type tandem brake. Interestingly, despite all of the improvements made in rim brakes as well as in bicycle disc brakes, a drum brake remained the only supplemental brake that can do what it does so well: take a lot of heat over a prolonged period of time to slow the descending speed of heavy bikes and tandems.
In January 2009, one of our BikeForum brothers started a thread wherein he provided some hard evidence regarding the end of the Arai product line vis-a-via an Email from QPB, wherein they stated:
XXXX, We do not have the rights to the Arai name. At this time we have discontinued their products. Arai has ceased production and is no longer in business. Unfortunately I have no contact information for this manufacturer or any new manufacturer that has taken on this type of product to help in your situation.Thanks for your inquiry.
XXXXCustomer Service Agent
Quality Bicycle Products
Well, during a recent discussion thread on Tandem@Hobbes regarding drum brakes, Tom Maddock of Maddock Machine in Leaburg, Oregon (located just east of Eugene) signed-on with some information on the new brake:
Hello All Yes its true, that rumor about a new drum brake being developed. The cat was released out of the bag in May by Mr. Shepard. Mr. Mel Kornbluh showed a prototype at his Tandem Expo this year. The brake will soon be undergoing testing on a torture fixture in my shop. Based upon the results of that testing, I will be making a small number of brakes to loan out to teams for product testing and evaluation. After that T&E the first production run will be made. Regards, Tom Maddock Maddock Machine
I contacted Mr. Maddock and asked if he would be willing to share a photo of the working prototype, which he was kind enough to do. Moreover, he also gave me permission to share the photo with my readers, so here it is:
Yes, it looks very much like an Arai drum brake that has had its cooling fins machined off, similar to the ones modified and sold by Tandems East for many, many years. However, closer inspection does seem to reveal a little more meat with some surface texture that may help with heat dissipation. Again, the brake is about to undergo torture tested in December. Mr. Maddock is presently collecting first hand reports of Arai drum failures, presumably so he can develop test cases and points that replicate some of the conditions that existed when tandem teams experienced partial or total brake fade and/or failure of their Arai drums. We knew of a few first hand reports and passed along links to the postings that described the conditions. Hopefully, any of our readers who might have an Arai drum failure story will also share that with Mr. Maddock: firstname.lastname@example.org