The Mafac LS series of single pivot sidepull brakes was a response to the Campagnolo sidepull and its imitators which had become serious threats to Mafac’s acknowledged status as the premier bike stoppers available. After the initial release of the Racer centerpull brake around 1950, Mafac had the dominant position in the later 50s and throughout the 1960s until Campagnolo released their Nuovo Record sidepull brakes around 1968. Much as Mafac had done through elite riders such as Jacques Anquetil and Tommy Simpson using their product in high level competition, Campagnolo’s extensive promotion of their expensive new sidepulls in competition by riders such as Eddy Merckx ensured that sidepulls, once again, returned to center stage as the fashionable style of stopper for riders of the pro peloton.
Mafac fought back, initially, with higher quality, better finished versions of the basic Racer design like the Competition and 2000. Even the use of those brakes at the highest levels, including Tour de France wins with Peugeot and Bernard Thevenet did not displace Campagnolo despite the Mafac’s superior stopping power. The only thing to do was compete directly and hence the design and marketing of the LS, the LS 2 and, ultimately, the LSX sidepull brake versions by Mafac/Spidel.
The LS version is easily identified by the black, highlighted Mafac name and LS model designation stamped into the brake arms and by the angular profile of the brake arms themselves. There are differences in cable fixing bolt design, brake arm contours,
cable adjuster location and brake guide mounting on each of the three different versions. The LS 2 is found marked either Mafac or as Spidel, the name of a short lived gruppo effort by French manufacturers to go head
to head with Shimano, Campagnolo and Suntour. The back of the brake arm on the LS 2 usually has the LS 2 designation in raised letters. The LSX can also be found branded as either Mafac or Spidel with the lettering engraved into the front of the caliper arm. One important thing for the purposes of upgrading the LS series braking is that the shoe design is consistent throughout the production of the three related series of the LS design so that the process and shoe application discussed here are consistently applicable across the LS, LS 2 and LSX line of brake calipers. Equally important is that fact that the brake shoe and the brake arms are toed in by design from the factory. This means that the brake pads are designed to meet the rotating brake rim front first and gradually lay down against the rim as brake force is increased. This makes
the brakes easier to modulate and it also can assist in eliminating squealing. This feature is one of the reasons I have searched for a pad that will fit the OEM Mafac alloy shoes. One of the underlying assumptions here is that you have already upgraded your brake cables with lined housings and drawn stainless brake cables or with PTFE cables and lined housings. Given that these upgrades are invisible and don’t detract from the historical look of the bike, they should be done before or at the same time as the pad upgrade. The only down side to the pad upgrade is that Scott/Mathauser pads are only available in the high friction, orange coloured compound not black like the OEM Mafac pads.
Other brake pads such as the one piece molded types or the basic black ones in cheaply made stamped steel shoes will fit your caliper arms but they will have much less toe-in and a poorer but probably acceptable friction material. The OEM pads on my Spidel branded brakes had the original shoes and pads with the front pads worn down almost to the alloy shoe as you can see in the photo to the right. The pads themselves were probably 35 or 40 years old, hard, high effort and desperately needing replacement. When removed from the shoe, they were crumbly and fibrous in composition and well beyond their “best before ” dating period. The typical replacement Mafac pads on the market are the 4 or 5 dot Racer/Competition/2000 style most easily available from Kool Stop. While I tried to source a replacement pad to fit the unique OEM shoes, I used a set of basic rubber brake blocks with the OEM wheel guides. They stopped the bike but the wheel guides did not lock onto them as on the original shoes and the clunky look did not really suit the bike. So the search was on to find a suitable, effective and good fitting brake pad insert for the Mafac’s alloy brake shoes. Part Two of the series will address that search and the results.