was a post World War II bicycle brake manufacturer based in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of south-central France. They remain known today among enthusiasts for their Criterium cantilever brakes , beloved of cyclo-crossers and early mountain bikers, and their centerpull brakes like the Raid, Top 63, Competition, 2000, GT and the Racer. They also produced matching levers for these brakes which brings us to the central difficulty current users have with these products. Lever hood replacement.
This is a problem because people are rediscovering the excellent braking and modulation available with these centerpull brakesets, even the maligned and nearly universally used Racer. They are also discovering that the half hood and full hood rubber lever covers are virtually unobtainable as new stock. Contemporary lined brake cables like Velo Orange’s and JagWire along with Kool Stop brake pads (see test here) can greatly enhance the braking feel and power of these brakesets but whether for daily use or restoration, be ready to pay extortionate prices for new old stock (NOS) lever hoods. My recently restored (2015) 1970s Bertin C 37 has NOS gum rubber lever covers. With an auction purchase, shipping and import duties, the on-the-bike cost was $75 Canadian. Not what you would like to pay for hoods for your scruffy commuting Peugeot AO 8.
So, what to do? Scrounge old bike shows? Haunt EBay and look for used but not disgusting levers with hoods? Realize that as classic and vintage hobbyists, we are cheap but just take a deep breath and pay up for NOS? Go without?
None of those options are necessary any longer. While browsing on line, I ran across an online shop called Reciclone which sells NOS and reproduction parts for classic and vintage bicycles. The key word is “reproduction” because Jordi, the shop owner, makes molds for and reproduction hoods for various brake levers, including Mafac. He has different style repros for Zeus, Campy, Universal, Weinmann, Shimano as well as Mafac. The full coverage lever hoods are offered on the site but half hoods are available by request if you email Jordi. These are correct to having the metal retainer clip molded into the half hood to retain the rear of the rubber cover to the lever body. (See the photo to the right.) The Mafacs are available in black or tan/amber in both half and full formats.
Having seen the hoods on line in Jordi’s shop, I determined to buy a pair. I had one pair of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) replacement hoods tucked away but spares are always good, especially for consumables like this that are damaged by sunlight and ozone. I went on line and placed an order for one pair of amber hoods through the shop. (Black is also available.) Everything proceeded smoothly. Although the shop price shows 35 Euros, the charged price was 28.93 due to tax rebate. Shipping was 15 Euros for tracked international shipping (which I would appreciate later in the process) coming to a total of 43.93 Euros/ $64.97 CDN.
When looking at the amount, please remember the sharp decline in the $ CDN in February, the tracked postage cost and the fact that these reproductions are all hand molded. This is Jordi actually doing the hand labour not some injection molding machine. The order was mailed on February 9th, left Spain on February 11th and spent a further 11 days crawling through Canada’s postal system including a 5 day stay in Customs. Jordi’s efficiency and helpfulness were exemplary, Canada Post – not so much. When the parcel arrived, it had been carefully bubble packed and shipped in a clearly marked and classy box. The whole package was undamaged and could have been installed directly out of the box had I wished it. Included was a clearly written and illustrated set of instructions. (See reproduction immediately below.)
A close examination of the hoods revealed that they were well molded and robust. There was a slight inconsistency in the left shoulder of the hood near where it would rest by the handlebar but this had no effect on the strength or durability. There was a very slight amount of mold flash at the joint line of the mold comparable to NOS Mafac lever covers. (See the photo below.) The installation instructions were followed as provided with the addition of a few drops of water to make the solution more slippery. The lever used was an older Mafac Course 121 but since the alloy lever body is the same with Mafac’s Course 419 with the drilled lever blades here would be no problem with using these hoods on that type of lever. The plastic bodied lever of the same style would fit as well but the Mafac Promotion plastic levers will not accept this or any other lever cover that I am aware of.
The lever cover was molded very accurately to the contours of the lever body. The hood stretched properly during installation with no stress marks in the corners or at angles. Once slipped on over the body, the hood was tight and wouldn’t move even given the slippery soap solution underneath. The metal adjuster for this type of lever fit perfectly as did the rubber covered adjuster of the drilled Course 419 style lever. The overall feel and look of the hood was the same as that of one of the NOS hoods that I originally had in stock. The rubber adjuster cover differs in colour in the photos because they were virtually never the same in “real life”. In the accompanying photo of the Repro and the OEM lever hoods, the reproduction is the lower of the two hoods shown with the original Mafac hood shown with its original adjuster. Jordi is currently evaluating the practicality of making matching adjuster rubbers which would need to be added to the owners’ own adjuster body.
The Mafac reproduction hoods offered by Jordi at Reciclone are well made and well fitted to the lever base. The comfort of the lever seems comparable to the NOS Mafacs. Those who use their bikes on a daily basis might want to consider the black versions of the hoods as they are probably less vulnerable to ozone and ultraviolet. It is very useful to have these reproduction hoods available to fill the gap created by the exhaustion of the NOS hood supply for both daily riders as well as for restorations. A big thank you to Jordi at Reciclone for the Mafacs as well as the other hood styles he has taken the trouble to reproduce.