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Vintage Components - Universal Brakes

On this page: Universal Super 68 side pull brakeset | Universal Squadra (Team) brakset

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Universal brakes were produced by the Fratelli Pietra (Pietra Brothers) of Milan from the 1920s until sometime in the 1980s. For much of its history, all Universal brake production was sidepull. Famous riders, including Fausto Coppi and Felice Gimondi, used Model 51 sidepulls.

Universal named many of its brakes by the year they were introduced.

Universal was slow to catch up to French brake maker Mafac, which had started producing classic centerpull brakes in 1952. But with 1961 introduction of their well-regarded model 61 centerpull brakes, Universal had caught up. The Model 61 was the choice of most high-end Italian bike makers.

In 1968 Campagnolo showed that high-mechanical advantage sidepull brakes could be made. That same year Universal came out with its high-end, but far less expensive Model Super 68 sidepull brake.

Universal went on to produce more expensive, better finished brakes, culminating in the AER LAI brakeset in 1985. It appears that shortly thereafter the firm closed it doors.

Universal Super 68 sidepull brakeset. used $75.00

Part# BR-50

Probably produced in the 1970s, but hard to date exactly.

Universal Super 68 sidepull brakes

Super 68's use a sliding stop for its quick-release. The adjusting barrels are in the lever hoods. The pads and lever hoods are original. The hoods are very cracked and will need to be replaced. Replacements are made and are available.

Universal super 68 brakes

Back view of the calipers. In keeping with bike design of the era, the front caliper is short reach and the rear is standard reach. Note the center bolts are nutted.

Universal Squadra (Team) brakeset. used. $100.00

Part# BR-51

Universal took the excellent caliper forgings they used in their Super 77 brakeset and gave all the hardware a serious upgrade. The result was the Universal Squadra brakeset. Some sets are labeled "Team", English for Squadra. They are the same. We date this set of Squadra brakes to the late 1980s.

The quick-release is progressive. Like Campagnolo Nuovo Record calipers, the QR can be partially opened and the brakes will still work.

We have overhauled all the moving parts on this brakeset. It's ready to go.

These brakes are short-reach, 47 - 54mm.

The aero levers are resin and the hoods are in great shape. They come with the hard-to-find front lever plugs that cover up the hole where the cable is threaded through the lever.

Frame mounting is allen-key.

Squadra sidepull brakeset

Even cables and housing (Elephant brand housing) are included.

Universal Squadra calipers

Close-up of the calipers. Note, the adjusting barrels don't quite match.

universal caliper backs

The backs of the calipers.

Universal Aero levers

The aero resin levers come with the very rare front plugs that you install after setting up the brakes.