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Old 03-23-11, 10:42 AM   #1
himespau 
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Shimano Deore XT cantilever brake installation questions

So I posted a thread a week or 2 ago about my problems with my cantilever brakes. While searching for new brakes, I ended up with what seemed like a good deal ($20 shipped) on a full bike's set (front and rear) of Shimano Deore XT BR-734 cantilever brakes (fairly used). Thought for a minimal investment it was worth a try upgrading from my cheng star or whatever OEM canti's that I couldn't adjust easily or get good stopping power with.

I tried looking online for documentation, but they're old enough (look like they were only in production from 91-93) that there isn't anything there, so I'm going to have a bunch of questions that are hopefully genralizable enough to other low profile brakes that people will be able to answer.

As a starter, both of my previous bikes had the cheapo OEM cantis that were hard to adjust, so consider me a complete novice. I have the big blue book at home, but it wan't all that helpful the last time I tried adjusting my brakes as I didn't have spring adjust screws which it told me to use to balance things, so I haven't looked yet to see what it can tell me about installing these.

So first stupid questions, this brake has the little plastic covers that go over the spring between it and the frame. There doesn't appear to be much functional purpose to these (is that right?) and that might be a good thing, because it appears as though the previous use of the brakes has caused the small hole that the spring comes out of to be wider than the spring now (by a fair margin). Should still keep the spring in when screwed into the canti mounts though.

Also, I've never used this type of link cable before (these are labled B if that matters) having only used straddle hangers. Is there a trick to this or is it as simple as it looks to slide the cable through it and then tighten the bolt until the cable doesn't move? Is there a top/front to these?

The pads that came on these are fairly small. I have some Kool stop salmon eagle claw (I think) pads that are the same type but are like twice as long, can I put those longer/wider pads on, or will that screw things up?

Looks like I'm going to be spending more time on sheldon's site trying to get the geometry right. Last time I did it I could bottom out the lever without feeling like I was going to endo and would like more stopping power this time (don't want to endo, but want to feel like I could do a complete emergency stop if necessary).

Also, it looks like these link cables come in different lengths. Are they all fairly interchangeable? I ask because I'm wondering what's going to happen if mine isn't long enough to go over my fender and I need a longer one.

Or, are these brakes crap and should I consider this a wasted $20 and go get myself some tektro c720's or shimano BR-550's?

thanks
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Old 03-23-11, 10:48 AM   #2
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This should answer your questions:
http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-...-brake-service
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Old 03-23-11, 10:59 AM   #3
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The old cantis that use the plain post style of brake pads and the funky clamping studs will never again find a place in my shop or bike fleet. They were a complete PITA to adjust what with me not having a spare set of arms and hands to do all the things needed at the same time. If your XT cantis from that time frame are the same style of pads I'd say ditch them and go with a newer style canti that uses the currently popular threaded post with cup and ball washers to allow angle adjustments. Your sanity will appreciate it.

As for the straddle cable yes, you can get different ones. The shorter/shallower ones will give you more clamping power for less lever effort. But as you are obviously aware the shorter ones have less tire and fender clearance. But it's generally not an issue since they were fine for use on knobby mountain bike tires. So they normally have more than enough clearance for street tires and fenders.
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Old 03-23-11, 11:27 AM   #4
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yeah these are the older style with the clamping stud. The newer ones you can change the angle easier?
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Old 03-23-11, 12:31 PM   #5
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himespau, There isn't anything you can't do better with the newer style of cantis/V-brakes. It took three hours to get my smooth post style cantis set up on my touring bike. I have some Avid 1.0 brakes that will likely be installed as I still don't think I'm getting the performance I should be getting from these brakes.

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Old 03-23-11, 12:53 PM   #6
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I must be some kind of magician or lucky - I helped my girlfriend replace the post-style pads on her vintage Shimano brakes and it was fairly stress-free, quick, and the brakes work quite well. That said, I went into it expecting the worst and over-prepared. Everything was cleaned, well-lit, I disabled the springs, and I took the tire off each rim just to see the pad/rim better. I still would advise getting a newer style if possible.
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Old 03-23-11, 01:35 PM   #7
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Yeah, those swaps are easy -- but just wait until you're building a frankenbike with 20" wheels and a 26" suspension fork! THEN you'll have fun! (HINT: it's actually just another swap-out....)
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Old 03-23-11, 02:27 PM   #8
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The older cantis really aren't that big of a deal. Loosen the pads and move them away from the rim; adjust cable so the arms are where you want them; adjust the centering mechanism to get the arms centered; run the barrel adjuster on the brake levers out a few turns; adjust the pads against the rim; turn the barrel adjuster back in so pads clear the rim; test ride. Done this on everything from out-of-the-box builds to neglected old bikes with no problems.
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Old 03-23-11, 02:37 PM   #9
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For me, whatever I do is going to be a big job as I have my bars rotated to far downward so I'm going to need to rotate them up, move the aero levers down to the right spot, run new housing to the interupter levers, then to the stops, and the cables everywhere in addition to doing the brakes. That pretty much stretches my wrenching abilities to their limits. I really need to retape the bars as I did a really crappy job last time. Hope I do a better job this time. It's a heavy steel rigid frame mountain bike that has fenders and front and rear racks (and folding baskets on the rear rack), so I need to make sure I have good stopping power.
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Old 03-23-11, 02:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by himespau View Post
For me, whatever I do is going to be a big job as I have my bars rotated to far downward so I'm going to need to rotate them up, move the aero levers down to the right spot, run new housing to the interupter levers, then to the stops, and the cables everywhere in addition to doing the brakes. That pretty much stretches my wrenching abilities to their limits. I really need to retape the bars as I did a really crappy job last time. Hope I do a better job this time. It's a heavy steel rigid frame mountain bike that has fenders and front and rear racks (and folding baskets on the rear rack), so I need to make sure I have good stopping power.
Good stopping power is important on any bike.

My advice is to break the job into individual tasks so it won't seem as daunting then take your time doing each one right before moving on. Get the bars and levers where you want them first. Then work on getting all the housing pieces cut to the right length and ready to go. Then run the cables. Then adjust the brakes. Then wrap the bars. Each job isn't a big deal if you concentrate on one at a time and don't move on till the previous one is done right.
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Old 03-23-11, 03:04 PM   #11
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I've already sort of done all these jobs once already (though obviously not to my satisfaction or I wouldn't be doing it all again), so they aren't that daunting. I think I'll try it with these brakes, but leave the cables long so that if I decide I need to get new brakes, I don't have to re-run the cables.
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