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Old 12-09-09, 05:16 PM   #1
sellwinerugs
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Cantilever versus U-brakes

I just recently bought a touring bike with cantilever brakes and I am amazed at their simplicity. I recently read on Sheldon Brown's site that cantilevers used to be a hot commodity and could not be afforded by every-day cyclist. However, today cantilever brakes show up everywhere, especially on mass-produced mountain bikes. Worth noting; they are not showing up on racing bikes. This brings me to my question. It seems like cantilever brakes have a much simpler mechanism to employ the brake. And simple in this case equals weight savings. Why are racing bikes not using a lighter option for their brakes? It seems to me that the cantilever brake, using just the thin brake cable directly connected to the brake pad, would be lighter and more simple than the U-brake setup involving the two arms of the u-brake plus the brake pads, etc.

Granted, today's racing bikes have carbon fiber everything, and the braking system can use this rigid, light material for this application. However, I think that eliminating this apparatus completely, and linking the brake lever directly to the brake pad, as the cantilever system does, is the lightest option there is.

If there is something I am missing regarding this issue, please let me know. I am open to all discussion topics. That's what forums are for!
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Old 12-09-09, 07:01 PM   #2
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youre talking about cantilever vs caliper brakes. u-brakes are something totally different.

cantilever brakes require extra mounts, not only for the brakes but for the cables. they are slightly more complicated too (imo).
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Old 12-09-09, 08:55 PM   #3
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Cantilevers are more powerful, so when they first appeared, they were normally only used for fully loaded touring. High quality caliper brakes give better feel which is needed for precise speed adjustments.
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Old 12-09-09, 09:19 PM   #4
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Cantilever is used on moutain bikes, cyclocross bikes and touring bikes to help with tire and mud clearance. They work ok, but are difficult to adjust. U-Brakes are pretty much extinct except on BMX. I've got an old 1987 Bianch Grizzly MTB that has a rear U-Brake. It's a piece of crap. Caliper brakes are what you'd find on modern race bikes. They work much better than the one's you've mentioned and there is nearly no adjustment needed and depending on level of component, they can be very, very light. Caliper brakes also offer very good modulation which cantilever brakes offer little. This is a great benefit when in a peleton and need to bleed speed off going into a turn.

Basically, each brake system has it's place and depending on the application, one is better than the other.
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Old 12-09-09, 09:50 PM   #5
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Cantilever is used on moutain bikes, cyclocross bikes and touring bikes to help with tire and mud clearance. They work ok, but are difficult to adjust. U-Brakes are pretty much extinct except on BMX. I've got an old 1987 Bianch Grizzly MTB that has a rear U-Brake. It's a piece of crap. Caliper brakes are what you'd find on modern race bikes. They work much better than the one's you've mentioned and there is nearly no adjustment needed and depending on level of component, they can be very, very light. Caliper brakes also offer very good modulation which cantilever brakes offer little. This is a great benefit when in a peleton and need to bleed speed off going into a turn.

Basically, each brake system has it's place and depending on the application, one is better than the other.
I partly disagree about U-brakes. They stop acceptably well; however, I do agree they blow for mountain bikes. I find they work pretty good as hybridized MTB brakes..
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Old 12-10-09, 05:20 AM   #6
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Cantilever is used on moutain bikes, cyclocross bikes and touring bikes to help with tire and mud clearance. They work ok, but are difficult to adjust.
I suspect that the OP actualy has the sub-species of canti known as v-brakes - which don't give that mud clearance (and imo have poor modulation) but are very simple to adjust.
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Old 12-10-09, 06:37 AM   #7
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What ^ they said.

Cantilever brakes are generally more difficult to set-up and require extra frame mounts. Road brakes (calipers) are extremely easy to use and adjust, and don't require the braze-ons.
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Old 12-10-09, 06:52 AM   #8
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agreed.
What's lost in the way of simplicity of design is more than made up for in aerodynamics, effective modulation, and the lack of need for heavy mounting studs on the frame/fork.
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Old 12-10-09, 05:24 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by illwafer View Post
youre talking about cantilever vs caliper brakes. u-brakes are something totally different.

cantilever brakes require extra mounts, not only for the brakes but for the cables. they are slightly more complicated too (imo).
Thanks for correcting my terminology. I get confused with all the bike parts out there. Thanks for answering my quesion
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Old 12-11-09, 09:40 AM   #10
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.... They work ok, but are difficult to adjust. .......
Are they ever!!! A few weeks ago I replaced the rear pads on my cantilever brakes, and it took several-to-many tries to be the adjustment right. Adjust one side, then the other side, check it, and repeat.
The owner of my LBS says (semi-joking) that they give the cantilever brake jobs to their mechanics as a hazing.
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Old 12-11-09, 10:17 AM   #11
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Are they ever!!! A few weeks ago I replaced the rear pads on my cantilever brakes, and it took several-to-many tries to be the adjustment right. Adjust one side, then the other side, check it, and repeat.
The owner of my LBS says (semi-joking) that they give the cantilever brake jobs to their mechanics as a hazing.
One trick I've learned is to have someone hold the brake lever down as you tighten and adjust. It seems to make it a little easier. People say that cantilever don't work well, but if you get these things adjusted right, they are very, very good brakes. Even in wet/muddy conditions.
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Old 12-11-09, 09:03 PM   #12
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Most mountain bikes these days use V brakes. Cantilevers are used on cyclocross and touring bikes. Calipers are used on road bikes. U brakes are obsolete.

Caliper brakes are the lightest. Modern cantilevers are no harder to adjust than V brakes.

V Brakes


Cantilever Brakes


Calipers


U Brakes
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Old 12-11-09, 10:24 PM   #13
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The newer cantilevers that have the same pads as the V brakes are very easy to adjust. It is the old cantilevers with the pads on posts like the U brake shown above that are a pain to adjust - unfortunately there are still a lot of them around.
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Old 12-11-09, 10:50 PM   #14
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unfortunately there are still a lot of them around.
What? Why do you want to get rid of these? I would have to get rid of my bike if there weren't any replacement pads around.
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Old 12-11-09, 10:58 PM   #15
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Cantilevers are more powerful, so when they first appeared, they were normally only used for fully loaded touring. High quality caliper brakes give better feel which is needed for precise speed adjustments.
Good point. I have cantis on nearly all my bikes because I weigh 240 and run big tires (better clearance and easier to remove the wheel with cantis). But the one bike I have with calipers does have a more precise feel. In general, especially racing, you don't use road bikes brakes to stop as often as you use them to modulate a little, just to get down to a speed at which you can negotiate a corner or something. That makes feel more important than absolute lockup stopping power.
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