I agree that reading Sheldon's explanation of canti setup would be the place to start if you haven't done so already. Just that small investment of time and the purchase of upgraded pads might make a huge difference for you. The only cantis I've set up are the modern type that use stacked washers for positioning the pads which are probably easier to set up than those that require you to bend the posts. If you're having issues with pad adjustment/toe-in, then an updated canti might help as well.
I have one bike with long reach (55-73mm) Tektro 556 calipers. They are easy to set up and adjust, and they do feel nice; however, I feel they lack the stopping power of properly installed cantis. I don't know if that's because a less expensive caliper (like a Tektro) lacks the stiffness of a higher-end brakeset, or if the longer arms will just be prone to more flex. Also, unlike cantis, I don't think there's anything the user can do to improve the braking performance of sidepulls (other than install aftermarket pads...which I've also done).
If it's mostly a matter of not wanting to deal with the fuss, have you considered having another mechanic do the setup? If your cantis had brake shoes that used replacement "v-type" cartridge inserts, you really wouldn't need to mess with the brakes after they're properly installed; it's a 5-minute, no fuss job to replace the pads.
Last edited by desertdork; 12-12-09 at 11:38 AM.