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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 09-07-08, 03:00 PM   #1
FlashBazbo
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Cantilever brakes . . . YOW! Help!

My first weekend with my 'cross bike. My first time in YEARS to ride a bike with cantilever brakes.

Let's get to the bottom line: These brakes suck. Compared to my Dura Ace road brakes or my mountain bike's Avid disk brakes, the stock Avid Shorty 4 brakes seem no better than dragging my feet. No bite. Rather gradual decline in speed. No fear of doing a "stoppie", even on a steep downhill. They are ABS for a bicycle.

So, short of changing forks and wheels and going to disk brakes (huge investment), what can I do to get better braking performance?
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Old 09-07-08, 07:51 PM   #2
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make sure they're setup correctly, the shorty 4s are actually pretty powerful.
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Old 09-07-08, 08:03 PM   #3
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Take them off, put them on again. Do it right this time.

Sorry to be unhelpful, but the brakes are nice.
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Old 09-07-08, 08:23 PM   #4
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They appear to be installed and adjusted correctly. I double-checked.

I think I'm just accustomed to a lot of bite.

Incidentally, this morning was extremely foggy and misty. At the end of the ride, my rims were heavily polluted with black brake pad material.

I ordered Koolstop pads (red for front, black for rear) to see if that helps.
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Old 09-07-08, 08:53 PM   #5
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Cantis will never be as strong as modern road or MTB brakes. Some things you can do to help is to replace your pads with better ones. The stock pads with the shorties suck, no question about it. I have them and after swapping to kool-stop dual compounds there was a significant increase in performance.
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Old 09-07-08, 08:54 PM   #6
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Hmmm. . . I switch back a forth between my road bike with caliper brakes and cyclocross bike with canti brakes (albeit Shimano's not Avid) and haven't notices much difference in stopping power. I'd definitely make sure your brake pads are compatible with your rims. You shouldn't be gunking up like that.
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Old 09-07-08, 09:23 PM   #7
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I never had an issue with stopping, I just couldn't get them to stop squealing! I swapped them out for a set of Tektro CR720s, super sweet!
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Old 09-07-08, 10:20 PM   #8
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I never had an issue with stopping, I just couldn't get them to stop squealing!
Brake squeal is a symptom of brakes that aren't properly toed, usually because brakes are perfectly perpendicular to the rim. You want the brake pads at a very slight angle looking down with the front slightly closer to the rim. The easiest way I know to do this is to put a business card (usually of the insurance salesman who last spoke to me) between the back half of the pad and the rim and squeeze the brakes tight. I then loosen the pads while still holding the brakes tight to let the pad reset and retighten the pads. I never have any squealing.
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Old 09-07-08, 10:43 PM   #9
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I tried every which way to stop the squeal, nothing worked. I read that a lot when it comes to the Shorty 4 brakes...
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Old 09-08-08, 04:05 AM   #10
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Yeah, everything I have read about Shorty 4s, with stock pads, says that you can't stop the squealing, no matter how you toe the pads. I expected some squealing. It's there, but not as bad as I expected.
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Old 09-08-08, 09:44 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynikal View Post
Cantis will never be as strong as modern road or MTB brakes.
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Hmmm. . . I switch back a forth between my road bike with caliper brakes and cyclocross bike with canti brakes (albeit Shimano's not Avid) and haven't notices much difference in stopping power.
My cross bike with Shimano cantis stops much better than my race bike. It's a gas to be out riding with roadies, wait till the last minute, and still have the braking power to pull it off. You can adjust the geometry of a canti brake by altering the length of the link wire or straddle cable. I run them pretty short for more power and the braking is fantastic.

As for squeal, I eventually solved mine. A good portion of it was due to a cheapie headset that would not stay tight. The fork flex contributed some too. Softer brake pads and longer link wires lowered the resonant frequency to the point of the original setup to where it was tolerable.

After replacing the headset with an FSA Orbit X and the fork with an IRD straight blade, the whole front end felt much more solid and most of the squeal when away. I've since shortened the link wire and now I'm moving to harder brake pads to raise the resonant frequency.
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Old 09-08-08, 09:51 AM   #12
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Shorty 4s are screamers.

On some bikes no amount of setup adjustment will fix that. Shimano and Tektro canti's seem to respond better to a good pad adjustment.
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Old 09-08-08, 10:19 AM   #13
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cantilevers are screamers.
fixed

It is just part of the deal. You can reduce it with adjustments (toe-in) and pads (Kool-stop salmon) but unless you're very lucky it's difficult to completely eliminate it for all braking situations. I'm happy to have mine relatively quiet for normal braking but they still emit quite a scream in emergency/quick stops.
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Old 09-08-08, 10:26 AM   #14
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I have had really good success with the Ritchey pads...and for whatever reason my Shorty 4s have v brake pads...LBS had to replace the rears and the new from the retail box set had canti pad holders. I thought this was odd.
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Old 09-08-08, 08:35 PM   #15
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I actually use that squeal to get the attention of dogs, kids, and little old ladies. But it's a little embarrasing when I'm in a group of 15 road bikes and my one cyclocross starts squeaking.

Insurance salesmen? I resemble that remark!
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Old 09-11-08, 04:01 AM   #16
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Brake squeal is a symptom of brakes that aren't properly toed, usually because brakes are perfectly perpendicular to the rim. You want the brake pads at a very slight angle looking down with the front slightly closer to the rim. The easiest way I know to do this is to put a business card (usually of the insurance salesman who last spoke to me) between the back half of the pad and the rim and squeeze the brakes tight. I then loosen the pads while still holding the brakes tight to let the pad reset and retighten the pads. I never have any squealing.
I agree totally. Cantis work great when adjusted correctley. Problem is most people can't adjust them. I've got several late Eighties MTBs with original Shimano hard black rubber pads that don't squeal at all. Now, those are 19 year old brakes that stop great and are quiet. It can be done. Good luck.
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Old 09-11-08, 11:28 AM   #17
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Ok, I guess I need to adjust mine. I just got a cx bike, used, on craigslist. The brakes are XTR canti's w/ Ritchey pads. I need to tighten the adjustment, but not only do they give a loud squeal, they don't brake as well as I'd like.

I took my bike down a trail that's a little rooty, rocky and downhill. A couple of times I wanted to stop and grabbed a big 'ole handful of brake. The reaction was something like I was giving the bike a gentle suggestion that I *might* want to slow down sometime in the near future.

If i did that on my disc-brake mtn bike -- I'd be over the bars before I could even think about it.

Also, they squeal. VERY LOUDLY.
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Old 09-11-08, 12:18 PM   #18
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In a 'cross situation there aren't too many times when you need an insane amount of whoa-power.

I've come to terms with the fact that my Avid Shorty-4's just aren't that great.
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Old 09-11-08, 01:14 PM   #19
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I've come to terms with the fact that my Avid Shorty-4's just aren't that great.
Take my advice, spend the $50 and get you a set of Tektro CR720s at alfred.e.bike...just don't forget your triangle hangers! These are SOOOOOOO much better than the shorty 4s!
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Old 09-11-08, 01:32 PM   #20
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I had a bad experience with a set of spongy Tektros (road brakes) a few years back. I know Tektro might have cleaned up their act, but I don't think I could ever go back.
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Old 09-11-08, 01:41 PM   #21
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I had a bad experience with a set of spongy Tektros (road brakes) a few years back. I know Tektro might have cleaned up their act, but I don't think I could ever go back.
The CR720s are inherently superior to your Avid Shorty's purely from a design standpoint. Wide profile will always have more power than low-pro cantis like the Shorty. More mechanical advantage, I think.

You will need new pads though. The stocks are horrible. Thankfully even good v-brake inserts like Koolstop are relatively cheap.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:48 PM   #22
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I had a bad experience with a set of spongy Tektros (road brakes) a few years back. I know Tektro might have cleaned up their act, but I don't think I could ever go back.
Probably due to the pads that came with them or the cable setup than the brakes themselves.
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Old 09-11-08, 04:01 PM   #23
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Probably due to the pads that came with them or the cable setup than the brakes themselves.
No. You could actually see the brake arms twist/flex under hard braking. They were cheap brakes that came with a single-speed Specialized. I replaced them with Shimano 105s and everything came right.
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Old 09-11-08, 04:18 PM   #24
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Take my advice, spend the $50 and get you a set of Tektro CR720s at alfred.e.bike...just don't forget your triangle hangers! These are SOOOOOOO much better than the shorty 4s!
I've actually been eyeing those.

Fortunately I can get them for much cheaper than that. Being a Bike Shop Employee does has its benefits.
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Old 09-11-08, 08:56 PM   #25
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Probably due to the pads that came with them or the cable setup than the brakes themselves.
No. You could actually see the brake arms twist/flex under hard braking. They were cheap brakes that came with a single-speed Specialized. I replaced them with Shimano 105s and everything came right.
I can believe all of the above. My Tektro cantis came with pads that were borderline in dry conditions and worthless in the rain. Better pads saved them. The stock link wires for the Shimanos on my cross bike were too short and made the brakes too grabby and squeally. Of course those were the ones the LBS used. The bargain basement road Tektros on my ex GF's bike also seem pretty flexy.
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