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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 11-21-08, 11:31 AM   #1
heads up!
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Incredibly bad braking

I'm a road racer who just picked up a cyclocross bike for city riding and maybe a race or two next year. I'm on the '09 Giant TCX1, just took delivery of it this week.

My question: is braking with cyclocross brakes always this bad? I'm used to dual pivot road calipers, SRAM Rival to be precise. I don't feel secure riding in downtown city traffic at all on these things. I've got the pads as close as I can (though I can't get the pads to center very well, there's a few millimeters difference in distance to the rim between the left and right pad on both wheels).

Here's my (stock) setup: Tektro CR-720 calipers, 105 levers, and Tektro RL721 cross levers all working on a Mavic CXP22 rim.

Any tips on setting up the brakes to maximum braking performance? Is everyone changing out their pads for something better? Let an ole roadie in on the secret. Thanks.
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Old 11-21-08, 11:40 AM   #2
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Canti's suck compared to road brakes, once the pads wear down a little it'll get better.

Until then brake sooner
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Old 11-21-08, 11:56 AM   #3
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Hm. My wife, a road racer, has no problems with the CR720s (stock pads) on her cross bike. In addition to cross racing, she's been riding it out at the local mtb trails.
http://sheldonbrown.com/canti-trad.html

P.S. Those little set-screws under the arms adjust the spring tension and are used to center the brakes.
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Old 11-21-08, 12:08 PM   #4
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The CR720 is a good canti brake, and has excellent performance when set up correctly. I can easily skid both of my tires on dry pavement using these brakes.

The fact that you have them set up so close to the rim is a red flag to me. Setting up wide profile cantis is a balance between mechanical advantage (power) and response (modulation). The lever arm is much larger on a canti than your Rival short reach, and should be capable of producing much more braking power than your road calipers. Though you are probably getting good response by having the pads so close to the rim, you are effectively shortening the lever arm, and thus, decreasing your overall braking power. It probably feels nice, but is not doing anything to slow the rim. The Sheldon link posted by flargle goes more in depth on this.

My advice is to lower the straddle cable, and make the straddle long enough that you can have 3-5mm clearance from pad to rim on either side. Your brakes shouldn't lock up the wheel instantly, but instead reach lock up just before the lever bottoms out. I recommend taking the appropriate tools (5mm hex and 10mm box end) and riding around, playing with different straddle and brake cable lengths until you get what you need. The centering issue isn't affecting performance, but you can fix it by adjusting the little spring tension screws, and also being sure that the canti posts themselves have a nice thin coating of grease and no burrs.

Also, make sure you have proper toe-in (easy on the CR720). Finally, though the stock pads are good enough to get reliable braking, performance will improve by going to a quality aftermarket pad like SwissStop, KoolStop, or Ritchey
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Old 11-21-08, 12:23 PM   #5
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I have a cr720 in the back of my bike and it's an incredibly good brake. Very powerful, good modulation, and this is with the pads clearing the rim by a good 3-4mm.

It's the setup, not the brakes themselves.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:56 PM   #6
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Thanks for the tips. I still might try the kool stop salmon pads, but I'm going to make sure I have everything set up properly before doing so.
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Old 11-23-08, 08:02 PM   #7
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id loosen the cable tension some so you get more play out of the lever, seems to improve power as a previous poster mentioned
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Old 11-24-08, 09:49 AM   #8
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Once the pads get bedded in, stopping should get better. I'm at the point now where my rear (which gets used more on downhills) is starting to brake acceptably well. My front? Still very bad. Brake early. Brake often.

Again, the improvement with my brakes has been from dismal to acceptable. I don't see it ever being on par with Dura Ace road brakes -- but it really doesn't need to be.

(I plan on changing to Kool Stop pads on the front. Something's got to improve. Front braking performance is still scary!)
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Old 11-26-08, 11:55 PM   #9
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It will never be on par with road calipers! cantis are crappy thats just the way it is.

Last year i tried changing pad atleast 4 times, eventually trying another set of cantis witch ofc sucked aswell. And all that toe in coolstop pads dident make that much of a difference. It was still a crappy brake.

Cantis can be ridden on cxcources but i will never use em riding in traffic on a wet day again if i can help it
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Old 11-27-08, 04:46 AM   #10
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It will never be on par with road calipers! cantis are crappy thats just the way it is.

Last year i tried changing pad atleast 4 times, eventually trying another set of cantis witch ofc sucked aswell. And all that toe in coolstop pads dident make that much of a difference. It was still a crappy brake.

Cantis can be ridden on cxcources but i will never use em riding in traffic on a wet day again if i can help it
Sorry to hear about your bad experience. Having been riding cantis since the late Eighties, I've got lots of experience setting them up. IMO, it's more an art than science. The older wide profile Shimano cantis work great, better than anything available today. Problem is they have a heel strike problems on short chainstay bikes. Check out Sheldon Browns article on setting up cantilever brakes. It's the last word on the subject.
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Old 11-30-08, 03:17 PM   #11
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Why not try Mini V Brakes?
Available from Tektro (RX 5), Camp (Mirage,Veloce), XLC, just to name a few.
I ride Campa Mirage on my Cyclo-Cross/Everyday Fort Bike and they never give me any trouble.
If you aquire an additional cable tensioner (for example Ritchey for STI mounting or Jagwire for housing installation) you may easily remove the wheel without disconecting the cable.

Note for all true Cyclo Cross afficionados:
I tried severall Cantis and they work quite well as mentioned above on cx courses.
When you try to ride single trails on your cross bike or do some city rides during heavy traffic i prefer to rely on my mini vīs.

Greetings Christian
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Old 12-01-08, 02:41 AM   #12
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People seem to moan about canti's tons but I've never really seen what the problem is as long as you get a decent set. On various cross bikes that I've tried out (still haven't built my own yet, in the process of aquiring parts) I've never had any problem. I'm not sure what brakes the tricross comp comes with but I could easily lock the wheels with them from the hoods if I wanted.

Still haven't quite decided what I'm putting on my bike, prob Tektro CR720 on front and the oryx on the back.
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Old 12-04-08, 02:17 PM   #13
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Still haven't quite decided what I'm putting on my bike, prob Tektro CR720 on front and the oryx on the back.
I'd like to try a set of those CR720's. I'm using a set of the cheap Radius on one bike and they work just fine. I was actually surprised at how well they worked for a cheap set of brakes. It took me a little while longer to dial them in. But, when they were set up right they worked great.

Canti's are harder to set up correctly. Once you get them working they really are as good as anything except maybe disc brakes.
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