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  1. #1
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    Mafac Canti Brakes on a Modern CX bike?

    Hi There,
    I am new to this forum, so I apologize if a similar thread already exists, though I couldn't find one. Anyway, I am building up a Soma Double cross frame and trying to decide which brakes to buy for it. I'm considering just going with a classic old pair of Mafac Canti Brakes. They seem to be the design everyone is still basing new models off of; I am just wondering about how the springs will have held up after so many decades. Does anyone know if I can get a new set of canti springs to use with the old Mafac brakes? Also, I am assuming they should work fine with STI lever or road brake levers, but I could be wrong and would love more info if am.
    Newer models I am considering are: Frogglegs, Tektro cr720, or possibly Origin8 Proforce. Does anyone have any experience w/ these? Especially the Origin8's... they are generic but they do make some decent stuff. I'd love to buy a set of Paul's but they are just too pricy for me right now.
    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
    Team Beer Cynikal's Avatar
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    I love the tektro 720's. I run them on the front with IRD cafam's on the rear. Honestly, wide profile brakes are kinda overkill for Nor Cal races. We don't need the mud clearance that they offer.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

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    It never rains in California.

  4. #4
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    Ya, honestly, I'll probably be commuting on this bike more than I'll be racing it. I just love the cross design, I think its super versatile. Though, I do want to do some racing when the season comes around. Anyway, I am more concerned in stopping power than mud clearance. I thought that the wide profile cx brakes gave better stopping power... but should I just go with something styled like the Oryx brake? (and no i don't want to switch to v's or try sidepull).

  5. #5
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    I've used Avid Shorty 4's (which are a lot like the Oryx) and CR720's. In my experience, you can get decent stopping power out of either but it's a lot easier to get it with the 720's.

  6. #6
    Team Beer Cynikal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flargle View Post
    It never rains in California.
    It rains just not enough during cross season. At least in Nor Cal, we get our rains in the spring.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

  7. #7
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    doesn't seem like too many people like the avids...

  8. #8
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    No, definitely not. I'm not a big fan myself, but they can be made to work. The biggest hurdle with cantis in general is getting the hang of adjusting them. Once you can do that, any of them that allow toe-in to be adjusted are good enough for commuting.

  9. #9
    Team Beer Cynikal's Avatar
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    I had the shorty 4's for a a while and could not get them to stop squealing. I'm actually using on on the rear now with a tektro 720 in the front and it's fine. I'll never use one for the front again. There are better options.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

  10. #10
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    The biggest hurdle with cantis in general is getting the hang of adjusting them. Once you can do that, any of them that allow toe-in to be adjusted are good enough for commuting.
    Its funny that catis are supposed to be some of the weakest brakes out there, because in my experience, they seem more solid and strong than sidepull or v's. I've never actually owned a bike with anything aside from side or centerpull though... I'm just judging from bikes I've built and worked on. I totally can't stand cheap sidepulls... anything lower quality than 105 is useless in my opinion... and I just don't like the feel of v's... they seem spongy to me. I have really been surprised though how strong center pull and cantilever brakes seem to be on some bikes.

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    720s are different from mafacs, frogglegs or whatever old school wide profile canti, because of their hemispherical washers that allow for much easier toe in adjustment compared to anything with an old post style pad. They're great brakes, i have them in front on my crosscheck. Especially for the price, they rock... they're not the prettiest but functionally they're just about as good as anything out there imo, including pauls or whatever.

    Any modern road lever, sti or aero, will pull the correct amount of cable for cantis.

    Wide profile cantis have a great feature where the leverage increases as the pad moves towards the rim, so that you actually have both mud clearance and stopping power. Narrow profile cantis do the opposite---the mechanical advantage decreases as the pad moves in. As well, wide profiles allow you to run less post in between the canti arm and the brake pad, which in my experience greatly decreases the tendency to squeal. That said i run a narrow profile in back (shimano r550) because it's supposed to help you avoid getting stabbed in the leg.

    Stopping power with cantis of any kind is all in the straddle cable height; whatever you get, you can probably make it work fine in the end, but it's going to take some fiddling and experimentation.
    Last edited by mander; 03-17-10 at 09:32 PM.

  12. #12
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info mander....
    I was also just reading some stuff by sheldon brown, and answering a few of my own questions:
    With automobile brakes, a nice "hard" pedal feel is a sign that the brakes are in good condition. A soft, "spongy" feel at the brake pedal is a sign of trouble, perhaps air in the hydraulic lines. This is not the case with bicycle brakes. A hard, crisp feel to the brakes on a bicycle may be a sign that the brakes don't have much mechanical advantage. You squeeze them until the brake shoes hit the rim, then they stop. Brakes with a high mechanical advantage will feel "spongy" by comparison, because the large amount of force they deliver to the brake shoes will squash the shoes against the rim, deforming them temporarily under pressure. You can feel this deformation in your fingers. The brakes with the rock-hard feel may seem nice on the work stand or the showroom floor, but when it comes to making the bike actually stop, the spongy set-up will do the job better, with less finger pressure and greater margin for safety in wet conditions.
    I find this really interesting... It explains why the countless Cantilever Brake setups I worked on in stands felt so solid to me... that was actually not really a good thing!
    Anyway... thanks for the advice everyone. It sounds like the tektros may be the way to go... Should I worry about stabbing my leg with those guys? I ride pretty small frames... I'm short, if that makes any difference.

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    Yeah with "soft" canti brakes when you really squeeze you can see the cables tightening and the arms + hanger beginning to flex as all that power goes into them.

    The problem with very small frames is that they have short clearances between the cable stops and the canti studs, so you may not always have enough room to get the straddle height correct. However, unless you're really small it will probably be totally fine on your bike---apparently this only really became an issue with the advent of mtb frames and their generally quite low top tubes. Sorry, I'm not sure how much clearance you absolutely need, but just quickly measuring my own 720's, which are set up pretty well, it looks like 15 cm would be plenty, 14 cm would get you by, and much less would start to get close.

    If you're just doing commuting/ road riding/ dirt roads and not doing either cx racing with repeated remounts, or technical off road stuff where you're always dropping way back behind the saddle, i think the risk of actually getting poked is quite low. But if you're worried about leg stabbage, you can always just get a narrow profile Oryx or whatever in the back, which is where the stabbings are supposed to happen. You don't need as good a rear brake, and also for some reason having the studs behind the wheel's direction of rotation tends to totally eliminate the squeal issue that's associated with low pro brakes.
    Last edited by mander; 03-18-10 at 06:46 AM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mander View Post
    they're not the prettiest
    The silver ones don't look half-bad. Not nearly as pretty as Paul's, but a heck of a lot less expensive.

  15. #15
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by renyay View Post
    It sounds like the tektros may be the way to go... Should I worry about stabbing my leg with those guys? I ride pretty small frames... I'm short, if that makes any difference.
    If you're going to do any CX racing (and you definitely should) then I do think you should worry about hitting your leg on wide profile brakes in the back. I run the 720's in front and Shorty 4's in back for this reason. Rear braking power isn't as important anyway, so you can pretty much use whatever you want in back. I used the Shorty 4's just because I had a pair on hand.

  16. #16
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I am also not a fan of Avid Shorty's... they are the only brakes I could never to get to work without screaming like a cat in heat and by comparison the 53 year old Mafac cantis on my Peugeot are pretty quiet unless it's cold and wet.

    Properly set up cantis are wonderful brakes... they are powerful and offer excellent modulation and as per SB, the issue is usually that people don't know how to set them up right. I would take a good canti over many v-brakes and there is a reason cantis are still a popular choice for touring cyclists.

    My favourite canti brakes, and perhaps some of my favourite brakes of all time, are the XTR cantis I run on my Trek... they are mated to XTR levers but have also been mated to road levers. I believe that if one was to find a set you'd be looking at paying about $100.00 for NOS versions... they are worth every penny.

  17. #17
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cynikal View Post
    I had the shorty 4's for a a while and could not get them to stop squealing. I'm actually using on on the rear now with a tektro 720 in the front and it's fine. I'll never use one for the front again. There are better options.
    I had the exact same problem...also, the pads they come with are horrendously bad. I HATED those brakes.

  18. #18
    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    I'm going to suggest abandoning the idea of Mafac cantilevers and going with a nice modern reproduction. Yes, the basic shape of the brake arm is the same, but Mafac cantilevers are the one brake I've never been able to quite down. I guess I don't have Sixty Fiver's level of Cantilever-fu. There are dozens of brakes out there that are easier to adjust and provide just as much mud clearance, and stopping power.

  19. #19
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    My favourite canti brakes, and perhaps some of my favourite brakes of all time, are the XTR cantis I run on my Trek... they are mated to XTR levers but have also been mated to road levers. I believe that if one was to find a set you'd be looking at paying about $100.00 for NOS versions... they are worth every penny.
    This is good to know, there is a set on ebay, im gonna check right now to see if they are still up. I was really heavily considering them... but thinking that they wouldn't work well with road/sti levers.

    I'm totally gonna stay away from avids... and I'll save my mafac infatuation for something more retro. When the season comes around I really do want to try cross racing. it sounds really fun to me. If not that I'll at least do some offroad riding... this is the first non road style bike I've ever owned and I'm excited to try some dirt riding. Only thing that scares me about cross is that my right shoulder has been a mess for over a year now... falling on it, or huring it by throwing a bike onto it repeatedly would put it out of commission again. Are shoulder injuries a common cross riding problem?

  20. #20
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    Does anyone have an opinion on these?
    http://cgi.ebay.com/NOS-Suntour-XC-P...item439e18688f

    also... can i be certian I don't need to worry about running brakes like this or the XTR's with STI levers? I've always thought that you had to run special road levers... i forget what they are called but they are aero leverss designed specifically to pull for canti brakes. I imagine that STI levers would be designed to deal with this, but what If i just run some generic tektro aero levers?

  21. #21
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    V brakes need special levers or travel adapters if they are to be used with road levers... cantis are designed to work well with road levers.

  22. #22
    Senior Member TimJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by renyay View Post
    Should I worry about stabbing my leg with those guys?
    Yes. I did this all the time when I had a 720 on the back.

    Oryx are fine brakes too. And cheap.

    Though you seem decided already, here's some mafac-looking brakes that are nice, new and inexpensive:

    http://www.velo-orange.com/grcabr.html
    fun facts: Psychopaths have trouble understanding abstract concepts.
    "Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria."

  23. #23
    Hex Free renyay's Avatar
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    Well... its good to know I don't need to worry about running aero levers w/ canti at all...
    Those Velo Orange brakes do look nice... I'm still trying to figure out what to buy but I will keep them in mind. There are also sets of frogglegs on ebay for fairly cheap, I've been considering those.

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