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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 03-25-14, 08:43 AM   #1
buffalowings
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Properly set up cantilever brakes

Howdy,

Currently I am running a pair of Avid shorty ultimate brakes with koolstop tri compound pads, and to describe the braking experience as underwhelming is a understatement. I have the front set up as wide profile and the rear as narrow. I have already tried setting the straddle cable as low as it would go, and when I took it to my lbs, the mechanic told me he would have actually set it so the straddle point was higher for the sake of mud clearance. When he tried out my brakes, he actually told me they were pretty strong... I can easily endo and fall flat on my face with my commuter (v-brakes) or my roadbike (dual pivot brakes) Are cantilevers really supposed to suck so much?
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Old 03-25-14, 09:01 AM   #2
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Set up both front and rear as low-profile ("narrow"). That will give you more leverage on the front brake.

Cantis don't suck. They stop a bike just fine. The advantage of cantis over other brakes is the wide clearance, but that's precisely what gives them less leverage (i.e. less mechanical advantage). So if you are used to V brakes or double-pivot road calipers, it will feel like you really have to squeeze those brake levers when you use cantis.
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Old 03-25-14, 09:10 AM   #3
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Set up both front and rear as low-profile ("narrow"). That will give you more leverage on the front brake.

Cantis don't suck. They stop a bike just fine. The advantage of cantis over other brakes is the wide clearance, but that's precisely what gives them less leverage (i.e. less mechanical advantage). So if you are used to V brakes or double-pivot road calipers, it will feel like you really have to squeeze those brake levers when you use cantis.
Ok, I was thinking about changing it from wide to narrow because the wide setting is ridiculously wide. I just think it's funny because people claim that that properly setup cantilevers are just as powerful as dual pivot road calipers, because in my case, the feel is completely different. Yes, it stops..but not strong enough for my tastes.
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Old 03-25-14, 09:49 AM   #4
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I just think it's funny because people claim that that properly setup cantilevers are just as powerful as dual pivot road calipers, because in my case, the feel is completely different.
Using low-pro cantis with short straddle cable, it can get close, but modern road calipers will always feel more solid. I think you'll feel an improvement when you switch the front to low-profile.
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Old 03-25-14, 12:07 PM   #5
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For Background, reading thru this sticky might help Cantilver Brake FAQ




Mafac brakes on my touring bike build, I made the frame,
I adjusted them with the brazing torch
as to where the bosses were placed. been fine for 30+ years.

Last edited by fietsbob; 03-28-14 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 03-25-14, 02:38 PM   #6
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The way to properly set up cantilevers on most 'cross bikes is to remove the front brake and replace it with a v-brake. That's what I did, eventually going to a Paul Mini-moto which can be used with a short pull lever. Solved all my problems with juddering forks, squealing pads, etc. I'm no stranger to wrenching on bikes and I could not get the front canti working to my satisfaction. Pro bike mechanics will agree. Search for my posts on the issue and you'll get all the back story. Basically on the front you get a bow and arrow effect going on.
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Old 03-25-14, 03:20 PM   #7
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V-brakes with flat bars have an unfair advantage because the lever geometry makes it easy to create enormous leverage. Modern dual-pivot caliper brakes are an engineering marvel. Cantilever brakes provide nearly infinite possibilities, most of them bad. They do offer a handful of very useful advantages over all other brake designs, but for most recreational and utility purposes the only one that amounts to anything is the ability to leave a lot of room for fenders. On paper it should be possible to set up a cantilever with the same mechanical advantage as a V-brake or a road caliper, but it tends not to feel as good, probably because there are more parts to stretch and flex.

On CX race bikes cantilever brakes are great for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that you rarely want to actually stop. I've been able to set up Avid Shorty 6's and Shimano CX70's on my CX bikes well enough that I trust them on suburban streets. I don't know if I would go so far as to say that they feel as good as the V-brakes with long pull levers on my Long Haul Trucker or the dual pivot calipers on my Excalibur, but they're close. I have had cantilevers that felt down right scary to use (old Avid Shorty 4's) and others (Tektro CR720's) that were just kind of meh.

Compressionless brake cable housing makes a huge difference.
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Old 03-25-14, 05:13 PM   #8
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I also am using the Avid Shorty Ultimates on my cross bike. I have both front and rear in the narrow position. I thought braking with the stock swiss stop black pads was pretty bad.

I wanted to try koolstop multi compund pads, but the cutout behind the pad was too shallow. The set screw on the pad holder goes from top to bottom of the holder instead of behind the pad like my road bike. I tried filing the cutout to make it work, but it was too much hassle. I ended up getting the swiss stop bxp pads which fit my holders fine, and brake much better than the stock compound.

I think I have them dialed in pretty good now. If they are not set up right they can be pretty loud.
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Old 03-26-14, 04:10 AM   #9
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Just mess with the straddle height pad length until you get the feel , power you want, I have yet to get Canti's that were not d@mm close to V brakes in stopping power. Admittedly , I have not set up avid shorty's. Sometimes it's the housings causing problems.
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Old 03-26-14, 04:31 PM   #10
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Just mess with the straddle height pad length until you get the feel , power you want, I have yet to get Canti's that were not d@mm close to V brakes in stopping power. Admittedly , I have not set up avid shorty's. Sometimes it's the housings causing problems.
I'm going to go home and mess around with it. In general, If I lower the straddle cable length, what does that do in laymans terms? And if I increase the straddle cable length, what does that do?

thanks,

James
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Old 03-27-14, 05:58 AM   #11
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update: amazing. tinkered with the straddle cable length for a while last night, and got the angle around 115 degrees as suggested in Zinn's article, the braking feel and power is dramatically improved. Don't feel the need to switch to the narrow profile anymore.
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Old 03-27-14, 05:14 PM   #12
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Good job!
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Old 03-27-14, 05:21 PM   #13
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Thanks for updating. I've always heard very positive things about the Shorty Ultimates before, so it was surprising to hear your initial report. Glad to hear that you were able to work it out.
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Old 04-02-14, 07:51 PM   #14
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update: amazing. tinkered with the straddle cable length for a while last night, and got the angle around 115 degrees as suggested in Zinn's article, the braking feel and power is dramatically improved. Don't feel the need to switch to the narrow profile anymore.
I have the Avid Shorty on the rear of my Jamis and an old school XTR canti on the front. All was cool brake power wise until I was caught in the rain in a hilly, curvy part of my ride. More hand pressure on the brake levers and the brakes front and rear were a disappointment. I should of left the V brakes on and used the Travel Agent's when I converted to drop bars. Now, I'm really thinking about going with a CX bike with disc brakes. Yes, I have been a canti die hard, but I also like things that work.

Just my thoughts,
Mike
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Old 04-13-14, 07:21 PM   #15
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If you end up looking for an alternative, the TRP CX8.4s are very good. Close in feel and power to a modern road brake. It was night and day for me going from cantilevers on my Jamis to the TRP CX8.4.
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Old 04-17-14, 01:06 PM   #16
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I've found that, pads/cables/housing being equal, $20 mini-v's will outperform $100 canti's.
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Old 04-18-14, 08:20 AM   #17
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i have TRP euroX carbon[ridley xfire] and FSA SLK[felt breed]. both are using OEM pads and both are connected to SRAM levers[rival carbon and SS carbon respectively]. i have found that while 'canti brake setup tutorials' online are a great baseline it all comes down to how strong your hands are and what sort of feel/modulation you expect. both my setups were initially installed by bike tech friends and were later tweaked by yours truly. i tend to lengthen the straddle cable and raise the yoke above the norm but it comes down to personal preference. i definitely suggest having the initial setup performed by a bike tech and then after riding for a bit you can tune the power vs. modulation accordingly. [fyi yoke up = more modulation but more hand strenfs req'd. yoke down = moar powerz(mechanical advantage)]
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Old 04-20-14, 03:10 PM   #18
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my last buy , a set of NL made Spooky cantilevers in carbon fiber sheet ,

they were made to substitute for the old Mafacs that were/still are in short supply

would have been fine with Aluminum but CF were the remainders ..
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Old 05-15-14, 08:34 AM   #19
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I've found that, pads/cables/housing being equal, $20 mini-v's will outperform $100 canti's.
And you can easily set them up blind folded with only one hand in a matter of minutes. Compared to the massive amount of "hold your tongue just right and it might work" and trial and error on Canti brakes.
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Old 05-29-14, 09:28 AM   #20
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I've found that, pads/cables/housing being equal, $20 mini-v's will outperform $100 canti's.
Yep
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Old 05-29-14, 10:57 AM   #21
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If you end up looking for an alternative, the TRP CX8.4s are very good. Close in feel and power to a modern road brake. It was night and day for me going from cantilevers on my Jamis to the TRP CX8.4.
+1 - TRP 8.4's on my stigmata, vs Shorty 6's on my cross check. Night and day. TRP's FTW.
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Old 05-30-14, 10:43 PM   #22
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Switching from wide profile to narrow is a bad idea unless you desire yet more disappointment. One good thing about cantilevers is they have modulation to rival hydraulic disk brakes.
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Old 05-31-14, 10:51 AM   #23
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... on my stigmata,..
how does it make you hands feel?
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Old 05-31-14, 06:32 PM   #24
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how does it make you hands feel?
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Old 06-01-14, 07:49 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fstshrk View Post
If you end up looking for an alternative, the TRP CX8.4s are very good. Close in feel and power to a modern road brake. It was night and day for me going from cantilevers on my Jamis to the TRP CX8.4.
I know this isn't the majority opinion, but I think the modulation of a well set-up cantilever is a lot better than a mini-v. I went from Tektro Oryx brakes to TRP CX 8.4s on my Surly Cross Check, and the 8.4s are definitely more powerful, but they lack the same smoothly progressive lever feel. When I swapped from the Cross Check to my new Swiss Cross, I kept the 8.4 in front, but the cable guide setup on the Swiss Cross required me to go back to a cantilever in back. There is a noticeable difference in lever feel. And maybe I'm crazy, but I found it pretty easy to get good braking out of the Tektro Oryx. Just get the shortest link wire available and use that. Hey presto, powerful braking! I wouldn't bother with straddle cables most of the time, it's a lot trickier to finesse things into shape that way. Link wires rule, for low-profile cantis anyway.

That said, I don't mean this to be bashing mini-vs, I think they make more sense a lot of the time, especially because you don't get the horrible brake squeal and fork shudder that you tend to get with cantis. I do worry a bit about mud clearance (I do actually race cyclocross on these bikes), but truly bad mud conditions are rare out here, and I was basically screwed with low-profile cantilevers anyway.

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Switching from wide profile to narrow is a bad idea unless you desire yet more disappointment. One good thing about cantilevers is they have modulation to rival hydraulic disk brakes.
No, no, no, this is precisely backwards. Low-profile (narrow) cantilevers have superior mechanical advantage to wide-profile brakes! It's a common misconception that the wider brakes are more powerful. Not true. These days, the entire purpose of wide-profile cantilevers is improved mud clearance. Which you get because of their lower mechanical advantage. If you don't plan on racing cyclocross in the mud, you should never use wide-profile brakes. Low-profile brakes are easier to set up and a lot more powerful.
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