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Old 02-06-06, 07:46 PM   #1
tomn
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V-Brake Question

Hello all,

I need the voice of experience. I am new to touring, but have big plans. I am just finishing a new touring bike, and chose V-brakes. I wrote once about me initial experience with them, which was scary. I since installed new brake pads, and today was relieved to find that they do stop the bike. I think that they are actually pretty good. But I am still bothered by the lack of discussion that I have noted here about V-brakes. I saw them on several touring bikes in France last fall, which did influence my decision.

So here is the question: Are V-brakes a good choice for loaded touring?

Thanks for your help,
Tom
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Old 02-06-06, 08:15 PM   #2
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I use them. I like them. They are proper stoppers.
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Old 02-06-06, 09:05 PM   #3
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The thing with V-brakes is that they don't normally want to work well with standard brake levers. The amount of pull required is greater than for Cantis or for standard caliper brakes. DiaCompe makes a set of road levers for V-brakes that has the right amount of pull.

What if you want to use V-brakes with brifters? Well you have two basic options. I've done both.
1. Adjust the brakes so that they are riding very close to the rim. This will help with the brake pull issue, but requires a rim that is very true, stays true, and is a general pain to keep adjusted. A lot of time you will end up with one shoe or the other dragging, and that isn't good.
2. Get a set of "Travel Agents" from your LBS. They are a little roller thingie that effectively increases the length of pull by running the cable around a 2 part pully. I've added a set to my C-dale and they made a WORLD of difference in how the bakes felt and worked. Mine also have a barrel adjuster built in for fine tuning.

The thing with Travel Agents is that they are just a touch tricky to set up when you first get them. My advice, follow the directions carefully, and since you are probably going to have to replace the brake cables anyhow, use the old cables to practice getting them set up with.

Hope this helps.

Steve W.
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Old 02-06-06, 09:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomn
So here is the question: Are V-brakes a good choice for loaded touring?
With proper pads and levers, there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, even when wet. Your other choices typically are traditional cantis, and to a lesser degree, discs. They all perform well.
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Old 02-06-06, 09:34 PM   #5
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Next to disc brakes, V-brakes offer better stopping power, better modulation, and less adjustment than ANY other type of brake. You will, however, need either travel agents or Dia Compe V-brake levers if you're using drop bars.

I've just finished putting together my Klein Navigator with V-brakes, and I already love them!
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Old 02-06-06, 10:40 PM   #6
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Thanks for all of the replies! I should have mentioned that I am using the Dia Compe ddrop bar lever that is made for V-brakes. The front feels less spongy thant the rear; I think I read about a fellow that put on a Travel Agent on the back even with the Dia Compe V-brake specific lever. I might try that.

Tom
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Old 02-07-06, 08:13 AM   #7
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There is not a thing wrong with V-brakes. As a rim brake, they work as well, or better than any other type of brake. Obviously, some brands are better than others, but in general, you can't go wrong with them.

V-brakes are often used on tandems. That should alleviate any concerns you have since a tandem typically is heavier than a loaded touring bike.
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Old 02-07-06, 08:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomn
Thanks for all of the replies! I should have mentioned that I am using the Dia Compe ddrop bar lever that is made for V-brakes. The front feels less spongy thant the rear; I think I read about a fellow that put on a Travel Agent on the back even with the Dia Compe V-brake specific lever. I might try that.

Tom
If you install a Travel Agent on the rear, use it simply as a noodle replacement without routing the cable around the inner pulley. Otherwise the brake may be too sensitive. It's easy to lock up a rear brake anyway, so you definitely should not need any increased travel. However, replacing the noodle does make for a smoother lever action.
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Old 02-07-06, 09:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomn
Thanks for all of the replies! I should have mentioned that I am using the Dia Compe ddrop bar lever that is made for V-brakes. The front feels less spongy thant the rear; I think I read about a fellow that put on a Travel Agent on the back even with the Dia Compe V-brake specific lever. I might try that.

Tom
One last idea, if they feel 'spongy' you might want to consider upgrading to a top quality compressionless housing. Some folks say that it makes a difference, me, I've got the cheap stuff and it feels fine for me. I'll second the idea of just using the travel agent as a noodle replacement on the back, you sure don't want to increase the pull with the Dia Compe levers, you'd probably end up with about 1/2 inch of travel from no brakes to leaving a long streak of black rubber down the road. (followed possibly by other streaks elsewere )

Steve W.
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Old 02-08-06, 06:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mentor58
One last idea, if they feel 'spongy' you might want to consider upgrading to a top quality compressionless housing. Some folks say that it makes a difference, me, I've got the cheap stuff and it feels fine for me. I'll second the idea of just using the travel agent as a noodle replacement on the back, you sure don't want to increase the pull with the Dia Compe levers, you'd probably end up with about 1/2 inch of travel from no brakes to leaving a long streak of black rubber down the road. (followed possibly by other streaks elsewere )

Steve W.
Who Breaks his Brakes on occasion.
Whoah whoah whoah! Hold it right there! You should never use compressionless housing for brakes. "Compressionless housing" is shift cable housing, designed to work with indexed shifters (it prevents the derailers from autoshifting when the cables bounce around, or move as the handlebars turn, etc). It uses a completely different construction from your basic cable housing, and it will rupture under braking forces. I'm not sure what you really mean here, but I don't think that compressionless cable housing is it. Using this kind of cable housing for brake cables would be suicidal. There are fancy-schmancy cable and housing systems out there that you might be thinking of. My impression of these is that there's no reason to use them, since you can obtain entirely satisfactory performance with good quality basic housing. You should of course be using lined housing, which has a thin layer of plastic-y stuff on the inside to reduce friction. I don't know of any LBS's that still sell the unlined crap, but it's still a thought.

As for the rear brake cable, it will always feel a bit spongier than the front, simply because the cable and housing are much longer. There's no way to avoid having more friction on the cable, though some bicycles have housing stops so you can run the cable bare down the length of the frame, which helps a bit. You'd best be served by simply making sure that you have good cable routing to reduce friction. I wouldn't worry too much about it in any case, since the rear brake is not your primary brake (although it is important when you have touring load on your bike!).
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Old 02-08-06, 07:38 PM   #11
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I stand (sit) corrected. I was under the mistaken impression that the higher grades of brake housings were designed to not compress, resulting in a more precise feel. (according to some). That was what I was referring to. I know that shift cable housings simply aren't designed to take that kind of a strain, but thank you for clarifying it so succently.

I'll attribute it to having taught for 14 straight hours at that point and plead temp stupidity.

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Old 02-08-06, 08:57 PM   #12
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I use V-brakes on both my Surly Touring bike and my Tandem. I have had much better luck with V-brakes on my bikes than I have had with cantilevers. I like the looks of cantilevers better, but for pure stopping power, I like v brakes.

I use the Dia compe 287V's and have not had any problems. If the rear brake feels mushy, you might make sure that your cable housing is neither too long, or too short.

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Old 02-09-06, 07:25 AM   #13
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I toured over the Alps on a tandem with four panniers and a trailer of gear with only a pair of LX V-brakes to stop with. That should be proof enough that they are up to the job.
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Old 02-09-06, 12:09 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grolby
Whoah whoah whoah! Hold it right there! You should never use compressionless housing for brakes. [...] Using this kind of cable housing for brake cables would be suicidal. ...
This warning is appropriate for shifter housing, but it isn't the whole story. There ARE compressionless brake housings which are designed to handle the forces of braking. They do a very good job of taking the "sponginess" out of brakes that suffer from long or non-rigid cable routings.

Do a search on "compressionless" in this forum, there have been several posts in the past week about this.

-- Mark
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Old 02-09-06, 08:41 PM   #15
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Thanks to all,

So here is the update: I went on the shake down cruise this morning. 17 miles w/several hills. You have to keep in mind that I haven't ridden in, I bet, 7 years. I am going to ride Chilly Hilly, near Seattle, the last weekend of Feb.. 35 miles, lots of hills. I have some riding to do in the next few weeks! Anyway, the brakes worked well. I have fully given myself over to V-brakedom.

Thanks for all your help,
Tom
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Old 02-09-06, 09:50 PM   #16
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If your rear brake feels a little spongy this is fine as stated above. However, V-brakes do tend to feel a little spongy if they are not balanced properly. Balancing V-brakes isn't rocket science, takes a few moments to learn and worth learning.
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Old 02-09-06, 10:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
Next to disc brakes, V-brakes offer better stopping power, better modulation, and less adjustment than ANY other type of brake. You will, however, need either travel agents or Dia Compe V-brake levers if you're using drop bars.

I've just finished putting together my Klein Navigator with V-brakes, and I already love them!
+1.

V-brakes really are the last word in rim brakes. They solve the major problems presented by cantilevers (which aren't really major, just the biggest ones), which are:
1. Rather poor modulation
2. Non-constant mechanical advantage (MA gets lower as the brake pads move toward that rim).

The very stiff brake arms and mechanical simplicity also means that there is very little to go wrong with them, so v-brakes definitely get my vote when rim brakes are needed. Of course, go figure, I don't have any bikes that can mount them right now, but I do love me a nice set of v-brakes!
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