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  1. #1
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    Cantis vs V-brakes: which are best for touring?

    I have read often that cantilever brakes are best for loaded touring, but I wonder how V-brakes stack up. Any thoughts/opinions/experiences or explanations as to why one type is better than the other?

    (Also, i'd be interested in hearing any thoughts on how disk brakes compare.)

  2. #2
    Senior Member ronjon10's Avatar
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    I've never used disk brakes. I hear panniers can interfere with the mechanism, but I have nothing to back that up.

    I had V brakes installed on my bike when I first had it built. I never really liked them. They took me forever to get adjusted properly. Eventually they wound up disintegrating on a long tour I took. (adjusting screws socket stripped, making it pretty worthless). That could well be more of an indication of my mechanical prowess than anything. I will say they stopped me. That's quite a feat as the combination of my bike, bags and I weighed about 375 pounds.

    After those fell apart, I had some Paul Touring cantilevers put on, and I love them as they also stop me, but I dont have any trouble adjusting them.

    I think canti brakes are often recommended as they have the most clearance for fenders.

  3. #3
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    There are only two problems with V brakes:

    They don't run as well with a woobly wheel, they need tight tolerances. So if you damage the wheel the brake doesn't like it. If you can't field de-pouch it with your trusty spoke wrench, you may be SOL.

    More comon is that they don't work with road brake levers unless, you install a gadget called a travel agent and that's a bit kluge, or use Diacomp 287 levers that not everyone likes, thogh some do. there are some serious builders like Sakkit that like the V brake 287 as the basic combo.

  4. #4
    It's as easy as riding a dannwilliams's Avatar
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    My bike came with Avid BB7 road discs. I found a rear rack made for bikes with disc brakes from Topeak and have no problem with the panniers clearing it. I love the stopping power of the discs when fully loaded with over 40 pounds of gear. I did a week long self contained tour and they were flawless. Now I want them on my around town bike.
    "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster."

  5. #5
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    I tend to like older canti's with horizontal arms(Mafac, Weinmann). They're as powerful as v-brakes, but you can actually modulate your braking aswell(rather than the on/off braking of v-brakes). The Paul Retro brakes are a modern take, they're basically the same as the old Mafac's, but allow you to adjust pad angle and such.

  6. #6
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    I had canti's on one tour,V-brakes on another and disc on a third...the V's stopped better than the caniti's,but the disc (for me) is the way to go. No problems if you bend a wheel or break a spoke,better modulation,MUCH better stopping power when loaded.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I've used cantis, v's and discs on a tourer.

    Maybe I've been lucky, but by far and away the least maintenance intensive have been the v brakes -put in a pair of Koolstop salmons and you are well away (as is the case with cantis too). Brake pads being equal, the v's always seemed to offer more power and simplicity in setup than the cantis. The advantage with cantis is that you can use road brifters and have fender clearance -v-brakes you need converters which seem to be fiddly (at least from what I saw of my friends).

    Discs...discs.... well, I love 'em. I have Avid road bike discs, and they stop really nicely with excellent feel to them. Disadvantages? Well:

    i. it's true that I had to fashion my own front fender and rear rack bracket to get them over the disc brakes
    ii. heavier, harder to setup just right (I don't wany *any* squeal)
    iii. more expensive
    iv. break down in outer Mongolia, spares are hard to come by. Course, you have to ask, will you be in outer Mongolia doing a tour, or closer to some LBS?

    Another disadvantage with discs is that you really really don't need them, they just provide better performance. Well setup v's or cantis are usually more than adequate, truth be told. But then again of course, people used to tour with 3 speeds and pull rod brakes, so take that for what its worth. Let's just say I can't see a reason to take them off my tourer, and I love having them on it.

  8. #8
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    To address the actual question:

    Canti brakes work well with most levers. You can get canti's that are designed to work with STI or Ergo levers if you like.

    I am a bit concerned that touring bikes with super powerful V-Brakes are an accident waiting to happen. You need to treat V-Brakes with extreme care since they can lock the front wheel even on a bike with an extra 100 lbs touring load.

    What's more, on those LONG downhills where you need to control your speed the whole way you can actually wear V-Brakes to the point that they don't operate when you need them. And the pads are so large that you'll find it easier to overheat the rims and it IS possible to cause tire bead failure in a clincher tire if you put enough heat into it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    Strange, but my experiences have been quite different. Cantilevers are harder to adjust and not as strong as V-brakes. However, if you are running drop bars, the shape of Diacompe 287-V levers is pretty horrible if you like to ride with your hands on the hoods. When it comes to disc brakes I only know of one road version by Avid. The problem with that brake is the lever gets really close to the bars unless you adjust the pads extremely close to the rotor. The mountain bike version is way better but, of course, will only work with 287-V levers if you use drop bars. Also, there aren't as many racks available that will clear disc brake calipers. So what's the best solution? Right now there isn't one. For bikes with drop bars, I'd go with cantilevers so you can use STI shifters or any other brake lever besides Diacompe. For flat bars I would use Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes provided I could find a good set of racks that would work with them.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    With respect, have you had experience of this? Wouldn't this issue be a function of the pads used rather than the inherent v-brake characteristics? I've never had problems going down long downhills (loaded or not) with v-brakes, and I am well... a little weighty. Never had a front wheel lock up with v brakes either, though much to my shame I've done it on discs (done when my brain was on temporary vacation and when I first got Avid disc brakes and wondered how powerful they could be... yeah, I was pretty stupid -or daring(?) -on that one). Also, if there's a design problem with larger pads, wouldn't they dissipate heat faster (larger surface area) than smaller pads? Or what if you put the same size pads in on v brakes as their canti counterparts...? I think your supposition of v-brakes being an accident waiting to happen is a little alarmist. Unless you, the rider, were careless or ham-handed, I don't believe v-brakes are any more dangerous than cantis or disc brakes. I'd also say much depends on the component parts (brand, quality, intended use such as pad size, type e.g. koolstop salmon vs Shimano blacks) of your braking system.


    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    To address the actual question:

    Canti brakes work well with most levers. You can get canti's that are designed to work with STI or Ergo levers if you like.

    I am a bit concerned that touring bikes with super powerful V-Brakes are an accident waiting to happen. You need to treat V-Brakes with extreme care since they can lock the front wheel even on a bike with an extra 100 lbs touring load.

    What's more, on those LONG downhills where you need to control your speed the whole way you can actually wear V-Brakes to the point that they don't operate when you need them. And the pads are so large that you'll find it easier to overheat the rims and it IS possible to cause tire bead failure in a clincher tire if you put enough heat into it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor29
    Strange, but my experiences have been quite different. Cantilevers are harder to adjust and not as strong as V-brakes. However, if you are running drop bars, the shape of Diacompe 287-V levers is pretty horrible if you like to ride with your hands on the hoods.
    I didn't have that experience but then brake lever feel is a personal thing I suppose.

    I have used Diacomp 286 canti brakes with Shimano brake levers with no problems. There was a little more lever pull but not much and they didn't wear fast so you didn't have to worry about readjusting them to maintain a minimum of lever pull.

    Shimano still makes a standard brake lever if you want to use barends. I like the Avid cantilever brakes but they do squeal a lot more than most other canti's.

  12. #12
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I have v-brakes on my LHT and I find they work very well with minimal hassles/adjustment. If I could I would mount discs on my LHT. Of all the brakes I currently use Avid mechanical dics are the easiest to adjust, the least maintenance and the best performing. They come with a small weight penalty, but on a touring bike that doesn't phase me.

    I like them so much I opted for avid discs on my new go fast ultra bike even though they add the extra weight. I think they will be well worth it when bombing down a mountain road at 3am in the rain.
    Last edited by vik; 09-23-06 at 02:39 PM.
    safe riding - Vik
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy
    With respect, have you had experience of this?
    If you want to know if I've worn out the V-Brake pads - YES! On a single ride. I would expect that this is a function of the brake pad material but to tell you the truth I haven't found a large difference in the wear characteristics of V-Brake pads.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy
    I've never had problems going down long downhills (loaded or not) with v-brakes, and I am well... a little weighty. Never had a front wheel lock up with v brakes either, though much to my shame I've done it on discs (done when my brain was on temporary vacation and when I first got Avid disc brakes and wondered how powerful they could be... yeah, I was pretty stupid -or daring(?) -on that one)..
    I've accidently locked up the front brake as well but of course on soft surfaces or gravel or whatnot. The point is that it is a lot easier to make that mistake with something as powerful as a V-Brake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy
    Also, if there's a design problem with larger pads, wouldn't they dissipate heat faster (larger surface area) than smaller pads?
    From the brakes certainly, but the rim is the place where heat builds up. With cantilevers the lever pressure is high enough that you don't ride the brakes as much. With V-Brakes the lever pressure is so low that you tend to use them to go the speed you want to go. If you're someone that descends slowly that's a possible source of overheating. And I have seen overheated rims cause blow outs, blow offs and even the clincher strip melting and the wire pulling out of the edge. Only a couple of times in two decades but it can happen so it will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy
    I think your supposition of v-brakes being an accident waiting to happen is a little alarmist. Unless you, the rider, were careless or ham-handed, I don't believe v-brakes are any more dangerous than cantis or disc brakes. I'd also say much depends on the component parts (brand, quality, intended use such as pad size, type e.g. koolstop salmon vs Shimano blacks) of your braking system.
    Well, of COURSE I'm being alarmist. When you're analyzing possible problems it's pretty difficult to avoid saying things that sound alarmist.

    Look, I've been back to riding since 1987 or so. During that time I've never seen any problems with axle locknuts. On my last tour one of the guys got a flat. When he reassembled his wheel the freewheel was jamming against the rear dropout. When I looked at it, the locknut was missing. When we looked about we found half of the screw-on locknut. I managed to jam that in there in such a way that it lasted a hundred miles. But I worried about it the entire way.

    After getting back I talked to my local VERY experienced old fart bike shop guy and he said, "Oh, sure, they break all the time. They're highly hardened in order to catch against the hard dropout. Campy most often fails."

    If I had the slightest idea that those sorts of things could fail I'd have taken a 5 gram locknut with me. The way it was I had a couple of different size chain connectors just in case.

    If someone had said that a locknut could fail before this I would have said they were being alarmist. After all, if it fractured in three instead of two, it would have fallen out under way and could have caused a crash.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    The LHT not having disc mounts was a big reason I didn't get one. Well, that and the fact the frame is expensive in comparison to what I did buy. There are so many good things about an LHT, it seems crazy to me they don't give you disc mounts to let the rider decide whether they wish to use a disc brake.

    Anyway, FWIW, I do love my Avid road discs on my tourer, and yes, the performance (to me) is superior to any other non-disc brake I've used. However, they aren't necessary -they merely give you better performance, not essential performance improvement. A pair of good cantis/v brakes are still going to be more than sufficient. Of course, it's really easy for me to say this since I have disc brakes, and I have to be honest and say I'm really glad I do and wouldn't change them.

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    CT, one of the things they often say about V-brakes vs. cantis is that the mechanical advantage using either 287Vs or travel agents is basically the same as normal road levers and cantis. Basically there is a connection between how much brake lever movement equals how much pad movement, and mechanical advantage (efficiency can certainly be better in some cases than others) So there shouldn't be a huge difference is pucker factor with one kind of brake over the other. On the other hand I have not tried this kind of experiment by swaping out brakes and levers on a similar bike, so I can't really say.

    By "locknut" do you mean the nut on the quick release. I have gone over to bolts in place of QRs where possible, and I am thinking of getting a BMX style front hub for my new touring built. Solid axle, and threaded directly for nuts.

    http://parts.spicercycles.com/page.c...ils&sku=HU0222

    The only problem is that it can be tough to get this width of axle off a bike with low rider racks. However this bike is going to have a Sakkit style high front rack.

    It should be possible to mount a disc brake on a bike without a fork mount bracket. It's done all the time on motorcycles. you need a tethered bracket mounted off the axle.
    Last edited by NoReg; 09-23-06 at 04:12 PM.

  16. #16
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    Thanks all for your views and opinions. I am (most likely) about to buy a new bike and the feedback from Bikeforums has been most useful.

    Tom

  17. #17
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Having used V-brakes on a bike with straight bars and drops, I can say that V-brakes work fine. They are quite powerful, easy to adjust, and very reliable. Durability of pads depends on the pad material, just as with cantis or calipers.

    If you use V-brakes with drop bars and STI brake levers, you need to install a product called a Travel Agent at each caliper. Drop bar brake levers only pull half the cable as MTB levers and the Travel Agents make up for this.

    V-brakes are commonly used on tandems because the provide such good stopping power.

  18. #18
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    I've used both. I'm currently using v-brakes with Dia Compe 287-V road levers. Honestly, I'm not very happy with these levers - they have very high cable friction, very irritating. I'm strongly considering a pair of travel agents and Cane Creek SCR-5 levers (or the cheaper Tektro knock-off) as my next upgrade. I hear that getting the travel agents adjusted initially can be a pain, but that they are trouble-free once set up. Sounds to me like a fair trade for low friction cable runs. If I'm not happy with that set up, then I'll replace the V's with Tektro Oryx cantis. I know that those brakes will work correctly, and if I don't get quite as much stopping power that way, well, I can live with that. Beats sticky cables any day!

  19. #19
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    My experience with discs & touring

    I used avid Road mechanical disc brakes on a ti cyclocross frame made by spicer. The disc tabs were mounted on the top of the left seatstay, like most disc tabs. This setup didn't work very well. Why:

    1. Rack mounting issues. The avids have a very wide profile, and were constantly touching the panniers and/or rack. I never could find a rack that mounted well with seat stay-mounted disc brakes. OK, there are options like Old Man Mountain, etc, some of which are pricey. There are disc compatible racks made by Axiom and Delta also. I notice that Giant uses disc tabs mounted on the seat stay, and wonder how they got it to work with a rack.

    If you want to get a disc touring bike, I would recommend going with a frame designed to mount the discs on the left chainstay, like the Trek Portland (a so-called "commuter" bike) or Specialized Sirrus Pro (a hybrid). Then you can use any darn rack you want. But that might not eliminate the next problem.

    2. Rotor rub issues. Maybe it was just the frame that I was using. Maybe it was the way I had the rack and/or panniers installed, but the rear rotor often rubbed lightly on the pads when the bike was loaded. Not enough to slow you down, but enough to give an annoying rotor rub sound. Unlike canti brakes, where there is some space between the pad and the rim, disc brakes, especially the avid road mechanical, have very tight tolerances, and little margin for error. I never had rotor rub issues on the same frame *unloaded*, so carrying loaded panniers induced just enough flex in the rear triangle to cause the rotor to rub.

    3. Seems like a lot of maintenance. Man, I was constantly adjusting pads. Every time I removed a wheel, the pads had to be re-calibrated to the rotor. I had to constantly clean the rotor with de-natured alcohol to eliminate rotor squeal. What a pain. I now only use disc brakes on my road tandem. Yes, disc brakes give better stopping power, especially in wet conditions, but their increased weight, complexity, cost, and annoying problems never more than offset the better stopping power. Since I never had problems with the stopping power of cantis, I'm back to using those.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Great post. I got around the clearance issues by fabricating my own brackets -definitely ordinary racks will have issues unless you have modified brackets or you buy a more expensive rear rack disc specific option.

    I don't have any rotor rub issues (and they are Avid road discs, however I do run them with a pair of old Formula discs as I had a shuddering issue with the Avid roundagon rotors that were supplied.) I do notice that one of my bikes does have a rub issue when you stand up to mash -something that doesn't seem to be a problem on my fully loaded tourer -so I think that's probably more likely a frame issue.

    Finally, I agree, there seems to be more maintenance with disc brakes than certainly something like good old v-brakes (though many on some boards disagree, I can only state what I've found in my experience). However, once I did get my Avid road discs setup well -and I hate rotor rub or squeal -I've hardly touched them, though certainly still more than my bike with v-brakes. The twist of the dial now and again to firm up the brake seems to be all I need to do and I can't recall the last time I cleaned the rotors! My conclusion is a little different; I like the discs and like having them on the touring setup.


    Quote Originally Posted by Richbiker
    I used avid Road mechanical disc brakes on a ti cyclocross frame made by spicer. The disc tabs were mounted on the top of the left seatstay, like most disc tabs. This setup didn't work very well. Why:

    1. Rack mounting issues. The avids have a very wide profile, and were constantly touching the panniers and/or rack. I never could find a rack that mounted well with seat stay-mounted disc brakes. OK, there are options like Old Man Mountain, etc, some of which are pricey. There are disc compatible racks made by Axiom and Delta also. I notice that Giant uses disc tabs mounted on the seat stay, and wonder how they got it to work with a rack.

    If you want to get a disc touring bike, I would recommend going with a frame designed to mount the discs on the left chainstay, like the Trek Portland (a so-called "commuter" bike) or Specialized Sirrus Pro (a hybrid). Then you can use any darn rack you want. But that might not eliminate the next problem.

    2. Rotor rub issues. Maybe it was just the frame that I was using. Maybe it was the way I had the rack and/or panniers installed, but the rear rotor often rubbed lightly on the pads when the bike was loaded. Not enough to slow you down, but enough to give an annoying rotor rub sound. Unlike canti brakes, where there is some space between the pad and the rim, disc brakes, especially the avid road mechanical, have very tight tolerances, and little margin for error. I never had rotor rub issues on the same frame *unloaded*, so carrying loaded panniers induced just enough flex in the rear triangle to cause the rotor to rub.

    3. Seems like a lot of maintenance. Man, I was constantly adjusting pads. Every time I removed a wheel, the pads had to be re-calibrated to the rotor. I had to constantly clean the rotor with de-natured alcohol to eliminate rotor squeal. What a pain. I now only use disc brakes on my road tandem. Yes, disc brakes give better stopping power, especially in wet conditions, but their increased weight, complexity, cost, and annoying problems never more than offset the better stopping power. Since I never had problems with the stopping power of cantis, I'm back to using those.

  21. #21
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    Thanks for the further feedback Nigeyy and Richbiker: they are both excellent posts, although unfortunately - though probably inevitably, for such matters - they do not provide a simple answer. However, at least I have been forewarned about some of the possible pitfalls of discs.

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    I don't really see why one needs a rear disc. Apply any of the other designs that work there, crushing stopping power is not such an issue. Up front you need the best, most reliable thing (or two) you can get.

  23. #23
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    Both cantis and v-brakes are very good, but not all models are created equal.

    V-brakes are the easiest to install and cable runs are very clean. Only one cable end per brake, and it can easily be tucked alongside the arm. V-brakes are also good if you have tight clearance issues (ex.: tiny frame).
    On the other hand, they only work with Dia Compe 287-V levers. They can work with any other levers, but with a very tight clearance (what about 0,5 mm between pads and rim?), or with Travel-Agents which tend to eat cables. I am told that 287-V levers are not the best with small hands and I know replacing a cable is a pain (see below).
    So rule these brakes out if you don't like the feel of 287-V levers or if you want integrated shifters. But they are really good if you like bar-end or downtube shifters.

    With Cantilevers, no need for 60 $ brake levers or 40 $ Travel Agents, as any standard road levers work. Cable lines are a bit more cluttered and you need cable housing stoppers on the frame (or added on). And let me tell you that it's very hard to adjust a canti rear brake on a 13" frame. Pad adjustment used to be a pain in the rear end; however, modern cantis use threaded brake pads (like v-brakes) and a fixed-length straddle cable, and are therefore less intimidating to adjust. You can also install them so they are harder to grasp... and stay further away from the rims. One downside, the brakes stick out a bit more. On large frames, they may interfere with panniers, and on small frames they may hit your heels. The problem depends on exact positioning and brake arm design.
    If you want integrated shifters (STI or Ergo), cantis are the way to go unless clearance issues get in the way.
    And if you equip a bike from scratch with separate brake levers, cantis are much more affordable. Let's compare (per pair):
    – v-brakes: brakes: 30-70 $ ; 287-V levers: 60 $ (or 10 $ for standard levers and 40 $ for Travel Agents)
    – cantis : brakes: 30-80 $ ; standard levers: 10 $ ; stoppers: 5-10 $

    Brake pads
    Whatever brakes you choose, get some Kool Stop Salmon pads. They work better under all conditions, last much longer and make the rims last longer too. And modulating is better with these than with Avid v-brakes pads.

    Installing 287-V brake levers
    The cable housing does not sit in a dedicated hole in the lever. If installed properly there is no undue friction. However if you move the lever (fall on it or move it voluntarily), the cable housing won't be aligned properly and will create severe friction. In that case, loosen the 4-mm Allen bolt (inside the lever) and try to wiggle the lever around until you find the sweet spot where friction will be gone.

    When installing a new cable, one needs to remove the handlebar wrapping. I find it best to run the cable completely, install it to the brake and make it work. Only then I tape the cable housing onto the bar as horizontally as possible. Then I tape the rest.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  24. #24
    Tweaker-Tinkerer Lotum's Avatar
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    Fourth Option

    I have Shimano R600 long-reach dual-pivot caliper brakes on my touring bike, and wouldn't want to change them for anything (Shimano A550's are *nearly* as good). Very powerful, and very easy to adjust. Admittedly, I'm limited to 700x32c tires (with fenders), but I don't consider this a limitation.
    "There is nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with spending money on a bike."--Richard Ballantine

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