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  1. #1
    Velophile Epicus07's Avatar
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    Touring Bike...Which Style brakes?

    I've always been told that Cantilever brakes had the best mechanical advantage and thus were best equipped for loaded touring if properly adjusted. I recently ran into a guy touring the US on a LHT with his girlfriend. They both had LHTs. One had canti, the other V brakes. He swore up and down that he got better braking power with the V brake and it was much easier to adjust / deal with.

    What would you do?

    V brake or Canti?

    I guess i should mention that the bike would be running drop down bars and Tektro brake levers.

  2. #2
    Senior Member cyclotoine's Avatar
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    V-brakes are better. I have cantilevers on my bike because I am a retro grouch.
    1 Super Record bike, 1 Nuovo Record bike, 1 Pista, 1 Road, 1 Cyclocross/Allrounder, 1 MTB, 1 Touring, 1 Fixed gear

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    I've tried, but I simply can't get cantis to produce decent braking power. Maybe I just don't understand them? Anyway, my touring bike has a mechanical disc brake on the front and a canti at the rear.

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    Google - you'll find plenty. Sheldon Brown is a good place to start. (Short answer: Properly set up cantis are good. V-brakes are better. Disk brakes are the best.)

  5. #5
    Velophile Epicus07's Avatar
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    I've heard that Disc brakes are harder to repair / maintain in the middle of no where.

    Thanks for your thoughts

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    Senior Member cyclotoine's Avatar
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    v-brakes can have nearly as good stopping power as disc and yes are easier to maintain etc...
    1 Super Record bike, 1 Nuovo Record bike, 1 Pista, 1 Road, 1 Cyclocross/Allrounder, 1 MTB, 1 Touring, 1 Fixed gear

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    Quote Originally Posted by Epicus07 View Post
    I've heard that Disc brakes are harder to repair / maintain in the middle of no where.

    Thanks for your thoughts
    Mechanical discs are no harder to maintain than rim brakes. Specific Avid pads for BB5 / BB7's are no less available than specific rim brake pads. Stay away from hydraulic discs even though their "stoping power" is generally greater than mencanicals. There is nothing wrong with touring with properly set up rim brakes.

  8. #8
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Stay away from hydraulic discs even though their "stoping power" is generally greater than mencanicals..
    I'll have to call you on this one. I'm a huge proponent of discs, and would have to say that hydros advantage isn't that they stop better, it's that they modulate better. Both hydro and mech - given good quality brakes - will full stop about the same.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I like V-brakes better than cantilevers, but, so far, not enough to convert my LHT. If I was starting from scratch I'd go for V-brakes. I'm pretty sure I'll eventually switch my LHT over, but the cantilevers work fine for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
    I'll have to call you on this one. I'm a huge proponent of discs, and would have to say that hydros advantage isn't that they stop better, it's that they modulate better. Both hydro and mech - given good quality brakes - will full stop about the same.
    No argument there. BTW, one can improve BB7 modulation by using springs as described here:

    Avid Disc Conversion Complete

    I noticed a huge improvement!

    Good relevant discussion here:

    Cantilevers vs. V-brakes vs. Disc

  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
    I'll have to call you on this one. I'm a huge proponent of discs, and would have to say that hydros advantage isn't that they stop better, it's that they modulate better. Both hydro and mech - given good quality brakes - will full stop about the same.
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means." -Inigo Montoya

    I have hydraulics on a mountain bike and I don't find them to modulate at all. They are full on or full off. Modulation, to me, means being able to control how much pressure the calipers have against the brake surface. That means being able to use light pressure to control speed or moderate pressure to slow down or even heavy pressure to stop completely as quickly as possible. The lever (and pad) travel of discs...particularly hydraulic discs...is so small that going from no pad contact to full stop is a matter of a couple of millimeters. Modulating that kind of travel with hand pressure is extremely touchy.

    Rim brakes have a bit further to move and some cable stretch to take into account so they modulate, i.e. allow finer control, then hydraulics. Most of the problems I see with rim brakes are that people have set them up for too much travel. Mine are set close to the rim so that full stop is acheived before the lever bottoms out. I have seen some advice for setting up brakes long ago that suggested having the brakes not fully engage until the lever is bottomed out. That's just plain wrong.

    Properly set up, cantilevers will stop a bike just as well as v-brakes or discs...in most situations. Unfortunately most cantilevers aren't set up properly.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Mechanical discs are no harder to maintain than rim brakes. Specific Avid pads for BB5 / BB7's are no less available than specific rim brake pads.
    I agree that mechanical disc brakes are easy to maintain. I was under the impression, however, that the BB5 caliper used a different pad than the BB7 caliper. Given a choice, I'd pick the BB7 since it uses the same brake pad as the extremely popular Avid Juicy hydraulic brake. If a bike shop were going to stock only one disc brake pad, it would probably be the BB7/Juicy pad.

  13. #13
    nun
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    I'm not a big fan of cantilevers of any flavor. I like dual pivot side pulls because they are simple to set up and adjust. And now that you can get them with lots of clearance and reach they are the way I go for touring.

  14. #14
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Cantis.

    If your wheel falls out of thwack you can run the brakes pretty wide open and still get stopping power.

    Cantis stop me admirably well on quite steep grades, no problems here!
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  15. #15
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Personally, I think some of the comments are a little over the top -so much depends on the quality of the brake, brake pads, levers, cables, cable routing, and general setup -and certainly some other factors come in. I just don't think it's as simple as one brake style is better than the other; all the brake styles mentioned have their advantages and disadvantages, and all of them -when good quality and well setup with appropriate components -will be more than fine. I'm definitely not going to say v's are better than canti's (and likewise, canti's aren't better than v's) as I appreciate these brake styles have their respective advantages and disadvantages.

    But since you asked a question I'll stick my neck out with (what looks like an unpopular!) answer: as a 200lb+ heavyweight and then some when fully loaded I've found my various cantis to be fine and certainly powerful enough. If you are willing to accept the disadvantages of cantis but not the disadvantages of other brakes, definitely go with them. For touring the deal breaker for me is that I find the cantis have one decided advantage over v-brakes: modulation. I have an mtb with good quality v's and pads, set with minimal cable pull, but I still find them too grabby or digital for my tastes, and certainly not progressive.

    So I'd recommend cantis -plus of course if you have road handlebars you're more likely to get a better choice of levers rather than if you go with v-brakes where lever choices are more limited, or you'll have to fiddle with travel agents. But really, either brake style should be fine.

    FWIW, I have a tourer with discs and a tourer with cantis, so I'm not sure a retrogrouch argument would apply for me -I just like what works. And I've found all the popular styles of brakes with good components and well setup all work really well (actually discs would be my favourite here, but they do have some disadvantages that are hard to ignore).

    edit: in our impassioned posts of brake styles, I just noticed that there is no real mention of your brake levers -if you already have Tektros (you don't specify which ones) that are short pull (i.e. canti/dual pull specific) then just be aware that you'll need some travel agent adapter thingies if you do go with v-brakes. More expense and more fiddling if that's the case, just so you know).
    Last edited by Nigeyy; 11-17-09 at 09:57 AM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    I'll chime in with a vote for disc brakes, which I have on my bacchetta giro 26 (recumbent) that I tour with. Not that it has happened yet but if you break a spoke (knock on wood) and can't get the wheel quite true on the spot then you at least still have braking power.

  17. #17
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by Epicus07 View Post
    I've always been told that Cantilever brakes had the best mechanical advantage and thus were best equipped for loaded touring if properly adjusted. I recently ran into a guy touring the US on a LHT with his girlfriend. They both had LHTs. One had canti, the other V brakes. He swore up and down that he got better braking power with the V brake and it was much easier to adjust / deal with.

    What would you do?

    V brake or Canti?

    I guess i should mention that the bike would be running drop down bars and Tektro brake levers.
    Not all cantis are the same. Some work better than others, and some are much easier to adjust than others. Some brake pads also work better than others, and they can significantly affect performance.

    The same applies to V-brakes.

    Cantis aren't that hard to keep in proper adjustment if you know what you are doing. Many people, though, don't really know what they are doing (when it comes to how best to adjust them, so that they function optimally). Sheldon Brown explains them well.

    Ceramic rims have some real advantages. They last much longer than most rims, and the stopping power is better, especially in wet conditions (though it is not a night-and-day difference -- more on the order of a 30% improvement or so). They require special pads, though; and the pads wear out faster. Still, some people favor them (I do).

    Magura hydraulic rim brakes are another option.

    The idea of having one type of brake in front (perhaps mechanical disc or the Magura HS33) and another type in the rear (cantis or V-brakes) has some advantages, and might be worth considering.

    If you learn how to adjust cantilever brakes, and get some good ones, they will probably serve you well in most situations. Wet weather performance, though, can be poor under some conditions (and even very poor if a little road oil gets onto the rims) -- much worse than disc brakes. (Though if you are aware of this, it can become a non-problem, especially if you rarely ride in these sorts of conditions.)

    The front brake is the one that does most of the work when you need to stop fast.

    If you read through these reviews, you can glean some interesting information that might help with your decision:

    [I have some cantis that are basically identical in design to these Avids (though a bit beefier); I like them quite a bit, and better than other cantis I have tried:]

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...21_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...62_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...63_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...63_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...92_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/disc-...8_1507crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...47_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...50_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...48_108crx.aspx

    http://www.mtbr.com/cat/brakes/brake...LS_108crx.aspx

    ***
    (Cantilever brakes would almost certainly get higher ratings if more people more often had them set up and adjusted properly.)
    Last edited by Niles H.; 11-18-09 at 01:22 PM.

  18. #18
    GATC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    If your wheel falls out of thwack you can run the brakes pretty wide open and still get stopping power.

    Cantis stop me admirably well on quite steep grades, no problems here!
    I've found full-size Vs to work great w/ substantially thwacked rims (vs mini-Vs which are all but useless to me).

    I am frustrated by the cantis on my LHT. I tried a different set of arms to improve my leverage (wide profile vs narrow) but couldn't jam one of them onto the post, don't know if the arm or my post was defective (if the latter, was my current brake arm dremeled out to fit?). If I had full confidence in my fork's canti post I would just order Vs by now, but as is I'm just waiting and tolerating and accumulating grievance.

    *Love* the Vs on my fixie w/ tektro dropbar v levers. I cannot get my cantis to give me that feather-light touch.

  19. #19
    Hello zebede's Avatar
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    All of these brake types can be excellent. As was said above brake component quality and proper set up are the keys to good braking. I would own ANY of the types discussed. There all good compared to previous generations.

    Currently running cantis on my (rebuilt) old school tourer, but I loved the XT quality v brakes on a
    my c'dale bad boy. If I buy a new touring bike (not soon) it'll probably have a disc brake on the front.

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    My preference is cantis, followed by V brakes, followed by discs in last place.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I have hydraulics on a mountain bike and I don't find them to modulate at all. They are full on or full off. Modulation, to me, means being able to control how much pressure the calipers have against the brake surface. That means being able to use light pressure to control speed or moderate pressure to slow down or even heavy pressure to stop completely as quickly as possible. The lever (and pad) travel of discs...particularly hydraulic discs...is so small that going from no pad contact to full stop is a matter of a couple of millimeters. Modulating that kind of travel with hand pressure is extremely touchy.
    Sounds like you need to try a different hydraulic brake system. The Magura Marta hydraulic brakes on my Stumpjumper Pro are the best brakes I've ever used on any vehicle, bar none. Modulation is absolutely fantastic! Their operation is exactly as you describe: light pressure controls speed, medium pressure slows you down, and heavy pressure stops you now. The operation of the brake lever feels very linear: as lever pressure increases, you feel that the calipers grab the rotor with a corresponding increase in force. This is very much in contrast to the BB7s that I've used on road and mountain bikes, which were much more difficult to modulate.

  22. #22
    40 yrs bike touring
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    For you retro or history buffs:
    My 20 year old BG RNR and Fat Chance Mtn. Tandem have the best rim brake that I have ever used or tried including those mentioned in this thread. The Wilderness Trail Bikes[WTB]/Cunningham Roller Cam Brake. Enormous stopping power and excellent modulation. Too bad they are no longer made.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/bigmigma...43369295756530

  23. #23
    Macro Geek
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    I've had two different kinds of cantilever brakes on two different touring bicycles, and each is unique. One set was standard equipment on a touring bike I bought in 1985. (I still ride it.) These cantilever brakes are difficult to adjust, and go out of alignment with very little provocation. The second set was installed on a newish touring bike two or three years ago. The new cantis are a snap to adjust, and don't seem to go out of alignment. So I should prefer the new to the old, right?

    Wrong. The old ones are better at modulating, and stop me more securely when I need to stop quickly. In contrast, the new ones feel a little spongy, although they have always stopped me in time!

    It's hard to generalize about brakes. Most decent brakes will work when set up correctly. But even the highest quality brakes, when out of alignment or not set up right, are no better than a super cheap set.

  24. #24
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Sounds like you need to try a different hydraulic brake system. The Magura Marta hydraulic brakes on my Stumpjumper Pro are the best brakes I've ever used on any vehicle, bar none. Modulation is absolutely fantastic! Their operation is exactly as you describe: light pressure controls speed, medium pressure slows you down, and heavy pressure stops you now. The operation of the brake lever feels very linear: as lever pressure increases, you feel that the calipers grab the rotor with a corresponding increase in force. This is very much in contrast to the BB7s that I've used on road and mountain bikes, which were much more difficult to modulate.
    Perhaps you are right. My only experience with discs have been with BB7, Juicy 7 and an RST system. None of them are head and shoulders above rim brakes I have used. However, the general consensus on Avid discs have been of the same variety as your comments...'excellent modulation', 'superior stopping power', etc. Rim brakes offer excellent modulation (if properly tuned) and you can only get about 0.5 g deceleration out of a bicycle braking system anyway. If you don't need the brakes to deal with wet weather ...and rim brakes don't do too badly there if properly tuned...why mess with the hassles disc brakes, especially with regards to touring and mounting racks.

    Niles H is right about not all cantis being the same. I just installed Pauls on my touring bike. I like them so much that I ordered another pair to replace the IRD Cafams on my commuting bike. And the Cafams are much better than the Avid Shorties they replaced.
    Stuart Black
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Perhaps you are right. My only experience with discs have been with BB7, Juicy 7 and an RST system. None of them are head and shoulders above rim brakes I have used. However, the general consensus on Avid discs have been of the same variety as your comments...'excellent modulation', 'superior stopping power', etc. Rim brakes offer excellent modulation (if properly tuned) and you can only get about 0.5 g deceleration out of a bicycle braking system anyway. If you don't need the brakes to deal with wet weather ...and rim brakes don't do too badly there if properly tuned...why mess with the hassles disc brakes, especially with regards to touring and mounting racks.
    I have experience with some of these same disc brake systems. In terms of modulation, the BB7 is probably the worst; it's much more of an on/off feel than any of the hydraulic systems. Pretty comparable to most rim brakes, though. I've used Juicy 7 on quite a few test-rides. Modulation is better than BB7, but not nearly as good as the Magura Marta or Shimano hydraulic brakes that I've used. I've also demo'd bikes with Hayes Stroker Trail hydros and thought they were very much an on/off brake. If you were looking to upgrade, I'd suggest Magura or Shimano and maybe Avid Elixir.

    I like disc brakes because: 1) they do work better than rim brakes in wet weather, and 2) I do a lot of climbing, which means lots of descending... and I'm a terrible descender. Personally, I'd much rather heat up a disc rotor than a rim when I'm riding the brakes down a steep, winding road

    Niles H is right about not all cantis being the same. I just installed Pauls on my touring bike. I like them so much that I ordered another pair to replace the IRD Cafams on my commuting bike. And the Cafams are much better than the Avid Shorties they replaced.
    I've got Shorties on my touring/commute bike, which might be one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of cantis...

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