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Improving braking on 1997 Gary Fisher Tassajara?

Old 06-15-20, 08:32 AM
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Improving braking on 1997 Gary Fisher Tassajara?

I picked up a small framed rigid Gary Fisher for next to nothing for my 12 yr old son to ride until he grows enough to fit on my old mountain bike. I put the wheels from my old mountain bike on the GF, replaced all the cables, added a new Acera RD, new brake pads, and replaced the 7sp Grip Shift with Suntour friction thumbshifters.

I'm not real happy with the braking performance yet. Would replacing the brake levers improve braking performance? If so, does anyone have a good suggestion for a good replacement lever for cantilever brakes?

I have some cheap linear pull brakes in my parts drawer I pulled off a Walmart bike I rescued from the dumpster. I could buy some linear pull brake levers for those brakes instead...



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Old 06-15-20, 09:17 AM
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New pads, PROPERLY ALIGNED wouldn't hurt.
Having less stud sticking out would improve the geometry a bit.

You also want to put a reflector or bolt or something to catch the straddle cable in case the brake cable breaks.

Last edited by Bill Kapaun; 06-15-20 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 06-15-20, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
I picked up a small framed rigid Gary Fisher for next to nothing for my 12 yr old son to ride until he grows enough to fit on my old mountain bike. I put the wheels from my old mountain bike on the GF, replaced all the cables, added a new Acera RD, new brake pads, and replaced the 7sp Grip Shift with Suntour friction thumbshifters.

I'm not real happy with the braking performance yet. Would replacing the brake levers improve braking performance? If so, does anyone have a good suggestion for a good replacement lever for cantilever brakes?

I have some cheap linear pull brakes in my parts drawer I pulled off a Walmart bike I rescued from the dumpster. I could buy some linear pull brake levers for those brakes instead...



Yes. Longer lever would be more torque. There are 4 finger levers and even e-bike levers that are longer.

V brakes would be much easier to set up and can contribute to better braking.

Better pads also help, like Kool Stop branded ones.

Brake boosters also help.
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Old 06-15-20, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for the advice so far. I should work on adjusting the pads a little more before I give up with the current setup. It seems if that doesn't cut the mustard, I should go to liner pull brakes.
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Old 06-15-20, 12:46 PM
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I have found that good V-brakes with Shimano 3 finger trekking brake levers give a lot of braking power. I have Avid SD-7 V-brakes with Shimano T780 levers and Kool Stop pads on my '95 Trek and they are very responsive.

The T780 levers are hard to find and are expensive, but Shimano does makes Deore T611 3 finger brake levers. Also getting a bit tougher to find, and not cheap, but they look like they will do the job.

Unfortunately cheap V-brakes may not be any better than what you have.

John
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Old 06-15-20, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
I should work on adjusting the pads a little more before I give up with the current setup.
^This^ From the second picit looks like the top of the brake pad is hitting the tire, not the rim. That'll blow your tube and ruin your tire in a ride or two. And from the third pic, it looks like the right arm is pulling all the way back and making the left arm drag the rim. Pads should be set up symmetrical to each other. And where the brake cable goes thru the straddle assembly, you need to 'lock' the cable into the other slot after you complete your adjustments.
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Old 06-15-20, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Rogerogeroge View Post
^This^ From the second picit looks like the top of the brake pad is hitting the tire, not the rim. That'll blow your tube and ruin your tire in a ride or two. And from the third pic, it looks like the right arm is pulling all the way back and making the left arm drag the rim. Pads should be set up symmetrical to each other. And where the brake cable goes thru the straddle assembly, you need to 'lock' the cable into the other slot after you complete your adjustments.
I noticed that in my picture also. I hadn't tightened the pads very tight and they must've moved on me. I tinkered with the adjustments some more today and the braking has improved some, but I'd like a little more. The braking is passable now so I'll have my son ride it some and see if he's comfortable with it. The front brakes are working a bit better than the back at the moment. I do wonder if different brake levers would help, but if I spring for new levers I might as well go to linear pull.
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Old 06-15-20, 06:21 PM
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New levers without upgrading to linear pull brakes will do absolutely nothing. Proper setup and proper pads are 90% of the equation, even with old cantilever brakes. You may want to scour those rims with alcohol and maybe take some fine steel wool to them.

EDIT: And lock that cable where it first goes through the straddle guide.

Last edited by Rogerogeroge; 06-15-20 at 06:22 PM. Reason: add
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Old 06-15-20, 06:55 PM
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You might want to read through these-
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/cantilever-geometry.html
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/rim-brakes.html
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Old 06-15-20, 07:19 PM
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Take it to a local shop and have them adjust them. There is no reason that these shouldn't work. It just looks like these aren't properly done.
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Old 06-15-20, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
Thanks Bill! That helped a lot!
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Old 06-15-20, 07:45 PM
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Regardless of what Sheldon said, rest his soul, cantilevers are a royal pain and really don’t stop better. All the physics in the world could never bring them back after V-brakes. The CX canti’s made a comeback with V-brake pads, but discs will return them back to the parts bin.

I say this with a bike that has very good cantilever brakes (XTR) and I still hate setting them up. I will need to get good V-brake replacements soon as they are quickly disappearing from sight.

John
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Old 06-16-20, 03:18 AM
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I put XT V-Brakes on my old trek to replace LX Cantis, and I have a very similar bike too with the original cantis, and there just is no comparison. V-brakes are so much better. Lighter touch, better feel, better stopping and easier to adjust. Cantis are just spongy at best.
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Old 06-16-20, 10:35 AM
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First of all, MAKE SURE the brakes are setup correctly before riding the bike. Take it to a mechanic if you have to. The picture of the pad jammed into the tire is alarming even if you've adjusted it since then. The nuts holding the pads need to be very tight to prevent them from moving. After tightening the cable pinch bolts, squeeze each brake lever as hard as you can. If the cable slips, you didn't tighten it enough. Greasing threads helps to get adequate tightness without stripping the threads, as on most parts of a bicycle.

Cantilevers get a lot of flack and they can be a pain to setup, but when they're properly setup with good pads they will provide adequate braking power to skid the rear tire with the rear brake alone and lift the rear wheel with the front brake. Though they may require more hand effort. Proper cable routing and clean housing cuts are important for any brake. With that said, I've setup few cantilevers to offer the braking power and nice feel of a good set of V-brakes. I converted my own Tassajara to V-brakes many years ago and haven't bothered to go back. For me the main reason to use cantilevers is on bikes with wide tires and fenders where a V-brake won't clear. And when using drop bars to allow "classic" brake levers instead of the massive V-brake drop bar levers.

The main cable must be snapped into the other slot on the yoke (yellow arrow.) The slot it's in now is for getting the brake setup. It will feel mushy if you try to use it like that.

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Old 06-16-20, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
The main cable must be snapped into the other slot on the yoke (yellow arrow.) The slot it's in now is for getting the brake setup. It will feel mushy if you try to use it like that.

Thanks Jake! I did all the other adjustments, but I didn't know about that!
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Old 06-16-20, 12:15 PM
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My old Klein Pulse has XT canti's and I have no problems adjusting those...
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Old 06-16-20, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Regardless of what Sheldon said, rest his soul, cantilevers are a royal pain and really donít stop better. All the physics in the world could never bring them back after V-brakes. The CX cantiís made a comeback with V-brake pads, but discs will return them back to the parts bin.

I say this with a bike that has very good cantilever brakes (XTR) and I still hate setting them up. I will need to get good V-brake replacements soon as they are quickly disappearing from sight.

John
A good mechanic doesnít blame his tools.

I have 3 current bikes with cantilevers and have had several cantilever equipped bikes in the past. I work on bikes with cantilevers at my co-op regularly and never found them to be all that hard to work on. The ones I have now are Paulís and they are dead simple to install and adjust. There are a few things that can make life easier with cantilevers, however.

First ditch that stupid ďlink wireĒ. Shimano has had a lot of bad ideas over the years but few are as bad as the ďlink wireĒ. A traditional traverse cable is easier to adjust and provides for a better brake feel. Yes, I know that the link wire was invented to solve the ďproblemĒ of cables slipping and catching on the wheel, leading to death and destruction but, honestly, Iíve never heard or read of anyone that this has really happened to. I suppose it could if you failed to anchor the cable properly but thatís not the fault of the brake. And, if you give yourself enough room on the lever cable...i.e. donít cut it too short...if it does slip, youíll still have brakes enough to stop even with only moderate tightening of the cable bolt.

Another thing to help with the brake is to use a wider cable carrier. I use Paulís Moon Units which are wider than OEM cable carriers and provide better support to the traverse cable.

Finally, I too donít agree with Saint Brown entirely. His take on mechanical advantage and long pull on the lever may be technically true, but if the brakes are set up to engage sooner, you have a more possible brake feel and are more confident in the brakeís ability to stop the bike.

Honestly, I canít tell the difference in any of the brakes I own from cantilever to linear to mechanical disc. They all feel the same and stop the bike with equal efficiency.
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Old 06-16-20, 02:20 PM
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That's a good bike, and the brakes will work if set up right. Your pads are probably 20+ years old, get some new ones. If you are really cheap you could try removing the pads and sanding them on a flat surface with 150-220 grit paper. Just knock off enough to get to some "fresh" pad. I would clean the rims with a green scotchbrite and some Dawn, rinse off good. I like these in Black or Dual-

Kool Stop International - High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads Since 1977
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Old 06-16-20, 07:19 PM
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I found this video on YouTube that was very helpful:.

I might try setting up the rear brake without the linkwire if I can find the part I'd need in my parts drawer. I've got the front brake adjusted about right, but the rear is still too weak. I figure I don't want my son going over the handlebars, but I understand the front brake has the ability to slow you more than the rear.

I assume I should be able to skid the rear tire on hard pavement when it's set properly?
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Old 06-16-20, 07:54 PM
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So I spent an hour on the brakes just now and the front brakes are good. I can't figure out what the problem is with the rear. Even if I have the pads so close as to be touching the rim, I can still squeeze the brake lever all the way down to the point it's touching the handlebar. The cable is sliding back and forth through the housing and I don't see any slack in the cable.

The front brake lever is stopping about 1/2 way between the lever and the handlebar with everything adjusted the way I think it should be. Both sets of brake pads are new BTW.

Would putting on new cable housings make a difference?
I think I might have put a shifter cable in there. I'm going to try a new brake cable and see if that does it.
Update:. Switching to a proper brake cable got rid of enough stretch to keep the lever from pulling all the way down to the handlebar. The rear brake will lock up and skid if enough force is applied. It's still squishier than the front, but much better than it was!

Last edited by mtnbud; 06-16-20 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 06-16-20, 09:38 PM
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If you can squeeze the lever all the way to the grip you should replace the cable and housing with better cable. I would recommend replacing the pads also. Being able to squeeze a mountain lever all the way to the grips indicates that either the inner cable is very stretchable or the housing is very compressible, or both. It could indicate soft pads but I doubt that here, pads harden with age and stop grabbing the rim as well usually. A good lined housing and new inner stainless cable should resolve that. Watch the housing/cable length also, shorter is better. Kool Stop or Mathauser salmon pads work the best IMHO and also work well even when wet.

Sorry, I'll learn to read eventually but I'll leave my response as is even though you addressed most of it. The rear always feels softer than the front due to the cable length.
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Old 06-16-20, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
.....Would putting on new cable housings make a difference?
I think I might have put a shifter cable in there. I'm going to try a new brake cable and see if that does it.
Update:. Switching to a proper brake cable got rid of enough stretch to keep the lever from pulling all the way down to the handlebar. The rear brake will lock up and skid if enough force is applied. It's still squishier than the front, but much better than it was!
Quality housing can make a difference.
The rear has a much longer housing (most likely) and will compress proportionately more.
Also, make sure your pads are hitting the rim "square".
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Old 06-17-20, 11:59 AM
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Check that all of your housing ends are fully seated in the cable stops. Make sure you even have all the stops.
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Old 06-17-20, 11:59 AM
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If I had a son with that bike, I'd install a new Deore V-brake in the rear.
In stock (black) for $23: https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...s.php?id=62996
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Old 06-17-20, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ctak View Post
If I had a son with that bike, I'd install a new Deore V-brake in the rear.
In stock (black) for $23: https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...s.php?id=62996
That's a good price for those. (Better than anything I found on Amazon at that level of quality)

I have some v brakes I pulled off a trashed Walmart bike my parts drawer. I'd just need to buy the levers.
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