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Upgrading to V-Brakes from cantilevers?

Old 06-17-11, 01:05 PM
  #1  
Mithrandir
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Upgrading to V-Brakes from cantilevers?

Hi there!

I have some really old Shimano altus center-pull cantilever brakes on my bike and they are really beginning to annoy me because they never keep their alignments for more than a few miles, and their braking power is pretty substandard in my opinion.

So, I'm interested in upgrading to V-brakes. I've googled around and looked at threads about this, and I ended up confusing myself. A few months ago I had new shifters put on it because the old ones got gummed up (I had the LBS put them on because I didn't know much about bike maintenance then, but I've learned a lot and now I want to do the work myself). The new shifters I believe are these model:

http://bike.shimano.com/publish/cont...d,st_road.html

So one of the things I saw is that I'll need a brake lever that supports V-brakes because V-brake and center-pull are not compatible. Well this confuses me, because the new shifters I have say "V-brake" right on them. How can I be using V-brake levers with cantilever brakes? Did the LBS set this up wrong? Is this why I feel like it takes forever to brake now?


Regardless of that, I'm assuming that if they say V-brake on them, I can just buy v-brakes and install them? I'm assuming I'll also need:

1) new brake cable (something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Shimano-Front-...8337447&sr=1-5 ?)
2) a set or 4th hand cable pullers

I have the Park Tool AK37 toolkit so I think I have everything else that would be necessary.

Regarding what kinds to get... I'm considering Shimano Deore Vbrakes. Are those good or overpriced? Any other recommendations?

Thanks!
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Old 06-17-11, 01:22 PM
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If your current brake levers say 'V Brake' then they are likely for use with V brakes, and your bike shop used the wrong type. The end result of using V Brake levers on centre-pull cantis is that the levers will feel stiff and you will have very little braking power, so 'yes,' likely this is the reason your braking is poor.

It is also possible the levers you have were adjusted to use with centre pull cantis - the difference between the two types of levers is the distance between the cable anchor point int he lever and the lever pivot - V brake levers have a larger distance than canti levers. Pull your levers and look at the cable anchor point - if it looks like there might be some way to move the cable head further form the pivot point then your levers are set up for cantis. II don't know if your levers have this adjustment, though - not all levers do.

If they are V brake levers and they are not adapted to work with cantis then you can use V brakes without any modification.
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Old 06-17-11, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by DCB0 View Post
It is also possible the levers you have were adjusted to use with centre pull cantis - the difference between the two types of levers is the distance between the cable anchor point int he lever and the lever pivot - V brake levers have a larger distance than canti levers. Pull your levers and look at the cable anchor point - if it looks like there might be some way to move the cable head further form the pivot point then your levers are set up for cantis. II don't know if your levers have this adjustment, though - not all levers do.
Alivio levers are not adjusible in this manner.
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Old 06-17-11, 02:34 PM
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speed dial avid is adjustable..

about cable pull ratios, consider the lever.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever
where the fulcrum is in relation to the work being done and the effort be applied, matters.
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Old 06-17-11, 03:02 PM
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1. Some Shimano levers have two positions: one marked "L" for V-brakes and one marked "H" for cantys. People sometimes also use linear pull levers with canty brakes. It takes a little more hand strength but it's not a problem for most people.
2. What kind of cable guides and stops does your bike have? V-brakes need a cable housing. If you don't have a cable stop at the back of your top tube you may be able to find a clamp-on cable stop (make sure it matches your top tube diameter). Another alternative is to run a full length cable housing from the brake lever.
3. One of the nice things about V-brakes is how easy they are to set up. I doubt you'll find a 4th hand tool necessary or even helpful.
4. I'm big on Shimano and Avid linear pull brakes. Tektro linear pull brakes are so-so. ProMax brakes suck. I guess you get the quality that you pay for.
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Old 06-17-11, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
Hi there!

I have some really old Shimano altus center-pull cantilever brakes on my bike and they are really beginning to annoy me because they never keep their alignments for more than a few miles, and their braking power is pretty substandard in my opinion.
There is no inherent reason why cantis would have worse braking performance than V-brakes. Even the alignment shouldn't be a problem - millions of people have cantis on their bikes and don't experience issues with pad alignment (I guess this is what you're referring to?).
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Old 06-17-11, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops View Post
There is no inherent reason why cantis would have worse braking performance than V-brakes. Even the alignment shouldn't be a problem - millions of people have cantis on their bikes and don't experience issues with pad alignment (I guess this is what you're referring to?).
It's been a long time now but a LOT of old Shimano canty brakes had nylon return spring covers that cracked and failed. Shimano used to even provide replacements gratis. When the spring cover failed one brake arm wouldn't retract.
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Old 06-17-11, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
It's been a long time now but a LOT of old Shimano canty brakes had nylon return spring covers that cracked and failed. Shimano used to even provide replacements gratis. When the spring cover failed one brake arm wouldn't retract.
Okay, but that's not an issue with the canti design itself. The OP could simply replace the cantilevers and live happily ever-after.
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Old 06-17-11, 03:26 PM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops View Post
Okay, but that's not an issue with the canti design itself. The OP could simply replace the cantilevers and live happily ever-after.
Except for the fact that he already has V-Brake levers.
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Old 06-17-11, 03:31 PM
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lower leverage pulls more cable, V brake lever..
Higher leverage caliper demands more cable pull ..

type 2 lever.. fulcrum on the end

High profile L cantilevers are a type 1 lever, fulcrum more in the middle.
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Old 06-17-11, 06:26 PM
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I just did a conversion of a Bridgestone CB-2 with old cantis to V-brakes for my son. He's getting cheap $10 Shimano Acera V-brakes matched to Tektro 316AG BMX 2-finger levers. The combination is very nice for someone who's just 11 yrs old. The levers are short reach, and have two recessed brake cable stop holes - the one further out for V-brakes, and the one inside for all others. The Acera brakes have long arms and great torque. The combination makes for a very light squeeze to slow the bike down, and the ability to lock the tire at half draw. The older Exage combo brake/shifter had a brake lever almost twice the width and more than 10mm further reach. Even my hand had issues holding that brake lever closed for extended periods. And while I don't recall the tension of the Altus brakes, I know the Exage or no-name Shimano Cantilevers on this old CB-2 (if they are even shimano) have very, very tough springs. There are 3 spring positioning holes on the brake boss, and pick the lowest tension and the cantilever touches one side of the rim or the other. The middle hole then suddenly increases tension a LOT, requiring a lot of torque at the brake lever to close the brake. And then you have the impossible top hole. Don't even think about getting the spring to hook that one. You'd never close the lever.

The linear pulls are softer on their pull requirements by design. They stop with less torque required and therefore, on long downhills on technical terrain, the hands can sustain a constant braking for longer than most cantilevers. And now I'm thinking about switching because I have old school vintage top-o-line Deore XT cantis from 20 yrs ago or on my MB with drop bars. And I thought braking was sweet with my aero drop brake levers. But recent off road rides convinced me a flat bar w/ brake levers and linear pulls is easier on the hands. Some of us are getting older and arthritis is setting in. LOL!
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Old 06-17-11, 08:04 PM
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I have found V-brakes to be much much easier to install and set up than canti's.
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Old 06-18-11, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
I have found V-brakes to be much much easier to install and set up than canti's.
+1

Yes, you can get great stopping power from cantis. But if your setup is wrong they can be terrible. V-brakes are much harder to mess up. Plus, even some of the best cantis I've used feel worse than the cheap Tektro V-brakes. If you already have V-brake levers get some V-brakes (and new cables and housing.) You'll be much happier.
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Old 09-14-11, 10:04 AM
  #14  
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same situation as OP, replaced the old gummed up shifters with Shimano V-brake shifter/levers combo and the braking suffered with existing cantilever brakes, i had to gorilla grip the brake levers to lock the wheels on flat... I can never lock them on a downhill, especially in wet downhill...it was dangerous!

So I bought a set of Avid v-brakes (front and back), new cables and that fixed the problem, I could modulate the braking and it does not take a lot of grip power to lock the wheels, even on wet steep grades...V-brake levers for V-brakes.
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Old 09-14-11, 11:04 AM
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yes Direct pull levers/calipers have no variation of straddle cable length,
to complicate the installation and adjustment,
Setup needs the pad to rim clearance is thinner because of the higher leverage.

somewhat why Cantilevers have advantages , for Touring, and Cross bikes,
rim out of true or a muddy Cross racecourse
and traditional cantilevers become an advantage again.
because of the wider gap when brakes not applied.

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-14-11 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 09-14-11, 03:45 PM
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you know last summer when I got a new cross bike with cantis, I complained about them and was disappointed as they didnt feel any stronger than my 20 yr old cantis on my old touring bike. After the pads got bedded in, they were better, but when I finally got some salmon Koolstop pads, I really noticed a big diff. I now am able to use the topbar cross brakes confidently, and the braking is overall much stronger. A number of years ago I endo'ed the mtn bike on the street with a fast emergency stop, and like the more controlled rate with my cantis.

my mtn bike has v brakes, and I would have to say that I prefer cantis for the more progressive braking power. I find that the V's are touchy from going from "sortof hard braking---to suddenly "doing an endo" , just my experience but I like the progressiveness, and with softer pads (and keeping rims clean) my cantis work very well.

Last edited by djb; 09-15-11 at 07:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-14-11, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
my mtn bike as v brakes, and I would haave to say that I prefer cantis for the more progressive braking power. I find that the V's are touching from going from "sortof hard braking---to suddenly "doing an endo" , just my experience but I like the progressiveness, and with softer pads (and keeping rims clean) my cantis work very well.
In my experience, this problem can be eliminated by using a softer pad like Kool Stop salmon. You get nice low-power braking with a little hand pressure, and can easily take it up to as much power as you can handle, before flipping or locking wheels.

This is in contrast to some cantis where you just have to grab really hard no matter what. The V-brakes give a more easily accessible range of braking.
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Old 09-14-11, 04:34 PM
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jake, the pads on the mtn commuter are old koolstop salmons. I have found that on my wifes flat bar bike with Vs, that they are similar in ramping up suddenly. Perhaps newer pads could help, but my feeling is that its just how they work.
As you say though, cantis can really requre a lot of muscle. Mine work well now I am sure partly because the pads are newish and my rims are always kept clean.
Being from a motorcycling background, racing a bit, where two finger braking while blipping downshifts are the norm, I would always want stronger brakes, but nice progressive modulation is a big thing too.

I have often thought that perhaps mini-v's are an interesting compromise?
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Old 09-15-11, 07:06 PM
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If you have v brake compatible levers and run em w/canti's, it will work. Runnin v brakes with canti or caliper levers won't work as not enough cable is pulled ... that's why the Travel Agent and similar adapters were made.
Setting canti's can be very trying in some cases, whereas v brake set up is much easier.
For some reason v brake pads [ threaded post ], regardless of brand, don't have as much material on them as canti pads [ smooth post ]. Kool STop Eagle Claw BMX pads are a nice alternative for v brakes ... simply use the hardware off the v brake pads that you are replacing.
Both brake types have their own pros and cons.
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Old 09-15-11, 07:38 PM
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re setup, my 20 yr old cantis were a pain in the keester cuz only one side had the tension thingee for the spring, but the newer ones have it on both side (duh! took em long enough) so they have been easy to setup when I put the new pads on them, just copied the toe-in from before and they work fine.
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Old 09-16-11, 05:16 AM
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I have found V-brakes to be much much easier to install and set up than canti's.
This is true -- though I don't find cantilevers too hard ot set-up...especially with a fork crown housing stop vs. the headset ones, which usually make for crappy cable routing on my bikes.

I'm happy with either type -- though I'd say v-brakes are nearly always more powerful and less hassle. The barrel adjusters on v-brakes do very little, which kind of sucks but it's just a mechanical issue with cable pull. I guess I'd have to give my cantilevers a slight nod because they have much better "feel" than my v-brakes and they mount with racks easier.
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Old 09-16-11, 08:04 AM
  #22  
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I have a Surly Cross Check currently running Shimano's BR-R550 canti's and Tektro R200 levers. I have Koolstop Salmon pads on the front and KS black pads on the rear. These brakes use the same replacable pad and pad holders as most V-brakes. Braking is adequate but not as powerful as I'm used to with dp road calipers. Also, the front squeals badly unless the pads are toed in a lot and requires frequent toe setting to keep them quiet.

So, I'm debating replacing the brakes and levers with V-brakes, either Shimno or Avid, and will get suitable Tektro or Cane Creek levers. Any specific recommendations? I don't want to put a lot of money into this change but do want better and quieter braking.

Edit: I have a rack on the rear of this bike and its upper arms are bolted to braze-ons on the seatstays. Will V-brakes clear them?

Last edited by HillRider; 09-16-11 at 08:29 AM.
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