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Cantilever Brakes - Lever makes ALL the difference -- lessons learned

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Cantilever Brakes - Lever makes ALL the difference -- lessons learned

Old 08-05-11, 06:54 PM
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TurbineBlade
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Cantilever Brakes - Lever makes ALL the difference -- lessons learned

I've read every cantilever brake geometry, set-up, low vs. wide, etc. etc. article and posted on here quite a bit about these brakes and getting good power. I was having NO END of trouble getting even *decent power from a set of tektro oryx brakes on a Surly LHT using old shimano 105 road levers on a drop bar.

Nothing worked -- extending pads outward from the brake arms, reducing friction, lowering yoke (and trying a few sets of link wires), etc. I ended up getting pissed and just using v-brakes with tektro RL520 levers...which work "okay", but lack the feel of good centerpull cantilevers IMO.

So, I now use a flat bar and don't want drops, so I figure -- I'll get a cheap set of tektro mtn levers for regular pull and retry the oryx brakes.

Amazing power and feel! I even reset the brake pads at the preset extension, and didn't bother to spend much time tinkering around with all that crap -- the levers themselves had the proper mechanical advantage to give good power. These are the fussy low profile oryx brakes too mind you!

Why didn't anyone warn me that some older road brake levers have low mechanical advantage? Those things sucked....

Man, I thought I was losing my mind! Anyway --- just a warning out there if anyone has the same problem. The bloody levers make a world of difference in cantilever set up!!!
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Old 08-05-11, 08:43 PM
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Don't canti levers pull more cable than road levers?

Originally Posted by TurbineBlade View Post
Nothing worked -- extending pads outward from the brake arms, reducing friction, lowering yoke
I'd have thought the go would be to raise the yoke quite high.
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Old 08-05-11, 09:34 PM
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For cantilever brakes to work properly the mechanical advantage of the system has to be at a constant; actually I'd wager this is true for most any brake, but it's really only on cantilevers that you can adjust the mechanical advantage, Different style brake levers (Aero style road levers, non aero road levers and flat levers) all have similar but different mechanical advantages, and all need to have the mechanical advantage at the brake adjusted accordingly.
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Old 08-05-11, 09:49 PM
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Uh, I thought you needed V-brake levers for V-brakes because the levers have a different cable pull than brake levers for road brakes.
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Old 08-06-11, 02:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
Don't canti levers pull more cable than road levers?

You're thinking V-brake levers, canti ones pull roughly the same amount of cable as road levers. Obviously the issue here is that "roughly the same" isn't similar enough...
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Old 08-06-11, 02:38 AM
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Levers can make an immense amount of difference in how a certain brake performs... most are aware of the advantages of aero levers over conventional levers but this is only a generality as some conventional levers work every bit as well.

Cantilever brakes and road levers of any flavour tend to work very well together while v brakes need linear pull levers to optimize their performance.

My touring bike and trekking bike both use cantis and u brakes and one uses 105 aero levers while the other uses some rather basic Shimano aero levers... both stop extremely well and are both fitted with low profile Shimano cantis.

Turn back the clock to when many cantis were not low profile and you will see that their levers pulled more cable than the low profile cantis that were introduced by Shimano in the late eighties... these older levers do not work as well with the newer canti type due to different actuation ratios and Shimano really killed those companies that made conventional cantis.

My newest acquisition is an early 80's Ritchey mtb and will be restoring it back to original spec with Shimano BR AT50 cantis which were the last conventional cantis offered by Shimano... will mate them to some vintage "motorcycle" levers which work splendidly with this brake type.
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Old 08-06-11, 04:34 AM
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One of the limitations of posting on a forum -- about half of the people won't actualliy read your post past the first sentence.

Kimmo: V-brakes (a.k.a. linear pull cantilevers) and Cantilever brakes are actually both "cantilever" brakes, but people usually refer to v-brakes separately because they require more cable pull and hence lower mechanical advantage (MA) levers.

fuzz2050: I already did adjust the mechanical advantage of the brakes themselves -- reread what I posted. The brake levers had such low MA that no amount of adjusting the brake for high MA worked. Eventually I was limited by having the yoke so low that it dragged on the tire and/or the brake pads were extended all the way toward the rim.

hybridbkrdr: Uh, You didn't read the post.

SixtyFiver: Yeah, your first sentence sums it up. I assumed the my old 105 road aero levers would have just as much MA as any other lever and was mistaken. The cheap tektro (regular pull) mountain levers had a lot more MA and required very little adjustment of MA at the tektro oryx brakes themselves.

I didn't know this could be the case, that the levers themselves -- even though both were designed for regular pull (road brakes and cantilever brakes) could be so inherently different. Lesson learned - if you hate your weak cantilever brakes, try different levers -- it worked for me.
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Old 08-06-11, 07:53 AM
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Interesting posting. Just out of curiosity I measured the distance from the lever pivot to the cable anchor point on a pair of old 7-speed era 105 aero brake levers (BL-1055) and a pair of new Tektro R200 levers I have on my Surly Cross Check. The distances are the same at 0.70" so the mechanical advantage of these two levers appears to be identical. I wonder if your 105 levers were even older and a different configuration.

My Surly has current Shimano BR-R550 cantilever brakes and they work quite well with adequate power and good modulation with the Tektro levers. I have Kool Stop Salmon pads on them now but they were about as good with the stock Shimano pads. These brakes come with a stradle cable having an included spacer for the clamp bolt side and a fixed length for the anchor side so set up is really pre-defined and you really can't change the geometry except by pad spacing, which is also set by included spacers and adjusted only to compensate for rim width.
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Old 08-06-11, 08:04 AM
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There are even big performance differences between flat bar brake levers. Some old 4-finger levers I've had are impossible to dial in for excellent canti braking. Some of the nicer 90s brake levers I have are great.
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Old 08-06-11, 09:43 AM
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I've not measured, but I 'd have to assume that the old 105 levers I have are longer travel -- I also recall that they weren't all that powerful with regular center pull calipers (which is what they were on when I got that bike) -- but good enough for most riding I guess.

They were completely inadequate for cantilevers though. I guess there's also more cable housing friction loss with road levers, but there's no way that could explain it alone.

Either way, no biggie. The cheap tektro mountain levers and oryx provide excellent power.
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Old 08-07-11, 01:10 PM
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Don't underestimate the power of good rims! I switched from some cheapo no-name alloy wheels to Salsa Delgado rims this week, and the difference is night and day.
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Old 08-07-11, 02:03 PM
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V brake, hand end, levers are the lowest mechanical advantage,
the cable out the top road levers/cantilever are a bit better,
aero levers pull very little cable, that is what you lose with higher mechanical advantage.

little cable pull means brake pad clearance needs to be smaller ,
and that is even more true when the caliper leverage is high, require more cable to be pulled ..

have to combine the right lever and caliper to work together ..

for what situation you need

Cyclocross , muddy course, a brake that opens up well to let the wheel turn,
when you release the brakes will help.
high mechanical advantage setups clog up with mud sooner..

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-08-11 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 08-07-11, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Scheherezade View Post
Don't underestimate the power of good rims! I switched from some cheapo no-name alloy wheels to Salsa Delgado rims this week, and the difference is night and day.
+1 I've noticed that newer rims with machined sidewalls tend to work significantly better than old rims. I agree, the switch is like putting a new set of brake pads on the bike.

Turbineblade: how old are your 105 aero levers? I have a couple sets of old Shimano 600 aero levers (late 80s) and they are my favorite aero levers. I also have a set of 1983 (?) Dura Ace AX aero levers and those feel squishy compared to the 600s. Even when using the same brake.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:47 AM
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Another factor again is the weight of the rim. And tyre.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:41 AM
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NB, a low profile cantilever caliper, is also a type 2 lever.

the pivot is at the far end. ,

wide profile cantilevers are a type 1 lever.

the pivot (Fulcrum) is between the work, the brake pad, and the effort arm,
where the transverse cable attaches.
the ratio there is a choice made in purchasing it.

V brakes are also a type 2 Lever, just a longer effort arm past the work,
the brake pad mount.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:52 AM
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Just out of curiosity, when you had trouble with the old 105 lever, were you braking from the hoods or the drops?
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Old 08-08-11, 06:37 PM
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Just out of curiosity, when you had trouble with the old 105 lever, were you braking from the hoods or the drops?
Both -- braking was weak regardless of hand position. Actually, I remember distinctly that no amount of hand pressure (even deep in the drops) would lock up the rear wheel, and front braking was just marginally better. These were not the super-old road levers with the pivot point set such that braking form the hoods is naturally pretty crappy....it should have been good, like modern levers (the 105s are fairly modern).

With thos mountain levers I have good power and modulation honestly. If I wanted a bit more power, I could set the pads out further from the brake arms, but honestly I'm liking the blend of power and pad movement.
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Old 05-24-17, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by TurbineBlade View Post
Both -- braking was weak regardless of hand position. Actually, I remember distinctly that no amount of hand pressure (even deep in the drops) would lock up the rear wheel, and front braking was just marginally better. These were not the super-old road levers with the pivot point set such that braking form the hoods is naturally pretty crappy....it should have been good, like modern levers (the 105s are fairly modern).

With thos mountain levers I have good power and modulation honestly. If I wanted a bit more power, I could set the pads out further from the brake arms, but honestly I'm liking the blend of power and pad movement.
I borrowed my teammates cyclocross bike with shimano 105 5700 levers and tektro low profile cantilever brakes. The low profile cantilevers have lower clearance/travel and greater mechanical advantage than wide profile cantis, but are still not v-brakes. Braking was piss poor, could not lock up the rear wheel on dry loose gravel. The newer shimano levers have a higher pivot point than in years past, but it is still lower than optimal for braking from the hoods, and lower than either campagnolo or SRAM. Not to mention the razor sharp edges all around the pivot points. don't use shimano road levers if you can help it, it's the weak link in their system and the real reason they went electronic. Everything else they make its great, my cx bike is campy levers, fsa wide profile cantis and shimano everything else. Great engineering, terrible ergonomic design.

Mods - sorry I just realized the age of this thread.

Last edited by Sean Gordon; 05-24-17 at 08:19 AM. Reason: Wow please excuse this extreme necropost.
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Old 05-24-17, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Sean Gordon View Post
I borrowed my teammates cyclocross bike with shimano 105 5700 levers and tektro low profile cantilever brakes. The low profile cantilevers have lower clearance/travel and greater mechanical advantage than wide profile cantis, but are still not v-brakes. Braking was piss poor, could not lock up the rear wheel on dry loose gravel. The newer shimano levers have a higher pivot point than in years past, but it is still lower than optimal for braking from the hoods, and lower than either campagnolo or SRAM. Not to mention the razor sharp edges all around the pivot points. don't use shimano road levers if you can help it, it's the weak link in their system and the real reason they went electronic. Everything else they make its great, my cx bike is campy levers, fsa wide profile cantis and shimano everything else. Great engineering, terrible ergonomic design.

Mods - sorry I just realized the age of this thread.
FYI Shimano changed the cable pull ratio for the 6700/5700 levers & brakes. There's a good chance that the Tektro canti's weren't matched to the Shimano levers. Don't blame Shimano for someone else doing a poor job with component choices.
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