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Vintage Touring Bike Brake Conversion

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Vintage Touring Bike Brake Conversion

Old 07-03-18, 10:40 AM
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Vintage Touring Bike Brake Conversion

I have a 1988 Trek 520. I love the bike, but have about had it with the brakes. They are the original cantilevers, which are in great condition, but despite trying and trying I can't seem to get them dialed in properly. I replaced the pads with koolstop dual compounds, and that helped for a bit, but recently the brakes are making a hideous squeal. I also really hate working with the brakes, as it seems that there are way too many ways to adjust them, and every time I try to fine tune one thing, something else comes out of alignment.

This brings me to my question. I think I want to switch to a different brake. I am open to a different cantilever if there are some that are quiet and easier to adjust, or switching to v-brakes, though I think there could be some issues with the pull ratio. I would also be open to calipers if there was a way to get them on there. Suggestions from the forum?

Last edited by formula bike; 07-03-18 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 07-03-18, 11:16 AM
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My 1990 Cannondale came to me with U brakes (Edit: I guess these a re actually V brakes, I've heard people call them U brakes a lot though) added by the OO. They were very effective stoppers, so much so that I found them 'grabby' and replaced them with cantis. If that was my only bike, I would have left it the way it came to me, but I could never adjust between the differences between them and the mediocre brakes on my other bikes. I have strong hands and am used to having put some effort in my braking, so bikes with better, modern brakes always surprise me a bit.

If you decide to go with the V's and want to swap for mine, send me a PM with the info on your cantis. I'm not sure what the difference in pull ratio is supposed to be, but the levers on the bike seemed to just fine working with either set of calipers. Also I can't help on the squeal issue; my hearing is completely shot in the upper ranges and wouldn't know if my brakes were making noise or not

One thing about the V's, I think they're kinda ugly.

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Old 07-03-18, 11:23 AM
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Both brake squeal and brake power are subject to many different factors, some of which are not very obvious.

For the squeal, check these things:
-Are the pads contaminated or dirty? Clean and file the surface of the pads. Check for bits of rim stuck in the pads.
-Are the brake tracks contaminated or dirty? Clean the rims. If that doesn't work, take a scotchbrite or steel wool to shine the brake track up. Rinse the brake track with isopropyl, not a cleaner that leaves a residue. Same for the pads.
-Are the brake pads toed in? This can sometimes eliminate squeal.
-I have also seen adjusting the angle of attack of the pads reduce squeal.

As to power...what brakes do you have? Are the brake pads close to the brake arms or farther away? Are the two arms evenly spaced from the rim? Adjusting this will change the leverage the arms have on the rim and might reduce flex in the pad holders. Same with adjusted straddle cable height.

Re: V brakes: the pull ratio is different than cantilevers. Cantilevers use "short pull" or "road" levers whereas most V brakes use "long pull" or "mountain" levers. So you would need to change levers, unless you got a special V brake that is short pull ("Mini V brakes", like the one from Paul Components. V brakes are subject to squeal just as much as cantilevers. They are usually somewhat easier to set up due to not needing a straddle cable and hanger. They are more powerful than most cantilevers, meaning they will feel more grabby and a little less modular, but have greater stopping power.

My advice would be to take the bike to a trusted professional mechanic and see if they can get them working nicely. If so, simply ask them what they did and you will have your answer.

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Old 07-03-18, 11:27 AM
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After looking at the Vintage Trek site and some pix- it looks like the 1988 Trek 520 came with the MT-60 cantilever brakes- about the very best wide profile cantis ever made. In both terms of function and desirability.

You can change the brakes to any cantilever you’d like- but my guess is you don’t have them set up properly.

Keep in mind that older tourers generally have the canti bosses closer together than newer bikes-which may limit what brakes will fit in the front. If you like the wide profile look- the Tektro 720 is a well regarded brake- otherwise V brakes may fit as well- but you’d probably need different brake levers.
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Old 07-03-18, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Lascauxcaveman View Post
My 1990 Cannondale came to me with U brakes added by the OO. They were very effective stoppers, so much so that I found them 'grabby' and replaced them with cantis. If that was my only bike, I would have left it the way it came to me, but I could never adjust between the differences between them and the mediocre brakes on my other bikes. I have strong hands and am used to having put some effort in my braking, so bikes with better, modern brakes always surprise me a bit.

(
U Brakes shouldn’t work on canti bosses- the pivot is higher.
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Old 07-03-18, 11:49 AM
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If the brakes have an adjustable straddle cable you might want to try and get a wider angle on the straddle cable to get better leverage. Too high of a triangle can diminish the stopping power.
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Old 07-03-18, 12:44 PM
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Over the years, I've gradually replaced the original Shimano & Dia Compe cantis on my daily riders with the Avid Shorty 6; they have fairly good stopping power (esp. for the price; better than the older brakes, though not as much as V-Brakes), and they're a lot easier to set up, adjust, and maintain than the older style brakes.

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Old 07-03-18, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by formula bike View Post
I have a 1988 Trek 520. I love the bike, but have about had it with the brakes. They are the original cantilevers, which are in great condition, but despite trying and trying I can't seem to get them dialed in properly. I replaced the pads with koolstop dual compounds, and that helped for a bit, but recently the brakes are making a hideous squeal. I also really hate working with the brakes, as it seems that there are way too many ways to adjust them, and every time I try to fine tune one thing, something else comes out of alignment.

This brings me to my question. I think I want to switch to a different brake. I am open to a different cantilever if there are some that are quiet and easier to adjust, or switching to v-brakes, though I think there could be some issues with the pull ratio. I would also be open to calipers if there was a way to get them on there. Suggestions from the forum?
I think what you want to do is a little like switching out an engine because you are having a hard time tuning. It doesn't really make sense. V brakes can squeal too. You'd be going through all the same stuff with them too.

Anyhow, before you go to drastic measures I'd try this: Clean the rims with some medium scotchbrite or even fine (~320) sandpaper. Take off the pads and sand to deglaze them, putting some extra pressure on the back/trailing edges. Reinstall and make sure they're toed in. All pivots should be clean and greased and snug. If they continue to squeak get some all black pads instead. The red compound is supercool in wet conditions, but it does have some propensity to squeal.
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Old 07-03-18, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post

U Brakes shouldn’t work on canti bosses- the pivot is higher.
I dig. But I keep forgetting the distinction because I've never actually had U brakes on anything, the V brakes are shaped like an inverterted U and the Cantis straddle cable forms a perfect inverted V. I think maybe the OP and many others have the same confusion with the terminology.
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Old 07-03-18, 08:47 PM
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Perhaps switching the brakes is extreme, and I am sure they aren't set up correctly at the moment, but in my experience, v brakes are much easier to set up properly (caliper brakes are even easier) . I feel like I don't have enough hands to get everything set up correctly with these. As I try to adjust the toe I accidentally mess up the depth (probably wrong term, just how close they are to the rim) or something like that. I may just have to go to a bike shop to get these adjusted right.

Another thought I have had is switching to different cantis(similar to DIMcyclist's suggestion) that look (though I could be wrong) much easier to adjust, like the shimano br cx-50. Who knows, maybe I could even send someone the original brakes that would get more out of them than me.

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Old 07-03-18, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by formula bike View Post
Perhaps switching the brakes is extreme, and I am sure they aren't set up correctly at the moment, but in my experience, v brakes are much easier to set up properly (caliper brakes are even easier) . I feel like I don't have enough hands to get everything set up correctly with these. As I try to adjust the toe I accidentally mess up the depth (probably wrong term, just how close they are to the rim) or something like that. I may just have to go to a bike shop to get these adjusted right.

Another thought I have had is switching to different cantis(similar to DIMcyclist's suggestion) that look (though I could be wrong) much easier to adjust, like the shimano br cx-50. Who knows, maybe I could even send someone the original brakes that would get more out of them than me.
Not a terrible idea. The Tektro CR720 are good brakes too and easier to adjust that the old shimanos, as they have modern spherical washer type pads instead of the post type. They even kind of look the same if you get them in silver. It's possible you could run into issues with the braze on spacing though

Anyhow the Shimanos aren't that hard. The trick is not to try to do it all at once. A 4th hand is helpful. This is a simplified version of how I used to do it: (I've set up hundreds, perhaps thousands of them)

1. Put the pads approximately where they should be first. Don't be too exact. Set the posts about midway. Tighten them down only enough to keep them in position.
2. Install the straddle wire and set it so the pads are not quite touching the rim. Again, snug the fixing bolt only enough to hold.
3. Align the pads so the meet the rim correctly. Then, use the little black dial thing to dial in the toe in. I put about a 1/16" a the back edge. Snug it down. Use an allen wrench on the front of the bolts to help hold them while you do this. Do the other side.
4. When both sides are done, go back and adjust the cable and straddle length as needed. Here's where the 4th hand helps. Tighten those down snug too.
5. Snip cables etc.

If you don't feel 100% confident, take them to the LBS.
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Old 07-03-18, 10:00 PM
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Actually, with regard to maybe changing out the brakes completely, this reminds me...

I should point out that the Avids need a minimum of about 65mm (c-t-c) between the canti studs for decent leverage. If you have a narrow fork, the Shimano CX-50s would be a better option since they're designed for CX bikes.

I ran into this little problem on my Panasonic... This bike was (happily) missing its original Dia Compe 981 brakes (which are widely acknowledged to suck) but- having been designed for a wide-profile brake- the fork canti studs are too closely spaced (63mm) to allow using the low-profile Avids; the CX-50s were a good alternative and four years on, I've been quite satisfied with them. Their design is similar to the Shorty 6 and adjustment isn't any more of a hassle.



Fwiw, while I don't personally use the Tektro CR720, but a couple of my friends do- and have no complaints.

Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
If you don't feel 100% confident, take them to the LBS.
+1

-

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Old 07-03-18, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by DIMcyclist View Post

This bike was (happily) missing its original Dia Compe 981 brakes (which are widely acknowledged to suck)
The 981s are good brakes- Those were used on upper level and top of the line bikes for like 5 years.
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Old 07-04-18, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Lascauxcaveman View Post
I dig. But I keep forgetting the distinction because I've never actually had U brakes on anything, the V brakes are shaped like an inverterted U and the Cantis straddle cable forms a perfect inverted V. I think maybe the OP and many others have the same confusion with the terminology.
Yeah- I don't quite understand the V brake nomenclature. But U brakes look like an inverted U-







The easy thing to remember is that U brakes work on the same boss locations as Suntour Roller Cams. That's why you'll see either U brakes or Roller Cams on the "under the chain stay" mountain bikes of the mid-late 80s. You'll see some bikes that have cantis in the front and a Roller Cam under the chain stay.

I have a High Sierra that has Roller Cams on both front and back- which effectively limits me to Roller Cams or U brakes.


1987 Schwinn High Sierra by Dave The Golden Boy, on Flickr
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Old 07-05-18, 12:23 PM
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Would mini-v brakes be an option to consider as well, if I do decide to go down the route of replacing the brakes? For instance, the Tektro 926AL? I presume if I were to go this route I would need to re-cable the brakes (which I think would work with my levers) and get rid of the bracket the cantilever brakes run though that sits between the headtube and the fork?
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Old 07-05-18, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by formula bike View Post
Would mini-v brakes be an option to consider as well, if I do decide to go down the route of replacing the brakes? For instance, the Tektro 926AL? I presume if I were to go this route I would need to re-cable the brakes (which I think would work with my levers) and get rid of the bracket the cantilever brakes run though that sits between the headtube and the fork?
Supposedly those Tektros work with standard brake levers, so they should be fine. V brakes can get in the way of racks sometimes, so check clearances etc. Yeah, you wouldn't need the cable stops.

I prefer the feel of cantilevers, but that's just me.
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Old 07-05-18, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Lascauxcaveman View Post

One thing about the V's, I think they're kinda ugly.

Linear response brakes (Shimano owns the 'V-Brake' branding) can be had that look a lot less like donkey ears. But I'm sure you know that, so don't consider this snark.


Originally Posted by formula bike View Post
Would mini-v brakes be an option to consider as well, if I do decide to go down the route of replacing the brakes? For instance, the Tektro 926AL? I presume if I were to go this route I would need to re-cable the brakes (which I think would work with my levers) and get rid of the bracket the cantilever brakes run though that sits between the headtube and the fork?
I have mini-V brakes on my Triplecross drop-bar conversion that just don't seem to work right with either V-brake levers or standard levers. One of these days I'll go back to cantis.

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Old 07-05-18, 05:26 PM
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I will take into consideration that you don't like your mini-v brakes, though I have heard a lot of people do. What about fork spacing? I haven't measured, but is there a minimum fork spacing before I could get the mini vs to work?
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Old 07-05-18, 05:41 PM
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Fork spacing concerns mostly arise from the older-style canti bosses, which have only one anchor-hole to tension the brake spring: if you can't get enough spring tension on a narrow fork under those conditions, you're basically SOL & have to find a more compatible brake. Or a narrower wheel rim (that can also shave off a couple of millimeters).

It's not so much of an issue with the newer bosses that have three holes; the extra anchor points are one of those little modern niceties that really do improve things.

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Old 07-05-18, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by DIMcyclist View Post
Fork spacing concerns mostly arise from the older-style canti bosses, which have only one anchor-hole to tension the brake spring: if you can't get enough spring tension on a narrow fork under those conditions, you're basically SOL & have to find a more compatible brake. Or a narrower wheel rim (that can also shave off a couple of millimeters).

It's not so much of an issue with the newer bosses that have three holes; the extra anchor points are one of those little modern niceties that really do improve things.

-
It's the distance between the bosses that's the problem- fork bosses can be as close together as 50mm. Not only is it a problem when you're trying to change from 27" to 700c wheels, but there's also a problem of which brakes will have the adjustability to mate to the rim at the proper angle.
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Old 07-06-18, 04:51 AM
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Fine. I guess my own experience counts for nothing... with that, I resign from this forum.
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Old 07-06-18, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by formula bike View Post
I will take into consideration that you don't like your mini-v brakes, though I have heard a lot of people do. What about fork spacing? I haven't measured, but is there a minimum fork spacing before I could get the mini vs to work?
Just add my 2 cents - I went from cantis to mini-v back to cantis on my gravel bike. The tektro 926al mini-vs did have great stopping power, and they worked with my road brake levers, but they squealed like hell and more critically, they were super finicky. It seemed like every time I'd take the wheel out and put it back, I'd have to re-adjust them. I have multiple wheelsets for that bike, so this was a problem.

I finally went back to cantis, tektro cr720, and just lowered the straddle cable yoke a bunch, and spent more time adjusting them, and this time they've been trouble free for months.
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Old 07-06-18, 08:13 AM
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As others have noted, the Deore canti's you have now are excellent (if tuned properly, but that's the case for all brakes). My partner rides an '89 Trek 520 with the same brakes. It's critical to note that if you ever want to convert the bike to 700c, your Deore cantis work great for the task. I had no issue converting her 520, but trying to do the same with my Schwinn Voyageur with multiple cantilever models was super frustrating. Combination canti post width and height adjustment issues.

I eventually put Shimano CX-70's on my Voyageur, which work but I can't use the stock pads that they came with (nice cartridges :/). My problems would have been solved if I just had another set of those Deore MT-60's, but they fetch high prices these days on eBay so I didn't.
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Old 07-06-18, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by DIMcyclist View Post
Fine. I guess my own experience counts for nothing... with that, I resign from this forum.
A bit dramatic, don't you think?

I'm wrong and make mistakes about lots of things. I would say that I could be mistaken about this- but you clarified it earlier in the post.

Originally Posted by DIMcyclist View Post
Fork spacing concerns mostly arise from the older-style canti bosses, which have only one anchor-hole to tension the brake spring: if you can't get enough spring tension on a narrow fork under those conditions, you're basically SOL & have to find a more compatible brake. Or a narrower wheel rim (that can also shave off a couple of millimeters).

It's not so much of an issue with the newer bosses that have three holes; the extra anchor points are one of those little modern niceties that really do improve things.
Originally Posted by DIMcyclist View Post

I should point out that the Avids need a minimum of about 65mm (c-t-c) between the canti studs for decent leverage. If you have a narrow fork, the Shimano CX-50s would be a better option since they're designed for CX bikes.
The emphasis is yours.


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Old 07-06-18, 11:48 AM
  #25  
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+1 for the strength and power of Paul Mini-V brakes. They can easily be oversqueezed, so be careful.

And, that's with road bar levers!
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