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I prefer cantilever brakes for gravel (and CX) bikes

Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

I prefer cantilever brakes for gravel (and CX) bikes

Old 03-15-17, 07:23 PM
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Erik_A
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I prefer cantilever brakes for gravel (and CX) bikes

I am not a fan of disc brakes for gravel/ endurance bikes, and am therefore frustrated that all of the sweet new steel gravel frames (that fit wider tires) are disc only! I guess I am a retro-grouch because I prefer my CX bike with TRP RevoX cantilever brakes. I am a big guy 6'-4" and over 220 lbs, and never had trouble stopping myself with cantilever brakes while riding cyclocross or gravel. Disc brakes are great for mountain bikes, but are such a hassle to set up properly and are way heavier than canti's.

For a short time, I had a Soma Wolverine with a nice steel front fork; the only problem was whenever I turned the brake rotor would rub against the caliper. I guess the fork was too flexible for my weight. So I just put 40c tires on my 2012 Van Dessel Gin & Trombones cyclocross bike, and call that my gravel bike. The Van Dessel has both canti studs as well as a disc mount on the frame. For awhile I thought about "upgrading" to discs, but I don't think I ever will. If its not broke, don't fix it, right?

I just wish that there was a Ritchey Swiss Cross (cantilever) equivalent steel frame that can fit 700x45c tires.

Last edited by Erik_A; 03-15-17 at 07:32 PM.
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Old 03-15-17, 07:27 PM
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Me too. I wanted to build up a CX/gravel bike the old school way by moving an old road group over to a CX frame and it was a challenge to find a decent frame with cantis and a BSA bottom bracket.
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Old 03-15-17, 07:33 PM
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What did you end up with?

Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Me too. I wanted to build up a CX/gravel bike the old school way by moving an old road group over to a CX frame and it was a challenge to find a decent frame with cantis and a BSA bottom bracket.
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Old 03-15-17, 07:43 PM
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I'd rather have linear pull V-brakes. My hybrid has them. One finger braking. My rigid mountain bike cantis and needs two or three fingers on the levers for comparable braking power.

Both have similar clearance 700x40 or comparable 26" tires, so there's no advantage there to cantilevers.

A couple of friends have converted their older mountain bikes from canti to V-brakes and are satisfied.
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Old 03-15-17, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Erik_A View Post
snip . . .

I just wish that there was a Ritchey Swiss Cross (cantilever) equivalent steel frame that can fit 700x45c tires.
Saga DC Frame Set (Disc/Canti) | SOMA Fabrications
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Old 03-15-17, 08:09 PM
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Welcome to the "disc brakes are being rammed down our throats" club.

IMO, except for mtn bikes and a few isolated purposes, disc brakes are more suited to the needs of component makers and bicycle marketers than riders. But then I'm just short of being a certified retro grouch.

Unfortunately they're getting harder to avoid, and more and more frames are being deigned around them, so it'll soon reach the point where you might as well have them because not having them poses too many problems.
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Old 03-15-17, 08:12 PM
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If the Soma Wolverine was any indication, the Saga DC will be very heavy with a noodle-like front end...


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Old 03-15-17, 08:22 PM
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I'm happy discs have made it to road/CX bikes. I've been on more than one ride when rim brakes nearly failed me...especially anytime I got caught in the rain. No more worries with discs.
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Old 03-15-17, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Erik_A View Post
I just wish that there was a Ritchey Swiss Cross (cantilever) equivalent steel frame that can fit 700x45c tires.
So a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame is made from unbranded tubing, but based on reviews it matches(beats) the Swiss Cross for frame weight.
- The Swiss Cross is triple butted Logic II and a 55cm frame weighs 4.32#.
- The Black Mountain Cycles frame is heat treated double butted(.8/.5/.8) and a 56cm frame weighs 4.07#.

This assumes you dont get the 64cm frame. If you do, the tubing is .9/.6/.9 and was designed a hair thicker because we bigger folk kinda tend to weigh a bit more too.

Now the Swiss cross has a carbon fork so thatll obviously weigh less than the Black Mountain Cycles steel fork. But it could easily be swapped for a carbon, or keep the stock fork and enjoy the awesome Pacenti PBP fork crown.

So its a steel frame which weighs slightly less than the Swiss Cross, has canti studs, has room for a 50mm tire, and costs less than half of the Swiss Cross frameset.


Here is a 65cm frame (not made anymore, but the current 64cm frame has the same effective measurements).

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Old 03-15-17, 08:53 PM
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Thanks very much for the advice, that might be just the ticket! I would need the 64cm size.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
So a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame is made from unbranded tubing, but based on reviews it matches(beats) the Swiss Cross for frame weight.
- The Swiss Cross is triple butted Logic II and a 55cm frame weighs 4.32#.
- The Black Mountain Cycles frame is heat treated double butted(.8/.5/.8) and a 56cm frame weighs 4.07#.

This assumes you dont get the 64cm frame. If you do, the tubing is .9/.6/.9 and was designed a hair thicker because we bigger folk kinda tend to weigh a bit more too.

Now the Swiss cross has a carbon fork so thatll obviously weigh less than the Black Mountain Cycles steel fork. But it could easily be swapped for a carbon, or keep the stock fork and enjoy the awesome Pacenti PBP fork crown.

So its a steel frame which weighs slightly less than the Swiss Cross, has canti studs, has room for a 50mm tire, and costs less than half of the Swiss Cross frameset.


Here is a 65cm frame (not made anymore, but the current 64cm frame has the same effective measurements).
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Old 03-15-17, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Erik_A View Post
Thanks very much for the advice, that might be just the ticket! I would need the 64cm size.
Yeah, he currently has the 64cm frame in shiny red, semigloss black, and pink.
He still has a 65cm green frame too, but that doesnt have the Pacenti fork crown as its a couple versions old.

Forgot to mention- the 64cm frames come with a 3rd bottle cage mount under the downtube, and also have fender and rack mounts both front and rear. Extremely versatile frame.

1 more pic since i geek over the bike so much.
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Old 03-15-17, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Erik_A View Post
What did you end up with?
Ellsworth Roots. It's a 2012 NOS frameset.


Last edited by caloso; 03-16-17 at 12:51 PM.
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Old 03-15-17, 10:43 PM
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cantis are going to be a niche in the future, I think you're going to have to get used to going a bit upscale. I've been assimilated, didn't see the point in fighting. I wasn't really that happy with cantis on gravel around here anyway, there are a lot of steep downhills where I really wanted to be able to go slower than cantis would allow
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Old 03-16-17, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
cantis are going to be a niche in the future, I think you're going to have to get used to going a bit upscale. I've been assimilated, didn't see the point in fighting. I wasn't really that happy with cantis on gravel around here anyway, there are a lot of steep downhills where I really wanted to be able to go slower than cantis would allow
Can you describe in what way(s) canti brakes didnt allow you to go slower like you wanted? Genuine question as I read this a lot(canti brake issues/complaints) and just havent experienced it and all my canti brakes are decades old yet stop my fat self without issue. I can slow, I can stop.

It may be that I dont know what I dont know and though I think ive been slowing down, I am not really when compared to disc brakes? I always just figured if they can confidently stop me, they can slow or stop most all riders(based on mass).
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Old 03-16-17, 06:59 AM
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Disc brakes are the latest example of component changes being rammed down cyclists throats under the guise of progress. Half the problem is consumers, however, who accept the latest hype as gospel. Many cyclists have been convinced that discs are better without any frame of reference. I have three bikes with canti brakes and they all stop great with no issues. Yet I ride with guys whose disc brakes are always squealing, getting out of alignment and needing maintenance.

BTW, I have a Ritchey Breakaway Cross with canti brakes and love it. I think that it would fit 40 mm tires but the largest I've run are 35s. I bought mine used without a fork, so I installed a steel Soma CX fork with tons of clearance.
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Old 03-16-17, 09:45 AM
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At the risk of sounding cultish, I feel the same way.

When did everybody forget that "rim" brakes are really just the largest possible disc you can cram on a bicycle?

(not even going to get into the cable vs. hydraulic debate, which is what all the side-taking SHOULD be about)
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Old 03-16-17, 10:38 AM
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I was in OK for LR100 last weekend.. mud and rain reign the entire race. i have a canti on my bike. the whole time i have an illusion that i have a disc brake.

IMO canti and v brake is sufficient enough for recreational use but you are in to some race where you really have to face the inevitable such as rain, dust and mud for sure you're going to have the same thought as mine. "'wish my bike has a discs!".

Btw all the people(over a dozen) that i talked to, who dont have brakes that day has canti and vrake set ups on their bikes.
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Old 03-16-17, 11:40 AM
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My cross bikes have cantilever or mini-v brakes, and will for quite a while. But this is silly. Hydraulic disc brakes are far superior to cantis. It's not even a contest. Cantilevers have so-so power and so-so modulation, cause brake shudder on some forks (the aforementioned Ritchey Swiss Cross is intolerable with cantis in front for this reason) and the pads pick up all kinds of garbage that then wears down your rims. Mini-v brakes have excellent power, but fairly crap modulation, and rim/pad clearance is terrible when things get messy. Same story with pads. Hydro discs have superior power, superior modulation, the pads tend to last longer and if they don't, at least they're not wearing down your rims. You can also change wheel sizes between 700C and 650B as easily as you can swap any other wheel, if that matters to you. Pad/rim clearance becomes a non-issue. If you hit something hard enough to bend a wheel with mini-v brakes, your event is over. With discs, unless you've really turned the wheel into a taco shell, keep going, it's fine. And of course, rim brakes are more prone to fade (glazing) than properly bedded disc pads because the compounds are so much softer.

What's more, while I've had no complaints with my existing brakes one relatively flat or gently rolling courses, I've also done gravel races in the Green Mountains of Vermont. When you're descending at high speed on gravel roads for 10 minutes, you really develop a serious case of disc envy. The issue isn't so much power as it is control. There's no denying that rim brakes work, and I've got three sets of tubular race wheels plus three other clin her wheel sets for my cross bikes. So it'll be a while till I switch. But man, the denial is just silly. I can hardly believe the argument that mountain bikes need disc brakes, but gravel bikes don't. Screaming down a graded gravel road at 45 mph calls for discs even more than rolling down single track at 12 mph does. MTBers fought over this, too. Disc brakes won, because they actually were superior. They're superior on gravel bikes, too. End of story.
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Old 03-16-17, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by wschruba View Post
When did everybody forget that "rim" brakes are really just the largest possible disc you can cram on a bicycle?
No one forgot about it, it's just a ridiculous red herring. Yeah, they work on the same principle - so? That principle is exactly what allows discs to work better. If you can squeeze something much skinner than a rim, and don't need to account for huge amounts of additional clearance to avoid rub, you can build a system with far higher mechanical advantage than a traditional rim brake. Which is what then allows you to use a small rotor mounted to the hub, and gives you finer control over braking power, especially once you replace moveable, compressible, stretchable cables and housing and sticky cams with incompressible hydraulic fluid and smooth-operating pistons.
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Old 03-16-17, 12:07 PM
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My disc braked gravel bike is the direct result of my experience riding/racing in gravel events on my canti-braked cx bike. Even though I have raced cx for years with cantilevers, I quickly discovered that cantilevers were inadequate in gravel races. Descending rough gravel roads at speed and getting rims wet and gritty with stream crossings, quickly enlightened me to the benefits of disc brakes for gravel events. I still love my canti-braked cx bike and my canti-braked touring bike, I even still ride a fully rigid canti-braked mountain bike at times, but disc brakes have greatly improved my safety and performance in gravel events.
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Old 03-16-17, 12:09 PM
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I know nothing about cantilever brakes but even if disk brakes have flaws today, it is a mistake to think that they will always have those same issues. Technology is rarely stagnant and there have been many improvements over the first iterations of bicycle disk brakes. Flat mount and centerlock are two examples.



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Old 03-16-17, 12:29 PM
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Eh, hydraulic discs are pretty damned good. They're very low maintenance once you get them set up. Bleeding brakes is pretty simple and only needs to be done rarely. The rubbing issue is pretty easy to solve, especially with hydraulic brakes as they automatically self center. Discs offer more consistent braking and better modulated power. Discs are also a lot more powerful than cantis, which some people may care about. lastly, discs neatly solve the problem of people trying to use carbon braking surfaces, which was always a terrible idea in my opinion. Also, as noted above, discs continue to improve rapidly.

I agree that sidepulls (and to a lesser extent cantis) are easier to set up, a bit easier to maintain and work fine. I totally understand having a preference for sidepulls and cantis. However, I equally believe that discs offer some genuine improvements for many riders. This is notably unlike dumb "innovations" like press fit bottom brackets and integrated seat masts which offer no benefit in exchange for real problems. Saying that discs are solely "manufacturers ramming fake innovation down our throats" is a bit one sided.
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Old 03-16-17, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I'd rather have linear pull V-brakes. A couple of friends have converted their older mountain bikes from canti to V-brakes and are satisfied.
I fall into this group as well.

Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Unfortunately they're (disc brakes) getting harder to avoid, and more and more frames are being deigned around them, so it'll soon reach the point where you might as well have them because not having them poses too many problems.
I know... I have a hard time finding new steel frames with canti posts these days. Just when I discovered how much I like them too.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
So a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame is made from unbranded tubing, but based on reviews it matches(beats) the Swiss Cross for frame weight.

So its a steel frame which weighs slightly less than the Swiss Cross, has canti studs, has room for a 50mm tire, and costs less than half of the Swiss Cross frameset.
Wow, had no idea. I just had Mike build me a red 56 and I'm in love this this damn bike. He put TRP CX8.4's on it and now I don't ever want to use another brake.

I have to be a little careful with the front brake as it will stand me up on the front wheel. The rear wheels locks up with a single finger.

As a big guy, I love this stopping power. And without all the downsides of discs. I'm sold. I pulled the canti's off my daughter's Cross Check and put these on hers as well. Stops on a dime now.

Now if I'm just able to find steel canti frames for the rest of my life...

Last edited by Jarrett2; 03-16-17 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 03-16-17, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
Wow, had no idea. I just had Mike build me a red 56 and I'm in love this this damn bike.
Yeah, the weighing came from Ritchey's site and from GuitarTed's site for the BMC frame(before he built his up). Its based on a V2 frame(i think) or maybe V3. Either way, the frames really havent changed in design or material for the current ones to weigh any different.
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Old 03-16-17, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
When you're descending at high speed on gravel roads for 10 minutes, you really develop a serious case of disc envy. The issue isn't so much power as it is control.
Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Screaming down a graded gravel road at 45 mph calls for discs even more than rolling down single track at 12 mph does.
Yeah...this is where the divergence begins. I havent ridden any gravel routes where I was descending at a high speed for 10 straight minutes. And I dont think I have ever gone 45mph on gravel, not even in the few races I have participated in. Cant imagine doing 45mph around me...the roads are simply too inconsistent in surface material for me to go that fast and trust my line when at any given moment the gravel will go from firm packed to loose and deep.
As for 10 straight minutes of descent...I am not aware of a point within 300mi of me where I could descent at a fast speed for 10 straight minutes. Thatd be almost 6 miles of descent at 40mph(based on you mentioning 45mph earlier, i figured thats a common speed for you). Boy thatd be a long descent! Nothing near me like that.

If I had the balls and skill to go 40mph on my gravel roads for 10 straight minutes, I could see disc brakes being helpful.
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