V brakes vs cantilevers?

RichardB

Slightly retro
Location
West Wales
I have an early 90s MTB which I spent a few enjoyable days on this summer, showing it some lurve. Everything clean as a new pin, rusty bits rubbed down and refinished, new wheel bearings, new brake and gear cables, better bars and bar ends, everything lubed and adjusted. I'm delighted with how it has turned out, and it rides really well. The only issue is the brakes (Shimano 100GS cantilevers) which are turning out to be impossible to adjust. I can't get them centred properly, despite fitting new straddle wires (old ones thick with rust) and spending hours altering the spring positions, so the block-rim distance is wider than it should be and even with new blocks and toed-in properly they squeal and judder horribly. They still stop the bike OK, but now I have the rest of the bike just how I want it, it seems a shame to have the brakes less than perfect.

I was chatting to someone the other day who said that V brakes were superior to cantis, both in stopping power and ease of adjustment, and that they should be compatible with the position of the brake bosses on a canti-equipped frame. I also see that Halfords are doing a full set of V brakes (brakes, levers and cables, front and rear) for under £23 at the moment. Would this be worth doing, or am I just wasting money when I ought to spend more time getting the cantilevers adjusted properly? If this seems a numpty question, bear in mind that I am getting back into cycling after many years off, and my knowledge of bicycle technology ends in about 1992 - so to me cantilevers are new tech, and much better than the older centre-pulls of my youth :smile: I have never owned or used anything with V brakes before. I am aware that the V brakes would need compatible levers. Any opinions or observations welcome.
 
I have cantilever brakes on one of my bikes. When they were new they also juddered and squealed. After a few hundred miles they bedded in and both annoying things disappeared.
 

outlash

also available in orange
I have Cantis on my crosser and I don't think they're great, it's not the judder that bothers me but the fact they don't stop nowhere near as good as the rim & disc brakes on my other bikes. Not sure if V-Brakes would be any better, certainly the cheap ones (Tektro) on my family's bikes need constant adjusting to keep them half decent.
 

MichaelW2

Veteran
Does anyone make good quality V brakes anymore? V-brakes are only found on low-end bikes and those old Shimano XT and similar premium grade models are no more. Some places may have New Old Stock (NOS), ie a dusty pack of XTs on a shelf.
 

Hugh Manatee

Veteran
Some of the folks over on Retrobike willingly (and often) state that the mechanical advantage of the two systems are about the same and therefore if set correctly, cantilevers are as good as V brakes.

My own experience is this. I had always been happy with my original XTII (yes, I am that old) cantis on my 1990 MTB. However, once the original cables went after ten years or so, I couldn't get them anywhere near as good. I put this down to Smimano no longer making 2mm cables the gits.

I moved over to Magura HS-33s on other bikes and didn't ride the old one much. Forward a few years and I decided to rebuild it as a long distance tourer. I found that the wide profile cantis fouled the panniers slightly so I purchased a set of XT V brakes and levers.

Wow, straight from the off they were massively impressive. Easy to set and very powerful. The only problem in my eyes was the poor rear cable hanger sat there with nothing to do. The brakes are good though.

Either get on Retrobike and look for a decent set of secondhand V brakes and levers or you could try the Magura HS-33 route. They are even better.
 
OP
RichardB

RichardB

Slightly retro
Location
West Wales
Just an update: I went and got a set of Clarke V brakes from Halfords and fitted them this week. Dead easy to fit, although needed a bit of head-scratching to work out how to set correctly as I have no experience of this type. A couple of sessions on the work stand and a couple of shake-down rides and they are as good as I can get them. Much better than the cantis they have replaced, with more power and easier modulation, and tweaking the adjustment is a breeze compared to fiddling with straddle wires etc. I'm convinced. The kit is cheap and cheerful, although surprisingly good for the money, but as proof of concept it has done the job and I know where any future brake upgrades are going to be. The only issue is that the rims are a little out of true, which is preventing me getting the adjustment perfect (having to leave too much fresh air between blocks and rims) but once that is sorted I reckon they will be brilliant. Thanks to everyone for the comments.
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
The Oval Office
Decent cantis set up properly - and there is a knack to not - are excellent stoppers with little difference to Vs. Problem is, you haven't got decent cantis, so you did the right thing by Bunning them.
 

3narf

For whom the bell dings
Location
Tetbury
V brakes are brilliant, at least as good as discs when set up properly (why wouldn't they be? It's basically a 26" disc brake). Of course, throw in mud, dirt, rain etc and they become a hobby rather than a component.

Cantilevers are sh!te, I don't care what anybody says. It's possible to get them to work ok-ish if you have nothing but time on your hands, but the world has moved on.

The fundamental problem is due to the angle formed by the straddle wire and the cantilever opening up, braking force levels off the more you pull the lever.

Plus there's the safety aspect of a broken cable allowing the springs to pull the straddle wire into the tyre tread...
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
The Oval Office
Decent canti's are easy to set up, if you know how - my STX jobs on my Alpinestars pull me up as quick as any V braked bike I've over owned, and im North of 250lbs. Easy to set up too if you're methodical - 3rd hand tool, and 2 x 0.5mm thick washers to set the toe-in of the block and you're laughing. It's hardly the fault of the design that few people either know how or bother to set them up correctly.

Cheap cantti's are, however, horrific., and 100 & 200 GS especially so, made as they are out of a slice of beer can coated in vinyl from melted down Val Doonican LP's.

You'd have to be using the cheapest, nastiest sub-Woolworths quality cable for a straddle wire to be flexible enough to drop into the treads. True, V's are one helluva lot more tolerant of poor set up, so on most peoples bikes they will indeed to the job better. However, properly set up V's don't give any real advantage over decent, properly set up canti's - aside from their persistence on BSO's and low range stuff they're probably the shortest-lived braking fashion in cycling, and with good reason.
 
OP
RichardB

RichardB

Slightly retro
Location
West Wales
The 100GS were pretty good when new, but a nightmare after a period of neglect. I guess they were never meant to last 20+ years.
 
Top Bottom