21. How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes
Adjust brake levers, re-surface pads, set cable tension and center cantilever style brakes.
In today's tutorial I'll demonstrate how to adjust cantilever style brakes. I will cover linear pull, or V-brakes in a future tutorial. For this job you'll usually need a 5mm allen key, a 10mm open-end wrench, a strip of sandpaper, and an optional cable puller.
The first step is to set up your brake levers. Start by loosening the clamp and then align the levers so that they match the angle of your arms when you're riding. Once the angle is set, tighten the clamp.
If you have smaller hands and your levers are hard to reach, you can set them closer by tightening the reach adjustment screw on the inside of most levers.
Before you begin, you should also check to make sure your wheel is properly centered in the frame, as this will affect the position of your brake pads. Make sure the axle is securely fastened all the way up in your dropouts. If the wheel is still off-center you may need to check the dish, which is further explained in the previous wheel truing tutorial.
Now loosen the tightening bolt on your brake arm and tighten the lever's barrel adjuster all the way.
Loosen and then remove both brake pads from their mounting posts and inspect both their surfaces to make sure they are not too worn. If you see any metal poking through the pad surface, you'll need to replace them. If the pads are in good shape, it's a good idea to resurface them using some sandpaper.
With the pads removed, adjust the brake cable until both brake arms are parallel straight up and down, and then tighten. Using a cable puller makes brake cable adjustments a lot easier.
Now reinstall the brake pads and align them so the pad face is flat against the rim. Then tighten the pad so that it’s snug, but still loose enough to move around.
Take a look from the side to make sure the pad is in line with the rim's brake surface, and not touching the tire or hanging off the bottom of the rim. If you can't avoid one or the other happening, your pads may be too wide for your rim, and you'll have to find some narrower pads.
Cantilever brake pads should be set so that the front of the pad touches the rim before the rear when you pull the brakes. This is called 'toe-in', and it prevents squealing when you use them. It's a bit tricky to set up, so you may have to re-tighten the pads several times before it is correct.
For proper toe-in adjustment, there should be a gap of a few millimeters at the rear of the pad when the front is touching the rim. Park Tools recommends temporarily wrapping a rubber band around the back end of the pad to help set the spacing. Don't forget to remove it when you're done adjusting the pads.
Some bikes like mine have a link unit that sets the straddle wire position for you. If you're using a carrier style with a pinch bolt, make sure the carrier is tightened as low as possible, while still providing enough clearance for your crossover cable, tire and fenders.
Now adjust the cable tension on the brake arm by pulling the cable through the pinch bolt and tightening. You'll have to play with this adjustment until your brakes feel good. I like to have mine set so that the pads hit the rim when my lever is pulled about 1/4 of the way.
Make sure both pads now have equal clearance, and are not rubbing against the rim.
For minor centering adjustments, there is usually a screw on the left brake arm that sets the spring tension on one side. Tighten this clockwise to pull the pad away from the rim, and counter-clockwise to set the right pad closer to the rim.
For a while my rear brake has been ineffective. I originally thought it was contaminated either the pads or the discs.
Basically the lever has the be pulled all the way back to the bars to make anything work. But at the start of a ride they squeal a lot. Usually by the end of a long downhill if I have had the brake on all the way down it will start working effectively but then when I start my next ride its back to being ineffective and squeals.
I have replaced pads, rotors and bled the system twice. I have even cleaned both the pads and discs with brake cleaner and sa... Read more >>
When I pedal, there's no noise, when I brake there's no noise, but when I stop pedaling, there's this noise:
I opened up the back hub and sprayed it with WD-40 and it already had a bunch of grease on it too.... Read more >>
Is there a simple way to fix this, or will I have to get new parts?
... Read more >>
when I was biking today, I stopped for a break, when I started up again, I didn't realize that my lock was caught on my back break cable. The brake is now really loose and won't engage. The cable still appeared to be attached in the same place, but is really loose. I tried tightening it by pulling more of the cable through, but this pulls through a few inches of cable and, when I turn the wheel, the rest of the brake cable becomes too taught and causes the brakes to engage. Any ideas?... Read more >>
I need advice on a maintenance issue.
Ok, I am not a novice rider, but not a hard core rider either. Normally I have had someone nearby that could or would help with minor maintenance over the years, so I know nothing.
The bike is essentially new. Due to military obligations it was ridden a couple of times after purchase and then packed, stored, shipped, stored again and then packed and shipped again (purchased in '11). I am now in Saudi Arabia and want to ride it around the compound to and from work/store.
I had the tubes replaced since the ones... Read more >>
Just bought a 2nd hand bike and was told it needed new brake pads but am unsure what ones I need
... Read more >>
I am attempting to replace the brakes on my bicycle, and I have a set of side-pull caliper brakes. When I took them apart, they worked just fine. But putting them back together, I cannot get them to function properly...the arms are both pulling up, and pulling the entire brake assembly to one side, instead of squeezing together as they should. What in the world is going on? I put it back together exactly the same way as I took it apart...it doesn't make sense!... Read more >>
OK.. I been trying to fix up a bike we got but we have to replace the brakes, and shifters and front and back derailers.
Question is.. The front brake is disc back is v-brake. Can I use basic brake levers for both? Its will be a mechanical disc brake on front.
... Read more >>
My daughter has trouble activating hand brakes on her bike. She has small hands and she can hardly reach the handles, and the handles are too hard to pull. I saw the post on the adjustment but I was wondering if instead it would be possible to replace these terrible brakes with something better? I went to a store today and they told me that nothing better would fit the bike because it is a "price point bike". Well, I know it is a cheap bike but I have hard time believing that nothing can be done.
Th... Read more >>
I am having trouble adjusting some cross top / interrupter brakes on my cross bike. The brakes are Avid BB 7's. The trouble I am having is when the cross top lever is tensioned how I like it the main lever is soft. When I tighten the main lever to how I like it the cross top is way to tight. Is this due to different pull ratios of the lever styles or am I missing something? Ideally I would have both levers at even tension. Any suggestions appreciated!
Thanks... Read more >>
so I ordered a set of m615 brakes, I think, and i'm gonna go 180m on the front. I think I need an adapter but don't know which. anybody help out there? pictures are nice. thanks.... Read more >>
Today I replaced a shimano hangar and straddle wire brake assembly cable and sheath and was successful. What I would like to see now is a video on adjusting these type of brakes, my favorite brakes btw, to see if I missed any short cuts. I googled for a video but couldn't find one. Anyone have URL for a video on this repair?... Read more >>
H i wonder if someone could help me find out what this noise from my back brake is
a bubble type water liquid sound only under hard breaking its quite annoying front brake is fine
here is the same sound on youtube from someone else but no answer to the problem my brakes are
Tektro Gemi i no they are entry level should not make this sound any help thanks
youtube brake noise clip link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F8Ugg-i4-s... Read more >>
I am converting a MTB with 26" wheels to 700c. I live in the UK and do not go off road, but would like a bike to ride on canal tow paths (some of which can be a "little rough". All is OK, have swooped out the front forks to a rigid type (with the correct bosses for mounting a V brake onto a 700c wheel) - but....i would prefer too fit V brakes on the rear, and the bosses are in the wrong place. I know that Mavic used to do a converter, but cannot find one anywhere. Has anyone else done this? and what did you do?
Many thanks in advance.
Kevan... Read more >>
I'm trying to get an old Cannondale M500 mtb back rolling again. I'm missing the post that screws into the fork on each side and the back seat stay post too, so I can install some v-brakes. I'm not sure what the true name for these post are or where to find them. Anybody know... ??
Thanks... Read more >>