21. How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes

Adjust brake levers, re-surface pads, set cable tension and center cantilever style brakes.

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes
DVD Vol. 1 DVD Volume 1
This video is available on DVD

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.

Adjust Levers

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.

Check Wheel Center

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.

Set up Brake Pads

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.

Adjust Cable Tension

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.

Centering

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.

Tags

Related Links

Discuss this topic in the Brake Forums

08/04 Strange Brake Wear?

It's been a while since I've looked at my 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle (27" road bike), but I can recall the last time I rode it I almost had some "close calls" because the brakes were gone.

However, on closer inspection, it looks like (to me) that there is plenty of "padding" on the brake pad. The only issue is there is a groove wore into the pads. None of the brakes stop.

Front brakes
Read more >>

08/01 New 3 speed hub with coaster brake: brake squeals and sticks

I recently purchased a used (nearly new) Sun Traditional adult Tricycle, 2016  model, and attempted to add on a brand new 3 speed conversion kit purchased through Amazon. The kit is made by Sturmey Archer, and intended for Sun trikes like mine from 2015 and newer.

As far as I can tell, I've installed the hub correctly. It shifts smoothly and runs well.

However, the coaster brake makes a weird squealing noise when applied, and often sticks a bit.

Here is a link to a short video, shot through the rear basket. First i cycle through all gears, then demons... Read more >>

07/08 Bike part identification help

Hi there,

I need to source a replacement part for my Peugeot Carbolite 103 Ladies bike, but am having trouble knowing exactly what to search for.

I have attached an image with the required part circled – this is just an image taken from online and are not the same breaks (but the part looks identical).  

Any help would be most appreciated!

Thanks!

[Image: 69-schwinn-brake-parts.jpg]... Read more >>

07/03 Adjusting Tektro R40 for wider tire

I have Tektro R40 dual pivot caliper brakes (as provided on my 2011 Trek)

Recently I decided to use a slightly wider tire (going from 23 to 25)

When I try to mount the wheel, the gap between the brake pads is not large enough to accommodate the larger tire

I could deflate the tire a bit and get it to slide through, but I would like to adjust the brake to accommodate the wider tire without doing so, so I could remove the front wheel for travelling

I have googled adjusting this brake but am still confused with what has to be done

... Read more >>

05/19 Brake boss sizes???

I replaced a cheapo suspension fork with a Nashbar chromoly rigid fork and really like the way it feels. Continuing with the upgrades I thought I'd replace the C-Star V brakes with some quality Shimano Deore V brakes BUT this wasn't as easy as I suspected. While my brake bosses are apparently the correct diameter the shouldered portion near the attachment point on the fork is too long or perhaps more precisely the Shimano brake arm is too shallow. Either way they don't fit. The brake arms will not go on the boss far enough before bottoming out to allow the spring tail to go into the hole. I'm ... Read more >>

05/03 Magura Clara disc brake spongy after bleeding... Videos showing piston action

This bicycle bought 2nd hand, no idea of its history.

This particular caliper is front brake (Magura Louise brake handle!)

Managed to figure out how to bleed both brakes...  One Clara brake handle, one Louise! Connect syringe with Magura oil on caliper. Open reservoir on handle, fill reservoir with syringe (if not already), slowly operate handle until reservoir near empty, then fill reservoir with syringe again. Bubbles will enter reservoir during this process to "bleed" the system.

Back brakes operating nice and sharp / firm after bleeding. Front bra... Read more >>

12/09 Disc Brake levers assembly onto a flat bar

The bike is a 2017 Motebecane Elite Aventure X5LTD with front suspension, which I bought online.

At which side (left or right) of the flat bar is the front brake lever placed?... Read more >>

09/30 Putting drop bars on Cannondale Badboy (2002) hybrid

Hi

I want to put drop bars on this bike:

http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/BikeSpecs.aspx?year=2002&brand=Cannondale&model=Bad+Boy

Need to change the brakes & want to put on combi brakes & shifters, but I'm a bit naive about how easily/well this can work.

Have been looking at a few possibilities for levers on Amazon - e.g.:

Read more >>

06/01 setting up disc brakes on a frame not made for disc breaks

My bike was stolen and i recently got it back... but some of the parts where switched out. They replaced my 27.5 inch forks with 26 inch shocks(pretty nice ones though) and my 27.5 single gear wheel with a 26 inch mtb wheel with a disc break disc on it. Finding a 27.5 has not been easy. And my breaks wont reach the 26 inch rim. I was thinking about ringing up some kind of extension to mount the break pads on.. then a friend said he had a disc break set up. But i dont have the mount holes on my fram for it.
Is there some kind of adapter i can mount on my frame to make it work with the dis... Read more >>

05/17 Pairing dropbars levers with a flat-bar bike

Hello,

I am interested in buying a fitness Canyon bike that can be seen at:

https://www.canyon.com/en-ro/fitness/roadlite/2016/roadlite-al-7-0.html

My primary goal with it is to use it with drop handlebars and I'm not interested in a regular road bike since this one supports wider tires (I'm about 95 kg weight), hydraulic disc brakes and I also want a big top tube to get a big seat post angle (with a Profile Design Fast-Forward seat post, the seat post ang... Read more >>

10/31 Squeaky sound coming from brakes

Hi, there, first time poster here!

I am a little desperate in my naive attempts to fix what is going on with my bike for years and it looks like I'm totally hitting the wall. Hope that someone might chime in and hint me on some way to fix the issue...

So, I bought a KENT SHOGUN T1000 HYBRID - MENS Model # 22798 bike (http://www.kent.bike/22798/shogun-t1000-hybrid-mens) around 3 years ago from my LBS. It has been making quite weird sounds when braking from the very beginning, but the LBS o... Read more >>

10/20 Tektro brake leak

I recently bought a used gt a avalanche with auriga comp brakes. I managed to bleed the none working back brake, but it is squealing badly. Maybe the pads got contaminated or just need replacing. It struggles to brake as well... But that's not the problem. My front lever got dislodged and the washer that sits behind the reach pin ball is now located outside the 'catch washer', if I could call it that. Mineral oil also started leaking from the cylinder/piston. Is there a way I can fix this leak? And how do I remove the catch washer to get the push rod back so the lever doesn't swing around?... Read more >>

08/03 Shimano Disc Brakes Inefective

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 >>

07/26 Weird noise on Coaster Breaks Cruiser Bike

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 >>

07/22 Brake cable loose from barrel adjuster

Is there a simple way to fix this, or will I have to get new parts?

[Image: couKXsP.jpg]... Read more >>

New Thread
How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes
Repair Guide / Help Forums

Free Email Updates: