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Are cantilever brakes and V-brakes interchangeable

Are cantilever brakes and V-brakes interchangeable?

cantilever brakes
Cantilever brakes and V-brakes are affordable rim brakes commonly found on trail bikes, entry-level MTBs, touring and commuter bikes because they provide greater tire clearance.

Both systems are mounted on the fork and seat stays of the frame. Most models are mechanical, triggered by a pull cord.

The apparent similarity between cantilevers and V-brakes is why people often wonder if these systems are interchangeable.

Cantilever brakes and V-brakes use the same mounting bosses and can be considered interchangeable in this regard.

However, each system requires different cable management and specific brake levers that operate at different pull lengths.

Older cantilever and V-brakes also use different pads.

Similarities Between Cantilever Brakes and V-Brakes

At their core, V-brakes are side-pull cantilever brakes that share many similarities with regular cantilever brakes.

The overlapping points are:

1. Install Boss

This is a frame made for cantilever brakes. Bosses can also accept V-brakes.

Typically, brake mounting bosses (aka brazes) designed for cantilever or V-brakes allow the installation of both brake systems.

The only exceptions are vintage touring bikes produced around the mid-80s.

These models have narrower brazes designed for cantilever brakes with small tire clearance. So you won’t be able to install a V-brake on it.

However, with the advent of the first mountain bikes, the bosses standardized.

There may still be some slight differences between cantilever and V-brake brazes, but for the most part, they are completely interchangeable.

2. Mechanical cable pull
The vast majority of cantilever brakes and V-brakes are cable actuated. Hydraulic rim brakes are available, but they are not widely popular among consumers.

The main advantages of hydraulic rim brakes are:

One. greater modulation

b. Power loss is minimized as there is no complicated cable routing and housing bending.

3. Operation
Cantilever brakes and V-brakes have very similar braking mechanisms.

The brake lever pulls the cable and initiates a small rotation of the brake arm, which grips the rim like a set of pliers. The brake pads start to rub against the rim and slow the bike down.

When the lever is released, a powerful spring pushes the brake arm to its original position and releases the wheel.

Difference Between Cantilever Brakes and V-Brakes

1. Mechanical advantages
The main difference between V-brakes and cantilever brakes is the mechanical advantage of each system.

V-brakes have a fixed high mechanical advantage, while the leverage of cantilever brakes can be increased or decreased by adjusting the length of the transverse cable and the angle of pull.

To fully understand this difference between a V-brake and a cantilever, it is first necessary to become familiar with the term mechanical advantage.

Mechanical dominance aka leverage is a measure of the force that describes a tool amplifying a person’s input.

The most basic example of a mechanical advantage is the use of a pry bar to lift or move an object.

The longer and thicker the pry bar/lever, the greater the mechanical advantage and power amplification.

To determine the mechanical advantage of a tool, the output force must be divided by the input force.

For example, if the output force is 5N and the input force is 2N, the mechanical advantage will be 5/2=2.5.

The mechanical advantage of the instrument can also be expressed by dividing the input displacement/distance by the output displacement/distance.

The input displacement/distance is the movement of the tip/tool whose mechanical advantage is measured.

The output displacement/distance is the travel of the object directly transmitting or receiving the force at the tool end.

If the output distance/displacement is greater than the input distance/displacement, the mechanical advantage of the tool is poor.

The diagram below illustrates this situation.

The mechanical advantage of the “B” side of the lever is poor because it is shorter. When you apply force, it moves less than the “A” side.

Or in other words, the input distance is less than the output displacement.

Figure 2 demonstrates the high mechanical advantage. A larger input produces a smaller output because the lever is longer and in a more favorable position.

The mechanical advantages of V-brakes are very high, thanks to:
1. Pull directly. Unlike cantilevers, V-brakes do not have lateral cables (below). The brake cable pulls the brake arm directly.

This is an old bike I’m refurbishing. The triangular cable above the brake is called the transverse cable and is used for cantilever brakes. V-brakes don’t have it.

The construction of the V-brake eliminates lateral cables on the cantilever brake. As a result, the cable pulls the moment arm from a very favorable position. In addition, V-brakes have longer rigid moment arms, which further adds to the mechanical advantage compared to cantilever brakes.

Cantilever brakes have a longer total force arm, but part of that is a soft link (transverse cable), which pulls the rigid arm from an angle, with a fairly low mechanical advantage. The V-brake eliminates this energy loss.
2. Favorable pull angle. The pull angle of the cable operation on the V-brake is very favorable. So the rider can put a lot of force on the rim.

Since V-brakes do not rely on lateral cables on cantilever brakes, both systems use different cable guidance systems.

Bikes designed for cantilever brakes have two additional final cable hitches/cable stoppers – one over the fork and one over the rear stay.

This creates the following scenarios when converting from one type to another:

Option 1: Cantilever to V-Brake Conversion
If you convert your bike from cantilever brakes to V-brakes, you won’t be able to use the last cable stops because they are designed for cantilever brakes and pull from the center.

This is a cantilever frame. Note the rear cable hanger on top of the seat stay. This area must be bypassed if V-brakes are to be installed.

If the frame allows, you can route the cable from the cantilever brake to that point, then simply bypass the final cable hanger/cable stop.

If that’s not possible, the easiest solution is to install a long housing between the brake lever and the brake, and zip it to the frame.

Т His method isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it does work because the case protects the entire length of the cable.

The last option is to buy clip-on cable plugs and place them on the frame’s top tube as needed to create the necessary cable infrastructure.

Option 2: V-Brake to Cantilever Conversion
If you want to replace a set of V-brakes with cantilevers, the first problem you will face is the lack of a cable hanger over the fork and seatstays.

To fix this, you will need additional solutions.

For the front brake, the two main possibilities are a cable hanger wrapped around the steerer as part of the headset or a cable hanger attached directly to the fork.

This is a Tektro cable hanger mounted on the front fork.

For the rear, options are adapters that attach to the seatpost or binder bolts.

This is a rear cable hanger made by Origin8. It connects to the seatpost collar.
2. Different brake levers
Cantilever brakes and V-brakes have different mechanical advantages, necessitating the use of brake levers specific to each system.

Due to the high mechanical advantage of the V-brake, squeezing the lever results in less movement of the brake arm.

To compensate, V-brakes use brake levers that pull more cable.

Without this adjustment, the lever of the V-brake may not move the brake arm sufficiently before bottoming out. Or in other words, the lever can reach the handlebars before the brakes are fully engaged.

This may sound counterintuitive because the brain naturally associates a high degree of mechanical dominance with ease of movement. Therefore, one might erroneously conclude that small movements of tools with high mechanical advantage lead to larger displacements, but this is not the case.

Quite the opposite – if the tool has a high mechanical advantage, the output is smaller than the input, as shown in Figure 2 above.

At the same time, cantilever brakes have a lower mechanical advantage. When the lever is squeezed, it triggers greater movement of the brake arm. Or as mentioned earlier, the input is less than the output.

As a result, cantilever brake levers have fewer cables than V-brakes.

Therefore, the levers of the V-brake and the cantilever are not interchangeable.

If you want to convert, you can choose from the following options:

One. Purchase the lever that corresponds to your brake style.

b. If you’re converting from cantilever brakes to V-brakes, you can use an adapter called a Travel Agent to increase the amount of cable the lever pulls. While this approach works fine, it adds more parts to the system and unnecessarily complicates it.

3. Different cushions
V-brake pads and cantilever pads are also exclusive.

Older cantilever models relied on brake pads/shoes with smooth posts attached to the brake arms with separate washers and bolts.

Cantilever pad

On the other hand, V-brake pads come with an attachment system. They are mounted on the brake arms with the bolts sticking out of the brake pads. There are also rectangular washers for modifying the angle at which the pads make contact with the rim.

V-brake pads
In some cases it is possible to install V-brake pads on older cantilevers, but this is a trick, not the correct way to do it.

At the same time, the old cantilever pads cannot be used on V-brakes because they have no connection system themselves – just a smooth post.

Having said that, some modern cantilever brakes use standard V-shaped pads instead of the so-called “post-type” pads common to retro cantilever brakes.

Ultimately, if you’re doing a mod, it’s best to buy the right pads for the braking system you’re installing.

What are the advantages of cantilever brakes over V-brakes?

Although cantilever brakes are an older technology, they offer the following advantages over V-brakes:

1. Better tire clearance

Cantilever brakes provide better tire clearance than V-brakes and reduce the chance of mud buildup.

2. Compatibility with drop-bar brake shifters

Unlike V-brakes, cantilever brakes are shifter compatible. This is one of the main reasons we find cantilever brakes on touring and trail bikes.

That being said, there are also drop lever brake levers designed specifically for V-brakes.

However, these models are brake levers only and require a separate shifting system. (eg rod end shifters).

The V-brake can be used with the shifter by increasing the cable pull with the Travel Agent adapter.

Another option is the Mini V-Brake – a small V-Brake model that is compatible with the standard drop bar.

The downside of mini V-brakes is that they have poor tire clearance.

3. Retro look

Some people like the classic look of cantilever brakes and consider V-brakes “universal.” Obviously, this is subjective.

At the end of the day, however, most people try to get rid of the cantilevers, not keep them.

As a result, switching from V-brakes to cantilevers is rare, though not unheard of.

What are the advantages of a V-brake compared to a cantilever type?

V-brakes aka straight-pull brakes are considered an upgrade over the standard cantilever due to the following improvements:

1. Better leverage

As mentioned before, the V-brake pulls the brake arm out of a more favorable position. This makes them more powerful than cantilever brakes.

2. Discrete profiles

Cantilever brakes operate with center pull and always have an exposed cable above the fork or seatstay. This part of the cable is extremely vulnerable to external damage.

V-brakes eliminate this problem because they pull directly and don’t use lateral cables.

3. Faster and easier adjustments

V-brakes have pre-set mechanical advantages and therefore require less adjustment. Meanwhile, the cantilever brakes come with extra settings that make the setup more complicated and less user-friendly for those without the necessary experience.

In theory, it is possible to set cantilever brakes to be almost as powerful as straight-pull brakes (V-brakes), but this is unlikely for most people.

This makes cantilever brakes less user-friendly, while providing lower braking power.

4. More variety

Straight-pull brakes are more popular than cantilever brakes. As a result, the market offers more options at reasonable prices.

Cantilever brakes are still in production, and modern versions are definitely better. However, the power offered by mid-level V-brakes is hard to beat for the price.

5. More options when using suspension forks

Suspension fork models that use cantilever brakes are outdated. You need a time machine to find one. Even if you do, its performance won’t be on par with its updated rivals.

Suspension options are larger and perform better with direct-pull brakes.

That said, if the fork has a mount halfway between the arch and the V-brake boss, the cantilever brake can be mounted via a cable hanger attached to the arch.

However, the practical value of this conversion is so low that it is not worth the trouble. In most cases, it’s better to adopt new technology and use V-brakes or disc brakes.

For the reasons above, people are more likely to start switching from cantilever brakes to V-brakes.

Conversion from cantilever to V-brake requires the following components:

1. A set of V brakes

2. V-brake compatible levers or travel agents capable of increasing the cable pull of existing levers.

3. New cable and housing

4. Clip-on cable stop (possible).

Some frames require the use of a cable stop that clips around the top tube so you can secure the cable housing.

5. Booster plate

Some frames and forks designed for cantilever brakes tend to flex excessively when converted to V-brakes due to the extra stopping power.

One way to mitigate these side effects is to add boost pads to the brakes. They stiffen the seat stays and fork pivots. The end result is more stability and better braking performance.

Converting from a V-brake to a cantilever requires:

1. A set of cantilever brakes

2. Brake lever compatible with cantilever

3. New cable and housing

4. Two cable hooks – one for the chainstay area and one for the fork or headset.

5. Clip-on cable stop (possible)

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