Novice question about BRAKES: cantilever vs. linear pull or

Mar 11, 2009
I don't feel good about my current BRAKES.
I ride an 05 Novara Element, with stock parts. The brakes are AVID SHORTY 4's. (Cantilever) Probably has 2000 miles on it, tops. I ride it in dirt and streets with the occasional patches of mud, leaves, muck. I sometimes hitch a trail-a-long bike with my 7 yr old on board (heavy! Hard & important braking). I'm thinking of trying my first cx race.

BRAKING: I have to pull HARD on them to stop fast. Really hard. And that's when newly professionally tuned. After I ride for a couple of months I can hardly stop. The pads are fine, but generic.

I compare this to some good old linear pull brakes on my wife's 03 Lemond Wayzata: "Avid Single Digit 3 brakes, Avid Speed Dial 3 levers". These just seem to be far more effective. Easy for me to tune up too.

Anyway, couple of questions: ditch the AVID Shortys? Get another pair of cantilever brakes? (I was looking at the Cane Creek SCX-5). Or keep the AVIDs? Switch to linear pull or V-brakes? Is there some reason most cross bikes have canti brakes?

Thanks for helping out a novice! :)
Nov 3, 2009
Road brake levers do not pull enough cable by themselves to be a viable match to linear pull (V) brake arms. There are some companies that make a cam that sits in place of the brake "noodle" that you would have to get if you want to go V brake while still using your road style brake lever shifters.

Technically in cyclocross rules v-brakes are not allowed for competition nor are disc brakes. However this rule is rarely followed in the lower ranks of competition so if you are worried about your first race using v-brakes you probably shouldnt lose any sleep over it.

I have a hard time believe a professional mechanic couldnt get your brakes working any better.

First thing to check is that the cable carrier (The part where the cable coming from your lever ends and the straddle cable attached to each brake are is 'pulled') is positioned low enough for effective leverage - it should be positioned so that it is slightly above the bottom of the fork crown on the front or slightly above the rear cross support on the seat stays. If the straddle carrier is too high then you will lose leverage and the result would be less braking power. Also, try scuffing the rim with green 3M Scotchbrite to remove any built up residue from braking. Just cut a rectangle in the 3M that matches the size of the brake pad and wedge it between the pad and the rim and then ride the bike with brake applied lightly until the rim surface looks shiny and fresh. Also get some lite sand paper (100+ grit) and take the glaze off the brake pads. Make sure the cable is lubed inside the housing so that you arent fighting any drag in the cable/housing.

Maybe get a second professional mechanic's opinion on your brake setup.
Aug 16, 2009
First think,
Go put on some Kool Stop Salmon pads. That will help stopping with wet rims. If you are not riding X, then try setting them up with the pads a bit closer to the rim than you would for X.
Mar 4, 2009

Can you post a picture of your front and rear brakes? I'd like to see how they're set up, in particular how the straddle cables are arranged and how the pads are adjusted. If you can't figure out how to post here, just send them to me at 'tech at cyclingnews dot com'.
May 11, 2009
dylanfly said:
....................Is there some reason most cross bikes have canti brakes? .......................

They open wider to allow removal/replacement of wheels with wide tires and they give more tire to frame clearance for muddy conditions.