What Is The Difference Between V-Brakes And Cantilever?

Over the years, bike manufacturers have been making improvements on bike braking mechanisms. Notably, cantilever and v-brakes are the most popular rim brakes. All the same, what is the difference between V brakes and cantilever?

The main difference between v-brakes (direct-pull brakes) and cantilever is how they work. The cantilever is symmetrical and uses a center-pull mechanism, but v-brakes have a cable that comes from one brake arm and crosses over the tire to the other arm.

First, it is worth noting that the v-brakes are an evolved form of cantilever brakes. Therefore, there are several similarities between the two. But for us to tell them apart, let’s look at their differences.

what is the difference between V brakes and cantilever - bicycle rear wheel with v-brakes

Difference Between V-brakes And Cantilever – A Closer Look

The two brake systems use cables to pull brake pads against the rim. However, they operate at different angles. As a result, the two systems have notable differences.

  • Mechanical Advantage                                                  

The main difference between the two braking systems is their mechanical advantage. To calculate the mechanical advantage, you need to divide the effort distance by the load distance.

Also, you can calculate mechanical advantage by dividing the Load force by the effort force.

When comparing v-brakes and cantilever in terms of mechanical advantage, v-brakes have a higher advantage.

Technically, v-brakes pull directly at the brake arms, unlike cantilever brakes that use transverse cables to pull the arms at an angle.

As a result, cantilever brakes have a lower mechanical advantage despite having a longer effort arm. In addition, the v-brakes bypass the use of transverse cables, making them pull the brake arms from an advantageous position.

In addition, v-brakes have longer and rigid effort arms that give them a higher mechanical advantage.

As a result, a rider can apply maximum force on the rim during braking by applying just a little amount of effort force.

Due to the difference in mechanical advantages of the two braking systems, they have different tire clearance as well.

  • Different Tire Clearance

The brake arms of cantilever brakes travel a longer distance when you squeeze the levers. Therefore, it has a broader wheel clearance compared to v-brakes.

Therefore, v-brakes have poor clearance and increase the chances of mud accumulation.

  • Different Brake Levers – Not Interchangeable

The other notable difference between linear-pull brakes and cantilever is their brake levers. Again, due to different mechanical advantages, the two braking systems require different brake levers.

Specifically, a significant squeeze on the lever results in a slight movement of the brake arm in a linear-pull brake system.

As compensation for the small output, v-brake levers pull a greater length of cable to engage the brakes.

On the other hand, a slight squeeze on a cantilever brake lever results in a significant movement of the brake arms.

Consequently, v-brake levers are designed to pull more cable than cantilever brakes, and therefore, the brake levers are not interchangeable.

  • Cantilever and V-Brakes Use Different Brake Pads

Another significant difference between the v-brake and Cantilever is their brake pads.

Notably, older cantilever-brake designs use brake pads with smooth posts that attach to the brake arms through separate bolts and washers.

On the contrary, v-brakes mount on the arms using bolts that stick out of the pads. Thus, these brake shoes come as one complete set without a need to look for washers and bolts.

In case you need to buy cantilever brake pads for replacement, the Shimano BR-CT91 Cantilever Brake Shoe Set will serve you better. It comes as a pair and complete with Shimano brake blocks spring tension adjuster.

Difference Between V-brakes And Cantilever

However, in some situations, riders install v-brake pads on older cantilever brake systems though that’s just a hack and not proper practice.

Unfortunately, you can’t use older cantilever pads on a v-brake system. They only come with a smooth post without an attachment system of their own. This makes them incompatible with a linear-pull brake system.

Nevertheless, modern-day cantilever brakes can, however, operate with v-brake pads.

Which is better Between cantilever And V-brakes?

Since the v-brakes evolved from cantilever brakes, they are deemed to be better. Not only that, they are actually the better option, and here is why.

  • Mechanical advantage

First, we found that v-brakes have a higher mechanical advantage compared to cantilever brakes. As a result, they exert a greater force on the rim when you squeeze the lever. Specifically, v-brakes have increased leverage.

  • Ease of Pad Replacement

The other issue is the ease of pad installation. It is much easier to mount brake shoes on v-brakes than it is on cantilever brakes. Also, finding replacement brake pads is easy for v brake systems.

  • They Have A Discrete Profile

Unlike the cantilever brake system with exposed cables above seat stays and forks, the v-brake system is discrete. In addition, they don’t use transverse cables but instead, employ a direct pull from the cable to the brake arms at an advantageous angle.

  • More Varieties At Lower Prices.

Notably, most manufacturers are now not making bikes that use the traditional cantilever brakes.

Actually, the v-brake is the most popular rim braking system, making the manufacturers produce many varieties of it at reasonable prices.

Due to the above reasons, v-brakes happen to be better in performance than their cantilever counterparts. In addition, the direct-pull brakes are also user-friendly, which makes them a popular option for riders who use rim brakes.

Can You Replace Cantilever Brakes With V-Brakes

Can You Replace Cantilever Brakes With V-Brakes?

If you prefer upgrading your bike’s brake system from cantilever to v-brakes, it is possible, only that it comes at a cost.

As mentioned earlier, the cantilever and v-brakes have different mechanical advantages. Therefore, they have different brake levers and different cable lengths.

Therefore, for you to change from cantilever to v-brakes, you will need to buy a whole new braking system. Fortunately, the two systems use the same mounts on the seat stays or forks.

On the same note, the Mountain Bike V-brakes Replacement Set is an example of high-quality v-brakes that you can use to replace your old cantilever brake system. The set fits on most bikes, and it’s long-lasting.

What Do You Need To Replace Cantilever Brakes With V-Brakes?

As discussed above, it is possible to install a v-brake system to replace cantilever brakes. All the same, since the systems are different, you will need to buy the following components.

  • A set of v-brakes
  • Brake levers that are compatible with v-brakes
  • A New brake cable and housing fit for v-brakes
  • Clamp-on cable stops to anchor the cable on the top tube.

Also, some frames designed for cantilever do flex a little too much due to the extra braking power. Therefore, you should consider going for a brake booster plate such as the kunle Bicycle Brake Booster with Screws to help improve your braking performance. In addition, it works with both linear-pull brakes and cantilever brakes.

Consequently, the booster plates stiffen the fork pivots and seat stay, and the result is a more stable bike with improved braking.

Also, Read: How to fix bike brakes that don’t work

Final Take

When looking at the difference between v-brakes and cantilever, you need to note that v-brakes are an improved version of cantilever brakes.

Therefore, as you would expect, v-brakes perform better than their predecessors. In addition, they have a better mechanical advantage, and the system is not susceptible to physical damage as it is discrete.

At the same time, the direct-pull brakes (v-brakes) are easier to replace and set. Also, this brake system has lots of variety that come at affordable prices.

The only notable downside of the direct pull brake system is that it has a smaller tire clearance.