Why Do Cyclocross Bikes Have Cantilever Brakes?

A lot of change has taken place in the cycling world in the last few years. Specifically, there has been a lot of innovation in bicycle braking systems. All the same, why do cyclocross bikes have cantilever brakes?

Cyclocross bikes use cantilever brakes because they are approved by UCI, and they are ideal for use with drop bar brake levers. Also, cantilever brakes are light in weight and have bigger tire clearance than other rim brakes.

Cantilever bike brake systems predate the V-brakes. However, they remain relevant and efficient to date despite so much innovation in the cycling world.

why do cyclocross bikes have cantilever brakes? A bike's rear wheel with cantilever brakes

Reasons Why Cyclocross Bikes Have Cantilever Brakes

Like we mentioned in the opening paragraphs, there are reasons that make cyclocross bikes continue using cantilever brakes despite the coming of advanced braking systems for bicycles. Some cyclists often ask why cyclocross bikes still rely on this antique brake system. Here are a few of the reasons.

1. It’s Approved By Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)

The Union Cycliste Internationale is the global cycling governing body made up of 197 national federations. The UCI oversees all international competitive biking events.

In addition, the body also takes part in the approval of all bikes and their accessories to ensure that they meet the set technical rules.

Since cantilevers have been around for a long time, they happen to be some of the most popular.

In addition, when UCI banned the bike disk brakes in 2003, the cantilever maintained its popularity in cyclocross racing. However, this is just a possibility why these bikes still have ancient braking systems. What’s more?

2. Tire Clearance

Specifically, the availability of more tire clearance when using cantilever brakes overshadows most of the other reasons.

First, in competitions governed by UCI, their regulations state that cyclocross tires should be between 28mm and 33mm. However, in other competitions, cyclists do run 35mm tires or more. These tire widths come with a challenge.

Since cyclocross bike tires accumulate lots of mud when racing, most of the other brakes become unusable.

However, this isn’t the case with cantilever brakes since they offer excellent tire clearance of all rim brakes. The transverse cable allows the brake pads to stay way off the wheel. In return, this reduces the chances of collecting mud and debris at the brake bridge.

3. They Are Compatible With The Drop Bars

By default, cyclocross bicycles use drop bars due to a regulation by UCI that limits the width of bikes used in competition to a max of 50cm.

Notably, the only type of handlebars that maintain their functionality and remain within the set width limits are drop bars.

Therefore, to increase the cyclocross riders’ control over their bikes, the only legal choice according to UCI regulations is using drop bars.

For this reason, cyclocross bikes use cantilever brakes because they require a shorter cable pull to engage.

A bikes drop bars close up -why do cyclocross bikes have cantilever brakes?

Also, because cyclocross racing is too dynamic, it is unsafe to rely on brake-shifters requiring you to frequently move your hand from the hoods. For this reason, cantilever brakes are the most ideal for cyclocross bikes.

4. Allows Extra Adjustments

The other reason why cantilever is popular with cyclocross bikes is that the brake system comes with a lot of room for adjustment.

Therefore, it is easier to customize your bike according to your riding style. This feature is of great advantage to experienced riders and mechanics.

What Are The Advantages Of Cantilever Brakes?

The cantilever brake system is a central pull system and uses a straddle cable to draw the arms together when engaging brakes.

Although cantilevers are one of the oldest braking systems in the cycling world, it has stayed relevant to date, especially on light touring and cyclocross bikes.

So, what are the advantages of using cantilever bike brakes?

There are several advantages of using cantilever brakes that include:

  • They are inexpensive compared to other braking systems
  • Cantilever brakes are light in weight
  • Performs well in wet and muddy conditions
  • Have a wide tire clearance that allows the use of wide tires.
  • They feature long lever arms
  • The cantilever brake system is easy to install and maintain

In addition, the cantilever bike brakes are also in different profiles such as low, medium, and wide direct-pull

What Is The Difference Between Cantilever And Caliper Brakes?

Both the cantilever and caliper are similar in that they are both rim bike brakes. They both provide the required stopping power for a bike. All the same, they have several notable differences.

1. Different Assembly

The two types of rim brakes mount differently on the bike. First, the cantilever brakes mount on bosses on each side of the seat stays. In addition, they have the cable attachment and the brake shoe on the same side of the pivot.

On the other hand, a single bolt attaches caliper brakes to the bike’s frame above the wheel. The brake cable housing connects to one arm while the inner wire connects to the other. Both levers of the brake setup rotate around the pivot.

Notably, the two arms have springs that retract them independently.

2. Wheel Clearance

One notable difference between cantilever and caliper brakes is the size of their wheel clearance. Cantilever brakes, as we noted earlier, have the largest wheel clearance of all the rim brakes.

Notably, caliper wheels have a smaller clearance which can be problematic when riding on muddy surfaces.

 What Are The Best Cantilever Brakes

3. Cable Pull

The other difference between the cantilever and caliper brakes is the length of cable they pull while engaging the brakes.

Notably, caliper brakes draw about twice the cable pulled by the bike cantilever brake system. As a result, caliper brakes have higher leverage as compared to the cantilever.

In that case, the cantilever brake system requires more force to stop the bike, especially when the rider is heavy. However, due to their wheel clearance, cantilever brakes are the most popular with cyclocross cyclists.

How Do Cantilever Bike Brakes Work?

All bicycle braking systems work towards one goal; slowing down moving bikes. All the same, how do cantilever brakes work?

First, they are rim brakes, meaning they stop the bicycle by applying force on the bike rim. The system attaches to bosses found on the seat stay.

A straddle wire joins the two arms while the cable yoke from the lever attaches to the wire above the wheel.

When you press the lever in, it draws the brake cable, which in turn pulls the straddle wire at the center. Then, the arms turn at the pivot, and the brake pads engage the rim from the sides.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Cantilever Brakes Short Pull Or Long Pull?

Cantilever brakes are short pull and not long. The brake arms’ geometry dictates that a slight push on the levers, the brake pads travel a longer distance than the effort side. Therefore, pressing the lever too hard could abruptly stop the bike.

2. What Are The Best Cantilever Brakes?

Some of the best cantilever brakes for bicycles include:

  1. Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brake
  2. SHIMANO BR-CX50 Canti Cross Brake

3. Why Do Cantilever Brakes Squeal?

Cantilever brakes squeal due to vibrations on the pivot and flexing of the arms when you apply the brakes.

Actually, the leading cause of the vibrations and squealing is the rear edge of the brake pads touching the rim before the front part does. To solve the problem, set the front brake pad edges to strike the rim first,

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Final Take on Why Do Cyclocross Bikes Have Cantilever Brakes

Since cyclocross biking competitions take place on wet and muddy terrains, the best braking system for cyclocross bikes happens to be the cantilever brakes.

Cantilevers are simple to install and maintain, and they have the widest wheel clearance of all the rim brakes. In addition, the system allows for extra adjustments to suit different riding and braking styles.