5 Best Cantilever Brakes for Your Bike in 2021

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With their straightforward design and lightweight construction, it’s no wonder that cantilever brakes are seen as ideal for cyclocross and exploring bikes. They offer optimal levels of clearance, especially for full mudguards and tires.

Well, you must ensure that the brakes that you choose are easy and simple to set up as they are to use. They should also provide optimal power by having a straddle wire angle.

To help you along, we’ve put together a list of the best cantilever brakes for cyclocross and touring bikes.

Cantilever Brakes Review

In the following section, we go through different models based on thorough research and testing.

This is followed by an even more comprehensive buying guide of the most important considerations to make when looking for such a product.

1. Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake

What sets the Avid Shorty Ultimate apart is the fact that they aren’t only fully adjustable but they’re really easy to set up as well. They’re well balanced when it comes to weight, control, and power which your options with these brakes include a narrow and pre-set wide stance.

The narrow stance is the way to go if power is what you’re after. That’s because the narrow stance is the ultimate defense against muddy conditions, and it works no matter how extreme the mud is.

This cantilever brake’s design is based on the use of traditional cartridges. These are easy to replace when necessary and you can adjust the flexible brakes just as easily. This brake also contains quick-release arm slots in addition to an in-line barrel adjustment that allows you to adjust cable tension with ease.

It’s important to note that when the stock pads are attached to these brakes that they weigh about 115g each. This makes for a lightweight and smooth riding experience overall.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Super reliable
  • Easy to adjust
  • Offers incredible stopping power
  • It can handle a lot of weight
  • Easy to install
  • Constructed from durable aluminum
Cons
  • The narrow and wide stance are as different as night and day

2. SHIMANO Mountain Bicycle V-Brake

The best cantilever brakes for touring bike, Shimano’s V-brake is super light, coming in at just three pounds and yet it’s known for offering 5-star performance power.

These brakes are easy to fit and you’ll find that they enable you to effortlessly lock up the back wheel of your bike faster than ever.

Other features worth noting on these brakes are the flexible adjustment screws and powerful retract springs that prevent the brakes from rubbing up against the wheel.

The Shimano Mountain brakes come with straightforward pad adjustments as well which as you’ll soon find out, make it that much easier to tighten and customize the position of your brakes.

Pros
  • Adjustable and customizable
  • Easy to install
  • Versatile
  • 107mm arch
  • Great design
Cons
  • There’s no hex nut or Allen’s head to facilitate the brake pad adjustment on these brakes

3. TEKTRO CR720 Cyclocross Cantilever Brake Set

Considered by many to be the best cantilever brakes for cyclocross, the TEKTRO CR720 brake set is designed to fit on both the back and front wheels of your bicycle. They’re incredibly affordable and durable since they’re made from aluminum, and they offer long-lasting performance.

These brakes have dimensions of 21 to 35mm which is what makes them a favorite among cyclocross enthusiasts because they offer amazing tension relief.

Not only that, but these brakes are super easy to install since the package comes with an easy to understand and straightforward installation instruction booklet as well as all the tools required for the process.

This accessible cantilever brake set even comes with 55mm adjustable cartridge pads. These help to increase their lifespan by preventing them from fading over time.

Pros
  • They come with 55mm adjustable cartridge pads
  • Easy to install thanks to included installation guide and parts
  • Features 21 to 35mm dimensions
  • Constructed from durable aluminum
  • Comes with brakes for both your back and front wheels
Cons
  • Their stopping power isn’t that impressive
  • These brakes aren’t built for muddy conditions

4. Tektro CR710 Canti Brake 

It’s important to ensure that the brakes that you choose offer great value for money and these brakes from TEKTRO certainly tick that particular box.

This brake is also known for its ease of installation thanks to the fact that it comes with a helpful and easy to understand guide as well as the hardware and parts that are required to put these brakes together.

However, what really got us excited about these brakes is the fact that they have incredible stopping power. This makes them ideal for going downhill. You’ll find that navigating heavy traffic is a breeze.

Because these brakes are made from aluminum, you can be sure that they will last for many years after you’ve bought them. They’re resistant to rusting as well as normal wear and tear to the point where you’re unlikely to replace them for many years to come.

Pros
  • Conveniently lightweight
  • Super durable and long-lasting
  • Incredible stopping power
  • Easy to install
  • Offers great value for money
Cons
  • These brakes aren’t great for use on rocky terrains
  • They’re difficult to adjust

5. Paul Neo-Retro Bicycle Cantilever Brake Set

If you’re looking for touring cantilever brakes then look no further than this brake set from Paul Neo-Retro. This brand is all about helping bikers to reach new frontiers. As such, they’ve designed a set of brakes that’s just perfect for tacking mud and dirt.

These durable brakes are constructed from a machined alloy which offers impressive performance and is long-lasting.

These brakes won’t let you down in muddy conditions where you have to go through a lot of muck, because they’re fitted with O-ring sealed pivots.

This means that your brake will be protected from most of the backsplash and thus easier to clean and maintain. The same feature can be utilized to adjust the brakes’ spring tension through an easy and simple process.

We can’t recommend these brakes enough thanks to their impressive stopping power which will give you peace of mind knowing that you can stop your bicycle at any time and it’ll follow your command.

Pros
  • Incredible stopping power
  • The spring tension can be individually adjusted
  • Features O-ring sealed pivots
  • Constructed from durable alloy
  • Well protected from mud and muck
Cons
  • You need to buy them in pairs, which can be costly
  • These brakes are hard to install

How to Get the Best Cantilever Brakes

Now that you know what the best bicycle cantilever brakes are, our next port of call is to investigate the important factors that you need to consider when looking for brakes.

You’re going to want brakes that allow you to safely ride through different types of terrains and weather conditions, including muddy and mucky terrain. The brakes should also meet your preferences and the needs of your bicycle.

The point is to ensure that you end up with good quality brakes that meet your requirements and will last for many years to come.

Performance

Another important feature to consider when shopping for cantilever brakes is their stopping power and level of performance.

This means that the brakes should make it easier for you to maneuver different environments with relative ease while ensuring safety.

The stopping power of your brakes will determine how comfortable and safe you feel while riding your bicycle out there so it’s an absolutely essential consideration to determine if the brakes are worth it.

Durability

Durability is very important when it comes to brakes because it determines their longevity. How do you know that the brakes that you’re considering are hardy and made to last?

Well, first of all, you must check what kinds of materials they’re made from as this will determine their performance over time and whether or not they’re worth the investment.

Warranty

High-quality brakes always come with a generous warranty policy because the companies behind them are confident about their product.

The general rule of thumb is to look out for a warranty of at least two years as that’s a good indication of the brake’s long-lasting quality.

Price

As with any purchase, it’s a good idea to establish a budget before you go out shopping for cantilever brakes.

The good news is that brakes come in all types of different price ranges and designs. However, features and construction are what determine the price of your brakes.

Either way, establish a budget based on your needs and preferences and it shouldn’t be hard to stick to it.  

Types of Cantilever Brakes

Some of the best cantilever brakes include the following types:

Low Profile

Low profile brakes have a design that’s below 90 degrees.

These brakes are great because they don’t stick out but poor installation can lead to injuries when traversing through certain terrain, especially if going downhill.

Medium Profile

Medium profile brakes have a 90-degree angle design and are very popular with bikers that ride 80s and 90s mountain bikes.

Wide Profile

Wide profile brakes have a unique design that’s characterized by a 90-degree angle shape.

However, these brakes are also known for requiring brake levers that have powerful mechanical benefits.

Benefits of Cantilever Brakes

Do you want to find out why you should invest in these brakes?

Perhaps you should consider the fact that installing this type of brakes offers the following benefits:

They Are Very Safe

Cantilever brakes are also known as one of the safest additions to your bicycle, especially if you intend to take it on different adventures.

That’s because these brakes offer better stopping power than regular traditional brakes even if you’re riding through rain or mud. They’ll bring your bike to a stop immediately.

Work Very Good for Hill Riding

A vast majority of brakes simply fail when it comes to going downhill which is why it’s important to install brakes that are powerful enough to guarantee safety when performing this relatively dangerous act.

That’s because these brakes are made to handle steep terrain and rough conditions such as mud.

Last for a Long Time

The longer you own your bicycle, the more you have to invest in the maintenance and part of that maintenance includes replacing certain components such as its brakes.

The good news about these brakes is that they don’t require nearly any maintenance and you won’t have to replace them for many years after you’ve brought them.

Most of them can last for several years without giving you any problems and they don’t disappoint when it comes to performance throughout that whole time.

Very Easy to Use

Although you may have bought your BMX bike to alleviate the hassle and time spent in traffic, you’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to maneuver through traffic if your bicycle doesn’t have the right type of brakes.

Again, cantilever brakes save the day by making it easier to navigate traffic.

Don’t Cost a Lot

Most people don’t realize this but these brakes are actually very affordable, despite the fact that they’re durable and long-lasting.

Even if you’re on a budget, you can afford to buy good quality brakes. The most important thing is that you purchase the brakes from a reliable and well-known brand.

How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes

You’re excited about buying your brakes and you know that it’ll be easy to install them since they come with the tools and installation guide that you need to get the job done.

But, how do you adjust them when the time comes for you to do that? Well, we’ve got you covered.

Read on to find out how you can adjust brakes using a 10-millimeter open-end wrench, a strip of sandpaper, a cable puller, and a 5-millimeter Allen key.

Tighten the Levers

The first thing you need to do when adjusting your brakes is to undo the clamp in order to automatically align the levers.

This helps to align the angle of the arms as you pedal your bike through town. From there, you’ll need to tighten the clamp.

For those with small hands, it can be challenging to reach the levers so it might be a good idea to try and get them closer to one another by getting them tighter and closer to the adjustment screw on the internal part of the levers.

Inspect the Wheel Center

Make sure that your bike wheels are situated in the center of the frame. This will determine how your brake pads are positioned.

Make sure that you’ve tightened the axle as well particularly in the dropouts. Lastly, check the dish to ensure that the wheel is perfectly positioned in the center of the frame.

Install Brake Pads

At this point, you’re ready to unfasten the brake arm bolt and then proceed to tighten the barrel adjuster of the lever.

From here, undo the brake pads and remove them from the mounting position to make sure that they’re not worn out.

The pads should be free of any mental pointing or else you might need to replace them. If they’re fine then you should get some sandpaper to resurface them with.

Once you’ve removed the brake pads adjust the cable until you’re sure that the brake arms are properly positioned in a parallel stance before you fasten them.

You want the front of the brake pads to touch the rim when the time comes for you to actually pull the brakes, so it’s very important to install them properly

Tighten the Cable

You’re not ready to adjust the brake arm’s cable tension which you can do by tightening the cable and fixing it.

Center the Adjustments

You can center adjustments by switching spring tension to the other side by using the screw located on the left brake arm.

Conclusion

Our cantilever brakes review has officially come to an end. So, what’s the verdict? What are the best cantilever brakes on this list?

The Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brakes stand out for us because they’re made from durable aluminum, they’re easy to install and use and they offer reliable stopping power to ensure safety on the road.

Not only are they reliable, but these brakes are easy to adjust and they’re accessible as well.

What’s not to like?

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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