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Best Cantilever Brakes in 2020: Review & Buying Guide

Cantilever brakes are the most on date brakes yet. Most pro cyclocross riders use them, particularly the Europeans. The chances are there if someone from your friends or neighbors has a couple of years old cyclocross bike, then he has got them too. Today we are going to present the 5 best cantilever brakes that have an extremely powerful and reliable braking system.

We have been enjoying riding cantilever brakes for years. But like every case, you would need to consign your existing cantilever brakes to your spare parts bin after a time. So, if you are in that situation too, it is undoubtedly a must job to bring a new one just right now.

Remember, your worn-out cantilever would not be in the situation to make it repair. And what kind of mountain biker will prefer that choice? At least, we won’t let it happen to any of our mates because it is quite risky to jam with a brake of that kind. So, without taking any further time, let’s dive into our best cantilever brakes review.

Table of Contents

Cantilever Brakes vs. Caliper Brakes vs. V Brakes

Cantilever Brakes

In brief, the set of the brake is typical, joined to an axle on the side of the fork of your bike. There are mainly two types of lever that exist in this category – first and second class. In the case of the second one, the arm placed lower than the rim. And the first-class one supposed to be having an arm above the rim.

The gradual distance between the mounts and the pads is pretty wide. That’s why; the type of brake system is widely used. Another reason behind the popularity of the cantilever brakes in touring bikes is because of their hard and strong brake pulling nature. It is mandatory, actually, for mountain bikes.

Caliper Brakes

On the other hand, the regular caliper brakes come with a bit better modulation and considered as more traditional kind brakes. This kind of brake actuated with a set of cables that, in general, mounted with a specific place just above the wheel of your bike. The caliper brakes allow the brake arms to center on the rim also automatically.

These are going to be obsolete from the industry because of less effectiveness. There are mainly two types of caliper brakes – Side-pull caliper and Center-pull caliper. We would recommend going with caliper brakes if you are a guy who wants to feather the brakes system.

V-Brakes

And V brakes are actually another type of cantilever brakes that are supposed to be mounted on the frame bosses of a similar section. In this case, the arms it has been a little longer than others.V-brakes are also known as the Direct-Pull brakes and Linear-pull brake.

Unfortunately, professionals say there is a lack of an intervening mechanism in this type of brakes, which is mainly designated for cables and the arms. The V-brakes are mainly used in Shimano due to their trademark on the line.

Advantages of Cantilever Brakes

First of all, the immense popularity of the type of brakes helps you to find out them easily. In popular bikes like MTB or Cyclocross bikes, the cantilever brakes are widely used. This piece of the brake system is also good for mud clearance.

Well-adjustability and easy operation features are at the core of the cantilever brakes. The cantilever brakes also help you to stop your bike just with a finger tap. So, for all types of bikers, this is the perfect choice to hang out with. All in all, cantilever brakes are the perfect solution for mountain riding and loaded touring.

Now, let’s take a look into our comparison table of the 5 best cantilever bike brakes to get an idea about the core features they are coming up with.

Comparison Table of 5 Best Cantilever Brakes

Product Image
Top Pick
Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake (Black)
Premium
Paul Component Engineering Paul Components Touring Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish
Also Good
Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake (Black)
Best Budget
TEKTRO CR710 Cantilever Cyclocross Brake Front or Rear - Black
Cheapest
TEKTRO ORIX 992A Cantilever Black Brake
Product Name
Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake
Paul Component Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish
Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake
TEKTRO CR710 Front or Rear Cantilever Brake
TEKTRO ORYX 992AG Cantilever Black Brake
Weight
115 grams
99 grams
115 grams
144 grams
150 grams
Pad
Standard Road Cartridge
Salmon KoolstopThinline
Height Adjustable
720.12 Cartridge
720.12 Cartridge
Top Pick
Product Image
Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake (Black)
Product Name
Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake
Weight
115 grams
Pad
Standard Road Cartridge
Where to Buy
Premium
Product Image
Paul Component Engineering Paul Components Touring Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish
Product Name
Paul Component Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish
Weight
99 grams
Pad
Salmon KoolstopThinline
Where to Buy
Also Good
Product Image
Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake (Black)
Product Name
Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake
Weight
115 grams
Pad
Height Adjustable
Where to Buy
Best Budget
Product Image
TEKTRO CR710 Cantilever Cyclocross Brake Front or Rear - Black
Product Name
TEKTRO CR710 Front or Rear Cantilever Brake
Weight
144 grams
Pad
720.12 Cartridge
Where to Buy
Cheapest
Product Image
TEKTRO ORIX 992A Cantilever Black Brake
Product Name
TEKTRO ORYX 992AG Cantilever Black Brake
Weight
150 grams
Pad
720.12 Cartridge
Where to Buy

5 best cantilever brakes Review

The set of the top 5 best cantilever reviews will help you to understand the best possible experience you can get with them. The adjustable design, brake arms, cantilever weight, and other cantilever brake components that are the most important consideration while getting the best cantilever bicycle brakes.

So why, we have discussed those feature deeply in this review. After reading the overview, make sure to jump into the installation process of the cantilever brakes on your bike or bicycle.

1. Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake

At A Glance

The thing that makes Avid cantilever brakes mostly popular to the bikers is their aluminum anodized body. That deserves a shout out because of the ability to serve you in the long run and allows you to have a rough ride. The cantilever brakes for the bike, on the other hand, very little weigh. So, there won’t be that much impact in your back frame. It only weighs 115 grams per wheel.

Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake Review:

Hell of good news for the bikers because the Avid Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake unit is well-matched with Shimano Ultegra levers. The core strength behind that is it has the adjustability from narrow to wide. If you have that one, feel confident to work them together.

Adjustable Design

The ultimate cantilever brakes come with the immersive adjustable design, which gives you the access to clean dirt or muds from its line. The process requires only an easy pull to the wide direction to clear the mess. To enhance the adjustability, it has a built-in cable adjuster that has a quick-release feature.

Pad

The cantilever brake comes with standard road cartridge pads. Therefore, you would be able to focus more on riding rather than hassling around with the take care of the brakes. Besides, the universal pads are easy to find a replacement. Fortunately, the pads also have a height adjustment feature, in case you would need.

Compatibility

These are the road-style levers. They are perfect in any racing environment, such as a hill or mountain. So, whether you are an occasional rider or a pro, these are going to be your best mate.

Smart Finish

With the 22mm brake studs, it can be a perfect combo. The smart finish has a black design that catches welly your racing taste. Besides, the racing expert cantilever brakes included with rims rather than disk and have a post-fork mount type.

PROS:
  • Budget-friendly cantilever brakes
  • Weighs only 115 grams
  • Included with standard road cartridge pads
  • Post Fork Mount
  • Aluminum anodized body
  • Best for racing bikes

CONS:
  • Only for the rear line

2. Paul Component Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish

At A Glance

We consider the touring cantilever as the strongest cantilever brakes, which a bit similar to the Neo-Retro. The only thing that differentiates it is the arms. The comparably narrow shape can hold the braking moment significantly without reducing its power. We found the narrow profile is a little more supportive than regular one while carrying large stuff on your cycle.

Paul Component Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish Review:

The reason we have added the Paul duel cantilever-brake as the best cantilever brakes for touring due to its lightweight nature. It is made of 6061 aluminum, which is quite light and strong in nature. Let’s find out the other features now.

Cable Pull

Another significant feature that we like about this front and rear cantilever is the short pull. So, it takes less than a second to complete the brake and also required less effort. Besides, the dual-action cantilever brakes don’t need any other brakes to attach.

Brake Pads

Unlike others, the unit has SalmonKoolstopThinline brake pads. The brake pads are great for fewer than 22 inches of rims. However, it has an odd interface and shape.

Design

You can mount the brake pads to the slots of the arms that it has, which keeps it in the vertical position. Also, you can fine-tune the angle with the help of the spherical washers located on the threaded post of the brake post.

Structure Mechanism& Durability

Just like their other brakes, this one also manufactured with a sealed pivot mechanism. Bushing kept tuning the brake arms properly and that made of stainless steel. Besides, it is rubber sealed. Nonetheless, you can adjust the spring tension here so that adjusting the strength of the swing is more optimized.

On the contrary, the Paul cantilever brakes have been greased already on all of the hardware they come with. Keep this suggestion in mind that if you run the brakes with lower straddle cable, you can exploit the stopping power.

PROS:
  • Front and rare cantilever brakes
  • 99 grams of weight
  • Stainless steel made brake arms
  • Salmon KoolstopThinline
  • 6061 aluminum-made body

CONS:
  • Looks like a copy of Mafac brakes

3. Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake

At A Glance

If you already got the Avid Rare cantilever brakes, you should not allow others to take the front place. Allow the Avid Shortly Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake to provide you a sustainable braking service. But remember one thing; the brake is only suitable with less than 23mm rims.

Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake Review:

Just like the rare one, the frontline brake is also the best suit features to stay in the best cantilever brakes for mountain bike list. You would find quite a similarity in both of them because the top-notch professionals tried to design it in that way to serve equal performance on both sides.

Accessible Features

Like the earlier one, the cantilever brakes for front rack give you the access to setup it with both wide and narrow position. You can also found the in-line adjuster that comes with quick-release support. Hence, braking could be instant or the way you want.

Height Adjustable Pads

The height adjustment ability of the pads is equally important for the front line because, in racing mode, the instinct of braking decision depends mainly on the front wheel. So why the Avid Ultimate Front cantilever brakes are here to solve that issue.

Durable Body and Lightweight

Well, only 115 grams of weight will not affect your cycling experience. And it would be a way better when you have both with that weight so that balancing will be much easier. Surprisingly, the aluminum anodized body could not make any impact on that matter. The manufacturers are the fan of black, and we guess because this one is also the same for racing pattern lover.

PROS:
  • Anodized aluminum body
  • Weighs only 115 grams
  • Height adjustable pads
  • Wide and narrow position set up supported
  • Quick-release feature an in-line adjuster

CONS:
  • Not compatible with bigger rims

4. TEKTRO CR710Front or Rear Cantilever Brake

At A Glance

Maybe, the review of the best cantilever brakes would be incomplete without the TEKTRO cantilever brakes. If you are looking for the best budget cantilever brakes then TEKTRO cantilever brakes is for you. The CR710 brakes are companionable with cantilever brake levers. The set can also fully coop with the Shimano levers. You would need to make sure using drop-down handlebar or Canti type levers with the brakes. Now, let’s directly dive into the other features.

TEKTRO CR710Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Review:

Before the feature analysis, remember, the brakes deliver substantial braking power and have need of practice at gentle speeds before regular use. If you are hesitant about any portion of the fitting or set-up process of these brakes, ask a skilled mechanic or your resident bike dealer.

Supplied Thread

The thread you will get inside the package should be tightened to torque between 6-8 Newton meters. And don’t overlook to clean and grease the frame and fork pivot bosses. The size of the Allen key is only 5mm.

Design and Finish

TEKTRO made the cantilever brakes with a low profile design with an adjustable barrel. Besides, the powerful gear offered with anodized or painted colors. Once there was the silver one, but due to getting out of stock now, you can only get the black one.

Materials

For ensuring the durable lifetime, these cantilever brakes come up with forged aluminum arms. And don’t keep any doubt in mind because these are relatively strong and unbeatable body materials.

Dimension & Weight

As a low profile cantilever brake, these seem quite smaller in size. Only 23 to 37mm dimension, at least, what that means. Besides, the weight is a bit higher than their edition. These weigh 144 grams.

Pads

Considerably better quality 720.12 cartridge pads made this unit fully complete. The pads are great for more clearance also.

PROS:
  • 12 cartridge pads
  • best cheap cantilever brakes
  • 144 grams of weight
  • Low profile cantilever brakes
  • For both front and rear lines
  • Forged aluminum arms
  • Ultimate brakes for the price
  • best cantilever brakes for road levers

CONS:
  • Not have so many color options

5. TEKTRO ORYX 992AG Cantilever Black Brake

At A Glance

And at last, at this juncture, we are with the final one of the best cantilever brakes for Cyclocross reviews. Since 1986, the TEKTRO is manufacturing a premium quality brake system that comes with no defects. Their 3 decades of experience gives them the credibility to create accessible and extreme control in their product, as this one is also similar.

TEKTRO ORYX 992AG Cantilever Black Brake Review:

Like the other one, this TEKTRO ORYX 992AG cantilever-brake can be paired with Shimano cantilever brake. The great thing about TEKRO lines is their all products made with AI-driven machines to avoid mistakes and give accuracy in every touch.

Design and Innovations

The linear spring design has a short pull feature. Therefore, stopping your bike instantly will be more than easier and would deliver you a professional biking feel. The innovative cantilever-brake also has a dual micro tension adjuster for reducing the effort and tension at the same time on the cable.

Typical Finish

Not something beyond expectation, though, but the finish is good enough for your bike if you are not going to make something odd. The brake system is available in two colors – black and silver. Besides, the colors are anodized, just like our other recommended lines.

Pads

The 720.12 cartridge pads are just like the ones they have added in the CR710 model. For more clearance, there would not be any alternative at this price.

Body Materials and Weight

Again the durable body is constructed with forged aluminum. That is what it also has in the arms. The dimension of the product you will get is between 23mm to 37m, which is just like their maximum brakes offerings. Still, after being made of that metal, the set is quite low in weight, 150grams. Isn’t it?

PROS:
  • 150 grams of weight
  • Short pull cable
  • Forged aluminum made arms
  • Innovative linear spring design
  • Price is just like the average

CONS:
  • Not have many color options

Buying Guide for the Best Cantilever Brakes

In any sense, choosing the best cantilever brakes are a bit tough job for a beginner enthusiastic. We recommend taking help from an expert or a guy that previously goes through the process, at least. To prove you are not just a newbie, you can follow our below instructions also.

  • Body Material and Weight

Yet, many of the cantilever brakes are made of aluminum and also steel. Both of these have plus and minus. But, trying the aluminum-made body is a better choice to run towards because they are lighter than steel.

Weight it another core thing biker considers first. You want to enjoy relaxed and tense-free riding. So, whatever parts you are going to buy for your upgrade, make sure to choose them as might light as possible.

  • Short Pull Cable

Short pull cable allows you to break earlier with less effort. It is always an advantage to have the feature in your best cantilever brakes for touring bikes. You can try out the TEKTRO ORYX 992AG cantilever brakes since they come with that feature.

  • Pads

Pads are actually versatile nowadays. Besides, bikers are getting engaged in new pieces of stuff every time they upgrade their brakes. You can choose the cantilever brakes that have any of these pads – 720.12 cartridge pads, Salmon KoolstopThinline brakes pads, Standard Road Cartridge pads, or any adjustable height pads.

  • Arms

Arms are equally important to provide you a risk-free and strength stop. Emphasize on the brake arms that made of forged aluminum or steel. So, you won’t need to take hassle in the long term.

How to Install Cantilever Brakes?

In this section, we will walk through caliper mounting for cantilever brakes for bicycle with a smooth post. First, take a look at the tools we would require to install the cantilever brakes.

  • Hex wrench for tightening pinch bolts
  • Combination wrench for pinch bolts and for pad setting
  • Cable cutter for cutting the cable
  • Torque wrench to ensure proper security
  • Grease for the brake frame fitting and the spring
  • Threadlocker for the mounting bolts

The installation process of cantilever brakes

Step 1: Using Threadlocker

The cantilever brakes mount on a frame fitting that allows it to pivot. This fitting will hold the bolt and hold it secure. It’s a good idea if the brake has been on and off a few times to put a little removable threadlocker inside. The outside of the post should get some lubrication.

It is common these are made with three holes: upper, middle, and lower. These holes permit adjustment to the overall spring tension. While installing in any of these, it is important that the left and the right brake be on the same mounting hole. Then install the mounting bolts. 4 Newton-meters is a common setting, and really all you need here.

Step 2: Installing the straddle cable

There are different designs to connect the left and right caliper arms. We will complete the rest of the procedures here using a link unit. To install the link unit, there is an access port for the primary wire. Feed the wire through that and out into the housing.

Next, we will engage the primary cable in the vertical slot. At that moment, hook the quick-release end in one arm and feed the cable through the pinch mechanism in the other. Make sure there is contact between the housing and the caliper arm.

If we have selected the correct link unit – A, B. C, or D, we will have the alignment slot in our link unit head in line with the cable. And our arms will be approximately parallel. At that point, we are going to secure the pinch bolt, and this will flatten the cable.

Step 3: Centering the caliper arms

Next is to approximately center the arms. To do that, first, squeeze the lever to allow the arms to find their natural position. And now, we are going to use the centering screw to bring the arms to the rider’s left.

Step 4: Adjusting the pads

There are several pad adjustments that need to be done correctly, and there are several different designs that allow for that. Well, whatever one you have, it’s time to move the pads to the rim.

First, we will loosen the back nut. We will hold with the front that allows us to make our adjustments. We are going to bring the pad to the rim as if it is in a working position. Then we are going to hold and snug. If you find it pretty reasonable, stop there. Moreover, if the brake is set flat and the bike is used, and there is no squealing, then it does not need toe.

Repeat the process on the other side. Again bring the pad to the rim. Don’t push the arms around.

Step 5: Setting up pad clearance

Squeeze the lever with force. This tests the cable pinch bolt. It is also going to help settle in the housing and cable. Remember, too tight a lever means we barely pull this, and we are automatically contacting. Any out-of-true problem at the rim means we are going to have a rub.

Additionally, it is going to be very difficult to remove our quick-release lever. Too test too loose a lever, pull the lever again to the bar. It should not contact or come extremely close.

If anything goes unexpected, you would need to use the barrel adjuster. Unscrewing the barrel adjuster away from the brake lever effectively lengthens our housing, takes our slack, and tightens the brake settings.

Screwing the barrel adjuster inward effectively shortens our housing, relaxes the cable, and gives us more clearance. On bikes with no barrel adjuster, make the adjustments at the caliper arm with the pinch bolt. So, in any way, secure the cable pinch bolt and test at the lever.

Step 6: Centering the pads to the rim

Remember, the two arms are connected. So, moving one will also move the other one. We are going to use a change in the spring tension with the centering screw. If we tighten the screw, it increases tension on the side that it’s on and pulls the pads in that direction.

Loosening the screw will weaken the spring tension and draw it back in the opposite direction. So, start adjusting until it looks like they are centered.

Step 7: Trimming and capping cable

We don’t want to too short because we won’t have enough cable to work with in the future. Nor do we want it too long. So, cut the cable in that sense and put an end cap on.

How to Tune Cantilever Brakes

The difference between a poorly setup cantilever brake and a good setup one is massive. Probably, the greater difference is, in fact, than any other type of braking system. But tuning the cantilever brakes is dying art. So, here are our instructions on how to get the most out of your cantilever brakes.

Now, we will be looking at increasing power and modulation by making sure you get the most mechanical from the system. We will also then look at decreasing friction, checking the brake pads, and finally dealing with the dreaded brake judder.

Step 1: Mechanical Advantage

By far and away, the biggest effect on effect on power is the mechanical advantage of your system. That’s basically a posh way of saying, the leverage.

Essentially, you need to have the straddle cable attached to the system as low as you can. Now, the trade-off is that you will reduce mud clearance slightly both on the forks and pads. But that might be a trade-off that is worth making.

Mostly cantilever brakes have got a slightly different way of doing it, but essentially, there will always be some kind of bolt-on the yoke itself. So, loosen it and lower it down. Then, you would need to take the slack in on the straddle cable, as well.

It’s a very good rough gauge of how efficient your system is. The brakes should feel quite squishy at the lever and not wooden. Wooden means, less powerful, and squishy means more powerful.

Step 2: Reduce Friction in the System

The Canty brakes are inherently less powerful than virtually any type of braking system. Therefore, it is really important that your work preserve every ounce of force that your fingers pull on the brake lever with.

Now, in the first instance, you need the smoothest possible cables with the least amount of friction. If they are at all sticky or gritty, then you would need to replace them. Keeping the housing length to a minimum will help, and certainly, if you have got money, compression this housing will too.

Step 3: Spring Tension

Next, start playing again with the brakes. Just unhooked from the cables and moved them on the bosses to check whether there is any friction. You can feel it if there is. It is likely that the return spring wouldn’t be strong enough if any friction is there.

Well, if there is any friction at all, the chances are it could be coming from the bosses out itself. So, you would need to take the cantilever off to see what is in there.

The metal there under the cantilever should be super smooth and free from any dirt and corrosion. So, make sure giving it a good clean. After done with the cleaning, drop a light amount of grease in there.

When you are putting the brake back on, put the spring in that middle hole there, which supposedly the best balance for spring tension. Though Nick personally, uses the lower one that eases the spring tension and makes the brakes feel lighter. You know the difference, so pick your own.

Step 4: Power and Squeal – The Pads

Let’s turn our attention to brake pads next. They need to be slightly towed in, which is where the foremost edge of the brake pad strikes the rim marginally before the trailing edge. It only needs to be about a millimeter or so.

So, when you are setting it up, insert a piece of card between the pad and the rim at the trailing edge, which will get it just right.

The Cyclocross brakes have a habit of squealing really badly, and towing the pads in is the best way to combat that. The pad itself plays a pretty big role in the quality of your braking, as you might imagine.

Firstly, make sure it’s not super worn and full of grit or craps if you got a choice to have a look at the compound of the pad itself. And you can spend a whole lot of money on new pads that will actually improve the performance.

Step 5: Brake Judder

Brake judder can absolutely plague cyclocross bike. Now, if you don’t immediately know what we mean by the brake judder, the chances are you probably don’t suffer from it. But if you do, you will be familiar with that horrible massive vibration that comes from your front forks when applying the front brake hard.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for it, but the first no-no is having a brake hanger mounted up there under the stem. If you can, move it down to your front fork, which makes it much better and effective.

The other thing is increasing the toe-in on your brakes. If you do it significantly, then that also can have a slight effect. Ultimately, the stiffness of the fork is the primary cause behind the problem.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) of the Best Cantilever Brakes

Question: What is the best cantilever brakes for Tandem?

Answer: Try any one of these – Avid Shorty Ultimate Rear Cantilever Brake, Paul Component Front or Rear Cantilever Brake Polish, Avid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake, TEKTRO CR710 Front or Rear Cantilever Brake, or TEKTRO ORYX 992AG Cantilever Black Brake

Question: What are the differences between cantilever and V-brakes?

Answer: In the case of cantilever brakes, the gradual distance between the mounts and the pads is pretty wide. That’s why; the type of brake system is widely used.

On the other hand, the V brakes are actually a sort of cantilever brakes that are supposed to be mounted on the frame bosses of a similar section. In this case, the arms it has been a little longer than others.

Question: Why I need a cantilever brake?

Answer: The cantilever brakes in touring bikes are pretty hard and strong in pulling nature. It is compulsory for mountain bikes. Besides, it can be a better option for all roads as well.

Bottom Line

There should not be any compromise when you want to enjoy your riding with your mountain or a touring bike. And to secure a risk-free journey, the best cantilever brakes mtb are a must.

We have tried to come across all the features of the 5 of the top cantilever brakes that can provide you the best performance compared to the budget. We can also predict, these will be taken place in the best cantilever brakes 2020 list as well.

So, ignore investing in any low-quality brakes for your sake. Enjoy your mountain views while riding with the best mountain bike. We will talk to you in the next discussion about something best. Take care.

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I'm Saleh, a hobbyist DIYer, and a blogger. I have completed my BSc in Mechanical Engg.(CUET), M.Sc. in Mechanical Engg,(CUET). Whatforme.com is my little place on the web to express what I've learned first-hand, specially about home improvement.