Help me set up the Cantilever brakes on my CX bike (and tyres)

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  • Help me set up the Cantilever brakes on my CX bike (and tyres)
  • LS

    They’re a standard cross brake really, nothing wrong with them in themselves. The higher the straddle hanger the more ‘wooden’ the feel but you get better mud clearance at the rim. Drop the hanger and make the arms more vertical and you’ll get more bite but at the expense of clearance.
    You shouldn’t be getting judder on the front with such a short head tube. Check your front toe-in to start with and increase if necessary.

    You can increase/decrease the spring tension on each side by bending the spring if you want a lighter/heavier feel.


    BBB tristop pads will help a lot. Canti’s will never be anything but rubbish. They’ll slow you down when you really need them to, but if you need to stop, you might want to plan ahead. This is partly why cx is a sport where skill and control is very important. Also where mtb skills will be of great benefit. Something you might want to consider more seriously if you’re racing cx.


    i read somewhere that the angle between the cables should be close to 90 degrees, yours looks to be about 80, so if you adjust as LS has suggested you may improve things. sounds easier than it is
    dont be expecting a miracle though.

    if the hanger is on the fork then you usually dont get judder


    I’m a ‘have a go’ CX’er who doesn’t ride the CX much apart from racing, and I dont MTB with any seriousness so am a bit out of my depth.

    The brakes on my CX bike are gash, and after quite a bit of fiddling I cant seem to make them any better.

    They seem wooden without any bite.

    I’ve got 105 STI levers, Prime Canti2C Race brakes and green swiss stop pads. The pads were on the bike when I bought it (second hand), and its a 2010 model, so worth changing? They are about half worn, but might be contributing to the feel?

    The pads are contacting the rim nice and evenly, but to be honest I’m unsure what angle I want the link wire to have?

    Are the brakes themselves rubbish? If so any recommendations?

    I also get the judder that I’ve heard is quite common.

    Whilst we’re here I’ll ask about tyres, I own a pair of both of these, both folding.

    Schwalbe CX Pro

    Conti Speed King

    Any opinions on them? Which one would suit which type of conditions better? Are they of a reasonable standard?

    The Schwalbes are much narrower than the Conti’s, with more deeper knobs. Most races are on predominently on grass.

    bent udder

    Hanger on the fork to remove judder. There’s plenty on’t net about that, including from people like Zinn who know a thing or two.

    The straddle cable is too long, so the leverage it applies to the canti arm is too oblique. Ideally, you want 90 degrees between the two sides of the straddle wire, and a 90 degree between the canti arm and the straddle when the pads are just touching the rim. Think of the difference in the amount of power you need to move a lever when you are standing next to it and pulling the lever with your arm at 90 degrees to the lever, and if you were above it and trying to move the lever at a more oblique angle.

    Sorry for the rough and ready pic. And the background and everything else. But it should give you an idea. You’ll probably need new brake cables to accommodate the lower straddle position. I can’t recommend the fork-mounted brake cable stop enough, by the way.

    cx canti setup example. by bent udder, on Flickr

    Premier Icon Northwind

    Cantis are crap by design- strange old business, cyclocross. What are you going to do with the bike? If you’ll be doing serious racing in bad conditions then cantis are ace, otherwise, it’ll be quicker, easier and give better results to fit BMX mini-vs, they’ll actually stop you and the mud clearance is barely any less good. And all for the price of a set of flash pads.

    All imo of course 😉


    Cantis are pretty good actually, in that you can set them up in so many ways to suit you or the conditions. Light action/high power early season and heavier action/better feathering with more clearance when it’s muddy.
    But mini v brakes are very good if you can live with the lack of clearance. I kitted out my GF’s bike with them the other week for £30.

    Premier Icon Stoner

    If you want to get geeky about it, read up on Sheldon’s (RIP) site

    I used it to set up my Tektros and was impressed.


    They seem wooden without any bite.

    Yep, that’s canti’s for you. 😉

    I’m not dissing all the interesting stuff written above but I found decent pads made a much bigger difference than changing from an 80 degree to a 90 degree angle. YMMV.

    but they’re always going to be rubbish especially if you’re used to disks.


    Thanks for the replies.

    I’ll have a look at the angles and toe in later.

    Any recommendations for decent pads?


    You’ve already got the best pads!


    Fork mounted hanger – if you can – will greatly reduce the chance of judder.

    As for setup, old school cantis are a bit of a faff to set up (and moving to mini-Vs will remove any of that faff), but once you get the straddle wire length correct, and the arm angle at pad/rim contact correct, they’re as good as any rim brakes.

    Having said all that, I bought Tektro Oryx for my roadie and they were a piece of cake to setup and work fine for me…

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