I found an old Shogun Trailbreaker on the side of the road and I'm slowly fixing it up.

It currently has centrepull cantilever brakes, which work fine on the front, however the rear brakes barely make a difference. I've tightened the brake lead (?), adjusted the position of the brake pad, and checked that the wheel is true, but no matter how hard i squeeze, they barely stop the bike.

I think they will just need new brake pads, but I'm wondering if I should just replace both front and rear brakes with v-brakes? If so, how does one choose a brand/make?


  • If the front works fine but not the rear, and the levers and brakes themselves are essentially identical, then there is something wrong that can be fixed. In addition to the pads, I'd suspect that perhaps you have a corroded cable. And make sure that the brake levers do not/cannot be pulled all the way to the handlebar -- if they touch the handlebar under maximum force then the cables are not properly adjusted. Jan 24 '15 at 13:35

The first thing to note is that v brakes need their own levers (long pull), as they don't use the same cable pull as standard cantilever brakes, so that may add an extra expense (unless you have one of the few levers which are switchable between V-brakes and regular brakes). Thus, if you want to switch to V-brakes, you need either {a V-brake compatible lever (long pull) and a V-brake} or {a regular lever (short pull) and a travel agent (essentially a pulley) and a V-brake}. The option of a V-brake compatible lever and V-brake is typically the better and cheaper one if you want to go V-brake (unless you need to use an existing lever, such as Shimano STI levers with a V-brake, in which case you need to take the other option). Note that if you have an integrated brake and shift lever, going to V-brakes would also mean buying a new shifter as well. (*)

As for what to buy, we don't do product rec on this site. However, for drop bars, the Tektro RL-520 brake lever is pretty much the only model (aside from a rebadged Cane Creek) out that I know for V-brakes. For flat bars, the options are pretty much all there - Avid, Shimano, Tektro, etc. all make levers marked for V-brakes (or equivalently, non-road mechanical disc brakes) - pick one which feels nice. Similarly, those 3 companies also make a wide variety of V-brakes. My personal setup is Shimano Alivio brake levers with Avid Single Digit 5/7 V-brakes on a bike with flat bars.

Trying new pads (esp. if the old ones are worn/dry) may help. Adjusting things like the mechanical advantage may also be necessary - this link may be of use, and new cables may be in order for an old bike as well. Certainly, a new set of pads or even a new cantilever will be cheaper than switching to V-brakes (and may be perfectly adequate), but you'll likely get better stopping power easier with a V-brake setup.

(*) There exist mini-V brakes which work directly with short pull levers, like Paul's Mini Moto. These are generally not cheap though.

  • 1
    Tektro 926AL mini v-brake should be very cheap and easy to source.
    – OraNob
    Jan 24 '15 at 10:04
  • Forgot about those, but yes, they are relatively cheap (though you usually want to run an adjustable noodle, which doubles or so the brake's price).
    – Batman
    Jan 24 '15 at 16:50
  • Also, it looks like this bike is a mountain bike which was made before V-brakes became popular, so the mini-V discussion is mostly irrelevant.
    – Batman
    Jan 24 '15 at 16:55

Back brakes have long cables and when you apply the brake, the load causes a significant stretch in the cable. When you add the load due to corrosion, it is a wonder you have any stop at all. A good cable is critical, inspect and replace if necessary.

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