I'm new to road bikes, but have been building mountain bikes for many years. I purchased a cheap road bike (at BSO price level) which I am upgrading for fun.

I'd like to upgrade the brakes to something quality, as the brakes it came with barely slow me down. It has some side pull, single pivot generic brakes on it, and I'm wondering if I can upgrade to side pull dual pivot name brand brakes (Shimano 105/Ultegra or similar) without any other changes.

Shimano 105 Brake

Basically; are there things to check for that would make some side-pull cantilever road brakes non-compatible with any others?

  • I am noticing a new mounting option, 'direct mount', which is not compatible and not mentioned. – Ehryk Mar 31 '15 at 16:51

One thing to look out for is the size of the drop from the bolt securing the brake to the frame, and the brake blocks, to ensure the new brakes will fit in such a way that the blocks line up with the rims.

Probably if you have a newish bike, then any new brakes you buy will be of the same dimension as new brakes. But it's worth making sure they'll fit - more here:


I recently bought an old steel frame and had to get some long-reach calipers as my spares were all short-reach and the blocks would have clamped on the tyre, not the rims.


Well, 105/Ultegra are pretty high to put on a BSO or BSO priced thing (and the brakes will cost more than the BSO). I'd probably go with 20 dollar Tektros.

Generally, they are all short-pull brakes so you should be fine with all of them. Shimano has some New Super SLR cable pull, which you can pair with standard short pull brake levers, but Shimano wants you to buy new levers.

Also, note that the lever quality may also be low so you may just want to get new levers anyway.

  • As a project, I'm going to replace things until it makes the transition into getting it's own slow motion entrance like a bad teen movie. It was $180 on craigslist: Victory Vision Road Bike and I've handbuilt new wheels for it with Attack/Force tires, upgraded to RaceFace Cadence external BB crankset, and a carbon seatpost and computer. Next up is brakes, and then perhaps a threadless headset with carbon forks and integrated stem/handlebars. "Not Another Teen BSO!" – Ehryk Mar 31 '15 at 4:26
  • Anyway to clarify: all sidepull cantilever brakes will work on all "short pull" levers? There's no exceptions or mounting variations or other catches? – Ehryk Mar 31 '15 at 4:30
  • Side pull calipers. And yes. Seems like a silly idea, but its your money. – Batman Mar 31 '15 at 13:03
  • Direct mount side pull calipers are not compatible with center mount side pull calipers. – Ehryk Mar 31 '15 at 16:52

You should see this page about installing and adjusting caliper brakes. As others mentioned, look out for the reach. Also, pay attention to whether you need recessed or traditional nutted mounts.

  • I bought a new Shimano 105 brakeset ($77 shipped) that comes with a recessed mount. Will I be able to mount that on my 'nutted' mounts? – Ehryk Mar 31 '15 at 22:19
  • The page I linked to shows some options but I think they all require drilling. It might be advisable to return them if that's not a really expensive option. Perhaps post another question to see what kind of response others can give you. – Kibbee Apr 1 '15 at 12:31

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