Center Pull Cantilever
What's that? There are center pull brakes, that are today obsolete. There are cantilever brakes, that are still used in some non-suspension forks in situations where the cable pull ratio has to match road bike pull ratios (for example due to using STI shifters). But I have never heard about center pull cantilevers.
Rim brakes are the lightestweight and cheapest form of brake: they reuse the rim as a giant brake disc. So in automotive terminology, rim brakes are actually one form of disc brake. They have linear braking like all disc brakes, and the brake disc size with rim brakes is the largest possible, which is good in some ways (effective braking when dry), but bad in some other ways: in wet weather the brake disc becomes wet, and cycling braking forces are so small the water requires about two wheel revolutions to be removed with aluminum rims, so an unexperienced cyclist can be surprised by poor braking, although an experienced cyclist pre-heats the brakes when anticipating the need to maybe stop in wet weather.
Ideally rim brakes are only used with aluminum rims. Steel rims have very poor braking in wet. Aluminum rims only reduce braking force for two wheel revolutions when wet, but they suffer from a wear problem. Good brake pads having iron oxide (rust), that are rust-colored, somewhat but not fully reduce the wear problem. The only form of brake pad with iron oxide, as far as I know, is Kool Stop Salmon.
For people with wheelbuilding skills, rim wear isn't a problem but for others getting a rim replaced may be costly. So it's understandable that wet weather riders may prefer other brakes than rim brakes today.
Rim brakes require manual adjustment using barrel adjusters.
Sidepull brakes are ideal for road bike tire clearances. Their drawbacks become apparent in two cases:
- If you want to run really wide studded tires for example riding on snow, you can't usually fit these because sidepull brakes limit tire clearance
- Because everyone demands "stiff braking", the situation with sidepull brakes has developed to the point where a typical sidepull brake offers no clearance at all. If you want to run any tires wider than 23mm (or run mudguards), most likely you can't, and don't ride that 23mm tire in mud since there is no mud clearance!
The (1) is an inherent problem in the design that limits tire clearance. Problem (2) however is due to everyone demanding "stiff braking", at the expense of reducing the tire clearance to absolutely nothing. Sidepull brakes can perfectly well take 35mm tires with fenders, you just need sidepull brakes you can't easily find anymore, and forks with brake reach you can't easily find anymore.
One problem with sidepull brake is the faulty centering. They have a centering spring that's centered not at the brake bolt, but mid-air. This spring causes sliding contact where it contacts the brake arm ends. Due to unpredictable friction in that interface, a condition can develop where nonequal coefficient of friction can result in unequal left/right centering. The solution is to clean that contact point and put a drop of oil there, but you may need to do that so often that it could become annoying. A solution is not to re-center the brakes -- you can spend hours doing that and it won't be fixed if you don't do the cleaning/oiling trick.
Because the sidepull brake designers recognised the centering problem, they usually make the brakes have a fairly low mechanical advantage to give enough room for unequal centering to not rub on rims. By fixing the faulty centering spring to be centered at the brake bolt, the centering problem could be fixed and sidepull brakes could use a reasonable mechanical advantage, so they could be as strong as V-brakes for example, and have room for 35mm tires with fenders. However you never have the MTB style tire clearance with sidepulls.
One benefit of sidepulls is that as the pads wear, they don't move towards the tire or rim; they stay exactly at the same position. So pads can be very thick from new to worn, and they still don't develop position error.
Traditional sidepulls have 1:1 mechanical advantage.
Centerpulls are an obsolete brake type that was advertised often as stronger, using false claims. They may however have slightly better centering than sidepulls, but as a drawback they require cable stop at the fork/headset and at the frame, like canteilevers do. The brake mechanism is somewhat spongy, so with lots of braking force it flexes maybe too much. As pads wear, they move towards the tire, and in extreme cases can cause a tire blowout unless the pads are re-adjusted. They aren't usually found anymore.
Dual pivot sidepulls
Dual pivot sidepull is an example of bicycle engineers failing to find a true cause of a problem, solving it in an incorrect way instead. The engineers added forced centering instead of solving the faulty centering spring problem. While forced centering solves the issue, it requires one of the brake arms to be pivoting not at the mid brake bolt, but at another pivot point (hence the dual pivot name), and in that other brake arm, when pad wears it develops position error, moving towards the tire like in centerpulls, potentially causing a tire blowout.
Dual pivot sidepulls generally have higher mechanical advantage than normal sidepulls (1.6x as opposed to 1x), because the centering problem was fixed (although in an incorrect way). Also today most dual pivot sidepulls due to the 23mm tire trend can't accommodate 25mm tires, or fenders, so they are not useful at all.
Cantilever brakes are an old form of brake with lots of tire clearance and peculiar properties.
Cantilevers don't suffer from the centering problem of single pivot sidepulls. Cantilevers require a cable stop like centerpulls, which makes their use hard on suspension forks or bikes. The adjustment possibilities are their gift and curse: an experienced bike mechanic can adjust the mechanical advantage, but an inexperienced bike mechanic can set up the brakes in a manner that mechanical advantage is too high or too low, without realizing how the situation could be fixed. As pads move towards the rim and wear, mechanical advantage lessens, and also as pads wear, they move downwards towards the rim. Because of these two issues, generally cantilever pads are thin and long. If on the front fork the straddle cable falls on a knobby tyre (because of the main cable breaking), it will lock the front wheel, sending the rider over the bars. This can be fixed by using a link wire instead of a straddle cable, or by having a fender or a cable catcher between the tire and the brake.
Cantilever pad are bit hard to install because they have so many degrees of freedom for adjustment. However, some pads are holders: you install the holder only once carefully with lots of effort, and then can slide old pads out and new pads in.
Cantilever brakes are usually adjusted to have mechanical advantage compatible with sidepulls and dual-pivot sidepulls, and generally can't be adjusted to have V brake like mechanical advantage. Usually this means about 1.5x.
Good cantilevers are very stiff, so they offer lots of braking force assuming the rider has finger strength, and if the fork isn't stiff, a brake booster can be installed to prevent the fork from flexing.
V brakes solve several issues of cantilever brakes: the hard but possible mechanical advantage adjustment of cantilevers (V brake mechanical advantage can't be adjusted), the hazard of straddle cable falling on the knobby front tire, the difficulty of having cable stops on suspension bikes and forks, and the reduction of mechanical advantage as pad wears or moves towards the rim.
V brakes still suffer from the movement of pads downwards as they wear, so with V brakes pads are similar to cantilever pads: many degrees of freedom for adjusment (difficult to set up), often the pads are in holders allowing setting holder once and then quickly swapping the pads, thin and long pads so that they don't move too much downwards when fully worn.
V brakes have a different mechanical advantage to cantilevers: about 3.3x for "MTB" models and 2.8x for "road" models (shorter brakes). Neither of these is fully compatible with "road" sidepull/cantilever levers, although the "road" models are less bad when using with "road" levers. So V brakes require specific V brake levers.
A problem of V brakes is the large barrel adjuster range needed. MTB levers usually have acceptable barrel adjuster range, but road bikes don't have the adjuster at the lever, so you may require as many as three barrel adjusters per brake to have enough adjustment range: one SM-CB90, one noodle with integrated adjuster, and one Jagwire Mickey above the noodle. Usually just using the adjuster noodle isn't enough, it has terrible adjustment range.
Drum brakes suffer from a poor response that is nonlinear. Therefore, drum brakes are generally not good for sporty riding on wet roads, when the cyclist may brake nearly at the limit of friction, and any nonlinearity can cause a misestimation of braking force and a crash.
Drum brakes require a reaction arm to the frame or fork. Therefore, puncture repair is made harder on drum brake bikes.
One benefit of drum brakes is their low maintenance and non-exposure to elements, so with wet they only suffer from nonlinearity and not wet weather reducing brake effectiveness for two wheel revolutions like with rim brakes. Many cheap bikes therefore have a rear coaster brake (which is a type of drum brake operated by pedaling backwards). For non-sporty riding where only rear brake is enough, this may be a good idea because drum brakes can last 100 thousand kilometers. However, for fast riding drum brakes could be bit dangerous due to the nonlinearity.
Disc brakes in bikes are similar to rim brakes, but with a smaller brake disc. This means there has to be a separate disc, because rim can't be reused as a brake disc. Because of the small brake disc (which would have a terrible braking force with low mechanical advantage), disc brakes need very small pad gaps (necessitated by the high mechanical advantage), and often times a piston in hydraulic disc brakes can become "lazy" and keep dragging on the disc.
As a benefit of the small brake disc, it doesn't generally get wet in wet weather because it's so far away from the road, and if it gets wet, it generally becomes dry immediately when starting braking, and the brake pad compounds used in disc brake pads (as opposed to rim brake pads) are more tolerant of water between the pad and the brake disc, so in wet weather braking doesn't suffer for two first wheel revolutions.
Disc brakes can be mechanical or hydraulic. Most mechanical brakes require frequent adjustment and the adjustment needs to be done using two barrel adjusters and is fairly difficult for such an often-done task. There are expensive models though that can be adjusted with single barrel adjuster, but hydraulic brakes may be a better option since they are automatically adjusting.
Brake discs can easily become bent if bike is stored in a bike rack, or if the brake disc touches something when crashing. Also disc brakes eat pads at a horrible rate if riding in the dry: I get 2000 km pad life from resin pads used only in dry, whereas I used to get 10000 km pad life from rim brake pads used only in dry. This is a problem because disc brake pads are more expensive than rim brake pads.
Mechanical disc brakes are available in short-pull (cantilever/caliper lever compatible) and long-pull (V-brake lever compatible) variants.
One problem of disc brakes is that for heavier riders, they may not offer enough braking force due to flexing of the system. Usually the mechanical advantage is good, but the lever very quickly moves towards the bars when braking, whereas for example a stiff V brake or cantilever setup would not have the lever move so close to the bars, allowing huge braking forces, assuming the rider has the required finger strength.