I bought a used bicycle that has v-brakes installed (I'm not sure they were there initially; maybe the previous owner replaced the brakes).
Even after replacing the pads, I have a problem with them – no matter how close to the rim I leave them, the braking power always seems so-so. Besides the obvious safety implications, these brakes are also a maintenance nightmare. The wheel needs to be very true and I need to frequently readjust the brakes so that they are centered and do not touch the rim when not engaged.
I find this strange because I have another bicycle with v-brakes and, with a much larger clearance between the pads and the rim, I still cannot pull the lever down completely.
I measured with a caliper how much the arm link shortened when the lever is fully depressed and it was 12.7 mm. On the other bicycle, I measured some extra 5 mm (17.6 mm) for the maximum force I could apply to the levers.
I've also noticed that the brake arm is shorter and the distance between the mount points and the brake pads is larger on the good bike (I don't recall exactly, but by 3-5 mm). A larger arm and shorter distance between the fixed mount point and the pads aggravates the problem, I should think.
Do you think there may be some mismatch between the type of brakes the levers were designed for and the ones I have?