I need to replace all the brake pads on these old Mafac cantilever brakes on my bike. I have currently a mix of the original style and a modern replacement. I went to a local bike shop and they gave me a modern equivalent of the original brake (pic below) but it doesn't fit because of the collar at the end of the stem. I could make them fit my adjusting the angle of the cantilever arm but I understood that they are supposed to be horizontal, as they are at the moment.

The modern ones I had on are worn down really unevenly, which I was wondering if this is poor adjustment or they just aren't compatible.

So before buying anything else, does anyone know if I could just replace all four pads with the modern ones (pic below).

Thank you!



I fitted the new brake pads to the rear brake today and they work fine (1st pic below). On the front they do not fit around the wheel (2nd pic). If there was no collar on the stem they would fit, and if I fit them with the collar past the holder they sit at an angle (3rd pic). Following all your advice I think I will loosen the cable first to see how far down the cantilever arms shift. If it is too far I will invest in a pair of very nice Kool Stop brakes. Thank you all!

Rear brake Collar fitted above holder Collar further down

  • It is difficult to tell from the photos what is wrong with the modern pads, how the mounting post is different or even which is the modern one. Could you post a photo with the modern one installed?
    – ojs
    Jul 8, 2020 at 20:07
  • Apologies. I couldn't figure out how to caption photos. The photo of two pads are the existing ones, the one underneath is the new one from the shop, the next is the wear on the existing 'modern' one and the last is basically a new version of that. I will take a photo tomorrow but basically when I install them they don't fit round the wheel I. E. The gap between the faces of the two pads is too small to fit the wheel. I would need an extra 2mm minimum on each side.
    – Gill
    Jul 8, 2020 at 20:18
  • I could loosen the brake cable and they may fit but then the cantilever arms would be below horizontal, which I understood was not correct. The black 'modern' ones are thinner and the post has no collar, so I think would fit without adjusting the brake cable. But I was curious as to why they were so unevenly worn. I will fit the silver ones and take photos tomorrow in the light. Thank you!
    – Gill
    Jul 8, 2020 at 20:22
  • The reason for uneven wear is that the brake pad moves in arc and rotates when brake if used. It has to be adjusted over time in order to keep perpendicular to rim. This is a problem with all cantilever and V brakes.
    – ojs
    Jul 9, 2020 at 6:36

2 Answers 2


I suspect that the splitting triangle is the only MAFAC bit that were often used for that purpose. The Mafac 'Racer' brakes are quite different, look them up in a search engine. I remember them well from my teenage years' Peugeot.

These look like traditional cantilever brakes formerly used by crossers and on early MTB. However it seems that there is a bit missing in the locking mechanism for the pads, some wedge- or hemi-spherically shaped washer(s) that allow for the adjustment of the pads' parallelism to the rims.

Could it also be that the pivots on the fork and rear triangle are wonky from an impact?

  • 1
    You are probably right about the brakes - I just took the name off the triangle :). The left front brake arm is bent I think, having now put the front brakes on by loosening the cable a bit. The rear is fine. But it works so that's the main thing!
    – Gill
    Jul 9, 2020 at 15:26
  • MAFAC did make cantilever brakes, and they’re now quite valuable if you have them, but I agree your cantilevers aren’t MAFAC. In any case, it’s common that the mounting posts on old bikes are closer together than on new bikes, causing exactly the problem you are having. Look for lower profile pads or use your old pad holders and just replace the rubber part.
    – Andrew
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:32

A long time leader and innovator in rim brake materials is KoolStop. Kool Stop makes a variety of "Smooth Post Cantilever" pad holder that should fit your application. They even make replacement pads for your original holders. I personally would use a modern holder with a modern pad compound. It will give superior performance over the older stock materials. The modern KoolStop holders also allow for replacement of just the pads. The pads you have pictured with the ringed shaft do appear to have been improperly adjusted.

  • Providing a link would we nice.
    – Eric S
    Jul 10, 2020 at 1:48

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