I am trying to put together a mtb (1998 Specialized Rockhopper) that was abandoned and given to me. Many components were missing so I'm piecing it together. I'm not very experienced with this. It did have cantilever brakes on it but no levers. I replaced all cable and housing, new gear shifter levers, and brake levers. I cannot get the brakes to work. Even with brake pads pulled out as far as possible from tire, they rub on rim without me even pulling lever. Do I perhaps have the wrong type of brake levers? How do I differentiate them? I have a drawer full of random parts. Can I tell just by looking at them which are long pull and which are short pull? Or is it my tires? Too wide? Any help or advice is appreciated
Tires should not matter, as the brakes are meant to clamp the rim, not the tire. Cantilever brakes need to be adjusted in a way that the pads do not touch the rim while the lever is not pulled. If both the right and the left pad touch the rim without the cable installed, the rim is too wide, or the brake setup needs to be fundamentally different. You need to set the cable length (possibly trimming the housing) in a way that the pads to not touch the rim unless you pull the lever.
If only a single pad (left or right) touches the rim, you need to center the brake, how to do that depends on the model. A lot of brakes are only centerable if the lever mechanics is not jammed by dirt or old grease, so you might need to clean and possibly grease the lever mechanics of your brake to be able to center it.