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

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    Welcome to the site! I'd like to ask for clarification if the brake cable is taut? Does this happen with the brake cable completely loosened?
    – jayded-bee
    Jul 29, 2022 at 19:54
  • Can you add some photos please? One with the brake loose, one with the lever pressed and brake actuated. This would be easier than asking for a description of the straddle cable's angles.
    – Criggie
    Jul 29, 2022 at 23:42
  • Yes in the morning I will take photos. It could be the wrong size link unit. When I have the cable loose, the brake pads don't pull to rim hard enough to make tire completely stop spinning (weak brakes). When cable is taut, the brake pads hit rim without pulling lever
    – Alison
    Jul 31, 2022 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Thank you that's good advice! I didn't think about the housing length as a possible issue. I will check that out tomorrow morning and post back results
    – Alison
    Jul 31, 2022 at 8:47

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