important: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.

How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes

Adjust brake levers, re-surface pads, set cable tension and center cantilever style brakes.

In today’s tutorial I’ll demonstrate how to adjust cantilever style brakes. I will cover linear pull, or V-brakes in a future tutorial. For this job you’ll usually need a 5mm allen key, a 10mm open-end wrench, a strip of sandpaper, and an optional cable puller.

Adjust Levers

The first step is to set up your brake levers. Start by loosening the clamp and then align the levers so that they match the angle of your arms when you’re riding. Once the angle is set, tighten the clamp.

If you have smaller hands and your levers are hard to reach, you can set them closer by tightening the reach adjustment screw on the inside of most levers.

Check Wheel Center

Before you begin, you should also check to make sure your wheel is properly centered in the frame, as this will affect the position of your brake pads. Make sure the axle is securely fastened all the way up in your dropouts. If the wheel is still off-center you may need to check the dish, which is further explained in the previous wheel truing tutorial.

Set up Brake Pads

Now loosen the tightening bolt on your brake arm and tighten the lever’s barrel adjuster all the way.

Loosen and then remove both brake pads from their mounting posts and inspect both their surfaces to make sure they are not too worn. If you see any metal poking through the pad surface, you’ll need to replace them. If the pads are in good shape, it’s a good idea to resurface them using some sandpaper.

With the pads removed, adjust the brake cable until both brake arms are parallel straight up and down, and then tighten. Using a cable puller makes brake cable adjustments a lot easier.

Now reinstall the brake pads and align them so the pad face is flat against the rim. Then tighten the pad so that it’s snug, but still loose enough to move around.

Take a look from the side to make sure the pad is in line with the rim’s brake surface, and not touching the tire or hanging off the bottom of the rim. If you can’t avoid one or the other happening, your pads may be too wide for your rim, and you’ll have to find some narrower pads.

Cantilever brake pads should be set so that the front of the pad touches the rim before the rear when you pull the brakes. This is called ‘toe-in’, and it prevents squealing when you use them. It’s a bit tricky to set up, so you may have to re-tighten the pads several times before it is correct.

For proper toe-in adjustment, there should be a gap of a few millimeters at the rear of the pad when the front is touching the rim. Park Tools recommends temporarily wrapping a rubber band around the back end of the pad to help set the spacing. Don’t forget to remove it when you’re done adjusting the pads.

Adjust Cable Tension

Some bikes like mine have a link unit that sets the straddle wire position for you. If you’re using a carrier style with a pinch bolt, make sure the carrier is tightened as low as possible, while still providing enough clearance for your crossover cable, tire and fenders.

Now adjust the cable tension on the brake arm by pulling the cable through the pinch bolt and tightening. You’ll have to play with this adjustment until your brakes feel good. I like to have mine set so that the pads hit the rim when my lever is pulled about 1/4 of the way.

Make sure both pads now have equal clearance, and are not rubbing against the rim.

Centering

For minor centering adjustments, there is usually a screw on the left brake arm that sets the spring tension on one side. Tighten this clockwise to pull the pad away from the rim, and counter-clockwise to set the right pad closer to the rim.

Related Links

Recommended Tools

Categories

Discuss this topic in the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics Forum

Tyres keep popping off wheels...

Latest post 5 days ago

Hello guys Just bought a new pair of 700c hybrid wheelset with an inside rim width of 19mm. I have tried to fit schwalbe 700 x 40c tyres on them but the tyres just pop out from the rim when inflated. It seems to be a loose fit. Somebody please advise. Thanks...

Read more

Rear hub issue

Latest post 5 days ago

I have a 10-year-old 105 rear hub, and one of the pawls is acting up, I cleaned it and relubed the hub pawls but it still won't engage as fast as it did, like one of the pawls isn't working. I think it might be time to get a new hub. I would like one that engages faster but don't want to spend the money for something like the DT Swiss hub, what recommendations do any of you have for a hub? Or i...

Read more

I'm slowly eliminated all LBSes in my area as options for servicing, LOL. The latest one has been struck off my list after watching, pained, their approach to removing the axle end caps from a hub with cartridge bearings. Suffice to say, I finally ordered a blind bearing puller kit and a bearing press kit. If you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself! Have you bought any nic...

Read more

Modern rims crack at spoke holes

Latest post 7 days ago

Recently, I was in one of the local bike shops. Someone had brought a bike back to have the back wheel re-trued. There were actually cracks in the rim, originating from the spoke holes. I have had the same problem with my bike. In past decades you could buy a bike, and the wheels were strong. With modern rims, the aluminum is getting thinner and thinner. Now the rims crack. With heavy riders, a...

Read more

Hello guys I understand cheaper regular tyres are made with a steel wire bead. But are all folding tyres made of Kevlar bead? I have just purchased a set of tyres as per attached photo and wanted to know if the bead is Kevlar. Can anybody please help? Thanks...

Read more

Tire bead won’t seat into rim

Latest post 2 weeks ago

I bought a Tamobyke V20. Both the front and rear tire beads slide off the rim when inflating much at all. How do I get them to sit in there where they belong? Pics attached ty!!!   IMG_3164.jpeg (Size: 61.62 KB / Downloads: 41)   IMG_3173.jpeg (Size: 46.46 KB / Downloads: 40) ...

Read more

Headset overtightening

Latest post 2 weeks ago

I have a Fondriest and could not get the headset to tighten without over tightening and then it will not steer properly because of heavy drag on the bars. I replaced the headset with no change so I replaced the steel fork with s Hylix carbon fiber bar and another new heatset and pinch steering head lock. Still it wont adjust properly. it acts as if the bottom headset bearing is too deep in the cup...

Read more

Thread busted on right pedal crank

Latest post 2 weeks ago

Hi Ive joined to specifically ask about a problem which may have been covered before Im sure. My right pedal broke so I had to replace it. Then had issues getting the new pedal to go on straight so I was riding with it slightly at a bend. But then it just came loose and fell off. Problem is now the thread seems busted and the pedal just slots in with no screwing needed because the hole is enlar...

Read more

Cup and cone hubs have long been considered simple, durable, easily maintained, and reliable. Having messed around with a couple of older hubs tonight, I ended up looking at my sealed-bearing hubs with increased fondness. I'm wondering what other people think. Should we old farts just accept that modern hubs with cartridge bearings are the way forward?...

Read more

Trek domane tyre

Latest post 4 weeks ago

Hi I have a trek domane 2.3, and I have changed the rear tyre to 28 (it was 25 originally) The tyre rubs with the brake arm (v brake), I fear it doesn’t seem to be compatible Is there any way to adjust the position of the brake arm? I just need it to ne around 2mm higher Thanks...

Read more

Falling back

Latest post 4 weeks ago

In December of 2009 I had a first generation carbon fiber fork break on my road bike and it dropped me right on my forehead. This gave me a very serious concussion and both ER doctors and most neurologists do not take them serious. So it took about two years of my slowly dying since I couldn't even remember to eat before my Cop friend took me to a proper neurologist who diagnosed it as a concussio...

Read more

Derailluer Hanger Alignment Tool

Latest post 4 weeks ago

I cannot express enough about the importance of this tool when having to deal with multi speed bicycles. I have been in the bicycle biz in one fashion or the other for over 30 years. Have sold many new bicycles and 90% have been out of wack fresh from the box. With used bikes crossing your path you should just expect it to be bad. And never string new cables without checking the hanger first, ever...

Read more

Hey guys, First post here. I've tried searching, but I don't know what you call this. I have a vintage Schwinn Passage that I picked up a few months ago. At first it worked well, but recently it's been giving me trouble. When I shift, the chain pops into the higher (larger) gear, but then sits on top of the chain ring. What ends up happening is that the chainring will keep turning, and eve...

Read more

Went to fix the slow leak on my gravel bike's rear tyre. Found the culprit: a small cut near the middle of the tyre. The good news is it gave me an excuse to order a pair of Panaracer 43c semi-slick GravelKings (most of my local rides are more road-focused) to try out. Meanwhile, I was considering ye olde vulcanised patch repair to the inside of the tyre and superglue to the outside, but I'm thi...

Read more

I shipped my Dawes Super Galaxy home and have just had an unfortunate experience of not being able to re-attach my left Shimano M324 pedal. It looks threaded, but I still have hopes as I think it's only the top couple of rings on the inside. [attachment=5341] From what I can tell the pedal thread is fine. I know there are tools out there to fix a thread. I'm hoping that mine is not so bad that...

Read more