Can Cantilever Brakes Operate Successfully With V-Brake Pads [deep bike analysis]

Mini Info Bomb For “Lazy” Readers:

> Cantilever brakes designed for threaded posts can accept V-brake pads.

> Cantilever models operating with smooth posts cannot work with V-brake pads.

The Differences Between V-brake and Cantilever Brake Pads

Mounting System

V-brake Pad Anatomy

Classic V-brake pads have threaded studs coming out of the body. The stud slides through the brakes and is then secured via a retaining nut.

V-brake pads come with concave washers allowing the user to change the orientation of the pads as necessary. (In the ideal scenario, the caliper arm will be vertical when the pad engages the rim.)

Meanwhile, cantilever pads are available in two forms according to the type of post that they have. There are two options – smooth or threaded posts.

If the brakes use a threaded post, then they can also accept V-brake pads as the attachment system is virtually the same.

Threaded posts are commonly found on newer cantilever brakes whereas smooth posts are the norm for older cantilever models.

Cantilever Brakes With Smooth Posts

The image above shows cantilever brakes with smooth posts. In this case, the brake pads are secured by tightening open bolts through which the posts of the pads pass.

This mounting system allows the user to easily adjust the distance between the pads and the brakes.

Those types of cantilever brakes are mechanically incompatible with all brake pads using a threaded stud which includes V-brake pads too.

The next image shows cantilever brakes operating with threaded posts.

Cantilever Brake Anatomy

Those type of brake pads are similar enough to what V-brakes use. Subsequently, the user can replace them with V-brake pads.

Clearance Issues

Before all, V-brakes are a retro MTB invention. The main motive behind their engineering is to provide more leverage and thus stopping power while simplifying the adjustment process. The goal was successfully accomplished – V-brakes are easy to set up and offer lots of stopping power.

Technically, cantilever brakes can offer similar performance but only when adjusted to pure perfection.

Since cantilever brakes are older, they are present on some retro commuters and touring bikes designed for riding on paved roads. Those bikes often have less clearance than an MTB using V-brakes.

Consequently, the brake pads of the cantilever brakes used at the time (mostly models with smooth studs) were shorter to avoid coming in contact with the fork blades or in some rare cases the seat stays of the bike.

Since V-brakes were designed for MTBs using much wider forks and frames, they can be coupled with extra long pads without experiencing clearance issues.

However, if those same pads are installed on a cantilever brake mounted on a fork with limited clearance, the fork blades may get in the way.

To mitigate this issue, the user can close the brake even more so that the pads can get between the blades. This maneuver is not recommended because the pads will get incredibly close to the rim and will limit the tire size that the bike can accept.

Also, the fork’s blades will prevent the brakes from fully opening. This will make it impossible to remove the wheel without deflating the tire – a needless inconvenience.

That said, most bikes will not experience this clearance problem because retro cantilever brakes use smooth studs. Thus, the user is unlikely to have the option to use long V-brake pads in the first place.

FAQ: Will V-brake pads offer more stopping power than dedicated cantilever pads?

No, because the structure and operation of both pads are highly similar. Therefore, V-brake pads would offer superior braking power only if they’re of higher overall quality. However, when the quality and the material of the pads are the same, the performance will be equal.

Summary: What You Need To Know

  • V-brake pads can be used only on cantilever brakes designed for threaded studs.
  • Cantilever brakes designed for smooth studs cannot operate with V-brake pads.
  • In some cases, V-brake pads create clearance issues.

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