## The Compatibility Of V-brake Levers and Disc Brakes (bike theory for free)

V-brake levers are compatible with mechanical (cable) MTB disc brakes. However, V-brake levers cannot operate with road disc brakes because road brakes require a different cable pull.

## V-brake Levers and Mechanical Disc Brakes

Mechanical disc brakes are cable-operated and therefore need a cable pulling lever.

V-brake levers fit the description but only in the case of mountain bikes.

V-brake levers offer a greater mechanical (leverage) advantage than caliper and cantilever brakes thanks to the longer arms and more advantageous pulling angle.

As a result of the extra leverage, V-brake levers have to pull more cable than the levers designed for road and cantilever brakes.

The term mechanical advantage describes the ratio between the output and input force in a system.

The mechanical advantage of a tool (in this case brakes) is high when the output force is greater than the input force.

When the mechanical advantage is displayed as a form of displacement, however, the formula is reversed.

A high mechanical advantage requires the input displacement to be greater than the output displacement.

In the case of V-brakes, this means that the levers (output units) travel more than than the brake arms (input units).

This may sound a little confusing, but the confusion should disappear upon observing the operation of a lever.

If we use the long arm of a lever to insert force, we enjoy a greater mechanical advantage multiplying our effort.

The long arm (the one with more mechanical advantage), has a longer travel than the shorter one. (image below)

Or in other words, the input is longer than the output.

When the mechanical advantage is low (we use the short arm of the lever), the output displacement is shorter.

This principle translates to the following outcome in the world of bicycle brakes:

Since V-brake levers create a smaller output displacement (movement of the brake arms), they have to pull more cable to compensate.

If this condition isn’t met, the brake lever will bottom out before the brake arms have locked the wheel.

Conversely, caliper and cantilever brake levers cause a greater output displacement (movement of the brake arms).

As a result, they have to pull less cable, or else the brake levers will lock the wheel before the lever has reached its full travel.

This will result in poor braking modulation (control over the braking force).

## Differences Between Mechanical MTB and Road Disc Brakes

• Cable pull

Mechanical road disc brakes have to be compatible with cable-operated brake-shifters – the levers/shifters seen on modern road bikes.

Meanwhile, brake-shifters have a “short pull” because they have to be compatible with road-style rim brakes – calipers, most of the time.

Thus, a mechanical road disc brake needs to be adjusted for a short pull lever or else the brake lever will lock the wheel too fast and offer poor braking modulation.

On the other hand, V-brakes are an MTB rim brake. Thus, when disc brakes hit the MTB scene, the mechanical versions were made with V-brake levers (long pull) in mind.

If you combine a road brake lever with an MTB mechanical disc brake, the lever won’t pull enough cable to lock the disc rotor before bottoming out.

• Mount

The other difference is the mount used for the disc brake – road brakes use flat mounts whereas most MTBs rely on a post mount.

In the case of flat mounts, the caliper attaches to a flat part of the fork or frame. The goal is weight saving and simplicity.

Post mounts, on the other hand, aren’t flat and protrude out of the frame and fork.

The mount itself has no effect on the lever needed for the proper operation of the brake.