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Help me set up the Cantilever brakes on my CX bike

milesemilese Posts: 1,233
edited August 2013 in Workshop
I'm a 'have a go' CX'er who doesn't ride the CX much apart from racing, and I dont MTB with any seriousness so am a bit out of my depth.

The brakes on my CX bike are gash, and after quite a bit of fiddling I cant seem to make them any better.

They seem wooden without any bite.

I've got 105 STI levers, Prime Canti2C Race brakes and green swiss stop pads. The pads were on the bike when I bought it (second hand), and its a 2010 model, so worth changing? They are about half worn, but might be contributing to the feel?

The pads are contacting the rim nice and evenly, but to be honest I'm unsure what angle I want the link wire to have?

Are the brakes themselves rubbish? If so any recommendations?

I also get the judder that I've heard is quite common.


Whilst we're here I'll ask about tyres, I own a pair of both of these, both folding.

Schwalbe CX Pro

Conti Speed King

Any opinions on them? Which one would suit which type of conditions better? Are they of a reasonable standard?

The Schwalbes are much narrower than the Conti's, with more deeper knobs. Most races are on predominently on grass.


  • kentphilkentphil Posts: 479
    Try toeing in the pads slightly; so the front half of the pad touches the rim slightly before the back half. A piece of card can be handy when doing this. This might help improve the feel of the brakes.
    1998 Kona Cindercone in singlespeed commute spec
    2013 Cannondale Caadx 1x10
    2004 Giant TCR
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,391
    Looks to me that your straddle cable is set too long and high and your cantilever brake arms are pointing downwards too much. I would shorten the straddle cable so that its angle is 90 degrees. This would raise the brake arms to nearer horizontal. Slide the brake pads further back in the arms away from the bike to obtain the correct clearance from the rim. And adjust pads so they are horizontal when they meet the rim. Toeing in the pads can help reduce squeals and judders.

    All bikes vary a bit due to width of forks and seat stays etc but I have found after 25 years of setting up touring bikes that this is a good general starting point for traditional wide arm cantilever brakes.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    This style of brake is pretty popular for CX bikes, but there is a knack to setting them up:
    Aim to get the straddle hanger two-fingers width above the tyre and as said, the straddle-wire making a 90 degree angle.
    Also suggest you fit an cable stop uphanger mounted from the fork crown as it can help reduce fork-judder.
    With this style of brake, you can't really adjust toe-in without resorting to bending the whole caliper arm - you can get TRP in-place blocks that have some toe-in adjustment.
    You could try a softer-compound pad like a Koolstop Salmon - looks like you've got Swisstop Green pads which are pretty good all-rounders.
    I ran this style of brake on one of my CX bikes for a couple of seasons - it was more of a slower-downer than a brake! Replaced them with TRP 950 cantis which as far better. For absolute power and easier set-up, TRP mini-vees are excellent, very easy to set-up and don't judder. Only downside is slightly less mud-clearance.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
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