Why I Hate Linear-Pull / V-Brakes

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by RChickenMan, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. RChickenMan

    RChickenMan New Member

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    Hello fellow cyclists,

    I ride a hybrid/commuter type thing, and I hate maintaining/adjusting my brakes. I have always had Linear Pull/V-Brakes, and one of the springs on one of the brake arms broke. I'm sure I'll just end up stopping by a co-op to get a spring that will kind of fit, but I'm also considering this an opportunity to get new brakes, if I so choose. However, I have long been frustrated by my Linear Pull brakes, and am thinking that perhaps I could use this opportunity to give long-reach caliper brakes (which should clear my 32c tires?) a shot. I can't get a clear consensus from the cyclists in my life, and I know I could search the internet for other discussions. However, perhaps you guys could help me more if I present a list of what I dislike about linear pull brakes, and you can tell me if I would have the same frustration with caliper brakes:

    1. Centering the brakes. Tighten one spring, loosen the other... oops... loosen that other one up a bit. Oh crap, now both sides rub. Tighten them both.... Crap! Right side is tighter and now the left side rubs! You get the point...

    2. The amount of force exerted upon one point on the cable. If the cable bolt isn't tight enough, the cable pulls right through, and your adjustments get all out of whack... Or worse yet, brake failure. Of course when you do tighten it correctly, you put so much pinching force on the cable that, making adjustments over time, you end up with a very damaged cable, making the system work even less.

    3. Frame clearance with new pads. I use a pretty wide rear rim with 32c tires(15 miles a day on NYC's crappily paved streets... I care more about the rigidity of my rim than how much it weighs!), and when I replace the pads on my v-brake, I feel like if my rim were one millimeter wider, the frame itself would cause the pads to rub. I guess this complaint is silly because there is indeed enough clearance, however I feel like I would rather have more room for error (let's face it, we don't all keep our rims in 100% true all the time). I am under the impression that due to the different mounting position, frame clearance would not be an issue with caliper brakes.

    I look forward to hearing anyone's thoughts on the annoyances which are unique and common to both linear pull and caliper brakes, especially the pet peeves I mentioned.

    Thanks a lot!
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, the basic tradeoff with linear-pull (V Brakes) vs cantilevers is braking power vs. clearance. Cyclocross riders go back and forth on this, but in places where mud is common cantilevers rule for their better mud clearance and better clearance for wobbly wheels after hitting things hard. But the tradeoff is stopping power so it sort of depends on how big the hassle of V Brakes is for you and how aggressively you ride or how much braking power you need.

    With cantilevers you can make tradeoffs between the power and clearance by changing the straddle cable length so there's more room for finding the sweet spot that you like than there is with pure linear pull brakes. There's some good on-line articles on adjusting cantilevers in terms of tradeoffs between power and clearance like this info from the late great Sheldon Brown: Adjusting Cantilever Bicycle Brakes

    If you decide to go with cantilevers you still need to compare adjustment features, some offer better features for toe in and spring tension than others and just switching brake types may not resolve your frustrations but at least you'll have the option of greater brake clearance if that's your big concern.

    -Dave
     
  3. RChickenMan

    RChickenMan New Member

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    I guess another thing I'm failing to consider is that the mechanical advantage of my brake levers is geared for direct-pull brakes, so in order to properly use caliper brakes I would have to get new brake levers.
     
  4. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Yes. V-brakes & regular caliper brakes use different levers.

    FYI. The reach on long-reach calipers varies and some long-reach calipers are longer than others, so you must measure the distance between the mounting hole in the frame & fork to the rim's braking surface.

    The required "reach" for the front & rear wheels may be different enough that you can NOT use a matched pair of calipers; but, the range of adjustment is often enough that a matched pair of calipers can be used; so, measure carefully. That is, a 49mm-59mm long reach may work, but you may need to choose calipers with a longer reach (e.g., 60mm-70mm). BMX calipers have a mega-reach of ~95mm & I think that the intermediate size in the 70mm-to-80mm range is typically used on frames which originally had 27" wheels that are retrofitted with 700c wheels.

    Also, you may have to enlarge the mounting hole on the yoke which straddles the seat stays and/or the rear of the fork to seat the recessed nut.

    While I am not a big fan of V-brakes, it's what I still have on my MTB; and, I have to tell you that I think it's pretty hard to break or muck up a spring ... so, lack of maintenance may be an issue.

    Another consideration would be for you to consider buying a better set (e.g., XT or XTR) of V-brakes.

    BTW. Personally, I don't think that V-brakes have more stopping power than the better road calipers (e.g., Shimano, Campagnolo, etc.) ...

    I think that most of the endos which occurred in the early adoption of V-brakes were the result of using the wrong brake lever AND/OR rider error (e.g., not accounting for the steepness of the terrain) ... and so, the legend of the excessive stopping power of V-brakes was born.

    Brake pad compound is a factor in stopping power ...

    And, despite what some people have declared that the pad size doesn't make a difference, I disagree ... V-brake pads have more contact area on the rim than almost every other type of pad ...

    Too much braking power?!? Shorten the pads.

    If V-brakes seem to have more stopping power than the typical cantilever brake then it is probably because of the variability in how cantilever brakes can be set up -- as noted, the length of the yoke can be adjusted AND there may be some "slack" in the yoke when the lever is not being squeezed.
     
  5. Tamborero

    Tamborero New Member

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    I had some similar issues with certain V-brakes where attempting to center them only last one ride (if that). I was constantly tightening or loosening either side looking for that sweet spot. Having now tried a few different brands, my experience is that some can be centered and they stay that way for ages, where others just don't. I've tried different spring positions, greasing the boss and the spring mechanisms to avoid any difference in friction, however this only improved the swing but didn't do much for the center position. My advice to anyone that has issues with V-brakes is to try a different or better brand. Personally I wouldn't go back to canti's as I have found them to be much more painful when it comes to centering or installing the pads (depending on the type), and difference in stopping power, especially in wet conditions.
     
  6. AusTexMurf

    AusTexMurf New Member

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    Vbrakes need very true wheels, I have found, or you notice the imperfections. Not as noticeable when wheel is slightly out of true when running caliper brakes or even the slightly more relaxed cantilever. I.e., it is easier to get/keep your vbrakes dialed in when your wheels are true.

    On another note, I like cantilever brakes, too, but find them the most difficult to get the bolt/toe/alignment/squeal setup correct.
     
  7. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    It took me quite a while to get my cantilever brakes dialed in, but now that they are, they work wonderfully with Kool-Stop wet (salmon) pads. If they get gunked up, a little scuff-sanding with some 400-grit sandpaper takes care of any squealing (provided they also have some toe-in).
     
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