V Brakes vs Cantilever Brakes

Last updated on August 27th, 2023 at 04:23 am

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If you’re new to mountain biking, you might be wondering what the difference is between v brakes and cantilever brakes. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to know which one is right for you.

This post is a quick rundown of how each works and the key differences between v brakes and cantilever brakes.

V Brakes vs Cantilever: How Do They Work?

Before we start comparing the differences, let’s look at how each works: 

Also read: Can You Use Sram Rotors With Shimano Brakes

V Brakes

The brake lever is connected to a cable that holds the brake arms in position, these brakes arm hold the brake pads close to the rim of the tire without having any contact. 

v brakes

Once the brake lever is pulled the cable contracts and the brake pads make contact with the rim and stop the tire from rotating.

Cantilever Brakes

Same as v brakes, the brake pads are held in the center by brake arms. The two ends of the cables in cantilever brakes form a U shape and they go through a pulley which is connected to the brake lever with a cable. 

Because of this the cantilever has a center pull which is considered to be symmetrical. Once the brake lever is pulled the pulley goes up and the U shape cables contract to bring the brake pads in contact with the rim. 

Cantilever Brakes

Differences Between Cantilever and V Brakes

Let’s take a closer and more detailed look at the differences between V brakes vs Cantilever brakes:

Also read: Why are disc brake pulsing?

Brake Pads

On v brake pads, there are bolts attached to both sides of the brake pads and both need to be tightened to the brake arm. Cantilever brake pads have no bolts attached to the brake pad but there are bolts on the brake arm. 

However the shape of the rubber part of the brake pad looks quite similar in both v brake and cantilever.


V brakes prices can range from 30$ to 50$ where individual parts cost around 15$ to 25 $. Cantilever brakes are much cheaper.

However the prices can depend on the state the brakes are in and the brand.

Braking Power

When it comes to the braking power both of these brakes are good at stopping the tire from rotating within seconds. However v brakes requires less effort and if enough force is used the tire will stop rotating as soon as you hit the brakes.

Hence v brakes have better braking power than the cantilever brakes.

Brake Feeling

Cantilever has better brake modulation than v brakes. 

In certain cantilever brakes the size of the brake lever is larger when compared with the v brakes brake levers, the larger the brake lever is the more brake modulation it offers when compared with a smaller brake lever. 

A low brake feel brake lever with small tires and seat adjusted above the handlebar can make you flip over the handlebar when you brake, however this will not happen in a heavier bicycle with good brake feel and big tires. 


The easiest brake to set up is the v brakes, because v brake cables can be screwed tightly to stop it from moving in different directions and also v brakes can set the brakes pads on the correct spot without a hassle; 

On the other hand it is quite difficult to set up a cantilever brake because it requires many parts and on top of that, the brake shoes won’t stay in one place because the parts that hold it can move freely, plus not having spring tension centering screws makes it even more difficult.


When comparing cantilever brakes vs v brakes maintenance, v brakes are the easiest to maintain.

Cantilever brakes are difficult to set up so if the brake needs to be replaced, but there is some clearance in between the brakes and the rim of the tire which makes it good for muddy roads. 

Since V brakes are easy to set up, if it ever needs to be replaced or changed it can be done easily plus the brakes also need to be adjusted regularly so they work properly. 


Both of these brakes are available online and also can be purchased from local shops however there seems to be more v brakes available than cantilevers. You can either visit your local shop and at the same time install it there or you can online and do it yourself.

Are Cantilever Brakes And V-brakes Interchangeable?

Cantilever brakes and V-brakes are both interchangeable, you can turn a v brake to cantilever or cantilever to v brake, but when changing different brake levers you’ll need adjusted cables.

Changing v brake to cantilever can be troublesome because of the cantilever’s installation process and the cable management.


In conclusion, V brakes are better in almost every way, so I would recommend v brakes over cantilever brakes.

V brakes offer significantly better stopping power than cantilever brakes, making them the better choice for most riders.They are also easier to adjust and maintain, and they don’t require as much clearance around the wheels. If you’re looking for the best performance, go with v brakes.

Are V brakes better than cantilever?

Yes, v brakes are better than cantilever when it comes to braking power, installation and they are also easier to adjust and maintain

Can I replace cantilever brakes with V brakes?

Yes cantilever brakes can be replaced with v brakes, however you will also need to change the brake lever and the cable along with the brakes.

Certified bike mechanic based in Orlando, Florida. With over 15 years of knowledge and experience in the industry, I can help you diagnose issues and fix them.

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