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V-brakes vs. Center-pull brakes

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V-brakes vs. Center-pull brakes

Old 11-15-22, 03:38 PM
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walterbyrd
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V-brakes vs. Center-pull brakes

Note: all of this is JMHO, based on my limited experience. And I am not a bicycle mechanic at all.

Way back in the 1990s, I always had center-pull brakes. That was fairly standard. I never had any trouble with them. The only maintenance I have had to do was move the clip further up the wire, or change the pads. Both operations were dirt simple, and rarely had to be done. The brakes allowed for a reasonable amount of slop. For example if tires where not exactly true, it was not a problem. I could take my tire off the bike without releasing the brakes.

Now I have an Infinity Boss 3 from Costco. It has V-brakes, and I find them to be a PITA. I have to adjust them frequently. If the two side are not calibrated just right, the brakes will not spring back correctly, and the brake pad on one side will keep rubbing against the rim. Also, the pads are supposed to be angled so the front grabs the tire first. For the brakes to effective, very little slop is allowed. It is a time consuming and complicated operation. I have to unhook my brakes to take my tire off - and that will probably cause me to have to re-adjust the brakes.

It may be that, if the V-brakes are adjusted perfectly, they have greater stopping power than than center-pull. But how much stopping power do I need? I don't want to fly over the handlebars when I stop.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe the Infinity Boss 3 from Costco has crappy brakes.

Any thoughts?
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Old 11-15-22, 03:54 PM
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You have what is most likely the worst 'linear pull' brakes on the planet. They are nearly impossible to keep adjusted properly. Get some decent brakes and they'll be much better. You won't go 'flying over the bars' if you know how to use your brakes. Do you lock up the rear and skid every time you use the rear brake? Millions of people use linear pull brakes and don't go over the bars. Millions of people use disc brakes and don't go flying over the bars. What is with this irrational fear of front brakes?
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Old 11-15-22, 03:59 PM
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.
...chances are pretty good that a bicycle from Costco will have a lesser quality set of brakes as pat of the pricing strategy.


I don't think V brakes are better or worse than centerpull...as you have noted, once a brake stops your wheel rolling to where your tire skids, it's not really doing you much good in the range beyond that. I presume you meant to type 1970's to describe your experience with center pulls. But center pull brakes can be something of a chore to set up properly in the first place. And back before the washers that allow toe in to be set on the pads were available, I can remember that you had to either bend the caliper arm, or shave down the pads to achieve toe in on a noisy one. They work well, though.


There's usually a balancing adjustment screw on v brakes, to allow centering them. Yours probably have that feature, unless they are really low end. It works by increasing or decreasing the spring tension on (at least) one or both sides.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:10 PM
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I believe by "centerpull" you actually mean "cantilever", which were the typical style used on MTBs in the early '90s. V-brakes provide more leverage for slowing/stopping with less lever force. Disc brakes took another step forward in the same way. Regardless of type, brakes are not an on/off switch. If that's how the brakes are behaving, they are either adjusted poorly, are poor quality, or the rider is poorly-skilled...possibly all 3.

Also, judging the quality of a certain type of brakes by using the example of bottom-end quality components is not a reasonable way to make this kind of judgement.

Last edited by Eric F; 11-15-22 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:11 PM
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I've never had an issue with V-brakes once they're properly set up.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Milton Keynes View Post
I've never had an issue with V-brakes once they're properly set up.
Same. I have an older MTB that I still ride that has Avid V-Brakes. I can lock up either wheel whenever I want to, without a lot of effort. I don't actually do that because I'm a decent rider who knows how to use my brakes properly.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by walterbyrd View Post
.... If the two side are not calibrated just right, the brakes will not spring back correctly, and the brake pad on one side will keep rubbing against the rim.
There should be little screws that lets you adjust the tension independently on either side. Screw in to increase spring tension on that side. If there is still too much or too little spring tension on that side, you can unbolt the arm and then use a different spring anchor point. There are typically 3 spring anchor holes next to the mounting post:



Originally Posted by walterbyrd View Post
I have to unhook my brakes to take my tire off - and that will probably cause me to have to re-adjust the brakes.
You have to do that with any cable brakes to take off the wheel. You should not have to re-adjust anything afterwards.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:23 PM
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And as far as removing a wheel, it's quite easy to undo the V-brakes to allow you to take the wheel out, and hook them back up once you've replaced it.
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Old 11-15-22, 04:35 PM
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After working on hundreds of sets of Vs, I have noticed a wide range of quality levels, generally tied to price point. Many big-box bikes have stamped steel Vs (sometimes with plastic covers) with very basic springs and adjusters, and they are indeed difficult to adjust or keep that way. Whereas most shop-level bikes have forged aluminum Vs with higher-quality springs and adjusters, which are far easier to set correctly (and stay that way).

One place to start would be to pull the arms and check if the frame studs are lubed, and then reassemble looking to see if anything is binding or working poorly. But for all that work you might consider buying an aftermarket set of Tektro or Shimano V brakes and replace the existing brakes.

In normal conditions, your front brake provides about 75% of your stopping power - even higher in emergency conditions. Emergency stops are something every bicyclist might want to consider practicing just in case - shifting weight backward while applying both brakes (the front about 2-3x as hard as the rear). With practice, on most bikes you'd be surprised how short a distance one can stop in using the brakes to their optimum, and with much less chance of flipping the bike.
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Old 11-15-22, 06:41 PM
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Centerpulls were popular in the 90s?...where, Cambodia?
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Old 11-15-22, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post

Originally Posted by walterbyrd View Post
. I have to unhook my brakes to take my tire off - and that will probably cause me to have to re-adjust the brakes?
You have to do that with any cable brakes to take off the wheel. You should not have to re-adjust anything afterwards.
I think he's talking about the straddle cable; which is exactly how you release the brakes for clearance to remove the wheel; that's why it has that knarp on one end. Unless you have your 'return' position on your brakes set wider than the width of your tire, it's the only way; particularly on 1.9"-2.1" MTB tires.
V's do the same thing, you just pull the Noodle back out of the left side arm to release the arms, no tools required.

Not an uncommon occurance on early 1990s MTBs: the frame spacing was so tight, that even with the brake arms all the way to the frame, you'd still have to let the air out of your tire to squeeze it between the pads. (my Klein is like this and it's not exactly a cheap bike)

My guess is that the OP's Costco bike has crappy cheap brakes on it, which compound the difficulty of getting them set right, especially if you don't really know what you're doing.
A $20 set of Tektro V's would probably be a worthwhile upgrade over whatever is on it now.

Last edited by Ironfish653; 11-15-22 at 08:05 PM.
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Old 11-15-22, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Centerpulls were popular in the 90s?...where, Cambodia?
My ‘98 Cannondale T700 came with cantilever brakes. So did my ‘91 or ‘92 Trek 930. At least one person on my ‘99 cross country tour had a 90s Trek 520 with them.

Last edited by indyfabz; 11-15-22 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 11-15-22, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Centerpulls were popular in the 90s?...where, Cambodia?
Everywhere til about '96 or so.
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Old 11-15-22, 08:39 PM
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No issues with linear pull brakes which are what a Shimano trademarked "V-Brake" is. Also no issues really with cantilever brakes but I do hate setting those up. I haven't really had any time with center pull stuff as that was more popular in the 70s and before and is rarely seen past the 80s except on some Neo-retro type builds or actual vintage stuff.

A bike made from 30 packs of underwear and a platoon sized jar of peanut butter filled pretzels is going to have crap brakes, well everything crap. Costco sells bulk items at low prices they are a warehouse filled with all sorts of junk. You can sometimes get some excellent deals but a place to buy bikes it is not. They are not a bike shop, they don't have mechanics on hand and the stuff they sell is usually either similar to wally mart or maybe a minor notch up but barely.

I personally wouldn't put any money into the bike and ride it into the ground and buy something with better everything. However as some have said you could get a set of cheaper Shimano or Tektro linear pull brakes and that would be a massive upgrade.

When braking you don't want a lot of flex so if you have flexing arms and rubber molded pads that don't really have a stiff shoe you will have poor braking. Also add in cheap levers with a lot of play and that will just turn into poor braking.
If your arms and levers were decent (which they aren't in this specific case) then I would say get a good set of shoes and pads to put in them from Kool Stop or SwissStop, no once piece stuff two separate pieces. I would also consider getting good polished non-coated stainless steel cables and a good compressionless housing like Jagwire Pro or Elite link kits (they come with everything you will need generally and are a good upgrade) and you can have much better braking without spending a ton. Pads and shoes are often overlooked and people just say give me the cheap stuff but for an extra $5-10 if that you can have really good stuff and improve braking significantly I don't see why you wouldn't.
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Old 11-15-22, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by walterbyrd View Post
Maybe the Infinity Boss 3 from Costco has crappy brakes.
Yep. Any $200 big-box bike (even one made by Giant) is going to have crappy brakes. Almost anything would be an upgrade, so splurge the $30 and get a set of basic Tektros. Good stopping power is critical for safety, and if you use both brakes at the same time, you won't go over the bars.
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Old 11-15-22, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
My ‘98 Cannondale T700 came with cantilever brakes. So did my ‘91 or ‘92 Trek 930. At least one person on my ‘99 cross country tour had a 90s Trek 520 with them.
Originally Posted by cxwrench View Post
Everywhere til about '96 or so.
Cantilevers are called cantilever.
Centerpulls are called centerpull.

Even if both use a straddle wire, they have different names and are different designs. A centerpull may be a type of cantilever, but it's distinctly different to the point of deserving a different term.
I really can't say I have seen centerpull brakes on LBS production bikes made after maybe 1980?


Below is what I have always known a centerpull brake to be. If we are all now calling cantilever brakes 'centerpull', I missed that message.
But seeing who I am responding to here, I am sure I will be shown how words mater, except when they don't, it just depends on who is saying them.

https://www.parktool.com/en-us/blog/...-brake-service

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Old 11-15-22, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Centerpulls were popular in the 90s?...where, Cambodia?

...they are still popular with very, very old people, who remember them fondly as the original dual pivot rim brake.


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Old 11-15-22, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...they are still popular with very, very old people, who remember them fondly as the original dual pivot rim brake.


I have em on 2 bikes right now. I like em more than cantis.
And now that I type this, I just realized one of my bikes is from '80 so that's probably why I happened to choose that year as about the latest year I can think of for them being on production LBS bikes.
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Old 11-15-22, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...they are still popular with very, very old people, who remember them fondly as the original dual pivot rim brake.

Which is why, when you mount them under your chain stays, you call them "U-brakes"
But only us whippersnappers remember these

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Old 11-15-22, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Ironfish653 View Post
Which is why, when you mount them under your chain stays, you call them "U-brakes"
But only us whippersnappers remember these
U-brake it U-bought it! Still semi popular on the BMX stuff though most of those kids are doing brakeless these days I think?!
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Old 11-15-22, 11:30 PM
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I bet they weren’t from Costco.

Originally Posted by Milton Keynes View Post
I've never had an issue with V-brakes once they're properly set up.
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Old 11-15-22, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F View Post
I'm a decent rider who knows how to use my brakes properly.
A. Not so humble brag

B OP shaming

C It’s just the truth and I am happy that everyone now knows it.

D All of the above

E None of the above
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Old 11-16-22, 06:49 AM
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I've had all types (except hydraulic) brakes through the years. The very best, at least on the bikes I"ve owned,, and easiest to adjust/maintain are the Avid "V-brakes" on my mtn bike. It's the quality of brake on your bike that is lacking, not an inherent problem with V-brakes.

Last edited by freeranger; 11-16-22 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 11-16-22, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Cantilevers are called cantilever.
Centerpulls are called centerpull.
Thanks for that clarification. I thought I had read somewhere above that centerpull was another name for standard cantilever. Definitely not the same thing, and I have not seen the former in a long, long time.
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Old 11-16-22, 08:07 AM
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An advantage of linear pull brakes is that the braking response is linear over the life of the pads. Thus the name. With cantilevers, response varies with pad wear. If, as the OP said, you shorten the cable or move the yoke up the cable, braking power lessens. Keeping cantilevers adjusted correctly takes a little more work. But keeping BSO linear brakes adjusted takes more work, too.
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