Caliper vs Cantilever Brakes: How They Compare & What’s Better | Ultimate Guide 2023
Brakes are one of the most important components of any bicycle, and choosing the right type can greatly affect your riding experience. When it comes to choosing between caliper and cantilever brakes, it can be difficult to determine which one is better suited for your needs. Caliper brakes are the standard type of brake found on most road bikes, while cantilever brakes are commonly found on cyclocross and touring bikes. Both types of brakes have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and understanding how they compare can help you make an informed decision.
In this review, we will explore the differences between caliper and cantilever brakes, including how they work, their pros and cons, and which one is better suited for different types of riding. We’ll also discuss factors such as braking power, modulation, and ease of maintenance, which can greatly affect the performance and reliability of each brake type.
Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginner, understanding the differences between caliper and cantilever brakes can help you choose the right type of brake for your riding style and preferences. So, if you’re considering upgrading your bike’s braking system, or if you’re simply curious about the differences between these two types of brakes, read on to find out more.
Caliper vs Cantilever Brakes
Caliper brakes and cantilever brakes work similarly by clamping the metal rim of a bicycle wheel. However, the striking difference between the two brakes lies in their overall design. Whereas calipers consist of a single component, cantilever brakes consist of two machines that are installed on opposite sides of the rim.
Caliper brake designs are found on older bicycles. With caliper brakes, the brakes clamp onto the metal rim and slow the bicycle down. Cantilever brakes work in a similar way, but are constructed completely differently.
How Brakes Work
Caliper brakes and cantilever brakes work similarly, but the overall braking action is completely different. Rim brakes are attached to the fork or frame with a single bolt. The brake is wrapped around the top of the wheel. Caliper brakes are also called side-pull brakes because the brake cables are all attached to one side of the bicycle.
Cantilever brakes, on the other hand, are called center-pull rim brakes. By pulling on the brake cable, the brake arm is pulled toward the rim, which slows the bicycle down.
Caliper brakes are considered the most common brakes on bicycles. Their design is very simple, but their power is very reliable. The power of caliper brakes is sufficient to slow down a bicycle and is considered the standard for all bicycle brakes, especially for road and youth bikes.
In contrast, cantilever brakes, while more powerful than caliper brakes, are considered less aerodynamic. The most common application of cantilever brakes is on cyclocross bikes used for light off-road riding.
When cyclocross bikes are used on public roads, they require powerful brakes that standard caliper brakes cannot handle. Cantilever brakes are suitable for these situations because they provide a more powerful braking force than caliper brakes.
Another difference between the two types of brakes is the amount of space available to the tire without putting strain on it. Of all rim brakes, including caliper brakes, cantilever brakes have the most tire clearance, allowing bicycle owners to use the widest tires without compromising the frame or overall ride quality.
Caliper brakes, on the other hand, do not offer much tire clearance when mounted on a bike. This is because caliper brakes are mounted on the top of the wheel, making it impossible to use wider rims and tires.
Size can also be a distinguishing feature between the two brakes. Caliper brakes are the most compact of the rim brakes. This compact size makes it harder for the brake to hit the body of the bike, especially when performing tricks. Therefore, caliper brakes are preferred by many BMX bike users because they are less likely to cause problems when performing stunts and tricks.
Cantilever brakes, on the other hand, are quite the opposite in size to caliper brakes. They are bulky and are considered the largest rim brakes available on a bicycle. The brake arms and cables usually protrude from both sides of the bicycle. Due to their size, these brakes are not suitable for performing tricks, especially on BMX bikes.
Another helpful comparison between caliper brakes and cantilever brakes is how they deal with mud. Caliper brakes are more prone to mud buildup due to their design and shape. Because of their arched shape, caliper brakes tend to catch more mud, which can accumulate over time. For this reason, caliper brakes are not used on road bikes. This is because mud buildup greatly affects the speed of the bicycle.
Cantilever brakes, on the other hand, are completely opposite in the way they handle mud while riding. Cantilever brakes cannot accumulate mud because the two mechanisms are separated. Since they are only connected by wires, they may cut mud, but they do not store it.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Caliper And Cantilever Brakes
Caliper and cantilever brakes are two common types of rim brakes used on bicycles. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each:
Caliper Brakes Advantages:
- Lightweight and low-profile design
- Provide good stopping power for road bikes
- Easy to maintain and adjust
- Compatible with most road bikes and wheelsets
- Limited tire clearance, may not be compatible with wider tires
- Can be less effective in wet or muddy conditions
- Can cause rim wear over time, potentially reducing the lifespan of the wheel
Cantilever Brakes Advantages:
- Provide good stopping power for off-road and touring bikes
- Offer good tire clearance, allowing for wider tires and fenders
- Easy to maintain and adjust
- Compatible with many types of bikes and wheelsets
- Heavier and bulkier than caliper brakes
- Can be more difficult to install and adjust
- May cause fork or frame flex under hard braking, affecting bike handling
Overall, both caliper and cantilever brakes have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them will depend on the rider’s needs and the type of riding they plan to do. Caliper brakes are generally better suited for road bikes and racing, while cantilever brakes are a good option for off-road and touring bikes.
Are Cantilever Brakes Better?
Cantilever brakes are a type of rim brake that uses a cable to pull two brake arms that are attached to the fork or seat stays of a bicycle frame. They have been a popular choice for off-road and touring bikes for many years for several reasons:
- Tire Clearance: Cantilever brakes have a wider clearance between the brake pads and rim, allowing for the use of wider tires and fenders, which is particularly important for off-road and touring bikes.
- Stopping Power: Cantilever brakes provide excellent stopping power, particularly in muddy or wet conditions, which can be common in off-road riding.
- Easy to Maintain: Cantilever brakes are easy to maintain and adjust, with many parts being readily available.
- Compatibility: Cantilever brakes are compatible with many types of bikes and wheelsets, making them a versatile option for different riding styles.
- Durability: Cantilever brakes are generally durable and long-lasting, able to withstand the demands of off-road and touring riding.
Overall, cantilever brakes are a good choice for off-road and touring bikes where tire clearance and stopping power are important factors. While they may be heavier and bulkier than some other types of brakes, they are reliable, easy to maintain, and offer excellent performance in challenging conditions.
Why Use Cantilever Brakes?
Whether cantilever brakes are better than other types of brakes, such as caliper brakes, depends on various factors, including the rider’s preferences, the intended use of the bike, and the specific characteristics of the brake system. Cantilever brakes have several advantages over other types of brakes, but they also have some drawbacks that should be considered.
One of the main advantages of cantilever brakes is their superior mud clearance. This makes them a popular choice for cyclocross and touring bikes, where riders need to be able to maintain control and braking power even in muddy or wet conditions. Cantilever brakes also have longer brake arms than caliper brakes, which allows for greater mechanical advantage and thus greater braking power.
However, cantilever brakes also have some disadvantages. For example, they can be more difficult to set up and maintain than other types of brakes. Additionally, they may not provide as much modulation as other types of brakes, which can make it more difficult to fine-tune your braking power in certain situations.
In terms of overall performance, the best type of brake system depends on the specific needs and preferences of the rider. While cantilever brakes may be a better choice for certain types of riding, such as cyclocross or touring, they may not be the best choice for all riders and situations. Caliper brakes, for example, are a popular choice for road bikes because they are lightweight and easy to maintain.
What Type Of Brakes Are Best?
The best type of brakes depends on several factors, including the type of bike, the rider’s skill level, riding style and conditions, and personal preferences. Here are some of the most common types of brakes and their key characteristics:
- Disc brakes: These are the most popular type of brake system in modern bikes. Disc brakes provide powerful and consistent braking performance in all weather conditions and terrain. They are also low maintenance and offer a long lifespan. There are two types of disc brakes: hydraulic and mechanical.
- Rim brakes: These are the most common type of brakes found on road bikes and some mountain bikes. Rim brakes are lightweight, affordable, and easy to maintain. However, they can be less effective in wet or muddy conditions.
- Cantilever brakes: These brakes are commonly found on cyclocross and touring bikes. Cantilever brakes offer excellent mud clearance and greater mechanical advantages than caliper brakes, but can be more difficult to set up and maintain.
- V-brakes: These are a type of rim brake commonly found on mountain bikes. They provide powerful and predictable braking performance in dry conditions but can struggle in wet or muddy conditions.
In general, disc brakes are considered the best type of brake due to their consistent performance, reliability, and low maintenance. However, the best type of brake ultimately depends on the rider’s specific needs, preferences, and the type of riding they do. It’s always a good idea to consult with a bike shop or a professional mechanic to determine which type of brake system is best suited for your bike and your riding style.
Are Caliper Brakes Good?
Caliper brakes are a type of rim brake commonly used on road bikes, and they can be a good option for many riders. Here are some of the advantages of caliper brakes:
- Lightweight and Low Profile: Caliper brakes are typically lightweight and have a low profile, which can make them a good choice for road bikes where aerodynamics and weight are important factors.
- Good Stopping Power: Caliper brakes can provide excellent stopping power when properly adjusted and maintained, particularly on road bikes where the speeds are typically higher than on other types of bikes.
- Easy to Maintain: Caliper brakes are relatively easy to maintain and adjust, with many parts being readily available.
- Compatible with Most Bikes: Caliper brakes are compatible with most road bikes and wheelsets, making them a versatile option for different riding styles.
- Widely Used: Caliper brakes are a common type of brake, and many cyclists are familiar with them, which can make them easier to service and maintain.
What Is The Best Brake Pad For Most Driving Conditions?
The best brake pad for most driving conditions will depend on several factors, including the type of vehicle, driving style, and road conditions. However, there are generally two main types of brake pads available: ceramic and semi-metallic.
Ceramic brake pads are made from a mixture of ceramic fibers, non-ferrous filler materials, and a bonding agent. They are known for their quiet operation, low dust production, and long lifespan. They can also offer good stopping power, particularly in normal to light braking situations.
Semi-metallic brake pads are made from a mixture of metallic fibers, iron, and other materials, and they tend to be more affordable than ceramic pads. They offer good stopping power, particularly in high-heat situations, and can be a good choice for heavy-duty vehicles or for driving in hilly or mountainous areas.
Ultimately, the best brake pad for most driving conditions will depend on a variety of factors, including the vehicle, driving style, and road conditions. It is important to consult with a professional mechanic or do research to determine the best type of brake pad for your specific needs.
Why Did Cantilevers Become More Popular?
Cantilever brakes became more popular in the 1980s and 1990s as mountain biking grew in popularity and riders began demanding better performance from their bikes in challenging off-road terrain. Cantilever brakes offered several advantages over other types of brakes, including their ability to provide greater mud clearance, increased mechanical advantage, and superior stopping power in rough terrain.
Cantilever brakes also allowed for the use of wider tires, which provided better traction and stability on loose or rocky terrain. As mountain biking continued to evolve, cantilever brakes became the standard choice for many riders, particularly those who competed in cyclocross events or toured over rough terrain.
However, the rise of disc brakes in the 2000s led to a decline in the popularity of cantilever brakes. Disc brakes offered even greater stopping power and more consistent performance in all weather conditions, which made them a more attractive option for many riders.
Today, cantilever brakes are still commonly used on cyclocross and touring bikes, but are less common on mountain bikes. However, many riders still appreciate the unique characteristics of cantilever brakes, particularly their ability to provide excellent mud clearance and reliable stopping power in challenging terrain.
Are Cantilever Brakes Powerful?
Cantilever brakes can provide powerful and effective stopping power when properly adjusted and maintained. They are particularly well-suited for off-road and touring bikes, where stopping power and tire clearance are important factors.
Compared to other types of rim brakes, such as caliper brakes, cantilever brakes have a wider clearance between the brake pads and the rim, allowing for the use of wider tires and fenders. This increased clearance also allows for more mud and debris to be cleared from the braking surface, improving overall braking performance.
Cantilever brakes can also be adjusted to provide a high mechanical advantage, which can help to increase stopping power. However, it is important to note that cantilever brakes require careful adjustment and maintenance to ensure optimal performance, and they may not be the best choice for all types of riding conditions.
Overall, while they may not be as powerful as disc brakes, cantilever brakes can provide reliable and effective stopping power for off-road and touring bikes when properly adjusted and maintained.