Best Cyclocross Cantilever Brakes Guide

best-cyclocross-cantilever-brakesCantilever brakes and Cyclocross go together like peanut butter and jelly. When it comes to Cyclocross the peanut butter reference is mostly used in conjunction with the muddy conditions in which many races are ridden in. Cantilever brakes have been used in Cyclocross for some time due to their great mud and tire clearance. While disc brakes may be in vogue with some racers, a lot of us still have frames with canti mounts and don’t feel that the manufacturers have disc brakes completely dialed in yet for CX.

What about Mini-V brakes?

Mini-V brakes often offer a lot of power but they can be a bit touchy. Some brakes don’t offer as much modulation as cantilever brakes. Some people also feel that they are an all or nothing affair with an on-off engagement. However, V-brakes are good at getting rid of fork shudder. Clearance is also not as good for mud and leaves.

I’ll probably do a roundup of the best Mini-V brakes in the future.

How do I get the most performance out of cantilever brakes?

  1. Narrow cantilever designs offer the most power. They have more mechanical advantage than a wide setup. They also offer better heal clearance in the rear for dismounts. Wide designs offer better mud clearance with less power. If you run wide setup brakes you’ll want your straddle cable high vs narrow brakes that need a low (1-2 inches above the tire) straddle cable for the most power.
  2. Upgrade your brake pads. Stock brake pads are often terrible and rob performance. Look into conditions specific pads or the suggestions below. Also make sure the pads are for the rim type you’re using (aluminum vs carbon). I’ve found thicker pads tend to feel more squishy than thin pads.
    1. Kool Stop Salmon pads (buy at JensonUSA or Amazon)
    2. SwisStop black, yellow, or green (buy at CompetitiveCyclist or Amazon)
  3. Toe in your brake pads. This means angle your pads so the front of the brake pad touches the rim first, not all at once. Think / \ vs. | |. As your pads wear make sure you adjust them accordingly.
  4. Also set your brake pads to land as high as possible on the rim track. This gives them the most braking mechanical advantage.
  5. Use compression-less sealed housing and upgraded cables for better brake feel. Some good housing and brake cables are the suggested below.
    1. Nokon cable system (buy at CompetitiveCyclist, JensonUSA, or Amazon)
    2. Alligator I-Link system (buy at PricePoint)
    3. Gore RideOn system (buy at Amazon)
    4. PowerCordz – MADE IN THE USA (buy direct)
  6. Look for brakesets with the most adjustability you can afford. They can allow you to tweak your brakes to your preferences much more easily.
  7. To eliminate fork shudder it generally helps to have the cable stop low from a fork mounted stop, like this Tektro hanger. Otherwise you can lengthen your straddle a bit if you have to have your cable stop high or run a mini-v brake in front. An easy way to adjust the height and length of your straddle cable is to have an easily adjustable carrier like this suggestions below.
    1. Paul Moon Unit – MADE IN THE USA (buy at Amazon)
    2. TRP Pro Carrier (buy at Amazon)
    3. Jagwire Carrier (buy at Amazon)

Best Cyclocross Cantilever Brakes

Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes – buy at Competitive Cyclist, JensonUSA, or Amazon

Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes

Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes

The Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes are the best of both worlds when it comes to Cyclocross cantilever brakes. They have the unique ability to be set up in a wide or narrow configuration. If mud clearance is your priority, set them up wide. If power and heel clearance is more important, set them up narrow. The Ultimates are highly adjustable. You can easily adjust the pads and spring tension to your preferences. The stock straddle cable carrier is also highly adjustable to dial in the right cable length. I don’t know that I’d say they have the most power in cantilever brakes but they do have a lot.

Avid Shorty Ultimate Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 115 grams (per wheel claimed)
  • Caliper Design: Aluminum, Available in Wide or Narrow Stance
  • Finish: Black, Zephyr Grey Anodized
  • Pad: Standard Road Cartridge Pads
  • Adjustment: In-Line Cable adjuster, Adjustable Pad Height
  • Special Features: In-Line quick Release, Open design for mud clearance
  • Compatibility: Road style levers

TRP RevoX Cantilever Brakes – buy at Universal Cycles

TRP RevoX Alloy cantilever brakes

TRP RevoX Alloy cantilever brakes

The RevoX cantilever brakes from TRP have a twin plate design to their arms. They offer great braking performance due to the angle and length of the arms. The RevoX cantilever brakes are also highly adjustable thanks to their good amount of vertical pad adjustment, adjustable straddle carrier, pad angle adjustment, independent spring tension, and cable adjusters. I’d say that they have some of the easiest adjustable pads in cantilever brakes. For those of us that like to tweak our brakes they are a delight. For your money I’d stick with the alloy version of these brakes. The weight difference is negligible compared to the price for the carbons.

TRP RevoX Alloy Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 150 grams (claimed) per Wheel (including hardware)
  • Semi low profile aluminum arms
  • Dual spring tension adjusters
  • Integrated barrel adjuster
  • Adjustable angle cartridge pads

TRP RevoX Carbon Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 130 grams (claimed) per wheel (including hardware)
  • Semi low profile carbon fiber arms
  • Dual spring tension adjusters
  • Integrated barrel adjuster
  • Adjustable angle cartridge pads
  • Titanium hardware

TRP EuroX Cantilever Brakes – buy at Amazon

TRP EuroX alloy cantilever brakes

TRP EuroX alloy cantilever brakes

The EuroX is TRP’s prized winning wide setup cantilever CX brakes. These brakes offer a good amount of stopping power for wide brakes with loads of mud clearance. They aren’t as powerful as narrow designs though. They offer TRP’s nice Inplace pad adjustment and cable adjustments galore. The extra set of pads is a nifty extra but I’d still want to run aftermarket upgraded pads with these brakes. For my money I’d stick with the alloy version and save my money for extra tires and racing fees.

TRP EuroX Alloy Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 120 grams (claimed) / wheel
  • CNC Aluminum cantilever brake
  • New “Inplace Adjust” adjustable toe-in brake pad holders
  • Road size pads for better frame / fork clearance
  • Alloy cable hanger
  • Cable barrel adjuster
  • Stainless mounting bolts
  • Extra set of brake pads for Carbon rims
  • Front and rear complete set includes all mounting hardware
  • Colors: Silver, Black, Red,and Ti Gold

TRP EuroX Magnesium Manufacturer Specs:

  • Same as Alloy above except for Weight and Color
  • Weight: 103 grams (claimed) / wheel
  • Color: White

TRP EuroX Carbon Manufacturer Specs:

  • Same as Alloy except for Weight, Color, Bolt hardware
  • Weight: 109 grams (claimed) / wheel
  • Carbon fiber cantilever brake arms
  • Titanium mounting bolts

Paul Component Engineering – Neo-Retro front / Touring Rear – MADE IN THE USA – buy at JensonUSA, or Amazon

Paul Neo-Retro cantilever brakes

Paul Neo-Retro cantilever brakes

A highly popular and great performing cantilever brakeset combination is running Paul’s wide Neo-Retro cantilever brakes in the front and their narrow Touring brakes in the rear. This setup gives the best worlds of power, modulation, mud clearance, and leg clearance. I think Paul’s brakes are some of the best looking brakes out there and are easy to keep adjusted. The pad adjusters have spherical washers to get the right toe angle and purchasing their Moon Unit straddle cable carrier helps adjust the right cable height and length. Another nice feature about Paul’s brakes is that their brake arms have rubber seals and stainless steel bushings to keep the gunk out and operate smoothly in the worst conditions. Best of all they are made in the USA.

Paul Touring cantilever brakes

Paul Touring cantilever brakes

Paul Component Engineering Neo-Retro Brakes Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 100g (claimed)
  • Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Finish: Anodized (black, silver, or custom color of the month) or Polished
  • Brake Pads: Salmon Koolstop Thinline

Paul Component Engineering Touring Brakes Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 99g
  • Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Finish Anodized (black, silver, or custom color of the month) or Polished
  • Brake Pads: Salmon Koolstop Thinline

Tektro CR 720 Cantilever Brakes – buy at JensonUSA

Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes

Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes

If you’re looking for a pair of cheap and lightweight wide canti’s these are a great option. They are pretty easy to set up and ride. They have a great adjustable straddle carrier and independent spring adjustment in each arm. Loads of mud clearance and decent braking performance make these a good choice. You’ll definitely want to ditch the stock pads immediately though.

Tektro CR720 Manufacturer Specs:

  • Weight: 126 grams (claimed) / wheel
  • Material: Forged aluminum arms
  • Pads: 720.12 (55mm) cartridge pads
  • Dimension: 21-35 mm
  • Available Colors: Sand blasted silver or black anodized

Honorable Mention

  • Empella Frogs-Legs Cantilever Brakes
Empella Frog-Legs cantilever brakes

Empella Frog-Legs cantilever brakes

  • Spooky Cantilever Brakes
Spooky cantilever brakes

Spooky cantilever brakes

Both of these are pretty old-school canti’s that have been popular for ages but have been surpassed by modern offerings. These brakes don’t have the ease of adjustability as newer brakes but if you put in the time they can be dialed in to perform well. Spooky’s notably have far less adjustments than the Frog’s