How to Set Up and Adjust Cantilever Brakes


Hi, I'm Jonathan from Franklinton CycleWorks. Today I'm going show you how to adjust your cantilever brakes. Now, cantilever brakes are also known as cyclocross brakes because they're used on cyclocross bikes, but they're used on a lot of other bikes as well. Now the first thing you want to notice is that there's three points of adjustment on the cantilever brakes. The first one is here, which is where your cable actually anchors.

first adjustment point

First Point of Adjustment, Where Cable Anchors

The second is right here, which adjusts the pad.

second adjustment point

Second Point, Where Brake Pads are Adjusted

The third point of adjustment is either back here or up by the brake levers. Now to adjust your cantilever brakes, you're going to need an allen tool. To begin, you're going to want to notice that your cable runs from the brake lever toward the rear of the bike through this line here and then will anchor to this brake. You're just going to want to feed the cable through and then come to a reasonable tension. You don't actually need the brake pads touching them at this point, but you want them close. Don't worry too much though about getting them exactly on target, we can adjust that later. Then you're going to use your allen tool to anchor the cantilever brake onto the cable.

anchor cable to brake

Anchor Cable to Brake with Allen Tool

Now at this point, you're going to want to give your wheel a spin. Make sure that the brake pads aren't hitting the wheel at this point. If they are, you're going to want to make sure that the wheel is true. If it's not true, it will wobble back and forth and knock into the brake pads. If it is true, and it's still knocking into the brake pads, then it probably means that they're a little too tight. Now we can either go back to step one or we can adjust the brake pads here, or we can use the third option. The third option is the easier of the two, so that's what we're going to do. Now on this bike, the third point of adjustment is near the brake levers. Just a little screw that adjusts how tightly or loosely the cable housing is pulled. As you screw out, the cable housing becomes more tight and actually increases the tension down here at the cable, pulling the brake pads in near the rim. 

third adjustment point

Third Point of Adjustment, Near Brake Levers

At this point, there are just fractions of millimeters separating the brake pads from the rim. This is where you want it to have a nice firm brake- nice strong braking power. If they're the brake pads are too far from the rim, you won't have the stopping power you need. I'm Jonathan from Franklinton CycleWorks and I hope this lesson has been helpful in learning how to adjust your cantilever brakes.