How To Properly Set Up A Cantilever Brake

Today I am going to share my best method for setting up a cantilever brake.  I do not believe in ‘toeing’ the brake pads (except maybe on a painted rim), which greatly reduces the effective power and gives the brake lever a really mushy feel.  With a few small tricks, your cantilever brakes will feel solid and powerful (as they are meant to be) and won’t squeal either.  Let’s begin.

Here is an example of a fairly standard TRP cantilever brake.

cantilever-brake

It actuates from the top by the brake cable, which is attached to a straddle wire reaching down to each brake arm.  When the brake lever is pulled, both sides move inward and apply pressure to the braking surface on the rim.  As you can see on this model, the left side has a convenient barrel adjuster built in at the top of the arm.  A barrel adjuster somewhere in the line is essential to this setup (which you will understand further down).  If your cantilever brake doesn’t have one of these, I suggest installing an inline barrel adjuster somewhere in the cable housing routing.  An inline barrel adjuster example is below as well as a cantilever brake hanger, which is mounted between two of the headset spacers at the end of the cable housing route.

inline-barrel-adjustercanitlever-brake-hanger

Either of these three barrel adjuster options will work great, but I don’t suggest having more than one (redundant). The first step in this process is giving the straddle wire the correct angle in reference to the brake arm, shown below.  A 90 degree angle is the most optimal for this style of brake.  However, there are wide position cantilever brakes that do not follow this rule precisely.

cantilever-90-degree-image

A narrower angle or wider angle will degrade the performance of the brake.  I have seen some cantilever brake hangers that mount at the bridge of the fork that aids in reducing the shuddering experienced in the front brake, but most designs give ample room for the 90 degree angle.  Once this part has been set up correctly, take a look at whatever style barrel adjuster you have and unthread it about 2/3 of its total capacity, shown below.

barrel-adjuster-two-thirds

The last third of the barrel adjuster should still be threaded in.  As you unthread the adjuster, notice how the brake will begin to tighten and close.  By extending the barrel, you can provide adequate clearance for the brake pads and this will be the key in setting up the pads properly.  With the barrel adjuster extended 2/3, loosen either the 4mm or 5mm anchor nut for the brake pad.  Some cantilever brakes use a 10mm hex nut to hold a post style brake pad. The arrows point to each mount style.  The 10mm hex nut in the second image is on the back side of the brake arm.  Both examples shown below.

4mm-cantilever-padpost-style-cantilever-brake-hex-nut-example

 

Once loosened, the post style brake pad can be moved inward or outward and at about any angle.  In the 4mm (or 5mm) style, make sure that you have extended the barrel adjuster so the brake pad touches the rim, since it cannot move inward or outward (only angled up or down).  Using one hand, press the brake pad against the rim flush and parallel.  It should look like the brake lever was pulled when the brake pad hits the rim.  This sets up the proper contact of the brake pad to the rim.  Some style of brake pads have an angled back edge to aid in reducing noise (a second reason why toeing is not really necessary).  Example below.

angled-pad-with-arrow

With your one hand holding the pad against the rim, tighten either the 4mm (or 5mm) nut or the 10mm hex nut (post style) and keep an eye that the pad does not move.  Sometimes, an improper setup in the past can create an indent in the spacers and that will make the pad ten to want to go back to its skewed position.  If this happens, use greater force to hold the pad and try again until it is parallel with the rim.  Now, above I mentioned that the barrel adjuster (extended two-thirds) was the key to all of this.  Well, this is it.  Thread the barrel adjuster back in and watch as the clearance between the brake pad and rim expands.  This gives you the preferred modulation and spacing of the pad in reference to the rim.  Some people prefer a really tight pull of the brake lever and can thread the adjuster back in only partially.  Some people like a little more modulation and thread the adjuster back in all the way.  You should have several mm of spacing between the brake pad and the rim so that, if your wheel is out of true after riding for some time, the rim will not hit the brake pad.  Experiment with how much to thread the barrel adjuster back in until the brake lever actuation is to your liking.

Lastly, it is good to apply a bit of triflow to the spring and pivot point on the brake arm so that actuation is smooth.  It is a bit of preventative maintenance that will keep your brakes working great throughout the season.  As your brake pads wear down, you can extend the barrel adjuster (unthread) to regain the correct clearance as the initial setup.  Lubrication points shown in the example below.

cantilever-90-degree-image-lube-points

As always, I welcome any other tips you may have from your own setups and hope that my experience will help save time and frustration.  I have seen plenty of cantilever setups and this method seems to work the best to get the most out of your brakes. Even an inexpensive $20 basic Shimano or Tektro Oryx cantilever brake can feel exceptional when properly set up.  Thanks for reading!

  • SNC

 

 

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Dura-Ace 9100 Preview


Hey everyone!  I wanted to share a few photos and thoughts after seeing and riding the new Shimano Dura-Ace groupset.  It features some really nice improvements and has some new tech that stays in line with the prior model.

The lever throw is significantly and noticeably less that 9000 and has a slightly crisper feeling to the shift.  It reminded me of old school 9 speed Dura-Ace and how the lever actuation felt like there was a beginning and end to the throw for each shift.  The hoods are redesigned as a single compound hood with some grip pattern in the right places.  While it resembled the more ergo feel of Campagnolo, it had its own unique feel overall and was pleasant to hold on to.

The front derailleur is by far the most innovative piece of the system (other than the power integration with the cranksets, which I haven’t seen yet).  It uses a separate spring tension to actuate the derailleur that is separately adjusted from the cable tension.  It is kind of like having a built in inline barrel adjuster at the actual component rather than in the housing routing.  It gets rid of the tall arm that was getting in the way of some gravel grinder frames in the 9000 series because it would rub the fatter tires (thus, most were coming spec’d with 10 speed front derailleurs).

The brakes are slightly more responsive and use a nicely redesigned cam action to open and close the brake for narrow or wide rims.  It moves opposite to the prior models.  The dial goes inward towards the brake rather than opening to the outside.

The crank looked slightly more molded and shaped to accommodate strong pedal forces in the downstroke while giving it a nice blacked out finish that might appeal some more than others.

Lastly, the rear derailleur seems to take a lot of its tech from the XTR derailleur.  It now sports a shadow plus style mounting system, but doesn’t include the clutch (likely for weight savings0.  A full carbon parallelogram holds the pulleys, which are different in size and closely resemble the slightly larger pulley on 11 speed 105 derailleurs.

Anyways, on to the photos, shown below.  I’ll be adding a build review and other tech as we begin to install it in the shop in the weeks to come.  Enjoy!  Stop by and check it out!  I’ll also being adding a few more detailed photos below in the next couple days as I have a chance to take it apart.

 

 

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Building the Specialized Venge Vias

Here are some more photos of building up the bike this morning and then some photos of afterward.  There were many good concepts behind the hidden cable design and mounts as well as possibilities for having Junction A externally mounted beneath the adjustable Garmin mount on the front of the handlebars.  Some of the setup for the front brake is difficult and I have to trim the cable several times and re-sleeve it before it actuated correctly and smoothly.  The routing over the the steerer tube of the brake hoses and Di2 wire was well thought out and (while tight) came together great.  The addition of the carbon waterbottle cage (included) with the SWAT tool and mounting bracket below the cage was a nice touch.  We immediately went for Supakaz Black Kush tape instead of the stock white and also replaced the white Power saddle with a black one to stealth it out.  All in all, it built nicely and looked good in the final photos.  Final weight with the cage and SWAT (no pedals) as stock build for a 56cm was 17.57 lbs.  I am just going to display all the photos below right after each other so you can see the details.  Message or comment with any questions!

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The New Specialized Venge Vias

Hey everyone!  We’ve just got the one of the first Specialized Venge Vias bikes in the shop.  More photos of the completed bike to come later today!  It definitely looks sleek with the aero brakes and curvy handlebar.  The 64SLX Rapide wheels seem really light and also quite aero.  I’ll try to have a few photos of actual weights for the wheels and the complete bike with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 11 speed.  While the brakes look tucked into the frame, they seem easy to work on and I noticed all the little bits in the packaging made sense with flexible brake noodles leading to the brakes and the wires and junction tucked away nicely in the stem and under the bottom bracket.  One thing I really liked the concept of was the control unit and charging port located under the bottom bracket shell in a nice protective case (Junction A).  This means Junction B is placed up at the stem (hidden away), which is reverse of how you would normally install them.  More to follow!!!

Junction A inside BB shell case Aero Handlebar Rear Brake CLX64 Rapide wheels Vias Interesting downtube shape No brake mount holes here!  Aero front brake A very proprietary stem, but looks awesome Top view of stem Ceramic BB, SWORKS crank Front brake from behind the fork Another shot of brake. Rear brake Another rear brake photo Comes with a Quarq power meter!!! Charging port for Di2

Shimano XTR Di2 Images and First Thoughts

Well, if you have been to the shop in the past week, someone working likely called out the Black Inc Cannondale FSi equipped with Shimano XTR Di2.  Long awaited, with many preview photos and promises, the Di2 set up beautifully on the 29er and looked great.  Some of the wire routing might get a little refining in the near future, but looks sleek and operates flawlessly (when set up correctly).  The auto front shifting mode (Synchro) is creative and helps remove even more shifting error possibilities from the rider so they may enjoy the results more than the operation.  Even more attractive motor sounds (than road Di2) when the derailleurs shift is welcome and should be able to be heard quite well while riding.  I did neglect to have a pedal installed when rotating the crank arms, so my actions are not nearly as smooth in response to how it will shift while riding.  Hopefully, we will be able to experiment with merging both systems — like maybe a rear XTR Di2 derailleur with a large rear cassette on a road bike or gravel grinder or touring setup and a road front derailleur.  Seeing each component in the Di2 software will also be a great experiment for feedback.  I will be doing a follow up article regarding it soon.  For now, here are a few photos of the group (except the crank) and later (once processed), I have a video to post of front and rear Synchro shifting.

Santa Cruz Bronson C Probuild and Preview of XTR M9000

The past two days both held some great knowledge and experience with the mountain bike industry at the shop.  First, a nice progress slideshow of a Santa Cruz build I was nearly able to finish except for final tuning due to the need for new axle end caps for a rear DT Swiss hub on a thru axle Bronson C equipped with 10 speed Shimano XT Dynasys.  It came together especially well with a Fox Float 36 with 180mm of travel.  Other specs included a Cane Creek 40 headset, a tubeless Schwalbe Nobby Nic setup, a Thomson Masterpiece seatpost and Elite X4 stem, a Selle Italia mountain saddle, and Enve bars.  Strong pretty much in all accounts for sweet jump style riding anywhere in this area.  With included block spacers, the fork travel can be lowered down to the rider desired 150mm.  Here it is nearly finished without grips and rear axle end caps.

The new XTR groupset showed up today on a Rocky Mountain frame and we got to spin through it and discuss with the rep the different features and possibilities with the mechanical version as well as the Di2 version coming soon.  The expectations of riders from preview videos and info expos is well met.  For mountain biking, I am very sure Shimano has a groupset for every rider from 3×11 to 1×11 in both mechanical and electronic.  It’s a design update that really will help change the game and bring new levels of performance to the industry.  Here are a few photos of the drivetrain.

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Last but not least, I have discovered some good new information regarding troubleshooting the Stromer electric bike and will update the article and also provide the link here in the next few days.  It streamlines the troubleshooting to either the components or the wires and clarifies a few earlier questions.

– SNC

New Shimano Ultegra Mechanical Hydro

Here is a quick preview of the new Shimano Ultegra mechanical hydraulic shift/brake levers on a 2015 hi-mod Cannondale. Also shown is their new OEM saddles from new brand Fabric. Rides quite comfortably. More details on the group later.

So, the group rode well and felt very similar to the Di2 version that is already out on the market.  As you can see from the small size of the lever body, Shimano got creative with the mechanical parts and stowed them away just like normal (with a small amount of easy access to spray or clean at the anchor of the brake lever and shifter paddle).  The bleed port is in roughly the same place, and the metal housing leads into the shifter body where it connects to their lower pressure hydraulic hose (which also uses a different hose nipple than the mountain style hydraulics).  Other levels of Shimano brake calipers can also be used with the levers, which is a nice option to customize for certain riding situations and locations.  For instance, I might use an XT or XTR caliper for a large rider on a cyclocross bike or the same components on a touring bike for long descents with great cooling.

The Cannondale bike itself looked great with a new blue and gray paint scheme with good detailing.  It rode with absolute comfort with a feeling of being quite nimble.  It is roughly the same frame as last year with the difference in paint schema and a few bits of hardware that look more refined and adjustable.  The new saddles from a Canadian based company called Fabric look promising for an OEM saddle.  There are three varying options of curvature of the shell from very flat to very profiled.  The other models have more limited sizing as of the website options currently and the Cell saddle would look awesome on a pro build.  Apparently they have some new styles of handlebar tape with one made from buffalo leather (likely sourced ethically) that looks like Fizik Micro Tex and Brooks mixed together.  When we get a few samples, I will post photos and details on how it wraps and how long it lasts.

STROMER!

So I disassembled a rear Stromer wheel this morning before all of this Shimano stuff and carefully saved the spokes, spoke nipples, rim, tire, base tape, rotor, rotor bolts, freewheel, spacers, axle nuts, and axle washers safely away while I jump into the electric bike hub motor fixing and diagnosing world (EBHMFDW) and get it back up and running.  From research, I am confident that a viable and cheap solution will exist when I get the motor opened up and it will be running in no time.  After examining the wires where they enter the hub, it seems that one of them might be damaged and shorting out the controller (the LCD display) and the wire and possibly a hall sensor will have to be replaced.  To be continued later this week when I get access to a car bearing puller for the hub motor shell.

– SNC

What’s in the stand today?

This is what I was working on today….

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Specs are as follows:

Specialized SWORKS Shiv frameset with integrated aero brakeset, seatpost, and Sitero saddle.  This was a stock build I had etched up a few months back and it had been sitting on our Specialized wall with some grandeur.  It’s spec’d with a Dura-Ace 9000 groupset with time trial shifters.  Zipp Beyond Black stem was swapped for the standard stock stem setup in order to run a Zipp Vuka Bull base bar with TRP carbon brake levers and Fizik matte black tape.  The wheelset currently is a nice set of CXP80 Cosmics, but likely will be switched to Zipp 808s.  It’s a really great aero build that will be the epitome of stealth and craftsmanship.  Since I built it accordingly before, it’s been easy to set in the new cockpit and all that is left is to route the new cables and tune.  Other pressing projects intervened this build today including a Di2 upgrade on a Caad 10 Synapse frameset, a SWORKS lululemon Amira with Ultegra Di2, and an SWORKS hardtail Stumpjumper that needed a final bleed and hose replacement for Formula brakes front and rear.  That was also a great build last week that I should have a finals slideshow for tomorrow evening or Sunday.  Internal hydraulic routing and XX1 group with a nice tubeless setup.  Anyways, I’ve had a long week and got a lot of great projects out to happy riders and need some rest.  I’ll have a short article on some tech stuff that has been important to the industry lately tomorrow.  Thanks for checking things out!

-SNC

Park Tool Summit 2013 In Review

I was able to attend six of the eight classes offered at the 2013 Park Tool Summit.  They were the following: Campagnolo, Cane Creek, FSA, Fox, Mavic, and Shimano.  I am going to cover each one and what I thought were the best points to take and apply in the shop. Right below is a slide show of photos I took (sorry for fair quality with cell phone) before the summaries of each class.

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Campagnolo:

The same instructor, who deals with just about every Campy warranty and issue in the US department, was informative and innovative considering that a pallet of half the working material was still somewhere between the headquarters and the summit.  Inside views of the Romanian factories and the home factory in Vicenza, Italy.  Before recently, Campy was high on security and secrecy to protect larger companies from gaining insight on their special technologies and process.  Now, however, they have adopted a much more transparent view of both the parts diagrams and breakdowns and the environment itself in which the parts are produced.  Because of the demand for such quantities of these quality components, special precise training was exacted for the employees of their two Romanian parts manufacturing facilities dubbed Mechrom 1 and Mechrom 2.  Most of the final assembly of parts is done in these facilities.  They have a great traceability program to ensure that the products and parts are accounted for and distributed correctly.  For instance, every wheel built has a dot matrix code attached that contains information as to the individual that built the wheel and the exact final tension specs, ensuring the rider that the product is as perfect as possible.

Also, various innovations have been discovered and engineered by Campy that have spread to other industries because of the care and accuracy they hold their standards to.  NASA aerospace chassis designs, the formula for casting magnesium (a very very light material), and the first magnesium wheelset are but a few of them.

Great focus on chain design was taught.  Every chain created undergoes over 1200 lbs of force to “pre-stretch” them so they last longer and run smoother than any other chain.  No rider can exert this type of force which entails literally zero broken chain other than if the installer does not install it correctly.  Also, as a side note, installing a “quick link” voids the warranty as they believe only their chain pins meticulously pressed in will be strong enough to support it.  In addition, they recommend installing the chain in the smallest chainring and smallest cog to get the right amount of tension.

Cane Creek:

It was obvious for this seminar that Cane Creek is highly focused on connecting riders together and sharing their experiences for the best ride possible.  They seem to have an attitude of figuring out how to make each rider’s bike settings and technologies work best for that individual by developments in things like changing the angle of the fork and detail tuning their new Double Barrel rear shock.

One surprising note to mention in regards to their very successful headset sizing system (S.H.I.S) is that almost all headsets on the market have been narrowed down to 6 top bearings and 4 bottom bearings, making the system even easier.  As far as changing the angle of the fork mentioned earlier, bowl-shaped cups hold the bearings that are placed in eccentric matching cups in the headset for several different angles that they include as one set, so you can try different combinations for better climbing or better descents, etc.  Also, even with this new system, Cane Creek has a headset fit finder with a database of over 10,000 bikes already and adding new ones each day when submitted by mechanics and other in the industry.  This is awesome as it compiles so much data from so many companies and locates it in one place, leaving the guessing game far behind.

The biggest highlight for me was a detailed summary of their 110 headset.  From cutout diagrams, you could see the multiple seals keeping the bearings sealed up nicely and backing up the 110 year warranty.  Essentially, it is waterproof and to me, rivals the Chris King headset that is also popular by name and by its own sealed system.  I mainly think it is just good to have a choice of two almost indestructible headsets.  Plus, regardless of which one it goes with, they will quickly replace it if you somehow are able to destroy it.

The Double Barrel rear shock is a great product to explore as well and has so many options for fine tuning without problematic issues that usually arise with other rear shocks with leaking, etc.  Seal replacement was very easy and clear to understand and the hands-on experience of doing so really “sealed” in the information.

FSA:

FSA (Full Speed Ahead) was all about ensuring that their products get better and better and flaws and defects get smaller and smaller with genuine rider honesty of feedback and a willingness and commitment of the company to fix any problem.  They were the first company to develop a carbon crank with longevity.  Their SLK series has been continually refined with each season of testing as well as their Gravity line for downhill bikes.  Being that they are located near Whistler and other major downhill areas, the testing grounds put the equipment and research through extreme trials to bring us what we have today.  One cool addition for customer service was a placement of an office on the East Coast to help eliminate the waiting period of time zones to contact representatives.  This creates a faster turn around and closer connection of rider to mechanic to rep.

They also have a headset that was developed much like the one I mentioned earlier with Cane Creek, but their point of interest was to develop one that had fewer parts and a more robust interface that could be depended on in harsh conditions.  Great length was also taken to “creaks” and “clicks” in integrated bottom brackets, so naturally I wanted to turn a keen ear since I wrote an earlier article on bottom brackets and issues that arise.  Several things like the correct materials for installing bearings and retaining them with loctites and compounds that wasn’t as clear before as to how essential it is to choose the correct one.  Moving from so many different types of crank spindles and bottom brackets has led them to the development of their BB386 spindle and bearings that is the same size for all of their cranks.  They make different qualities of these, but all of the are the same so compatibility is a non-issue.

Fox:

Fox seemed to hold a different approach than any other class.  They split theirs into three separate mini-classes with hands-on working at each.  The groups rotated and gained insight on several areas from bushing and seal replacement on forks to lockout tuning and rebound damper adjustment.  The most useful in a business sense that they now offered is the bushing and seal replacement.  Developing a new tool with Barnett’s Institute, it allows bushing replacement on any fork including Fox and passes the ability to do some services at the shop level rather than always sending it to Fox to have work done.  This means that I can get a rider back out on the trail faster and that makes a happier rider.

After the first day of learning, I got to speak with the Fox rep at the social hour following the day.  He showed me a suspension unit that is installed on the new Raptor off-road truck.  I lifted it and it was quite heavy as trucks are far less concerned with being light rather than strong.  It led to something that I wouldn’t have expected.  He said that most people think that the bike fork technology and suspensions are derived from their larger parts on off-road trucks and ATVs, etc.  He said that this was quite the opposite.  The bike technology was hardest to innovate because it not only had to be really strong, but also light enough to ride and that this technology was what actually trickled up to ATV suspensions and then to off-road vehicle suspensions.  Pretty cool.  They also seemed to be having the most fun out of the other companies.

Mavic:

Mavic was, personally, a beautiful sight to see.  Slick blacked-out wheels and carbon spokes all over the place with matching yellow hinting everywhere was the realm of high-end wheels and superior technology.  Not only were several points of misconceptions I had cleared up, but it was also confirmation of several things I had been doing right.

Mavic has a philosophy that their wheels are made as a system from the center of the hub all the way to the ground — including the tire.  This is why all of their wheels are sold with tires installed.  From flashy animations of hub overhaul procedures to French dialogue speaking of dedication to ultimate advancement in technology, they covered essential procedures for replacing carbon spokes in two different wheels (R-SYS and Cosmic Carbone).  Plus, the guys teaching the class were the guys that fix the wheels or rebuild them when we send one back for service.  It was like finally meeting the guys who had done all the great work I see coming back in shipments and on display in the shop and getting a flavor of their standards and tips.

One thing that really stuck out that I didn’t know before was that they use mineral oil inside the freehub body with a bottom seal.  Mineral oil, they said, wasn’t some magical liquid, but just that it was exactly the right “weight” to stay inside and give the freehub years longer of usage and, in its absence, is why some riders have described a high-pitched squeal at times on fast descents.

Shimano:

While much of the material that was covered in the presentation part of the class was what I had recently just finished training on, it was still reinforcing and provided confidence in the hands-on tuning of the new Dura-Ace 9000 drive-train.  With its sleek machined appearance and unbelievably improved smooth performance, I have to contend that all three major companies (Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM) have narrowed the gap between each other and the game is at its highest level ever.

The new and improved cables and casing also surprised me to its superior feel and had me thinking they snagged the designer for the Gore Ride-On cables that were just discontinued.  Coming now in seven colors, the PTFE coating is uniquely applied so wear doesn’t affect performance nearly as much as before, allowing riders to use them for longer with better results.  The motto, “friction is the enemy,” really rang true here and great effort was placed into decreasing it and its effect on rider fatigue.

Summary:

All in all, as stated above, the technologies are getting more and more efficient and precise with faster rides and sexier designs.  It’s going to be really exciting to see how far they can go in the next couple years.

– SNC

Park Tool Summit 2013

Well, tomorrow is the first day of the 2013 Park Tool Summit.  This is a big convention of hungry coffee-loving mechanics and enthusiasts brought together by the biggest bicycle tool company in the US.  I attended one in Philadelphia about two years ago and am really looking forward to all of the tech knowledge and hands-on working that some of the major component manufacturers lead and discuss.  I am attending the following courses: Campagnolo, Cane Creek, Mavic, FSA, Shimano, and Fox.  From top-end wheels to overhauling complex suspension forks, it’s sure to be a blast.  I plan on taking many notes and recording the seminars with audio that I’ll post for those interested.  Prepare for a lengthy post on all of what I see there and learn.

While I will not be able to attend every class,  I intend to gain the knowledge from other mechanics my shop is sending there and pass it on to you.  May my attention be focused and my hands adept.  Being that I will probably have to share the knowledge ASAP, I may post small bits throughout the convention from my tablet.  Stay tuned.  There’s a ton of great things happening in the industry this year.