Formerly known as the "eco-friendly bicycling photographer" of Long Beach. I've since traveled 10,000 miles through the US as PathLessPedaled.com. I now find myself in the US bike epicenter - Portland. Join me as I re-enter the working world to save for the next adventure.
Up until this year, the only brakes I really had any experience with were V-brakes and road calipers. When I built my Surly LHT, I decided to try something new and threw on some Tektro cantilever brakes (specifically, the CR720s they sell on VO). The CR720s had a fun retro, frog leg look...and the price was pretty good too.
I had heard all sorts of nightmarish stories about how difficult canti's were to set up and adjust so I didn't really know what to expect. When I finally got them, they weren't so bad. Definitely different from V-brakes and they required an extra tool (10mm wrench), but after a few minutes they came together nicely. For me, I've learned it is best to set the position of straddle cable first (with no tension from the brakes) and THEN pinch bolt the straddle wire to the brake.
I found the stopping power was pretty good, though they were greatly improved (I'd say by 15%-20%) when I swapped the stock pads with Salmon Kool Stops. The brakes definitely cleared the wide tires and fenders with plenty of room to spare.
This brings me full circle to my Bilenky. I ordered it with V-brakes in the back because at that point I had never used canti's. The bike came and was great, though the rear brake always felt mushy. This was due to the really wide fenders in the rear. The V-brakes never fully compressed because they kept squeezing the rear fenders.
I decided a few weeks ago to put canti's on the back (the same Tektros on my Surly). This took a little more fidgeting. There was no built in center stop for the rear cable and many off the shelf cable stops wouldn't work because of the big honking Carradice SQR block on my seat post.
I ended up ordering a Surly Stainless Steel Cable Hanger from VO. It didn't quite work in the center of pinch bolts (I needed spacers and didn't want to go around hunting for some) so I set it off to the side where the head of the bolt presses it against the frame. It worked great, but threw off how the straddle cable hung because it wasn't perfectly centered. This left one brake pad constantly closer to the rim than the other.
Fortunately, the yoke that came with the Tektros had a nifty little feature that I had never used before. On either side of the yoke were two small screws that act like pinch bolts for the straddle wire. I simply centered the brakes and pinched the wire in the yoke, thus keeping the brakes always centered! It's a great elegant solution when you have "problem" brakes, or in my case a cantilever set up that isn't perfectly centered.