Compatibility [08] Mechanical brakes

Compatibility [08] Mechanical brakes

Updated: 16/11/2018.

This post will explain mechanical bicycle brake compatibility (i.e. brakes with cable actuation, not hydraulic) of both calipers and levers. Hydraulic brakes will be explained in a separate article. For explanation of terms like amount of lever cable pull and mechanical advantage, look at this article: Mechanical brakes – working principle.

1. Amount of cable pulled

For compatibility of mechanical brakes, it is important that the amount of cable pulled by the lever matches the required cable pull of brake calipers. If the lever pulls too much cable, braking force will be very low. If the lever pulls too little cable, calipers won’t reach the braking surface.

For detailed explanation look at the above already given link: Mechanical brakes – working principle.

Overview of compatibility will be given by brake lever types. Compatible brake calipers for each brake lever type. At the end of the article there are pictures of each brake lever and caliper type, for easier identification.

2. Types of brake levers and calipers

These are the brake lever types with their amount of cable pull per full lever travel (about 20 degree angle):

  1. V-brake (also known as Direct-pull, or linear-pull), 15 mm
  2. Cantilever (also known as center-pull and direct pull), 7 mm
  3. Old road, 7 mm
  4. New (SLR and Super SLR) road, 8 mm

Here’s a list of mechanical caliper types with their ideal amount of lever cable pull:

a) V-brake (also known as linear pull brakes), 15 mm
b) Mini V-brake, 7 mm
c) Cantilever (also known as center pull brakes), 7 mm
d) Old road calipers, 7 mm
e) New road calipers (SLR and Super SLR), 8 mm
f) MTB mechanical disc, 15 mm
g) Road mechanical disc, 8 mm
h) U-brake, 7 mm
i) Roller brake, 7 mm

Models that have not been produced for decades AND have become very uncommon have not been listed.

Road calipers are made as single (old version) and double pivot ones (both old and the newer version). In this post, the term “old road calipers” includes all the calipers that require 7 mm of cable pull, while “new road caliper” includes those that require 8 mm of cable pull. Most modern calipers are “new”. Shimano marketing term is SLR and Super SLR (even more cable pull, but just slightly, under 0.5 mm).

3. Compatibility of brake levers and calipers

3.1. V-brake (Direct-pull)

The lever pulls about 15 mm of cable. It is compatible with the following caliper types:

  • V-brake (of course)
  • MTB mechanical disc

3.2. Cantilever

Lever pulls about 7 mm of cable and is compatible with:

  • cantilever
  • road mechanical disc
  • new road calipers
  • old road calipers
  • mini V-brake
  • U-brake
  • roller brake

3.3. Old road levers

They pull about 7 mm of cable and are compatible with:

  • old road calipers
  • mini V-brake
  • cantilever
  • U-brake
  • road mechanical disc
  • roller brake

They can also work with new road calipers, but the pads would have to be set very close to the rim. This increases the chance of brakes rubbing the rim.

3.4. New road levers

Pull about 8 mm of cable and are compatible with:

  • new road calipers
  • mini V-brake
  • cantilever
  • U-brake
  • road mechanical disc
  • roller brake

They can also work with old road calipers, but the braking force will be slightly lower (due to a lower mechanical advantage).

4. Pictures of brake levers and calipers

Old road caliper model Single pivot brake
Old road caliper model
Single pivot brake

Compatibility posts are also available in eBook (printable and Kindle) and paperback editions on Amazon:

Bicycle Drivetrain Compatibility on Amazon
Bicycle Drivetrain Compatibility on Amazon

2 thoughts on “Compatibility [08] Mechanical brakes”

  1. Hey, thanks a lot for this list. It is really helpful and it’s kindof the only one existing 🙂
    I have one question:
    Lets assume I have u-break calipers with a 7 mm pull and v break levers.
    As the v break levers have a bigger pull than 7 mm, why are they ot compatible? Would the force be to strong?

  2. Lever that pulls too much cable has lower mechanical advantage. So the brakes would feel nice and firm on a work stand, but have lower stopping power (for the same force used on the levers) compared to the same brake calipers combined with matching brake levers. The firm feel without a brake/stopping power test is dangerously deceptive.

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