START here

Compatibility [08] Mechanical brakes

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

Before you start, to avoid any misunderstanding:
please take the 5 minutes needed to read the compatibility articles use instructions.

If you have any questions (or additions and corrections), please use the BikeGremlin forum’s compatibility section:
https://www.bikegremlin.net/forums/bike-compatibility/

Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):

  1. Amount of cable pulled
  2. Types of brake levers and callipers
  3. Compatibility of brake levers and callipers
    3.1. V-brake (direct-pull, or linear-pull)
    3.2. Cantilever (centre-pull)
    3.3. Old road levers
    3.4. New road levers
  4. Pictures of brake levers and callipers
  5. Mini V-brake caveats
  6. Park Tool video demonstration


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 callipers. If the lever pulls too much cable, the braking force will be very low. If the lever pulls too little cable, callipers won’t reach the braking surface.

For a 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 callipers for each brake lever type. In chapter 4, there are pictures of each brake lever and calliper type, for easier identification.

– T.O.C. –


2. Types of brake levers and callipers

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 centre-pull), 7 mm
  3. Old road, 7 mm
  4. New (SLR and Super SLR) road, 8 mm

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

a) V-brake (also known as direct-pull, or linear-pull brakes), 15 mm
b) Mini V-brake, 7 mm (see chapter 5 for details)
c) Cantilever (also known as centre pull brakes), 7 mm
d) Old road callipers, 7 mm
e) New road callipers (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 callipers are made as single (old version) and double pivot ones (both old and the newer version). In this post, the term “old road callipers” includes all the callipers that require 7 mm of cable pull, while “new road calliper” includes those that require 8 mm of cable pull. Most modern callipers are “new”. Shimano’s marketing term is SLR and Super SLR (even more cable pull, but just slightly, about 0.5 mm extra).


Help BikeGremlin
stay online & independent

This website is educational, free, objective, and not commercial
(sponsors don’t enjoy paying if you mention all the product downsides that you notice 🙂 ).

How much does a WordPress website cost?

If you find this site to be good and helpful,
and if $5 per month is what you can afford to set aside,
please consider supporting my work with a Patreon donation:


patreon.com/bikegremlin

– T.O.C. –


3. Compatibility of brake levers and callipers

3.1. V-brake (direct-pull, or linear-pull)

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

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

– T.O.C. –


3.2. Cantilever (centre-pull)

The lever pulls about 7 mm of cable and is compatible with:

  • cantilever
  • road mechanical disc
  • new road callipers
  • old road callipers
  • mini V-brake (see chapter 5 for details)
  • U-brake
  • roller brake

– T.O.C. –


3.3. Old road levers

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

  • old road callipers
  • mini V-brake (see chapter 5 for details)
  • cantilever
  • U-brake
  • road mechanical disc
  • roller brake

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

– T.O.C. –


3.4. New road levers

Also called Shimano SLR, Shimano Super SLR (pulling even more cable) etc.
They pull about 8 mm of cable and are compatible with:

  • new road callipers
  • mini V-brake (see chapter 5 for details)
  • cantilever
  • U-brake
  • road mechanical disc
  • roller brake

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

– T.O.C. –


4. Pictures of brake levers and callipers

– T.O.C. –


5. Mini V-brake caveats

As was nicely noticed and mentioned in Drew’s comment, some things were left unclear about the (mini) V-brakes. Not all the “Mini V-brakes” were created equal! Let me explain.

  • V-brake” is Shimano’s marketing term, the technical term for such brake design is “linear-pull brakes” (or “direct-pull brakes”).
  • Mini V-brake” is a jargon term for V-brakes with short(er) calliper arms. See the picture below:
"Mini V-brake" (left) VS "V-brake" (right)
Mini V-brake” (left) VS “V-brake” (right)

The above-depicted calliper arm length is what determines the optimal cable pull. The longer the brake arm, the more cable needs to be pulled by the brake lever.

What happens when these are not matched? Basically, you get poor braking. For more details, see the article called: “Mechanical bicycle brakes – working principle.”

Depending on the calliper arm length, V-brake (or linear-pull) callipers can be divided into three groups:


6. Park Tool video demonstration

Park Tool has made an awesome video demonstration on this topic:

Brakes: The Long and Short of It | Tech Tuesday #237
Mechanical brake cable pull video demonstration


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

Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book
Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book

If you have any questions (or additions and corrections), please use the BikeGremlin forum’s compatibility section:
https://www.bikegremlin.net/forums/bike-compatibility/

The existing comments posted under this article (questions and answers) have been moved to this BikeGremlin forum thread:
https://www.bikegremlin.net/threads/compatibility-08-mechanical-brakes-article-comments.118/

– T.O.C. –

43 thoughts on “Compatibility [08] Mechanical brakes”

  1. Hey Relja,

    This has been a most interesting and informative read! I’m looking at some Campagnolo Veloce flat bar shifters/brakes and would like to use them with cantilever brakes. The model I have an opportunity to buy (just like these: https://www.probikekit.com/bicycle-gear-levers-shifters/campagnolo-veloce-flat-bar-bicycle-shifters-10-speed/10771984.html) say that they only work with “dura-pivot or differential Campagnolo caliper brakes”, which I assume is either pulling 7 or 8mm of cable, and ought to work fine with my canti brakes? Does that sound right to you? Thanks so much for your help!

    Best,

    Blake

Comments are closed.


Please use the BikeGremlin.net forum for any comments or questions.

If you've found any errors or lacking information in the article(s) - please let me know by commenting on the BikeGremlin forum.
You can comment anonymously (by registering with any name/nickname), but I think it is good to publicly document all the article additions (and especially corrections) - even if their author chooses to remain anonymous.

Skip to content