V Brakes Vs Cantilever

When buying a motorcycle or bike, various elements come into play. One crucial factor to consider is what type of braking system your e-bike brings along—your knowledge about how the braking system functions and its integral features can make a huge difference.

If you are into classic modern e-bikes, the chances are that yours will come with either a cantilever or a V-brake as they are the most popular. In regards, to knowing who wins the battle of V-brakes Vs. Cantilever beforehand is highly indispensable. Which is more efficient than the other? What about their price tags? Which variant works better, and on what model of a bike?

Well, for starters, you’d wish to land a braking system with a good learning curve. It is also essential to buy a braking system that you can trust. And since you’re going to use the bike frequently, the braking pad and body should be sturdy enough to withstand years of wear and tear. Let’s walk through both V-brakes and Cantilevers’ distinct features and derive substantial differences that make each type stand out.

What are V-Brakes?

V-brakes are common in most models of bikes across the world. They have been on the market since 1996 when the Shimano M950 group first featured them in their bikes.

These brakes apply simple physics to make stopping an e-bike wheel a success. When a cyclist pulls a lever attached to the handlebar, the system pulls a cable through the noodle. The noodle is housing that runs from the handlebar to the pads in the braking system.

The cable’s pull causes the two pads that touch the sides of the rim to clamp together. This way, friction occurs and depending on the amount of pressure applied, the bike slows or stops.

Generally, the system consists of a metal cable, a brake lever with two pads, a cable guide or housing, and two caliper arms. The attachment of the clipper arm consists of a spring tab that holds the boss frame into place. You can adjust the spring tab depending on the amount of load you want to inject on the caliper arm.

What are Cantilevers?

Cantilever brakes were a staple choice in the early 1980s. They were mainly found in high-end touring bikes with super high price tags. Not so much has changed since they still use the same physics four decades down the line.

The cantilever brake’s geometry consists of a noodle that houses a metallic cable that runs from the lever at the handlebar to the braking unit. The noodle attaches to a triangular-like pivot that also attaches to the pad.

When you press the lever in the handlebar, the metallic cable transmits equal pressure to the braking unit. The result is the two pads in the unit pressing against the bike’s rim to either stop the wheel or slow down the motion.

As you can see, these two types of brakes use the same logic or physics to stop or reduce the motion of an e-bike. Cantilevers came first. V-brakes came later as an advancement of the previous series of cantilevers.

Similarities between cantilevers and V-brakes 


Both two types of braking units use pads that press the rims of a bike, generating enough friction to stop or lower the bike’s speed. Often, the pads come with a rubber body for longevity. 

The lever 

Both types of braking units have levers attached to the handlebar for convenient use. Any bike will come with two levers, for the front wheel and the rear wheel. Pressing the lever actuates the braking unit by transferring pressure through a cable.

Differences between V-brakes and Cantilevers 


V-brakes work well on mountain bikes. Due to the boot’s presence in their geometry, they load more cable compared to the cantilever brakes. In regards, they are not only powerful but also not compatible with regular road bikes.

However, if you want to use them on a road bike, you may need to adjust their geometry by adding an adapter. Just that, most adapters in the market are way more expensive and can be hard to maintain.

Cantilever brakes, on the other hand, work perfectly with the regular road bike. They augur well with any touring bike in the market. On the downside, they may not work on mountain bikes and tandems since their cable load is limited and cannot adjust even with the adapter’s incorporation. 


Cantilever brakes started as the most expensive. But with time, their price reduced exponentially. Current versions have price tags ranging from USD 10 to USD 30. The prices may differ depending on the type of manufacturer. Plus, some variants incorporate modern advances such as linear-pull and disc-press technologies. So the price might be higher.

Conversely, V-brakes come with hefty price tags. Due to the technology employed in their make-up, expect to part with dime ranging from USD 20 to USD 50 when buying a new one. Also, you can buy the braking components separately.


Typical V-brakes consist of metallic cable, noodle, and two brake arms. Overall, the body is either an alloy of steel or aluminum except for the boot, handlebar and rubber pads. However, modern brakes come with an alloy of steel and aluminum, plus a plastic unit.

If durability is your leading cause for concern, consider buying a V-brake whose body is 80% metal. Under proper care, the system can last you decades; maybe you’ll only need to replace the rubber pad.

Typical Cantilevers consisted of metallic cables made of an alloy of aluminum or steel. The anchor bolt, carrier, the two removable ends, and the main cable were made of metals. Only the shoes and the pad came in rubberized bodies.

Cantilevers are more durable than their V-brake counterparts. That is if you maintain yours properly and replace the rubber in time. They can last you even half a decade–in case you do not hit the road often. 


Both two variants are convenient if you install them in models of bike that match. However, when it comes to changing the rubbers, V-brakes are way easier to install. All you need is to drive a few screws across the two arms of the lever, and you are good to go. The same applies whenever you want to replace the rubbers.

You need moderate skills to replace the cantilever rubbers. The replacement process can take between 30 to 45 minutes using a bolt opener or screwdriver. 


Cantilevers with hydraulic discs are the most powerful and precise. They are also the most expensive. Even though you may need to include costly adapters to use on your mountain bike, you can always entrust these brakes for emergency stops.

On the downside, hydraulic cantilever brakes consist of parts that are specific to certain brands. In case of replacement, you may need to source spares from particular stores, some of which are not locally available.

V-brakes are also good performers, even better compared to direct-cable pull cantilevers. With a mountain bike to match, they do a good job even in sloppy ranges.


V-brakes are a metamorphosed variant of cantilever brakes. The two types of brakes share a lot in common, making their comparison a bit hard. However, for sure, each variant is made specifically with certain types of bikes in mind. If you own a mountain bike or a tandem, V-brake is your best option. Conversely, if you like on-road touring bikes, a cantilever brake will sort your needs anytime.

Jonathan Tim
Jonathan Tim
A bicycle geek since early childhood spent his twenties as a mechanic in bike shops. His passions include flatland BMX, unicycles, cycle touring, mountain biking, and road riding.