9 Effective Steps To Improve Vee And Hub Brakes

Vee brakes are standard on mountain bikes and hybrids. But many in daily use are ineffective because they are incorrectly fitted, so take a few minutes to do it properly.

Vee brakes arc close relatives of the standard cantilever but incIty well all the problems of the ordinary canti are designed out. They are light enough to operate with two ringers, because the extended brake arms give more leverage. Fitting and adjustment is easier because there is only one cable. And they are more powerful, partly because of the extra leverage and partly because the brake cable works at 90' to the brake arms.

As a result, they have a very direct or linear effect, meaning that the amount of pull on the brake lever is translated directly into the same amount of pull on the brakes. That is why you must not use levers for canti brake with vee brakes.

Canti levers are designed to create maximum braking power with a long, hard pull. If you apply the same amount of force to vee brakes, you will stop very fast and maybe find yourself diving over the handlebars. One other warning — you must use vee brakes very gently to start with. They stop you so fast, compared with ordinary bike brakes, that you must get used to them before using their full power.

 If your bike has cantis, it is easy to upgrade to vee brakes. But your frame must be fitted with brake bosses 80mm from centre to centre. Check this measurement if the bosses look bent or you cannot get vet brakes to work well.

For fitting vee brake pads, see pages 122-123. Make sure you fit the cables correctly because the majority of vee brakes in daily use are incorrectly fitted. Many are even being used with the cable pipe or noodle missing, so they are almost useless. Luckily, spare cable noodles are now supplied separately by Fibrax and other firms selling brake pads and cables, so it is easy to put things right.

Strictly speaking, vet brakes are made by Shimano only. If another maker offers brakes made to a similar design, they are known as long arm cantilever brakes.

Hub brakes are staging a slight comeback on utility and city bikes because they are clean, very powerful and work equally well in all weathers. The drawbacks are that you have to have them regreased every six months, plus their weight.

Cable adjustment is very easy but if you have any problem getting hold of new cables, try a motor bike shop. Should you ever see grease leaking out of the brake, or hear odd squealing or grinding noises, take the bike back to the dealer without delay. The six-monthly regreasing is also a job for the dealer. However, this is almost the only maintenance required as the brake shoes are made of steel.


To adjust a hub brake, try to prop the bike up so that the wheel is right off the ground. Then tighten the cable with the adjuster so that you can feel the brake binding when you spin the wheel. Next, back off the brake about half a turn clockwise of the cable adjuster. The back wheel should now spin without any drag at all. If there is still some drag, turn the cable adjuster clockwise a fraction. Finally, check that the brake comes on fully, well before the brake lever hits the handlebar.


Most vet brakes are operated by combined gear and brake levers. There is a normal cable adjuster but Servo Wave brake levers also have a device to regulate the amount of pull needed. Do not alter this setting yourself.


First of all, test fit the brake anus on the pivots. If they seem tight, remove any paint or polish the metal with a light abrasive and test again. Once the brake arms move easily on the pivots but without any slop, apply a little grease.


Each brake arm has a small coil spring with a stopper pin on the end. Fit this pin into the middle hole of the boss - do not use the other two. Then push the brake arm onto the pivot and screw the fixing bolt into place.


Make sure that the long part of the spring is on the frame side of the brake arm, where it sits up against a metal pip. Next, tighten the fixing bolt. which presses the brake arm onto the pivot and then fit the other brake arm.


Flip open the cable cover j (arrow in step 1) on the brake lever, push the plain end of the inner cable through the brake lever and adjuster, then the outer cable. Finally, feed the inner cable through the cable pipe or noodle.


Lube the cable noodle and pull the inner cable through until the slack is taken up. Fit the inner through the slot in the cable holder and position the end of the cable noodle in the cable holder as Pull the inner cable tight.


Slide the cable bellows onto I the inner cable and thread the end into the cable clamp. Rotate the brake arms into an upright position and check that there is 39mm or a bit more inner cable showing between the brake arms.


Tighten the cable clamp 01 but not fully yet. Adjust the brake pads as explained on page 122, making sure that there is an equal gap between the pad and the rim each side. The pad to rim gap should only be about 2mm in total.


Fully tighten the cable clamp. Then use the cable adjuster on the brake lever to set the total pad-to-rim gap at around 2mm. Filially, adjust the tiny Phillips or socket head screws on the brake arms to equalise the pad-to-rim gap.

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