Give me a brake!

Low-profile cantilever braking can be improved with a Power Hanger - available from
I have recently had an e-bike conversion of my 1983 Longstaff. The new brake levers are of the three-finger type. Performance before the conversion was adequate. Now, when I’m coasting downhill, I cannot exert enough hand pressure to stop, presumably because of the increased weight. The cantilever brake arms are of the old-style, horizontal, wide-profile type. Even when fully adjusted, a 90° angle cannot be formed between the arm and the straddle cable. I have cleaned the rims, fitted new Aztec blocks, and lubricated the inner cables, all to no avail. I have tried to fit V-brakes but found them incompatible. Would a modern cantilever design with angled arms such as the Tektro Oryx prove more effective? I would value any advice.

Graham Colclough

Old-school, wide-arm cantilever brakes tend to offer less mechanical advantage than the newer low-profile style, so swapping to one of the latter such as the Oryx may improve matters. That said, wide-arm cantis can be made to work well. You don’t state what ‘fully-adjusted’ means; there may be a couple of tweaks worth trying. Firstly, making the straddle wire as long as possible (noting the maximum height the stirrup can be placed without hitting the hanger when the brake is applied, plus around 10mm to allow for block wear) will increase the arm-to-straddle wire angle. Secondly, given the age of the machine, you may be using a puny, bentsteel front hanger clamped by a threaded headset. These flex and waste hand power; replacement (if space permits) with a stiffer, forged aluminium hanger will usefully improve brake feel. If you get no luck, it may also be worth trying a Tektro Power Hanger in place of the straddle wire. These devices work well with low-profile cantilevers.

Richard Hallett

Technical Editor, Cycle magazine

This Q&A was published in 'Cycle' the magazine for members of Cycling UK. To contact the experts, email your technical, health, legal or policy questions to or write to Cycle Q&A, PO Box 313, Scarborough, YO12 6WZ