Better canti braking

My 1999 Dawes Galaxy has Shimano Deore M65T cantilever brakes. Originally the brake blocks were the replaceable insert type but these are no longer available, so I have been using either Shimano M65T brake shoes (rubber and holder all in one) or similar from Clarks. Touring heavily laden, I find these cantilever brakes really short on stopping power, particularly in the wet. Any advice on how I can improve the braking? I’m touring Norway soon and am a bit worried about those big descents!

Rob Foster

Cantilever brakes correctly set up should be as powerful as any solo cyclist will need; they are still fitted to many tandems. Looking at the picture you sent (not shown here), there is one very quick and easy improvement you can make.

As a general rule, ‘low-profile’ cantilevers such as yours are more powerful the flatter the straddle wire. At the very least, the angle between the wire and the brake arm should be around 90 degrees. On your bike, the brake blocks are as close to the arms as their posts allow. Slacken the brake cable and slide the posts inward through their clamps to place the blocks further from the arms. This will move the arms away from the rim and flatten the angle of the straddle wire. There’s an indicator notch on the straddle wire button to show when the angle is correct. You will need to fit a new inner wire, but the immediate result will be greatly improved braking power.

Another option is to fit a device known as a Power Hanger – – which, while tricky to set up, is an effective way to enhance cantilever brake performance. Alternatively, we’ve got a round-up of cantilever brakes next issue, if you want to upgrade. You could also consider fitting linear-pull V-brakes, although you will need to make sure your brake levers are compatible.

Richard Hallett

​​Cycle’s Technical Editor

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