Can Upgrade From Cantilever To Caliver Brakes?

Are you tired of the old cantilever brakes on your bike? Do you wish there was a way to upgrade to caliper brakes for better stopping power? Well, you’re in luck because there is a solution! With the right tools and some know-how, you can easily make the switch and enjoy the benefits of caliper brakes on your bike.

But before we dive into the details of how to upgrade, let’s quickly go over the differences between cantilever and caliper brakes. Cantilever brakes are common on older bikes, characterized by their open, U-shaped design. They provide decent stopping power but can be slightly more finicky to adjust.

In this article, I will walk you through the step-by-step process of upgrading from cantilever to caliper brakes on your bike. You’ll learn about the necessary tools, the installation process, and tips to ensure a successful upgrade. So let’s get started and take your bike’s braking capabilities to the next level!

Differences Between Cantilever And Caliper Brakes

AspectCantilever BrakesCaliper Brakes
DesignTwo separate arms extending from the frameSingle unit attached to the frame
MountingRequire specific frame/fork mountsMount directly to frame/fork
Brake MechanismPulling the brake cable moves both pads toward rimPulling the brake cable moves both arms inward
Cable RoutingTypically routed along the top of the frameRouted along the top or inside the handlebar
ClearanceProvide more tire and mud clearanceMay have limited clearance for wider tires
Mechanical AdvantageTypically offers a less mechanical advantageIt may offer less braking power compared to cantilever brakes
Braking PowerGenerally provides strong braking powerPulling the brake cable moves both pads toward the rim
PurposeCommonly found on touring and cyclocross bikesCommonly found on road bikes and some hybrids

Cantilever brakes are generally considered better for certain applications, such as touring and cyclocross bikes, where increased tire clearance and mud-shedding capabilities are important. They provide more clearance for wider tires and are less likely to get clogged with debris.

Cantilever brakes also offer more mechanical advantages and stronger braking power, making them suitable for demanding off-road conditions.

On the other hand, caliper brakes are commonly found on road bikes and some hybrid bikes. They are known for their simplicity, lightweight design, and aerodynamic profile.

Caliper brakes can provide sufficient braking power for road riding, particularly when paired with high-quality brake pads. They are also easier to install and adjust compared to cantilever brakes.

The “better” brake system depends on the bike’s specific needs and intended use. If you require enhanced tire clearance and more stopping power for off-road or adventurous riding, cantilever brakes may be a better choice.

If you primarily ride on paved roads and prioritize lightweight and aerodynamic design, caliper brakes will likely be a more suitable option.

Can Upgrade From Cantilever To Caliver Brakes?

Yes, upgrading from cantilever brakes to caliper brakes on a bicycle is possible. However, it’s important to consider a few factors before making the switch. First, ensure your bicycle frame and fork are compatible with caliper brakes. Caliper brakes typically mount directly to the frame or fork, so you’ll need the appropriate mounting points or adapters.

Additionally, you’ll need to assess the cable routing on your bike. Cantilever brakes usually have the brake cable routed along the top of the frame, while caliper brakes may require routing along the top or inside the handlebar. You may need to adjust or replace the brake cable housing to accommodate the new routing.

Another aspect to consider is the brake reach or clearance. Cantilever brakes generally provide more tire clearance and are suitable for wider tires, whereas caliper brakes may have limited clearance for wider tires. Ensure the caliper brakes you choose have sufficient reach to accommodate your desired tire width.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the braking performance may differ between cantilever brakes and caliper brakes. Cantilever brakes often offer more mechanical advantage and stronger braking power, particularly in off-road conditions, while caliper brakes may offer less power.

Choosing high-quality caliper brakes and compatible brake pads is important to ensure reliable and effective braking performance.

How to Upgrade From Cantilever To Caliver Brakes?

Upgrading from cantilever brakes to caliper brakes involves several steps. Here’s a general guide to help you with the process:

  1. Determine compatibility: Before upgrading, ensure your bike frame and fork are compatible with caliper brakes. Caliper brakes typically require specific mounting points on the frame and fork. If your bike doesn’t have these mounting points, upgrading to caliper brakes may be impossible without significant modifications.
  2. Gather the necessary components: Acquire all the components required for the caliper brake upgrade. This includes a caliper brake set (front and rear), brake cables, brake levers (if they are incompatible with the new caliper brakes), and any additional hardware or adapters needed for installation.
  3. Remove the existing cantilever brakes: Start by disconnecting the brake cables from the cantilever brakes. Unscrew the mounting bolts that hold the cantilever brakes to the frame and fork. Remove the brake pads and any associated hardware.
  4. Install caliper brake mounting points (if necessary): If your bike doesn’t have the required mounting points for caliper brakes, you may need to install them. This step can be complex and might require professional assistance or modification of the frame or fork. It’s recommended to consult with a bike shop or mechanic if you need to add caliper brake mounts.
  5. Install the caliper brakes: Attach the caliper brakes to the mounting points on the frame and fork using the provided bolts. Make sure they are securely fastened. Install the brake pads into the caliper arms.
  6. Connect the brake cables: Run the brake cables from the caliper brakes to the brake levers. Cut the cables to the appropriate length, leaving enough slack for proper operation. Install the cables into the brake levers and adjust the tension as needed.
  7. Test and adjust: Once the caliper brakes and cables are installed, check their alignment and make any necessary adjustments. Ensure that the brakes engage and release smoothly and provide adequate stopping power. Fine-tune the cable tension and brake pad position to optimize braking performance.
  8. Safety check: Before riding the bike, perform a thorough safety check. Test the brakes at different speeds and ensure they are functioning properly. Verify that the brake pads make even contact with the rims and that there are no clearance issues.

It’s worth noting that this upgrade process can vary depending on your specific bike and components. If you’re not confident in your mechanical skills, you should seek assistance from a professional bike shop or mechanic to ensure a safe and successful upgrade.

Benefits of Upgrading to Caliper Brakes

Upgrading from cantilever brakes to caliper brakes can offer a range of benefits that improve your overall biking experience. Here are 10 advantages of making this switch:

1. Increased stopping power: Caliper brakes provide better braking performance, allowing you to stop faster and with more control.

2. Improved modulation: With caliper brakes, you can easily adjust the amount of braking force applied, providing precise control in different situations.

3. Enhanced responsiveness: Caliper brakes have a quicker response time, giving you immediate feedback when you apply the brake levers.

4. Lightweight design: Caliper brakes are generally lighter than cantilever brakes, reducing the overall weight for your bike.

5. Better aerodynamics: Caliper brakes have a sleeker profile, reducing wind resistance and enhancing your bike’s aerodynamic efficiency.

6. Easier wheel removal: Caliper brakes are easier to remove and reinstall, making it more convenient for maintenance and repairs.

7. Compatibility with wider tires: Caliper brakes offer more clearance for wider tires. This allows you to ride with increased stability and comfort on different terrains.

8. Improved aesthetics: Caliper brakes have a clean and streamlined appearance, enhancing the overall look of your bike.

9. Compatibility with modern bike frames: Many newer bike frames are designed to accommodate caliper brakes, making the upgrade necessary to take advantage of the latest technology.

10. Greater braking performance in wet conditions: Caliper brakes provide superior wet weather performance, ensuring reliable stopping power even in challenging weather conditions.

Are V-Brakes More Powerful Than Cantilevers?

Yes, V-brakes are generally considered more powerful than cantilever brakes. V-brakes, also known as linear-pull brakes, provide increased mechanical advantage and leverage compared to cantilever brakes. This enhanced mechanical advantage allows V-brakes to generate more stopping power with less effort applied to the brake levers.

The V-brake design includes longer brake arms that extend above the tire and pull the brake cable directly in line with the braking surface. This configuration results in a more direct, efficient force transfer and stronger braking performance.

In contrast, cantilever brakes have shorter arms and a different cable-pull mechanism. The brake cable pulls on the straddle cable connected to both arms, causing them to move inward and apply braking force.

While cantilever brakes can still provide effective braking power, they typically require more force at the brake levers than V-brakes to achieve the same level of stopping power.

It’s important to note that factors such as brake pad quality, cable tension, and setup can also influence the overall braking performance. However, regarding sheer power and mechanical advantage, V-brakes are generally considered more powerful than cantilever brakes.

Why Do Road Bikes Not Use V Brakes?

Road bikes do not typically use V brakes because they lack the power and precision needed for competition. V brakes, while well suited for certain riders and conditions, are not as powerful as disk brakes and offer less control to the rider during descents or sudden stops. Disk brakes allow for more precise braking in a race, where fractions of a second can often determine who wins.

On top of that, powering through a long road race relies on conserving energy whenever possible. The modulated power from disk brakes is considered easier to squeeze than the linear force from V brakes, resulting in less energy for braking overall.

In addition to better performance capabilities, road disc brakes offer superior protection against inclement weather conditions by reducing heat build-up, which can cause warping of the rim or even complete brake failure under heavy use.

In these cases, disks provide far greater reliability when compared with caliper-style Shimano 105 Rim Brakes or similar variants used on mountain bikes and other seasonal bike types, making them especially suited for biking under intense summer heat or downpours of rain come winter months in wet climates.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. What Is The Difference Between Cantilever Brakes And Caliper Brakes?

A: Cantilever brakes are a type of rim brake that have two separate arms attached to the frame or fork. On the other hand, Caliper brakes have a single arm that pivots in the center and squeezes the rim from both sides.

2. Do Caliper Brakes Provide Better Braking Performance Compared To Cantilever Brakes?

A: Caliper brakes generally offer better performance due to their mechanical advantages. They provide more direct pulling force, resulting in stronger and more reliable stopping power.

3. Can I Upgrade My Cantilever Brakes To Caliper Brakes On My Mountain Bike?

A: It is possible to upgrade from cantilever to caliper brakes on your mountain bike. However, this conversion may require changes to your bike frame, fork, and brake levers, as caliper brakes have different mounting requirements.

4. Are There Any Benefits Of Using Caliper Brakes On Road Bikes?

A: Caliper brakes are commonly used on road bikes due to their lightweight design and effective stopping power. They provide smooth modulation and excellent control, making them popular among road cyclists.

5. Can I Use Caliper Brakes With Wider Tires?

A: Yes, caliper brakes can be used with wider tires. However, it is important to ensure that the brake arms have enough clearance to avoid interference with the tire. Some caliper brakes offer adjustable reach to accommodate different tire widths.


Caliper brakes are a great upgrade option from cantilever brakes. They offer improved braking performance, modulated power, and superior protection against inclement weather conditions. However, it is important to ensure that the bike frame, fork, and brake levers are compatible with this type of brake before making the switch. Additionally, wider tires may require adjustable reach to avoid interference with the brake arms.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.