Cantilever brakes and V-brakes are among the most common braking systems in various bike types. Both brakes are mechanical, which means a pulling cable triggers them. These brakes are also mounted in the same location on the bike frame. 

Considering these similarities, you may wonder, “are cantilever brakes and V-brakes interchangeable?”

Cantilever vs v-brakes for bikes
Cantilever vs v-brakes for bikes

Key Takeaways

This article will discuss the following:

  • Whether or not you can convert cantilever brakes to V-brakes and vice versa
  • The difference between cantilever brakes and V-brakes
  • Converting cantilever brakes to V-brakes and vice versa

Cantilever and V-brakes are interchangeable but involve part replacements. These brakes use different cables, so you must replace the one installed on your bike. It would be best to replace the cable hanger and brake pads. 

Knowing how the two brakes differ is essential if you plan to replace your cantilever brakes with V-brakes or the other way around. This article will tackle the differences between V-brakes and cantilever brakes.

Can You Interchange Cantilever Brakes And V-Brakes?

Can you replace the cantilever brakes with V-brakes? These braking systems are standard for entry-level mountain, commuter, and trail bikes. The reason is that both brakes provide power and excellent tire clearance. 

What is a cantilever brake on a bike
What is a cantilever brake on a bike

As brakes are among the most crucial features a bike should have, you need to know your options once your brakes need replacement. Cantilever brakes and V-brakes are two braking systems that have apparent similarities. For this reason, cyclists often wonder if they can use one for the other. 

Can You Use Cantilever And V-Brakes Interchangeably?

Cantilever brakes and V-brakes have some differences, yet, for the most part, they are interchangeable. The primary reason is that these brakes use the same mounting point, called braze-ons. A braze-on is, in this case, an additional sleeve with a threaded interior welded to the frame. But when replacing one brake type for the other, you must replace their cables, as cantilever brakes and V-brakes use different cables.

According to a study written at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, the braking mechanism of V-brakes consists of a lever connected to a cable. Once you pull the brakes off your bike, this lever pulls a cable, which causes the brake arms to rotate slightly. The movement of the brake arms causes them to grab the bike’s rim, thus slowing down your bike until it stops. 

V-Brakes are easier to adjust and are less prone to damage My opinion is they stop better
V-Brakes are easier to adjust and are less prone to damage My opinion is they stop better

Cantilever brakes work in pretty much the same way. Brake arms hold the pads in the center of the braking system, while these brake pads hold the two ends of the cables. A pulley then holds the middle of the cable up and is responsible for pulling it up once your push the brakes.

The pulling action of the cable causes the brake arms to come in contact with the rim and cause the bike to stop.

According to the book Bike Mechanic: How To Be An Ace Bike Mechanic, V-brakes and cantilever brakes have mechanical similarities. It allows you to install V-brakes in bikes with cantilever brakes and vice versa.

Differences Between Cantilever Brakes And V-Brakes

If you plan to replace your cantilever brakes with V-brakes or the other way around, knowing the differences between the two is ideal.

Braking Power

Compared to cantilever brakes, V-brakes feel better and easier on the hands whenever you pull the brakes. Both bike brakes work exceptionally in stopping your tires from rotating within a short period. However, V-brakes work faster in stopping your bike from moving as long as they receive enough input force. 

V-brakes also require less effort, making them better than cantilever brakes in terms of braking power. 

V-Brakes installed onto a MTB
V-Brakes installed onto a MTB

Mechanical Advantage

According to Bikes, Forces, And Torques, the mechanical advantage is the amount of amplification a tool can give a person’s input force. As cantilever brakes and V-brakes rely on input force to work, it is essential to know how they utilize the mechanical advantage individually.

Cantilever brakes feature adjustable mechanical advantages. Meaning you can increase or decrease the brakes’ braking power depending on how much your bike needs. 

You can adjust the mechanical advantage of your cantilever brakes by adjusting the transverse cable’s length and pulling angle.

On the other hand, V-brakes have fixed braking power. This fixed power is relatively high. So, despite not having the same adjustability as cantilever brakes, V-brakes work powerfully even when you are not putting much pressure on squeezing the brake levers.

Ease Of Installation

Cantilever brakes are trickier to install than V-brakes. The reason is that they consist of several parts, which you need to be familiar with before you can install them properly. The brake pads of cantilever brakes do not utilize spring tension centering screws. For this reason, they are also challenging to install, adjust, and align.

Tire Clearance

Cantilever brakes feature less tire clearance than V-brakes. So, if you use cantilever brakes on your bike, there is less chance for mud to accumulate in the different parts of it.

Converting Cantilever Brakes

Cantilever Brakes To V-Brakes

Cantilever brakes and V-brakes have different ways of pulling a bike’s cable. Cantilever brakes pull at the center while the latter only pulls on one side. For this reason, converting your cantilever brakes to V-brakes involves replacing your cable and cable hanger.

If you cannot replace your cable hanger, you need to install cable housing to the bike frame. Then, it would be best if you replaced your old brake levers with a new pair with a high mechanical advantage. Finally, replace the cantilever brake pads with the ones used for V-brakes.

Cantilever Brakes on a MTB
Cantilever Brakes on a MTB

V-Brakes To Cantilever Brakes

Bikes with V-brakes do not have a cable hanger installed on their forks. So, you need to add a cable hanger directly on the bike’s fork. You may also opt for a movable cable hanger installed on the bike’s steering tube. 

After installing a cable hanger, you must replace your cantilever brake pads for V-brake ones.

The Takeaway

There are many similarities between cantilever brakes and V-brakes. For one, these brakes have a similar way of stopping a bike. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Our comment box is open for your questions, comments, and suggestions!

Cantilevers and V-brakes are interchangeable due to their similar mechanical function. However, replacing one brake type with the other can be tricky. 

Want to Learn More About MTB Brakes?


David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.


  1. Collier, Ian M. “Regenerative braking on bicycles to power LED safety flashers.” Ph.D. diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2005. Accessed February 28, 2023.
  2. Paul Mason. Bike Mechanic: How to Be an Ace Bike Mechanic. Capstone, 2011. Accessed February 28, 2023.
  3. Washington University in St. Louis. Bikes, Forces, and Torques. Accessed February 28, 2023.