I’m in the process of fixing an older Huffy Mountain Bike. Someone had put it out at the curb for trash pickup. Lots of stuff is wrong with it, so I’m going to fix it up and document the journey calling it the “Huffy Resurrection”
The v brakes are in bad shape and instead doing a Band-Aid repair, I’ll be replacing and tuning. Let’s begin with some bike brake definition.
V- Brakes are cable actuated, bike rim brakes. Often called side pull cantilever brakes. Two characteristics differentiate this system from others; 1. is that the brake arms extend above the rim. 2. the cable attaches to the “side” of the brake arm and crosses the rim to the second brake arm to balance the brake cable pressure to the brake pads.
How do V-Brakes Work?
As hand pressure is applied to the brake lever on the handlebars. The brake lever pulls a cable transferring pressure to the brake arms that use mechanical advantage to depress the brake pads (squeeze) onto the wheel rim.
V-Brakes have a unique “Noodle” and stirrup to balance the cable pressure to both brake arms.
DIY Mountain Bike Tip: Folks sometimes get hung up on this. When removing your wheel from the bike, release the noodle from the stirrup. This provides more clearance for the tire to pass by the brake pads.
Why are they called V-Brakes™?
When Shimano Inc. started marketing their brand of side pull cantilever brakes, they called them “V-Brakes™”. Front fork suspension was becoming popular and center pull cantilever brakes required a mount above the wheel on the steering tube or fork brace.
The Shimano v-brake system eliminated the steering tube mount, reduced the complexity of the brakes system and proved to be easier to adjust and maintain. Eventually the Shimano V-Brake design with the noodle tube became the standard.
Download the Shimano V-Brake™ Installation Instructions with this link – Shimano V Brakes Installation Guide
What is the best V-Brakes™?
When making a “best” recommendation the company that revolutionized the product has all the testing and durability knowledge. I have to say Shimano has the best v-brakes for mountain biking. I’ll describe the system, but after adding up the costs another option might be better.
You’ve got to think of your bike brakes as a complete system, not just the calipers. The system starts at the hands and ends at the pads. Stick with the same brand so when getting your system shop for levers, cables and v brakes.
Starting with the hand brake levers, look at getting the Shimano Deore 611 3-Finger. You’ll need both right and left side. Here’s a link to Amazon to check reviews and current prices – Shimano Deore 611 3-Finger Brake Levers.
Shimano sells universal brake cables. Heck, you should have cables around if you do any bike repair. Here’s an Amazon link to get them. Shimano Universal Brake Cable Set
The Shimano Deore BR-T4000 V Brakes are excellent. The folks at Shimano have designed specific front and rear systems. One of the things I like so much about these brakes is that the return springs are strong and have great adjustability.
Usually in stock at Amazon with great prices and reviews. Here’s a link to check them out – Shimano Deore BR-T4000 V Brakes
V-Brakes Costs and Options
The brake system described above is going to work amazing. V-Brakes are easy to adjust, reliable and light weight.
Below is a summary of the V-brake “system” costs. I’m summarizing this because another option is to switch out the rim brakes and go to a low price point hydraulic disc brake system.
|Brake Component||Pricing (10/2021)|
|Levers (R & L) Deore 611 3-Finger||$51.98|
|Cables Universal Brake Set||$14.00|
|Brakes Front Deore BR-T4000||$20.29|
|Brakes Rear Deore BR-T4000||$19.30|
A great value in disc brakes for a mountain bike is the AKANTOR Hydraulic Disc Brakes for under a $100. Over a hundred positive reviews and the brakes come already bled. A couple notes when converting a bike to disc brakes.
- Make sure your frame and wheels are disc brake compatible.
- Double check the style of hub. Either Center mount or 6-bolt.
Mini V Brakes vs Traditional V Brakes
Mini V-brakes refers to a brake arm that is under 90mm. Typical v-brake arms are over 90mm. This provides more leverage pressure to the brake pads, but also requires a longer hand brake lever travel.
The shorter brake arms on a Mini V Brake will have less arm leverage, but this needs to be compensated with hand brake levers that are longer. The longer brake levers allow for your hands to apply high pressures to the brake arms.
From my experience traditional v-brake arms are better for brake modulation (controlling braking power) and provide more clearance to the tire.
DIY Mountain Bike Tip: A quick way to eliminate squealing brakes is to bend the brake arms slightly to create a “toe in”. The squeal is usually cause by the flat brake pads contacting the flat rim. The toe in eliminates the “flat” condition.
Different Styles of Rim Brakes
I’ll provide a quick explanation of the three most popular styles of rim brakes. I’ll write more about these later.
- Center Cantilever, the brake cable is anchored above the wheel and rim. This cable attaches to a yoke which attaches to a straddle cable.
- V-Brakes or side pull cantilever, as the name implies the brake cable is positioned to the side of the brake arms. Using a noodle tube and stirrup the cable pressure is distributed to both brake arms.
- Side Pull Single Pivot Caliper, the brake cable is positioned to the side of the wheel. The brake arms pass over the wheel assembly and pivot on a singe point. This style of brake has lost some favor in recent years because they can be difficult balance brake pad pressure.
The Last Stop Using V-Brakes
Bike brakes are a safety item. If you don’t feel comfortable working on your brakes take your bike to a local bike shop. Maintain your brakes by adjusting and fixing broken parts. It would be silly to ride to improve your health only to crash because you can’t stop.
Want to Learn More About MTB Brakes?
- Which is better – Mountain Bike V-Brakes vs Disc Brakes
- Think about installing disc brakes on your MTB, read this first – How to Install MTB Disc Brakes with Pictures
- Directly on point but on a Mongoose – How to adjust the front brakes on a Mongoose Mountain Bike
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 casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.