Shorter brake arms, more stop

Shimano and Tektro V-brakes side-by-side, showing difference in length
Tools, bicycle parts and work gloves laid out in order
All my ducks in a row

Since completing Dionysus in late May, I’ve been trying to improve her soft braking power. (Everything else is working well.) I’ve increased the spring tension (which only affects the feel) and adjusted the pads to be as close to the rims as possible without rubbing. But there’s just not quite enough stopping power. It’s OK in normal riding, but it’s not up to the task of emergency braking (and possibly steep downhills).

After doing some research on it, I realized the problem was the long arms of the Deore V-brakes I’d installed. There’s nothing wrong with the brakes themselves in terms of quality, and they offer lots of tire clearance (plenty of room for fenders if I were so inclined). But with Dionysus’s 26-inch rims, the brake pads are quite near the pivot point, so there’s just not enough travel to bring the pads firmly enough against the rim for sure stopping.

Shimano and Tektro V-brakes side-by-side, showing difference in length
The long and the short of it

I did some looking around and found some shorter V-brakes from Shimano and Tektro. Tektro had the shortest arms among the brakes that were readily available. The brand is widely used and the price was very reasonable.

Bicycle rear V-brake with plenty of clearance
Dionysus already needs a bath!

Bicycle front V-brake showing plenty of clearance
The technical term is “gaposis”

It’s readily apparent the brakes have enough room to accommodate larger rims and tires, as well as fenders if need be. But with the brake pads so close to the pivot point, the long arms just don’t offer enough travel. Shorter arms will make for increased travel of the brake pads given the same amount of cable pull.

Loosening V-brake cable pinch bolt with a hex wrench
Trying not to break anything here

The new brakes came with all new hardware, including fixing bolts and noodles (the curved silver tube that guides the brake cable into the top of the V-brake). The new fixing bolts were considerably longer than the ones on the bike. It was no problem on the front, but on the rear one of them wouldn’t go all the way in. So I just kept the original bolts on the rear.

Tektro fixing bolts (L) and Deore (R)
Tektro fixing bolts (L) and Deore (R)

The Tektro noodles were much smaller than the Deore, and I thought the Deore were a better fit for this bike, so I kept them as well. Finally, the Tektro brake pads are much shorter. For now I’m going to keep them. If they’re not up to the job I’ll try the Deore ones or look for some aftermarket pads.

A knotted rubber band sets the toe-in
A knotted rubber band sets the toe-in

The replacement went smoothly apart from these small details. I found the rubber band I’d put in the toolbox for just this purpose — to help set the toe-in of the brake pads to prevent grabbing and squealing — and it worked great. I had a couple of minutes fumbling with the front to get the cable in the pinch bolt while holding the brake arms squeezed shut, but it all worked out in the end.

New V-brake installed on rear of bike
Back is done

Bicycle front V-brake in the process of installation
Prepping the front

The final steps were adjusting the brakes and trimming the cables to length before capping the ends. Before I started this job today, I’d gone to the bike shop and picked up a couple of new brake cables in case I needed longer cables after the swap. But as it turns out I trimmed 1-2cm from each existing cable. So the new cables will go into the spares box, along with the Deore brakes.

New V-brake installed on front of bike
Front is done

We’ve got a storm headed our way today, and rain in the forecast for the next week. So I’m not sure how soon I’ll be testing out the new brakes. On the workstand they’re great.

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