Advice on Increasing Braking Ability?

Need some advice on how to hopefully increase my stopping power on my CX/Gravel bike, hoping you can help me out. I know the answer here is obviously ‘get something with disc brakes’… but that’s not where I am at right now and its hard to find bikes currently too.

So, this is a Ridley X Fire that I have with some cantilever, cable actuated brakes. See the pictures attached. Basically, my stopping power is REALLY bad. Way worse than most applications of rim brakes that I have. In addition the ultegra shifters are really cumbersome to use and the reach is quite far. These are new Rims with a clean, smooth braking surface

So far, I have: Added new pads, tried to adjust the brakes to be as tight against the rim without rubbing.

Does anyone know if there are different, better rim brakes I can equip here? Better pad or setup recommendations?

Any advice is welcome!


You can adjust the reach of the ultegra brake levers with a screw under the hoods.

I found great success when swapping from old canti’s to CX linear brakes (V-Brakes for roadie controls)

Some broader info with more potential options:


How’s the spring tension on the stay mount? Clean it out and regrease?

As a current CX racer still running cantis (racing the pro field in the NE US, so not exactly a slouch) I have some tips.

First, new pads should definitely help, just sand them down a little first.

Second, “toe-in” the brakes. There’s a lot on the interwebs about this, but you basically loosen the pad fixing bolts, insert a folded business card between the pads and rim, 1/2 way from the rear of the pad, pull lever, tighten fixing bolt. So the front of the pad contacts the rim first.

Third, the most powerful, and by most powerful, I mean still barely work compared to disc brakes, I’ve found are Avid Shorty Ultimates. People are basically giving away canti brakes now, so you should be able to pick up pretty cheap. These can be set up either wide, which is the same way your front brake is now, or narrow. The narrow stance gives you more stopping power. I’d replace at least the front with a shorty ultimate. I ran those TRP mini Vs, they stop well, but don’t have great modulation, and have very low mud clearance.

Hope this helps.


That is some great advice everyone! Thanks so much. Working on some of those now.

If you can swing new brakes, the linear pull options Chad mentioned are great. I spent lots of time making cantilever brakes as optimal as possible but those v-brakes just work better.

compressionless brake housing as well, such as the Jagwire kit (Road Pro Brake Kit | Jagwire)

If you don’t need mud clearance, the mini-v works a treat.

There are other options as well, Tektro has a lineup of mini-v brakes for BMX. Mind the arm lengths, that you need to determine, for tire clearance. I run them on an old MTB, converted to drop bars. The Tektro 926AL (80mm arms vs 84mm for the TRP CX 8.4), Tektro BX1v (85mm arms), Tektro 930AL (95mm arms). The shorter the better, for road brifters.

If you use bar-cons or down tube shifters, then you can also look into full v-brake levers, such as the Cane Creek Drop V or Tektro RL520. The Dia Compe 287 also works, but I found them very uncomfortable. The Cane Creek is tons better.

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Lots of good info here.

I’ll add-

Cantilever brake performance is mostly dependent on the setup and geometry. Nice pads and a clean surface help, but the power comes from the actuation angle of the cables and pivots—

My Sscx bike is rim brake, with shorty ultimates. In the dry, it brakes just as well as my Rival Hydro disc bike (geared).

One thing to remember when setting them up—if the lever feels firm, performance will be poor. The lever should feel soft as you squeeze the brake.

Don’t give up on canti brakes, they work great when set up properly.


Get some Shimano CX70s or Avid Shortys. They stop as well as any v-brakes I’ve used.

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Are those long reach brakes (MTB) on short reach (Road) levers? I’d find a cheap set of known road-pull levers and start there

They are road levers.

Road levers, but MTB or road brakes? They look the same.

What’s the cable pull ratio? Newer Shimano? Ask A Mechanic: Brake Lever to Brake Caliper Compatibility - YouTube

Cantilever. AFAIK, they are all short pull. I’ve never seen a long pull cantilever. V-brakes and MTB cable discs are long pull.

Edit: These are the brakes in question.

You can pay homage to our shared cycling heritage or you can have brakes that work, but it’s rare you can do both.

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