Mini Vs and Cantis – Brothers From Different Mothers

From Rookie’s Keyboard,

Hello, friends

Yesterday, I received my first rookiejournal e-mail after starting this blog not so long ago. A reader was thanking me for my post on V-brakes and cantilevers.

Thank you, bro for the positive feedback and giving me an idea for another post. 

Today, I am going to compare a less-known brake system, namely mini V-brakes, and cantilevers. You will be surprised how many things those “brothers from different mothers” have in common.

Mini V-brakes(a.k.a. Mini Vs)

The name doesn’t lie. Mini V-brakes are just that – a smaller version of the original V-brake. 

The mechanism is 100% the same: 

  • You close the brake lever.
  • The brake lever pulls a gear cable.
  • The gear cable pulls the brake arms.
  • The brake arms rotate around their pivot points.
  • The brake shoes/pads come in contact with the brake track on the rim.
  • The friction slows down the wheel. 

The brake arms of mini Vs are usually around 80-85mm whereas those of standard V-brakes are 100mm. 

The logical question to ask yourself at this point is:


What is the point of Mini Vs if they’re mechanically identical to their big brother?

The goal is to reduce the mechanical advantage/leverage of the brake. Yes, you read that correctly. 

The longer the brake arms, the greater the leverage of the brakes. As I explained, in the previous post on brakes, the leverage of the brake influences how much cable the lever has to pull. 

More leverage = long pull

Less leverage = shorter pull

This is somewhat counterintuitive but real nonetheless. If you grab a long lever and try to pry/lift something with it, you will notice that the end you’re holding moves MORE than the end transmitting the force. 

In different, if you use a shorter lever with less mechanical advantage, the opposite happens – the used end will move less than the end transmitting the forcе to the target. 

The graphs below will make it easier to assimilate this. 

In the image above, you see a lever with a high mechanical advantage. The input is longer than the output. This is the case for standard V-brakes.

The next graph shows a lever with a lower mechanical advantage (mini Vs). In this situation, the input is smaller than the output.

By purposefully reducing the leverage of V-brakes via mini Vs, one makes mini Vs short pull brakes just like cantilevers. 

As a result, you can use mini V-s with drop bar levers (as well as standard levers designed for cantilevers). However, if you combine mini Vs with V-brake levers, the performance will be pretty bad.

The lever will pull too much cable and close the brakes instantly. This is a dangerous situation that should be avoided. 

The main advantage of mini Vs over cantilevers is the easier adjustment. Theoretically, cantis can match the stopping power of mini Vs and standard Vs, but only when perfectly adjusted.

And the reality of the situation is that cantilevers are difficult to set so precisely, especially by rookies. And if the model is basic, the chance gets even lower. Mini Vs fix that issue. 

Another advantage of mini Vs over cantis is the cable routing. Mini Vs don’t have a straddle wire and the cable and housing setup is cleaner and less likely to interfere with accessories such as fenders or racks. 

But this is where the pros of mini Vs end and those of cantis begin. 

Cantis are better than mini Vs in the following categories:

  • More clearance. It doesn’t take a professor to see that cantilevers offer a lot more vertical and horizontal clearance than mini Vs. As a result, you can use wider tires, full fenders and suffer from slower/smaller mud accumulation. 
  • More adjustments. I don’t like the tinkering required by cantilever brakes but some “power users” might find it useful.

A Note On Fork Shuddering

If you are running an old canti setup, you may run into an issue known as fork suddering – a short way of saying vibrations of the fork when using the front brake. 

How does it happen?

  • When the front brake is applied, the wheel “bites” against the ground. 
  • The ground pushes the wheel backward, and the fork has no choice but to flex.
  • When the fork flexes, it stretches the brake cable too. The stretch of the cable triggers the brake again and cause micro stops.
  • The micro stops cause more of the same (it’s a vicious cycle).
  • The effect is minimized as the bike slows down because the kinetic energy diminishes and so does the backward force applied by the ground onto the wheel and the fork.

If you have a “springy” steel fork, the effect is amplified due to the additional flex. After bending, the fork begins fighting to assume its normal shape as soon as possible.

The good news is that this can happen only when the brake cable of the cantis is wired through an adapter attached to the head tube.

If you install a cable stopper on the fork (image below) and run the brake cable through it rather than the headset, the problem will go away. 

Weight Comparison

To make this post more complete, I’d like to include a basic weight comparison of the two for the weight weenies out there:

Mini V-BrakesWeight(per unit)CantileversWeight(per unit)
Tektro RX6144 gramsTektro CR720126 grams
Tektro RX1150 gramsTektro CR510144 grams
Tektro 926 AL160 gramsAvid Shorty Ultimate129 grams
XLC BR-V04150 gramsTRP RevoX Carbon130 grams
Mini Moto149 gramsShimano BR-CX70165 grams
TRP 8.4170 gramsFSA SL-К CX136 grams
Average:153.8 gramsAverage:138.3 grams

I can’t lie. I expected that cantis will be slightly lighter as they need less “material”. But 10% in this case are less than 30 grams (or 60 per set) and make no difference unless you’re a weight weenie of course. 

+ Bonus(table summary)

Mini V-Brakes

Decent braking power with minimal adjustmentPoor tire and mud clearance
Easy installation Full fenders could be a problem
Affordable modelsLower tolerance of wheels out of true
Comptability with brake-shifters


Good tire and mud ClearanceTricky adjustment
Lots of space for fendersLower braking power unless perfectly adjusted
Comptability with brake-shiftersPossible Fork Shuddering

So, what would I choose? 

I prefer mini Vs for their user-friendly adjustment system, and I’d only use cantis if I want to run very wide tires on a bike with drop bars. 

There you have it, friends. Another post for all the rookies out there. 

Until next time, 

– Rookie

P.S. Smile and ride your bike today.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *