Avid Shorty 4 Cantilever Brakes.
Not ready for discs yet? Looking to improve your cantilevers? Then try the Avid Shorty 4.
The Avid Shorty 4 cantilever brakes are aimed squarely at the hard-core ‘cross racer. Cyclo-cross bikes have traditionally always used cantilever brakes. Although not the strongest brakes around, they suited ‘cross racing, where it’s more about scrubbing off speed rather than full anchors on stopping; we’ll leave that for the mtb’ers and their more ‘vertical’ courses.
Despite this I always felt I could do with a bit more stopping power and something a little less spongy than my old ‘standard’ cantilevers. Running an old frame, discs are not an option and V brakes require levers that are specific to them; it’s to do with the amount of cable that’s pulled before the brakes actually start to work. I tried it out and while yes, you could get the brakes to bite, the lever was actually all the way to the handlebar!
Avid produce 3 cantilever brakes, the Ultimate, the Shorty 6 and the Shorty 4. The Avid Shorty 4 has a forged aluminium body, with stainless steel hardware, so that should help keep it looking good. They look like conventional cantis, but with an added strut that runs from the pivot up to where the cable attaches, stopping any flex on the top of the arm.
They weigh in at a claimed 157 grams a pair. The pads are moulded with the mounting gear centralised to help stop any vibration but you can run other pads with different compounds.
Installation was very easy, the Avid Shorty 4 brakes come supplied with 2 different length straddle cables. According to the fitting instructions the longer straddle cable offers a firmer feel, but less leverage, while the shorter cable has a softer feel, but more leverage. I went for the latter, more leverage means more power, and so it proved.
I ended up running the Avid Shorty 4 ‘s on my rigid mtb, which meant making sure that I was using older levers with the right cable pull for cantilevers. A rummage in the parts box sorted that out. This proves an important point about doing any work on your bike; NEVER throw anything away, no matter what the other half says, as you never know when you’ll need it.
The pads on the Avid Shorty 4 come with washers that allow you to rotate the pads into any position you want, which makes setting toe-in a breeze and allows you to make sure that the pads hit the rim square.
Brakes fitted, it was time for a test run. First impressions were great, even with older, more flexible levers, the amount of power available was a massive improvement over the previous cantis. In fact, it required a bit of a change in braking style to avoid locking the front wheel up. Best of all there was no squeal or judder coming off the Avid Shorty 4 ‘s due to a combination of set-up and pad compound.
Mud clearance in cyclo-cross is always an issue and whilst they can’t compete with discs on this count, the Avid Shorty 4 ‘s didn’t suffer unduly and carried on providing reliable braking in all conditions. Pad life has been good, with very little wear so far.
The Shorty 6 comes with cartridge brake pad holders, rather than the 4’s one piece pads, but you could fit these later yourself. So, Avid Shorty 4 gets a thumbs up from me; light, cheap and powerful, what more could I ask for in a ‘cross brake?
Avid Shorty 4 £27.99
Avid Shorty 6 £39.99