Upgrade Your Older Bicycle Frame With Modern V-Brakes




Are you riding a bike without rear brakes because you can't find calipers that work for your frame/wheel combo? Do you have an older frame that you'd like to upgrade? If so, this is the instructable for you.


  • TIG Welder
  • Drill Press/Bits
  • Wire Wheel


  • Cantilever brake posts (new ones are available from Paragon Machine Works)
  • Steel flatbar, 2ea, 1x1/4", 6" long
  • Misc washers
  • Silicon Bronze filler rod

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Step 1: Starting Point

Here's my Frankenstein ride. It's a 1960s Gazelle frame, with 1980s Bianci mountain bike front fork and wheelset, and a random collection of other components. It's a fun ride, but I enjoy the extra stopping power and redundancy of rear brakes (it's a single speed, but not a fixie).

I thought about adding disc brakes, but I didn't want to spend the cash, or upgrade the wheels, which I'm quite happy with. I had a set of cantilever brake posts that I had cut off another bike that I had converted to disc brakes (I was glad I saved them!). Now I simply needed to attach them to the frame.

Before starting out, I took the cantilever arm that I planned to use, and put it alongside the rim so I could get the right position on the seat stay. Then, I marked this with a slight mark with a file. That way, when I stripped the paint off, I'd still be able to see the mark.

Step 2: Building the Jig

Using a couple pieces of scrap steel, I built this jig. I drilled ø5/16" (8mm) holes in the top plate, and a ø1/4" hole for the clamp, which is a simple piece of 1/4-20 threaded rod. The spacing of the studs can vary, but I used the 77mm center-to-center spacing.

After cleaning the paint of the brake studs, I clamped them to the fixture using 6mm bolts and a stack of washers.

Step 3: Attaching the Posts to the Frame

First, I stripped off the paint where I would be brazing the posts to the seat stays. I like to strip off several inches, as the smoke put off can be highly toxic.

I lined up the jig with the mark on the seat stay I had made while the rear wheel was still in place and eyeballed that the jig was square to the frame. It's not entirely critical that this is perfect, as the brakes are highly adjustable.

After a couple tacks on each post, I let the setup cool and then removed the jig.

Step 4: Test Fitting and Final Brazing

Next, I reinstalled the rear wheel and installed the brake components. The tacks are plenty strong to support them at this stage.

Everything lined up nicely, so I took everything apart again and finished brazing the posts. It's a good idea to do as much brazing as you can with the jig in place- as welding can cause things to move more than you expect.

Step 5: Final Assembly and Test Ride

Once everything cooled, I put everything back together, made the appropriate adjustments, and took it for a spin. Success! The extra stopping power, ability to stop with one hand (while getting keys out of my pocket), and redundancy are all welcome. Good luck!

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    7 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is a great upgrade! Very nicely done. That jig looks perfect for the job, too.

    A nice jig is always the key! :)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hey thanks! Sheldon Brown has a nice jig too if you search for him.


    3 years ago

    wow this is great! love the thinking you put into this!


    3 years ago

    Nice instructible! And nice jig. One thing though. These are not cantilever brakes but V-brakes ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi Tresink,
    You're right! I'm more of a motorcycle guy- can't keep track of all these bicycle terms. Thanks for pointing out the difference. I'll add that the posts I brazed on were for true cantilever brakes, but I put the V-brake arms on the same posts since they didn't require a second hardpoint for the cable.



    3 years ago

    Very nice job, i always respect someone who values an old machine and tries to keep it up to date. My MTB is 23 years old and recieved a similar treatment, its been completely modernized. Well done!