I'm starting a new blog series, called, "Hint!" This series is to help you with questions that you simply need a fast answer without all of the fluff of additional information.
Calipers vs. Cantilevers
Simply and quickly identify which type of rim brake system is on your bike.
Glance at your front or rear wheel to see how the brakes attach to your fork or frame.
If the brakes use 1 center pivot bolt, you have caliper style brakes. If your brakes are attached by 2 side pivot bolts, your brake system in a cantilever style system.
Why does it matter what I have?
By design, each system works differently in terms of leverage ratios, so it's important to make sure when you have to replace parts that you purchase items that are meant to work with the system that you own.
Caliper brakes: are self-contained and attach to the bicycle's frame by using a single bolt for each brake, front or rear. This system is usually used on road bikes where weight constraints and tire sizes are smaller.
Cantilever brakes: attaches to a bicycle's frame/fork via special brazed-on fittings and the brake for each wheel consists of two separate arms that when brakes are applied, squeeze inward to apply pressure. These brakes are typically used on cyclo-cross, recreational and mountain bikes, where tire sizes are larger and clearance issues can be a problem for caliper style brakes.