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Shimano Altus cantilever spares
#1
My wife's mnt bike has seen very little use, it's even still on the first chain barely worn.
Today I found the plastic shrouds used by Shimano to enshroud the cantilever 3 coil return springs, all broken. Hardly surprising when you consider these plastic components are molded in ABS (I think) & they carry some load.
Are not mnt bikes supposed to be fitted with rugged gear?

All the local LBS say the same thing:
"Sorry no support from Shimano - you could replace with new Altus set or a generic lower cost alternative, whichever is available".
Well if I had to replace it would certainly not be Shimano, why reward lousy parts availability?
Would a generic set fit easily?
Can anyone suggest a better option & is it likely If I make a fuss Shimano will find the low cost plastic parts?
There is a Shimano Australia dealing with this region but their level of service seems lacklustre.
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#2
OK, I believe cantilever brakes have not been manufactured by Shimano (or anybody else) for a while (well, except the smaller ones for Cyclocross racing, dunno), so spare parts will be difficult to find for any brand.
Second: I don't know whether those were supposed to be replaceable, check out the tech docs at http://www.paul-lange.de/produkte/shimano/support/explosionszeichungen_archiv/BR and look for your brakes.
Third: If they are replaceable you could write them and they might still have some of those somewhere, but I doubt it. I wouldn't make a fuss: after all the brakes are likely old and long past the warranty period, aren't they?
I still have four sets of cantilever brakes lying around from upgrading two bikes to v-brakes, maybe somebody in your area has a pair or two left? Check a local bike rag with private sales ads. This was the best upgrades to those bikes in the past 15 years and not too expensive (got one pair of brake levers for free). In general you should be able to replace the cantis with v-brakes (of any brand). However, you'll have to replace the brake levers, too. Be wary of el cheapo components, though, you get what you pay for.

Concerning whether MTBs are supposed to be fitted with rugged gear I have to ask a question you might not like to hear: is it really a MTB with MTB rated components or just something that looks like one and has components where the manufacturer states "not for off road use"? I have seen plenty of bikes with Altus or Alivio or other low end stuff and when looking through the specs (in the components' technical documents, not the dealer info on the bikes) they sometimes say "not intended for off road use".
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#3
Joe,
Thanks for your input.
First is it a mountain bike?
In truth I can't be sure, it looks like it:
Brand is KHS, 14 Kg all up weight with empty water bottle.
Frame is Easton 7005 tapered wall tubing.
Rear derailier is Shimano Alivio, bottom bracket & derailier is Shimano Altus
Front suspension: RST 381
Hardtail.
I note that Shimano class the Altus as mnt bike components, you wont see Altus listed elsewhere.

Second for me at least, is that I expect the gear on my bike to last & be effective for the life of my bike which if used lightly & looked after should exceed 25 years.
Now it's clear that hard out, frequent off road work, (all terrain) will never allow bikes to reach that age & I think no one would expect that, maintenance will be high & even the frames are known to fail under such heavy punishment.
In this case with my wife's bike, the Altus brakes have displayed what is clearly a design fault because the same PLASTIC component has failed on each cantilever while the bike is on the original tyres & chain!!
Note that the brakes until now, had performed perfectly adequately.
I expect Shimano should now recognize this simple fact & offer to replace/repair in whatever is their most cost effective method & not advise me to upgrade at my cost.
As for warranty issues, clearly this is outside any conventional manufacturers warranty but in most jurisdictions the manufacturer has a legal obligation to "design for for purpose", & to provide spare parts during the expected lifetime.
If Shimano choose not to stock Altus parts, that's their decision entirely, but when someone like me asks for spares they have do better than say "sorry you need to upgrade".
BTW $50 on Ebay plus P & P is not a trivial matter, the parts I want to replace are worth around $4 max.
By upgrading all I do is needlessly assist Shimano by accepting their spares policies & contributing to further profit which I think the biking community should not accept without protest.
Lastly I am unsure why you would want to upgrade to V brakes, cantilevers were considered fine for 10 years or more & V's do not allow any faster stopping. Nearly all brakes for the last 25 years have been easily capable of locking up tyres on the roadway.
I readily concede however that V's are easier to adjust & allow a "wheels off" more quickly.
Your warning re el cheapo components is well noted thanks.

Peter O
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#4
I tried to find an explosive view that could help you: http://www.paul-lange.de/produkte/shimano/support/explosionszeichungen_archiv/BR/BR-M290-95.pdf You probably are looking for part number 81X9801 and 81x9802 (or whatever this would be for your type of break). Try contacting Shimano with the (correct) part number information.

V-brakes allow for better modulation, they are indeed a bit better, you don't want to lock up the tyre as stiction is higher than friction (sliding) (plus you don'T want to lock up the front wheel even if 90% of brake power comes from the front). Also I'd say that bike components should not be expected to last 25+ years (well, lots of the stuff, of course some stuff was made to last), nobody expects this of most car components, do they, I mean Altus is the lowest end stuff on Shimano's list. Last time I looked at the techdocs (for an Altus rear hub) there was even a note in them warning against off road use (not anymore it seems, and I cannot find the docs from three years ago, the pdf refuses to load). You also probably know that plastic is prone to failure due to aging. If the parts were made of metal they would be much heavier and really expensive, though it would be sensible from an engineering point of view.

I'd not try Ebay, unless you really know what you need and what to look for. I payed about 20 EUR (dunno, maybe 30 AUD) at the LBS per pair of V-brakes (Alivio, I think, but good enough for a tourer), which is ok. I mean even decent brake pads are in the order of at least 6€ / pair. I got the levers for free, they were left over from some upgrading job.
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