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Old 06-20-02, 10:14 AM   #1
oceanrider
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What's it called?

I have a unique style of bake levers on my vintage road bike. At least I haven't seen any like them. There are the standard levers that parallell the drops that eminate from the hoods and there's another set that also eminate from the hood that go cross-wise parallelling the top. I love these brake levers and don't understand why they don't appear on current models. You can grab them from anywhere on the bar. What are they called? They're part of a circa mid-80's suntour gruppo.

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Old 06-20-02, 10:37 AM   #2
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The only name I can recall for them was a "cross" or "safety" lever. The knickname was "suicide bar". If you keep your brakes properly adjusted, they will stop you fine.

They require much more handle movement before they engage which is a disadvantage, but if you watch well ahead of you and can see what traffic is doing, and adjust your speed accordingly, you shouldn't have any problems stopping.

There will be some members who will scream at you to get rid of them.
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Old 06-20-02, 11:18 AM   #3
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That's interesting. I ride the flats more than the drops. Don't most riders unless they're racing? It just makes more sense to be able to extend the fingers and pull than to move to the drops and grab and pull. I have rarely used the regular levers in the drops but they do require more power to pull than the suicide bar.

I have small hands, even by a woman's standard. There's not as much extension so it feels clumsy to fully extend from the drops for the regular levers. These "suicide bars" seem like a Godsend to me and are part of what I consider "the fit".

Just the same, I'm having them adjusted to make them easier to pull from the drops. Thanks for the info.

Kathy
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Old 06-20-02, 11:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by oceanrider
I have a unique style of bake levers on my vintage road bike. At least I haven't seen any like them. There are the standard levers that parallell the drops that eminate from the hoods and there's another set that also eminate from the hood that go cross-wise parallelling the top. I love these brake levers and don't understand why they don't appear on current models. You can grab them from anywhere on the bar. What are they called? They're part of a circa mid-80's suntour gruppo.

Kathy
I can't help but laugh when I read your message. Kathy, I have to guess you might have been too young (or not born yet) to remember the ten speeds in the 1970's and 1980's.

The brake levers you describe were so common that brakes without the top-bar levers were thought to be unusual!


They are OK at low speeds with low mass riders - like a kid riding around town proudly on his/her new Schwinn Varsity. However, put an adult on the bike, ride at 18+ mph, add some rain, miss some brake maintanance - and ZING! the brakes hardly worked at all.
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Old 06-20-02, 11:36 AM   #5
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Glad you're getting a good chuckle out of this No, I don't remember safety bars. During the bike boom of the 70's, I was in high school. My mommy wouldn't let me have a 10-sp. She thought I was gonna kill myself or worse track dirt through the house. Poor mom. She never rode a bike her whole life. I don't remember much about the rest of the 70's and through the 80's and 90's cycling wasn't even a thought.

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Old 06-20-02, 11:40 AM   #6
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They were called suicide levers because, with the extra leverage, it is much easier to extert enough force to lock the front wheel. The lack of braking in the wet was nothing to do with the levers, but due to the steel rims which were standard on the cheaper bikes in the 70s & early 80s.
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Old 06-20-02, 01:39 PM   #7
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There is a modern alternative, pioneered by cyclo-cross riders, who use the tops a lot.
Fit a small MTB brake lever to the bar, near to the stem, and use a double cable unit. Usually only the front brake is operated this way, and it is much more effective and mechanically efficient than the 1970s style "safety" levers.
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Old 06-20-02, 04:22 PM   #8
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Remember that in the 70's and earlier there were no mountain bikes. Therre were English 3-speeds, their were single-speed cruisers, and their were "10-speeds." And that was generally it.

People who wanted more than three gears bought 10-speeds, and all 10-speeds had drop bars.

But then, as now, not everybody was comfortable with drop bars. So they rode with their hands on the tops of the bars almost all the time, and it was for them that safety levers were developed.

Today, the market for multi-gear bikes includes plenty of options for people who prefer upright positioning, so the need for cheater levers isn't there.

A modern road bike should really be sized so that the rider is not too stretched out when his/her hands are on the hoods of the "brifters," so that moving to the tops provides something of a rest position while moving to the drops is a more aero position. The "on the hoods" position should be the most comfortable for extended periods, IMO, and from that position on a modern bike one can, of course, both shift and brake without repositioning one's hands.

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Old 06-20-02, 07:11 PM   #9
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It seems to me that there was something good about the safety bar which seems to have it's bugs. It was an idea that was trashed when it seems it should have been tweaked and fine tuned. I do believe one of the main reasons women don't get into riding with the same frequency as men is because of bike fit. It's not a comfort issue but a safety one for many. Our hands are smaller in general and this affects reach to brake levers yet bike manufacturers are just beginning to take this into account when designing bikes for the sexes. In my opinion, these levers take care of that particular problem. What a shame they weren't improved upon. Why not be able to access the brakes from anyplace on the bar? So far I've had no problem with them but I'm not pushing fast speeds either. BTW, riding the hoods is my favorite position.

Kathy
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Old 06-21-02, 07:55 PM   #10
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Back in the late 1970's, every el-cheapo department store bike had 'em. We used to call them "chicken levers", because people that asked for them were scared about riding a drop-bar bike. They were notorious for bending or breaking whenever you really squeezed them hard. I understand that they were discontinued due to lawsuits.

The best thing you can do to your bike is to remove them, and quickly. They really don't work worth a d@mn, and if you are riding with your hands near the stem all the time, you should be riding a hybrid, not a roadbike.
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Old 06-21-02, 09:53 PM   #11
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How about the cheesy shifters that sometimes accompanied those brake levers. Remember......both shift levers right next to the stem. It gives me the willies just thinking about it! A special thanks to the CPSC, and the rest of the "Safety Nazis" for trying their best to do us in.
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Old 06-26-02, 07:04 AM   #12
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My current bike has both suicide levers and gut-ripper shifters. I should say had, because I've removed the suicide levers. All the bikes I've ever owned have had drop bars and suicide levers, and it is very noticeable that unless you really watch your brake adjustment they stop working rapidly.

I'd like to change the gut-rippers for bar end shifters, but I've not got the cash right now. (Actually, I should really change the brake levers as well - one of them's a little bent!)

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Old 06-26-02, 02:44 PM   #13
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Hmmm, I'm going to have to watch out for the first sign of a problem. I haven't the cash either to do anything with this bike. It has gut ripper shifters on the stem too! So far I'm having a great time with it except it's completely worthless on rain slicked roads. Steel rims. My Trek ATB comes in handy for nasty conditions.
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