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  1. #1
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    Stupid stupid suicide levers

    So I just picked up a gas pipe Raleigh, an early 90's Mercury. Steel rims, a crankset with the two chainrings and arm riveted together, quality stuff. And then there's the suicide levers.

    By that I mean the levers on the inside of the drops that actuate the standard levers. I want them gone, a lot. They're sitting on the extended pivots that the normal levers use, but they're held on by what looks like brass washers, and the ends of the pivot bars bent over to hold the washers on, trapping the suicide levers. Any ideas on getting them off?

  2. #2
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    Dremel or file off the peened material, then tidy up the extra length of the "pivot" with a hacksaw and a little fancy file work.

    With the suicide levers gone you'll probably have to adjust your brake cable length.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Matt Gaunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonPenguino
    So I just picked up a gas pipe Raleigh, an early 90's Mercury. Steel rims, a crankset with the two chainrings and arm riveted together, quality stuff. And then there's the suicide levers.

    By that I mean the levers on the inside of the drops that actuate the standard levers. I want them gone, a lot. They're sitting on the extended pivots that the normal levers use, but they're held on by what looks like brass washers, and the ends of the pivot bars bent over to hold the washers on, trapping the suicide levers. Any ideas on getting them off?
    That's funny stuff, man, you should do stand-up!

    So you want to get rid of the auxiliary levers. Any chance of some pics to see what we're dealing with?
    Matt
    2010 Kinesis Decade Convert2 Alloy fixie, Miche, Sora Pics soon...
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  4. #4
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    No chance in hell, sad to say. No digital camera and no scanner in sight. Also no power tools or hand tool besides a few multi-wrenches and an allen set. I am SO golden. I'm actually in Liverpool studying for the semester, originally from by Chicago as noted. I have a decent set of tools there, but didn't want to bring a bike or the tools here as I thought I would kill myself on the streets. Still probably will, but at least I won't be crying myself to sleep due to lack of bike. Where's St. Helens?

  5. #5
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    If you have no power or hand tools just lay the boots to them til they snap off.

  6. #6
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    Most of them screw off, but it sounds like that won't work ehre. Just saw or file them.

    My guess is not early 90's - I don't think they made steel rims anymore by then, at least not by Raleigh. They didn't make cheap road bikes anymore - taht market had shifted to mountain bikes. My guess is early 80's.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Matt Gaunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonPenguino
    No chance in hell, sad to say. No digital camera and no scanner in sight. Also no power tools or hand tool besides a few multi-wrenches and an allen set. I am SO golden. I'm actually in Liverpool studying for the semester, originally from by Chicago as noted. I have a decent set of tools there, but didn't want to bring a bike or the tools here as I thought I would kill myself on the streets. Still probably will, but at least I won't be crying myself to sleep due to lack of bike. Where's St. Helens?
    St. Helens is right near Liverpool, in actual fact. It's about 15 miles away. I'm studying in Leicester at the moment but I'll be home at the end of March if you fancy meeting up. Might even be able to lend you a few tools . I guess you'll be sorted by then though.

    Liverpool is BAAAAAADD for cycling round BTW. Very busy and very polluted. The reputation it has for being dangerous is not deserved though. I have never experienced problems there, but the local kids are absolute b'tards when they want to be. PM me about the meet if you're still around.
    Matt
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  8. #8
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Those levers were NOT called suicide levers, they were called 'safety levers.'

  9. #9
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    I seriously doubt early 80's, just due to the graphics and pink and white paint scheme. Here's what I know:

    Raleigh 18-23 steel
    Weinmann brakes
    12 speed Shimano SIS shifting
    SN: 02002543
    Glued on headbadge
    Sakae stem
    Raleigh Al drops

  10. #10
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Those levers were NOT called suicide levers, they were called 'safety levers.'
    This is a quote from Sheldon Brown - on "extension levers":

    "Extenison levers are sometimes known as "safety levers." Since many people believe they actually reduce safety, the slang terms "death grips", "suicide levers" and "turkey wings" are occasionally substituted."

    So, with all due respect, these have - for a long time - been referred to as "suicide levers" by many people, and still are. I have to admit, though, I really like "turkey wings" ;-)
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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  11. #11
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    Yes, and a prison is a "rehabilitation center." Still doesn't change the fact they're evil and must die.

  12. #12
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    How suicide levers have a nick name of saftey levers is beyond me....

  13. #13
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    Matt, sounds excellent! By that point I hopefully have a good enough relation with the one man LBS down the street, but if not I will definitely abuse your selection as much as possible.

    As for the tiny amount I've done today, it doesn't seem like it's too bad to get around, although the light sequences are still sketchy in my head. The hills may just kill me though, especially if I do turn this into a jury-rigged fix.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Those levers were NOT called suicide levers, they were called 'safety levers.'
    They were called "safety levers" by the truly uninformed.

  15. #15
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I like the name Turkey Wings, I had never heard that...

    I like the name enough that I may actually install some, even if I never use them.

    Of course, I resist taking off the spoke guards because I like the term dork rings

    Perhaps I am an inverse OCP???
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  16. #16
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgregory57
    I like the name Turkey Wings, I had never heard that...

    Of course, I resist taking off the spoke guards because I like the term dork rings

    Perhaps I am an inverse OCP???
    Really good post! I like that term 'dork rings', I've never heard that before. And I REALLY like the term inverse OCP. It sure beats some of the negative terms used by others.

    And I have to admit too, I like those Turkey Wings, suicide levers, safety levers, whatever.
    Roccobike BF Official Thread Terminator

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    Well, many years ago I took them off of my 'racer' because I didn't like the look of them. I've also recently read about them not being safe, however, the one thing I haven't worked out is why they aren't. Is it that they aren't directly attached to the brake cable ?

  18. #18
    don't pedal backwards... MacG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Zippy
    ...the one thing I haven't worked out is why they aren't. Is it that they aren't directly attached to the brake cable ?
    They are considered unsafe mainly because it is very difficult to apply strong braking forces them. They work fine for light braking, but the uninfomed user that attempts to make a panic stop using the suicide levers may very well be surprised to discover that they don't stop the bike very quickly and suffer unpleasant side effects as a result.

    There are probably suicide levers that work well, but every single one I have ever seen either bottomed out against the horizontal part of the drop bars before applying any serious braking power or would clear the bars, but required the user to literally pull the levers up past the front of the bars to do serious braking.

    The next time you see a set on a bike, try this: fully apply one of the brakes using the suicide lever in a way you think a rider would typically be able to do in a hurry and by instinct, and then with the brake still applied, squeeze the real brake lever with your other hand and feel how much further it moves from where you already had it with the suicide lever. Your mileage may vary, but you'll probably see a big difference.

    There are in-line levers available now that do the same job as suicide levers (allowing you to use the brakes from the top of the bars). They work very well, and do their job by actually becoming a part of the cable housing. Imagine a typical brake lever setup, but cut the housing partway back and install a tool that allows you to spread the two pieces of housing apart along the cable. This applies the brakes with just as much force and travel as main brake levers typically apply and looks much more handsome (IMHO) than suicide levers to boot.

    Here's a pair for cheap from Nashbar:
    http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?sku=10888
    from Minneapolis, with bike love

  19. #19
    fmw
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    I have "turkey wings" on my old Moto. I've never used them. I guess they are just unnecessary weight. Maybe I'll trim down the "svelte" 27 pound bike.


  20. #20
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Zippy
    ...the one thing I haven't worked out is why they aren't. Is it that they aren't directly attached to the brake cable ?
    Aside from the mechanical-leverage issues that MacG pointed out, the other problem is trying to hold your weight under deceleration forces with your hands on the tops of the bars. When you squeeze the suicide levers, the only thing holding your body back is your thumbs! A lot of people ended up breaking their thumbs under panic braking situations, then flying over the bars and end up hitting whatever they were trying to avoid anyway .

  21. #21
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    The other issue with extension levers is that they take up space between the real brake lever and the mount, resulting in less avilable lever travel or cable pull. With the extension in place, the brake lever will frequently bottom out against the bar before locking the brakes. Without the extension lever, the brake lever rests against the mount, giving about 1/2 inch longer lever travel or the ability to pull about 1/4 inch more cable. The extra travel should allow you to lock up the brakes before the lever hits the bar.
    Maybe the "safety" aspect is that they were a primitive form of Anti Lock Brakes?

  22. #22
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    Pampiere - levers were designed differently depending on whether they were supposed to have suicide levers "taking up space" above them or not. So, the "taking up valuable cable pull" is not an issue. The lever simply had less metal above the pivot if it was designed to be used with suicide levers.
    I'm attaching a pic here, and look how far out the lever is, just b/c I removed the suicide lever. Most people's hands wouldn't be able to reach it, but my hands are proportional to my height.

    Danno is right, that even if suicide levers worked well, the bar tops aren't a great place to apply much force. However, the idea behind suicide levers is the same as the iidea behind modern in-line "cyclocross" or "interrupter" levers on the bar tops. Only those do allow more of your hand behind the bar, so the problem that Danno points out with suicide levers isn't so much of a problem with interrupters.

    However, with properly-adjusted dual-pivot brakes (these brakes came on a lot of the bikes that had suicide levers) it's quite easy to generate lots of braking force.
    That said, I agree that the user should understand the limitations of these levers compared to the main ones, for really good stopping power.


  23. #23
    Curmudgeon Wil Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timcupery
    snip…
    I don't want to hijack the thread, but from the picture, the fork looks slightly bent back - almost as if the bike has taken a whack… I wonder if, at some point it was fitted with "turkey-wings" (there, back on topic! )

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  24. #24
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    However, with properly-adjusted dual-pivot brakes (these brakes came on a lot of the bikes that had suicide levers) it's quite easy to generate lots of braking force.
    The brakes that came on many of the cheap, low line bikes with suicide levers were more commonly called centerpulls. They were "dual pivot" in that each arm was mounted on it's own pivot but currently the term is applied to a specific design of sidepull brakes.

    The bikes I bought for my kids in the late '70's had centerpull brakes that were dreadful because the arms were so flexible they couldn't generate any real force and the "suicide levers" exacerbated an already bad situation.

    Good centerpull brakes work well but there weren't many good ones out there.

  25. #25
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    Will: I think the apparent fork-bent-back is just a function of the camera angle, or an optical illusion, in the picture. I just checked carefully, and the fork blades never go back from, and eventually just curve forward from, the line going through the center of the fork's steerer tube.

    Hillrider: I've only ever used the Dia-Compe centerpull brakes, and they've worked well on every bike that I've seen them on. Usually old Schwinns, but also some old fujis. However, I know that crappy centerpull brakes were made. But even these are usually better than crappy sidepull brakes, which I've seen on lots of old road bikes. Tons of flex in the arms.

    Here are the dia-compe centerpulls on my machine Schwinn pictured earlier:

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