Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Montréal (Québec)
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Do you have the typical setup with open cable along the top tube ? If so, pull the cable by hand to see what happens. Normally, you should be able to apply the brakes by pulling the cable, and you should be able to pinpoint the problem.
1. The brake doesn't open up quickly
Then you have a problem with the brake. If you have used the bike a lot in dirty weather, the brake pivots might be dirty. On cantilever brakes, remove the brake arms, clean and grease pivots and re-install.
Or you might have a skewed brake or brake pivots due to some kind of collision.
Lastly, the curve around the seatpost might be so bad that it causes some problems. Sometimes using housing of a different length might help to get a more gentle curve.
2. The brake opens up quickly
Then the problem is with the brake levers or the front-end cable housing. First check where the cable housing reaches the top tube. I had a bike where the cable housing often got pinched and developed a kink fairly quickly. Rerouting is the only permanent solution.
Apart from that, I don't know about your inline levers as I never installed these, but I'm aware that with some brake levers, performance deteriorates significantly if the levers has been moved after installation. The 287-V levers are especially prone to that problem; move the brake lever by 10-20 degrees (the bike falls on the ground, for instance) and you suddenly have levers that don't work properly.
If you have problems in the front end, you might want to remove the handlebar tape and try to wiggle the housing to see if that solves the problem.
And finally, modern brake levers are spring loaded. There might be a broken spring in your lever... Although I should say that I have a lever with a broken spring; I needed to increase the tension in the brake arm, but once I did that, I find it's the best working brake lever I have.