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Old 01-06-08, 10:39 AM   #1
nayr497
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brake lever - pull is too tight

I ride a newer road bike with Shimano 105 shifters/brake levers and the pull is nice and easy on them, making braking smooth. A friend of mine has an older road bike with middle-of-the-road levers and downtube shifters (only mention to say they aren't integrated). Okay, the problem is that it is really difficult to squeeze/pull them, making braking a chore. I would like to loosen the pull/tension in some way to make it easier to pull back on the levers and slow down.

Any ideas? I've never worked on these older style levers. I don't think there is a spring or anything. I don't know what to adjust, but they are far too hard to pull, making it difficult to brake hard or quickly, especially when pulling from the hoods.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
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Old 01-06-08, 10:44 AM   #2
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Clean and lube the calipers, new cables and housing should do the trick. Probably an hour job.
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Old 01-06-08, 10:46 AM   #3
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Has the bike been maintained regularly?

I'd guess to say the cables/housing are the culprit. Oxides on the cable surface and gunk in the housing conspire to increase friction thru the system. You might want to replace cables and housing.
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Old 01-06-08, 10:46 AM   #4
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sounds like they need new cables and housing
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Old 01-06-08, 10:48 AM   #5
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Probably not the levers themselves. The old levers are the simplest and are just a handle on a pivot. What type are the brake calipers. The calipers make a large difference on the braking other wise you only have a loose lever and a cable inside a housing. Might be that the cable housing is kinked or the cable might need to be changed. Remove the cable and check for fraying and/or rust. Try Triflo on the cable and housing and see if it fixes the problem. Good luck.
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Old 01-06-08, 10:57 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nayr497 View Post
I ride a newer road bike with Shimano 105 shifters/brake levers and the pull is nice and easy on them, making braking smooth. A friend of mine has an older road bike with middle-of-the-road levers and downtube shifters (only mention to say they aren't integrated). Okay, the problem is that it is really difficult to squeeze/pull them, making braking a chore. I would like to loosen the pull/tension in some way to make it easier to pull back on the levers and slow down.

Any ideas? I've never worked on these older style levers. I don't think there is a spring or anything. I don't know what to adjust, but they are far too hard to pull, making it difficult to brake hard or quickly, especially when pulling from the hoods.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
First thing you need to do is disconnect the cable from the brake and see if which it is that is seizing/not moving correctly.

Once you do this, the solution is obvious.
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Old 01-06-08, 10:59 AM   #7
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+1 on cleaning and lubing or even replacing the cables and housing.

However there are other things to consider. Is it just pulling the lever until the pads contact the rim that's so hard or pulling the lever to get good braking that's the problem?

If just removing slack from the system is hard, then new or cleaned cables and lubing the caliper pivots will likely solve the problem.

If actual braking performance is bad there are two other considerations:

1. How old are the brake pads? If they are old, hardened, dirty or poor quality, changing to new high quality pads will make a world of difference. Kool Stop pads are the product of choice these days.

2. Are the old brakes single pivots? They will always require more lever effort to achieve braking than your newer 105 double pivots. This is an inherent design difference and can't be solved except by changing the brake calipers themselves.
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Old 01-06-08, 11:02 AM   #8
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Calipers are some older but perfectly suitable Dia-Compes. The bike has been maintained and is in great shape, but maybe the housing or cable is the issue, as many of you think. I didn't/don't think it is a problem with the levers or the calipers. I'll see what I can do with replacing the cables/housing. Thanks.
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Old 01-06-08, 11:04 AM   #9
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Brake pads are brand new

Braking is good once the pads contact the rim.

Yeah, these are some older Dia Compe calipers and are single pivot.
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Old 01-06-08, 04:52 PM   #10
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Single pivot side pull calipers are tough to get any power out of, especially while braking from the hoods. I can throw myself over the bike with Ultegra, but with the single pivots, I am just hoping that I can stop before I hit hit something.

I need to either be braking from the drops or with the suicide levers (yuck) to stop at a decent rate.


Will Kool Stops fit, and will they make a big difference with single pivot brakes?
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Old 01-06-08, 05:07 PM   #11
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Will Kool Stops fit, and will they make a big difference with single pivot brakes?
Kool Stops will fit. They are available as pad holders plus pads, which is the better system, and can be retrofitted to almost any brake model. They will make a noticable improvement in braking performance. They aren't "power brakes" when used with single pivot calipers but they are significantly better.
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Old 01-06-08, 05:22 PM   #12
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Excellent. I use Kool Stops with my modern brakes but I didn't know they were available in the old style as well.

Thanks!
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Old 01-06-08, 10:08 PM   #13
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I need to either be braking from the drops or with the suicide levers (yuck) to stop at a decent rate.
Cyclocross levers are a much better solution than suicide levers.
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Old 01-07-08, 12:27 AM   #14
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Cyclocross levers are a much better solution than suicide levers.
I'll probably move on to Tektro or Cane Creek aero levers at some point. I don't even need levers on the tops, but they're there because the attachment point for the suicide levers on the main brake hoods themselves have a large thing sticking out of them that makes them even more uncomfortable with the suicide levers off.

I can't take that thing off because it's part of the entire pivot point assembly for the brake levers and it's riveted on one side. I don't want to cut it off either.
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Old 01-09-08, 02:17 PM   #15
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I went and talked to the mechanic at a bike shop and he really doesn't think it is the cables or housing. His reasoning was that while squeezing the lever is hard, there is not a delayed release coming back, which corrosion would cause.

I know an older Dia Compe caliper is not a new Ultegra, but I have a Dia Compe caliper on another bike and it works much better than these two do. I was thinking about two other possibilities:
1) releasing the spring in the caliper and opening it up a bit
2) loosening the nut inside the outer acorn nut on the caliper

If none of these work and I can't figure it out I was going to try upgrading to new calipers. But, that will of course be an issue since this is an early 90s road frame and while I think short reach calipers might fit since the wheels are 700c, I wonder about the recess bolt fitting on the front.
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Old 01-09-08, 02:44 PM   #16
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Service the caliper.
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Old 01-09-08, 10:40 PM   #17
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Stacey,

What do you mean by lube the calipers? The bolts/nuts, the spring lever arm?

I want to start by trying that fix. Thanks!
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Old 01-10-08, 05:07 AM   #18
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I've replied to your PM.
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Old 01-10-08, 01:41 PM   #19
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Pull it all apart, clean and reassemble the caliper, replace or clean and lube the cables. Reinstall.
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Old 01-10-08, 05:59 PM   #20
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Take the wheel out of the frame and squeeze the brake caliper at the brake pads by hand. If it squeezes easily, the caliper is fine and the problem is in the cable/housing. If the caliper does not move easliy, then you have to rebuild the caliper and adjust the play in the caliper. Be sure you keep track of the order, orientation and location of all the nuts and washers and the spring.

The acorn nut and the thin nut right behind it lock together to set the caliper play adjustment. You will need a very thin 10mm wrench to hold the thin nut. It can take a while to get it right. Take it easy on the torque, its easy to strip the acorn or thin nut. Aim for no play between the caliper arms, but make sure they move easliy and do not bind.
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