I've got a 2008 Bianchi Volpe that I use as my commuter and touring bike. I love that bike; it was a long search to find something that fit me - I'm 5'1" with short legs and long torso/arms.
But the hoods for the Shimano Ultegra brifters are gigantic! I can barely wrap my hands around them to reach the brake levers, so if I'm in city traffic where I need to brake a lot, I end up riding with my wrists twisted out with most of my weight on the inside of my thumbs so that I can reach them. Not so comfortable after a few miles.
It's more than just the big hoods though - the pivot point of the brake lever is really far down the lever, so I just don't have good leverage. Even my (5'10" with normal sized hands) husband has tried them and says they are very difficult to engage.
I've done some research and some people say to get shims or the Shimano short-reach levers. Others say the short-reach levers are the same thing just with the shims anyway. To me it seems like all shims do is reduce the travel of the brake lever, but that's not really the problem exactly. They could have barely any travel at all and still not be in the right position to give me good leverage to squeeze them. I have great leverage from the drops, but prefer riding on the hoods in city traffic.
I do almost all my riding on the hoods so I would prefer not to add cross-style brake interrupters. Plus it's busy enough up top with the light and computer.
I'm starting to realize how dangerous it is for me to be riding like this for the past year. It got better as my grip strength improved but I still absolutely cannot bring my bike to a skidding stop as it currently is. So I'm looking for my options. New handlebars? Move the existing levers up or down the bars? Am I wrong about shims and I should try them for the existing set? Buy the short-reach levers? Give up the brifters and get bar end or down tube shifters? I'm handy and we have a decent set of beginner bike tools, but I also have an appointment for a tune-up at the end of the month and can have my LBS do stuff at that time.
Here's a picture of me riding the bike so you can see how small my hands are in comparison to the hoods. You can see it best on the right hand. Apologies for the camera strap in the photo - my friend took it while he was riding.
bianchi by kazbo, on Flickr