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Old 08-04-09, 02:50 PM   #1
Veloria
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Motobecane Brakes Killing My Thumb Joint. Options?...

My vintage Motobecane mixte is set up as a roadbike, and I have been taking it on 25 mile rides several times a week. It's got drop bars and original Weinmann brakes.

On short rides all was fine, but once I started doing longer rides, the joint between my thumb and forefinger began to hurt as a result of squeezing the brakes. The pain kept building up with each ride, until I simply can no longer press these brakes without excruciating pain in the entire thumb and wrist area. I usually keep my hands on top of the bars and press the "suicide levers". But when I try the drops and squeeze the "normal" brakes, it's not any better, same sort of pain.

We have tried to adjust the brake levers into different positions and to adjust the tension so that they are easier to squeeze, but this has not helped. My husband suggests that the old style brake levers are probably just too harsh for me. He thinks that the only solution is probably to replace them with modern components, or to get a modern bike. I do not want a new bike though; I love my lugged mixte.

Any comments/ suggestions? Is this a problem others have when riding vintage roadbikes, or am I doing something wrong? And what modern brake levers would go with this sort of bike?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 08-04-09, 02:53 PM   #2
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where is your hand resting when you are in the drops. There is a flat, straighter section on the bottom, you should be gripping there. If you have small hands you may be gripping up further in the hook (in order to reach the brakes) which is causing pressure on that part of your hand.
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Old 08-04-09, 02:55 PM   #3
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Ride the hoods! It could simply be the curve of the bars doesn't agree with your hands, or as your husband suggests, you need a modern lever. They tend to require less force to engage the brakes, in my experience.

Tektro R200a. If your hands are small, the compact version:

http://www.harborcountrybike.com/Pro...R11212&click=2

Or the standard version:

http://aebike.com/page.cfm?action=de...=30&SKU=BR7210


Last edited by JunkYardBike; 08-04-09 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 08-04-09, 03:05 PM   #4
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I have small palms with long fingers. The brakes seem kind of hard to reach no matter where I place them. I also have a pretty weak grip.

Shamefully, I am not a strong enough rider yet to hold the drops in that low flat area the entire time. I come from riding upright relaxed bikes, and am still getting used to the balance and control issues with a road bike. This Motobecane is particularly sporty/responsive, and it took me a while just to be able to balance on it at all, even with the hands on top of the bars.

I will have a look at Tektro R200a -- thanks for the links!
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Old 08-04-09, 03:08 PM   #5
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Not knowing how old you are, I am going to say go see a doctor. I am assuming your pain radiates from the point where the thumb attaches to the hand. I have arthritis in the joint where you are describing your pain. While I do not experience what you do, I can relate to your pain. It can be excruciating. I first noticed it when I could no longer snap my fingers. Your pain may be your initial indicator.
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Old 08-04-09, 03:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by CV-6 View Post
Not knowing how old you are, I am going to say go see a doctor. I am assuming your pain radiates from the point where the thumb attaches to the hand. I have arthritis in the joint where you are describing your pain. While I do not experience what you do, I can relate to your pain. It can be excruciating. I first noticed it when I could no longer snap my fingers. Your pain may be your initial indicator.
I am 30, and I do have problems with weakness and nerve damage in that area. Not arthritis, but some similar symptoms.
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Old 08-04-09, 03:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by JunkYardBike View Post
Ride the hoods! It could simply be the curve of the bars doesn't agree with your hands, or as your husband suggests, you need a modern lever. They tend to require less force to engage the brakes, in my experience.

Tektro R200a. If your hands are small, the compact version:

http://www.harborcountrybike.com/Pro...R11212&click=2

Or the standard version:

http://aebike.com/page.cfm?action=de...=30&SKU=BR7210

Not to hijack the thread, but is there an online tutorial somewhere for how to install these things? I'd like to add them to my road bike, but I'm not sure how difficult it would be for an un-handy person such as myself.
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Old 08-04-09, 03:38 PM   #8
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Shamefully, I am not a strong enough rider yet to hold the drops in that low flat area the entire time.
There are all kinds of factors to consider. As clancy98 mentions, ride gripping the flats, only slipping your hands into the hooks to brake (at least, that's how I ride). If you're accustomed to riding the tops of the bars, riding the drops will definitely be an adjustment, and it will also increase your reach. So, you may want to consider stem length, and possibly finding a shorter stem extension. Another possibility is swapping in a Nitto Technomic long quill, or similar to raise your bars about level with your saddle (or wherever you feel most comfortable). That's how I have my bikes set up, so riding on the flats isn't nearly as painful (for my neck or the extra pressure on my hands) - but it gets me a bit more aero when I'm riding into a headwind or down a hill. You don't always have to ride the drops; e.g. the terrain I ride in, with very few flats, but lots of roller coaster hills, doesn't really make riding the drops any more efficient, like it might in Kansas, for instance.

But, as I mentioned in my previous post, the Tektros will also give you a third possible resting place for your hands. The more positions the better. I generally can't ride very long on the narrow vintage hoods, but these are very comfortable. However, it is possible they may be too wide for your small palms.

Here's one of my rigs with the high bars:


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Old 08-04-09, 03:46 PM   #9
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Maybe you can find smaller sized levers as they might install on youth, or even child sized bikes, if your hands are that small. Also, try to carry a little bit of your upper body weight on your upper torso so it's not all on your hands. It might take some conditioning on your part to do this, but it's really the only way to get comfortable enough to ride extended stints on the drops. Make sure that your grip on the bars or brake hoods is relaxed (but secure) and not too tight or tense. This will help avoid the strain on your hands further.
BTW, I'd get rid of those "suicide" double levers anyway. Those things do not give you the best leverage and performance for braking in emergency situations and should be eliminated like a bad habit. It is why you do not see these on most bikes anymore.
A visit to a good bike shop should steer you toward the correct brake levers and adjustments to them and your bars to get you comfortable and best performance for braking.
Good luck on the fix!

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Old 08-04-09, 04:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JunkYardBike View Post
...
Here's one of my rigs with the high bars:

[IMG...]
Here is a picture of mine, where you can see the location of both the brake levers and the suicide levers:



It seems that the brakes on mine are in a similar position to yours, aren't they?


Here is another photo:



I do find it easier to grip those modern brakes that seem to be positioned on top of the handlebars, just over
the drop curves. But it seems impossible to achieve that arrangement using these bars and brake levers -- they are
the wrong shape.
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Old 08-04-09, 04:28 PM   #11
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The amount of friction in the cables & housings is a major factor in the force required to brake. If they haven't been replaced recently, try replacing them with a set of "slick" or teflon coated cables and lined housings.

Great looking mixte!!
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Old 08-04-09, 04:35 PM   #12
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Those levers appear to be way out there.

I find that resting my hands on the outside top of the bars where the curve of the drop starts to be comfortable. In that position, my palms are on the bars with my fingers wrapped around the bars and my thumbs straight.

Since no one mentioned it, dual pivot brakes would also give you more stopping power. I'm not sure if the fit would be a problem on that frame.

Also, as an alternative to the suicide levers, you might consider the "interupter" style brake levers that fit on the top of the bars. Those actually operate the cables instead of moving the brake levers.
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Old 08-04-09, 04:44 PM   #13
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I also just noticed from the pics that those levers seem to stick out a bit more forward than normal, Anyway, I think that those levers, sucky suicide levers and all, should just be dumped for better quality ones. That would be a good base to build on to improve your situation.

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Old 08-04-09, 05:00 PM   #14
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Also, as an alternative to the suicide levers, you might consider the "interupter" style brake levers that fit on the top of the bars. Those actually operate the cables instead of moving the brake levers.
In-line levers, For The Win.

Combine the in-line levers with a set of the aero levers and new teflon housings. Add dual pivot calipers if they will mount. That will make things a lot easier on you.
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Old 08-04-09, 05:11 PM   #15
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And, as much as I hate to say it, gel handlebar tape helps. It won't look as nice, but it feel good. You are using padded gloves, right?
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Old 08-04-09, 06:13 PM   #16
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Not to change the subject, but that is a sweet looking Moto.
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Old 08-04-09, 06:19 PM   #17
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Yes, definitely a classic.
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Old 08-04-09, 06:22 PM   #18
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Interrupter levers with old centerpulls require a lot of grip strength. The Tektro levers and Mafac centerpulls on my Peugeot do, anyway.

Your bars aren't shaped for riding the hoods. Get some Nitto Noodle bars and Tektro aero levers.
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Old 08-04-09, 06:32 PM   #19
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In-line levers, For The Win.

Combine the in-line levers with a set of the aero levers and new teflon housings. Add dual pivot calipers if they will mount. That will make things a lot easier on you.
+1 In line levers, aero levers, gel tape.
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Old 08-04-09, 07:01 PM   #20
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Your bars aren't shaped for riding the hoods. Get some Nitto Noodle bars and Tektro aero levers.
I ride the hoods on the Trek pictured above, and they are very comfortable. A steep ramp to the hoods is not ideal, but the bars on the Moto don't look bad.

Now, Cinelli 64s have a steep ramp, but I've done 6+ hours in the saddle on my Centurion, riding mostly the hoods, and I've been okay. My hands do hurt a bit more with this older lever body design, though.

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Old 08-04-09, 07:59 PM   #21
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What about trying out some "randonneur" bend bars too.
They have a bend the elevates the drop portion of the bars a little and are used by many who finds the drops on regular bars too deep.

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Old 08-04-09, 08:07 PM   #22
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I rode three different bikes this weekend, same brake brand and model.

Before you do anything else, Fresh pads, might also mean fresh holders.
A WORLD of difference, the bike with the fresh pads stopped, the others slowed down.
Unfortunately 34 years is not kind to brake blocks, that was my revelation.
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Old 08-04-09, 10:43 PM   #23
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Thank you for your responses everyone; I will look into all the suggestions!
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Old 08-04-09, 11:38 PM   #24
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It's possible that the reach of the bike is too long for you, i.e. the distance between saddle and handlebars.
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Old 08-05-09, 11:02 AM   #25
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It's possible that the reach of the bike is too long for you, i.e. the distance between saddle and handlebars.
I don't think that's the problem. I even moved the saddle back at some point to make the position more comfortable, and now the distance between the saddle and handlebars is just perfect. The problem seems to be a combination of (1) the distance between the bars and the brake levers, and (2) the difficulty of squeezing those levers. I end up really hooking my thumbs over the handlebars for leverage, and that is probably what did the damage.
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