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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-15-07, 09:49 AM   #1
nsfr
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Brake Set-up Question

I wanted to post a new thread even though this is related to the discussion that arose on the "don't understand the flatbar" thread. That discussion seems to be over & it hasn't really answered my question.

I just bought a new commuter bike - switching from an old MTB with flatbars & slicks to a more touring oriented bike with drop bars & 700 c wheels. I am just in the early days of riding the bike, so I'm still very much getting used to it. Unfortunately, my immediate impression is that it is not much better than my old bike, but I know you have to give these things some time.

One of the reasons I made the switch was the belief that a more purpose built bike with drop bars, a better riding position (for the task at hand) and the bigger wheels would be faster, more efficient and perhaps even more comfortable (cake & eat it too). I am struggling with the brakes - which came up on the "don't understand the flatbar" tread, but no specific advice was given. I have STI type brake/shifters with mechanical discs. Riding from the hood position, I find it hard to get really aggressive/effective braking - certainly no where near what I could do on my old flat-bar set up with well maintained Vee-brakes. I can lock the rear wheel, but it takes quite a bit of effort. More importantly, the front brake, where all the power is, seems difficult to really crank on to its full potential. The discs & pads are worn in enough that they should be at full capability. From the full drop position, I can barely reach the brake with my index finger. As a result, even when I am going fast down a hill, I am uncomfortable in the drop position (in terms of quick and sure brake access). As a free-ride moutain biker, I like ready access to full brake power - so maybe it is just a matter of adopting to a smoother style of riding.... but I've also been a commuter for may years & have never missed my brakes so much!

Rather than get into the whole flat bar vs drop bar discussion, can anyone provide some practical advice on how to approach the brake set-up to improve braking from the hood position? I care more about this than the ability to reach the brakes from the drops. Right now I am feeling vulnerable relative to my old flat-bar set and as a result, have found my commute time increased rather than decreased as I ride much more tentatively.

Thanks.....
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Old 08-15-07, 10:39 AM   #2
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Less power from the hoods is normal, sorry.

The brake thing, to me sounds like it could be resolved by tilting the bars up a bit and then lowering the brakes, keeping your hands in something of a handshake position while on the hoods, while being able to access the brakes from the drops.

Last edited by JeanCoutu; 08-15-07 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 08-15-07, 12:09 PM   #3
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Getting more grippy brake pads might help. As JC mentioned, moving the position of the brifters might help a bit. Otherwise, grow longer fingers.

I jest, as I have very short fingers and find the hoods to be a huge pain in the ass.
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Old 08-15-07, 12:25 PM   #4
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Braking from the hoods, although a little less effective than grabbing the levers down from the drops, is still very effective for most all situations. Perhaps, you're just not used to this new braking position yet.
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Old 08-15-07, 12:30 PM   #5
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Sounds like either the handlebar or the brifters should be moved. Reaching the levers from the drop position should be easy...
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Old 08-15-07, 12:48 PM   #6
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What bike? Just curious.

Braking from the hoods is never going to be as strong as other positions because you don't get much leverage on the levers(meh,maybe I should say not as much mechanical advantage on the levers?). If you can't get to the levers right from the drops,you prolly need to adjust your bar. You might also want to consider adding some cross levers to the tops for more options. Finally,how well do the brakes work? I've had several disc bikes where I had to set up the brakes properly myself after buying them from the LBS. I'm going to assume you're running Avid BB7's? Here's another post of mine with some tips:
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...33#post5066033
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Old 08-15-07, 01:25 PM   #7
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If you went from mountain levers to STI then you will have this problem as brake systems on mountain bikes use a different amount of cable pull than those on road bikes. A typical road lever will pull about 15mm of cable, and a typical mountain lever about twice that (by my own measurements). To get your brakes back you there is a couple of options - get 'road' disc brakes - Shimano and Avid both have models, and there are probably others. The other option is to get something called a 'Travel Agent' which alters the amount of pull in the cable quite ingeniously. If you have a 'beautiful bike' you might not like that option though. (http://www.problemsolversbike.com/im...line_agent.pdf)
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Old 08-15-07, 01:37 PM   #8
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Thanks for all your collective input. It sounds like that while I should expect some compromised braking power from the hoods position, I should be able to do better. That's valuable in and of itself - so I will play around with it. Coming from a flat bar, too bad I have to mess with the tape since ideally I'd like to make an adjustment & ride with it a few days before I adjust it again.

To answer your question: Yes, they are Avid BB7's... thanks for the link to your previous comments. I think that I do need to do some adjusting here too. I'm used to very little brake pull to get my brakes on & here I seem to require way too much lever travel to get them full on. I did try to tighten them up a bit with the red knob, but was running into the disc touching, so I may need to chase that down first. FYI - the bike is a Kona Sutra.

Thanks again....
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Old 08-15-07, 01:38 PM   #9
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Looks like a cool (& wierd) device. I do have matched road levers & disc units, so that shouldn't be the problem - but thanks anyway.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:19 AM   #10
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Sutras look pretty sweet. Wish the local Kona shop would carry them so I could do a test ride.

I think once you get the brakes dialed in and bars adjusted you'll be happy. Might also want to look into putting cross levers on the tops. I couldn't stand riding my Redline without them. I'd come to a stop sign/light and sit up and try to grab for levers that weren't there. I wouldn't ride in heavy traffic without them.
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Old 08-20-07, 01:55 PM   #11
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I'm happy with the Sutra so far. It feels like a 'sporty' tour bike. I wan't trying to specifically buy a steel bike, but for whatever reason, this bike was much more comfortable than all the aluminum frame bikes I tried. Not to get into that arguement (steel vs aluminum) as it could be other reasons as well - it just felt good. Having steel is kind of nice in the croweded bike room as it will get all scratched up & abused for sure. Overall, it felt a lot quicker than a full on tour bike. Coming from a 26" wheel bike, I did have to get used to mild toe/front wheel overlap with the fender though - not sure if this is common as I didn't compare bikes on this basis (none of them had fenders, so I didn't think to check as it was not a problem).

I tried your advice & worked on the brakes over the weekend. I got them very nicely dialed in & they come on with very little lever movement. I had only been fiddling with the outboard red knob - didn't realize you could adjust the inboard one too to bring that pad closer. What was happening was the outboard pad (the one that moves), had to bend the disc over to close the gap against the inboard one - resulted in very 'mushy' brakes. The adjustment on the back wheel wasn't quite enough & the slots on the caliper aren't long enough to fully centre the caliper on the disc, so I may have to grind the slots a bit on the caliper to get it centred. Or just let the pad wear a bit.

Still working on the handle bars & the brake lever position. I've just been rotating the bars so far & now I'm pretty sure I actually need to adjust the brakes down along the bar a bit to get the levers within reach of the full drop position.

I have to say I'm pretty disappointed that the bike shop or OEM doesn't do a better job of setting up the bike. As it came, it is virtually impossible to brake from the 'down in the drops' position as I can barely reached the lever - and I don't have small hands. I guess it makes riding on the hoods more comfortable, which probably helps sell the bike.
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Old 08-20-07, 03:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nsfr View Post
I have to say I'm pretty disappointed that the bike shop or OEM doesn't do a better job of setting up the bike. As it came, it is virtually impossible to brake from the 'down in the drops' position as I can barely reached the lever - and I don't have small hands. I guess it makes riding on the hoods more comfortable, which probably helps sell the bike.
This is how most bikes are setup now. As more and more people are riding only in the hoods, "standard" lever position is creeping futher and further up the bar. I personally hate it. With most of the used road bikes I buy, the first thing I have to do is move the levers, which often requires re-wrapping the bars.

With disc brakes, the key is getting the pads as close as possible without them rubbing. Unfortunately, this will still require almost a full pull of the levers to REALLY get on the brakes. I think this is a flaw in brakes that are supposed to be road brakes, but that's just the way it is. If performance is really bad, try cleaning the rotors, then maybe replacing the pads.

As I said, my bike requires a lot of lever pull, but if I brake hard, I couldn't ask for more, as I'm basically modulating power to keep the rear wheel somewhat close to the ground. These are Avid road mechanicals btw.
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Old 08-20-07, 03:51 PM   #13
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I agree - while the brakes are pretty good now, I still find that the I have to pull them quite far to get full power. With my old vee-brake set-up, I had them nicely set to come on hard with very little lever movement. I knew there would be some trade-off & I specifically wanted the mech discs for traffic duty - I live in a wet climate & the road grim eats through rims pretty fast. I also ride a free-ride bike with hyd discs which are awesome & come on hard with just the slightest movement - so I am a bit spoiled. I think the roadie's have some work to do to catch-up. But, as I said, I did want mech discs for their simplicity for normal riding - so I have to accept the downside.
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