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  1. #1
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    top cross brake levers?

    Hi,

    Is there any downside (other than weight and a little cash) to adding top cross brake levers to my drop bars? I don't necessarily want to encourage myself to daydream while on the bike, but I do find myself thinking a lot about things other than the road ahead on the top bar as well as on the hoods, and it occurred to me that for a quick stop I could use not only the extra time but also the extra stability of not taking my hands of the bars at what would by definition be a crucial moment.

    I'm only hesitating because it seems like such a no-brainer that I figure I must be missing something, or everyone would have them.

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I find they interfere with some handlebar bags. AFAIK that's about it.

    For me, I find the hoods far more comfortable than the tops these days, and have never had a problem with braking, so I don't have much use for them. But if you like the tops, by all means....

  3. #3
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    These used to be called "suicide levers" when they were standard equipment on department-store ten-speeds. I think the prevailing opinion is that they're less safe because they create a need to decide initially what to reach for during a panic stop -- arguably more dangerous than instinctively going to where your muscle memory knows is the one right place to apply the brakes. As in, you don't have a convenient left-foot brake pedal in your car, either, do you?

    They are also indicted for encouraging novice riders to stay on the top of the handlebar with hands close to the stem, which is slightly unsafe and rather inefficient.
    Last edited by Takara; 05-15-08 at 06:07 PM.

  4. #4
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takara View Post
    These used to be called "suicide levers" when they were standard equipment on department-store ten-speeds....
    Cross levers are not "suicide levers."

    These are cross / secondary / interruptor levers. They connect to the same brake cable as the drop-bar brakes. Jamis adds them to their touring bikes; they're perfectly safe (when installed properly, of course).




    "Suicide levers" are totally different. The extra attachment let you brake from the tops, but with insufficient leverage to stop properly, hence the nickname.


  5. #5
    Senior Member flyingcadet's Avatar
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    Considering that cross levers come from cyclocross racing, then I would assume that they are safe. The only serious problem with cross levers is where does the light and/or cyclocomputer go. I'd have a set on my drops, but I have aerobars there already.

    I've seen them on other bikes, and the owners swear by them. The neat thing about them is their location. If you are on the tops, then you don't have to move your hands during an emergancy brake. Otherwise, such as on the hoods or in the drops, your hands are already in the perfect spot to grab the brakes.

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    Have a safe ride and a happy life.

  6. #6
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    My 1970 Varsity had suicide levers. I liked them, and they're why I put cross levers
    on my current ride. The only bad thing I'll say is that they take up bar space. I can squeeze in a 'puter and a light, but it's very tight.
    Your friendly, local, minor god of information.

  7. #7
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    I LOVE the interrupter brakes on my Jamis Aurora, and they were but one of the many reasons why I bought the bike. They are every bit as safe as the brakes on my STI levers, but as others have pointed out, they do rob the top bar of some space. The old "suicide" levers were those horizontal jobbie levers that attached to the brake hoods. Their bolt-on hardware proved to be somewhat unreliable and tended to come loose over time. They are not the same as interrupter levers which cut into the main brake line. Like I said, I love mine, and if you spread them apart (as opposed to right up against either side of the stem), they're quite comfortable for long periods of time. Then again, I swapped my bars for 44's instead of the 42's that came with the bike.

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    The old 1970s suicide levers had the additional disadvantage of sometimes coming unhooked from the brake lever housing and sending you off into the drink with no brakes at all. These new ones marketed as "interrupters" or "cross levers" are a 100% improvement from the old ones in that regard.

    But I still consider them dangerous. There should be exactly one routine to "override self-destruct" in a panic stop or any other system-critical quick decision scenario. There aren't extra brake levers near your left foot or adjacent to the radio dial in your car, even though you might be closer to them at the critical moment when you need to start stopping. Getting your right foot over to the brake lever may take an extra tenth of a second. Deciding which of several panic stop scenarios is most efficient has the potential to take much longer -- or not to happen at all when you go into a brain freeze.

    If you see the axe you're swinging heading for your foot, it's not good to know about an "abort axe swing" button between your knees, even if you're pressing your knees together. You want to obey an instant instinct to haul back on the axe handle with your arms. See?
    Last edited by Takara; 05-15-08 at 11:21 PM.

  9. #9
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    I love em. They don't interfere with the handlebar bag (Topeak) when mounted properly (down, not horizontal). They let you ride down steep slippery surfaces with your weight back. They're easier to apply when stopped with one leg off the bike. They're better when you have your hands on the tops, and you're in a dicey situation where you don't want to shift your hands to the main brakes. And a couple of times I've had to use them in a hurry, when I was cruising on the tops, not expecting to stop suddenly. Takara's reasoning sounds plausible, but isn't accurate.

    Advantages? Plenty. Disadvantages? They take up handlebar real estate. Not a problem for me yet, but I have zero room for a computer, bar-mounted light or whatnot.

    Steve

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I put suicide levers on my Raleigh Gran Prix in the 70s. They were handy when riding slowlyg through a crowded college campus, or riding slowly downtown, but I wouldn't rely on them to stop me when I was going very fast.

    I put cross levers on my new LHT. They're really handy and I love them, although I'm still leery of using them when I'm going really fast, or down a hill. When I put my Ortlieb handlebar bag on it kind of crowded my knuckles when using the cross levers, so I rigged a double stem setup and mount my handlebar bag on the lower stem. Now there's plenty of room for my hands on the cross levers. (But now the handlebar bag is crowding the platform on my Jandd Expedition front rack a little. A bit of tweaking should give me a suitable compromise.)

    I rode my old touring bike a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't have the cross levers. I found myself reaching for them all the time.

    To make a long story short, I like them a lot. The extra weight is something to consider, as is the extra weight of the second stem, but so far I'm happy with my setup.

  11. #11
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    Why are you leery of using the cross levers for serious stopping? Do they bottom out or something?

    Steve

  12. #12
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    They don't bottom out any more than regular brakes do...because they ARE regular brakes. You can adjust them to be as tight or loose as you want. They are also every bit as reliable as regular brakes...because they ARE regular brakes. This is all starting to get silly. There are no downsides other than extra weight or lack of bar space for accessories. And yes, they should be sloped downwards for ergonomics sake.

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    I don't think I've seen anyone mention the added benefit of the easily accessible adjuster barrel.

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    Yeah, dat too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I rode my old touring bike a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't have the cross levers. I found myself reaching for them all the time.
    Um, I guess that's my point. You should always know without thinking where your brakes are (you know, like you should always know without thinking what your favorite color is). Don't you see this as at least slightly problematic to your safety?
    Last edited by Takara; 05-16-08 at 04:48 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member eibeinaka's Avatar
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    I've had inline levers on both road bikes I've used. On my LHT it took some thought and effort into organising it so a light and cyclometer can be used on the bar, but I consider that well worth it. I'll have to put a bit of effort into the arrangement to get a handlebar bag as well, but I'm not taking the inline levers off.

  17. #17
    Senior Member duppie's Avatar
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    I like 'em, but depending on the handlebar you may loose out on a handlebar bag. I have a Nitto Randonneur 42 cm with Tektro cross brakes on my LHT and there is not enough space to include an Ortlieb handlebar bag mount. That and the inward sweep of the Randonneur made me decide to change to a Nitto Noodle 44cm.
    Duppie

  18. #18
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    could use
    When you use the words "could use" it means you don't need it. The extra weight, cost, and complexity are unnecessary.

  19. #19
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takara View Post
    \
    But I still consider them dangerous. \
    They add a little safety. When it traffic I ride the tops, and pay attention. Easier to do if you're sitting up...

    In any case, sometimes you ride the tops and sometimes you want to stop. When the two things coincide it's handy to have brake levers there.

    But I commute and occasionally tour. So I spend a fair amount of time in traffic.
    If I was a roadie, it would be a different story.
    Your friendly, local, minor god of information.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Skyler_WA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takara View Post
    You should always know without thinking where your brakes are
    Yes, that's exactly what my inline brake levers do for me. If my hands are on top of the bars, on the hoods, or in the drops, I don't have to think about moving my hands to brake quickly because my brake levers are already at my fingertips in all three places.

    I spend the majority of my riding time with my hands on top of the hoods, but I move my hands to the top of the bars for three situations: when I am coming to a stop, when I'm in maneuvering in traffic, and when I'm doing slow-speed sharp turns around obstacles. In all three situations it's safer to have my brakes instantly available at my fingertips.

  21. #21
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    I just installed them on my Randonee. 15 bucks from Performance, an hour enjoyed in my basement, work like a charm. Ill work around finding handlebar room for other gadgets (a little concerned about what handlebar bag to use).

    Big thing I noticed in usefulness is when you are getting on/off the bike, its easy to hold the lever down instead of reaching out on my regular brakes... sounds silly, but it feels more natural.

  22. #22
    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    Do any of the Cross levers allow for smaller hands by having an adjustment to bring the levers closer to the bar similar to Sora for example?

  23. #23
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    Thanks for your thoughts on this. For what it's worth, I ended up installing Salsa top cross levers (from Velo Orange) on my Grand Jubile. Much pricier than the other obvious candidates, but aesthetic count and I wanted them silver to match my bars. And they are extremely nice; installation wasn't complicated; just make sure you have extra cable housing to play with, and I put in new cables too.

    Having ridden with them now for about a week I would say they are a significant addition; they're perfect for the kind of upright cruising gently through suburban streets (and stop signs) that I do around here on a daily basis. I don't see that there's any problem with confusing muscle memory: when I ride on the tops my index fingers rest naturally on the levers, and so there there for a gentle slowing if I need them. And I tried some pretend emergency stops and they work at least as well as when riding on the hoods.

    So, every day, in every day, biking just keeps getting better and better....

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    Takara, your posts about the "dangers" of cross-top levers, don't make any sense. Far from causing any delays, they are actually faster for those who like the bar-top hand position, because they don't require moving one's hands to the brakes in the event of an emergency. In my experience, many riders have a "default" favorite hand position, which may or may not be close to the brake levers. If a cyclist's favorite default hand position is the bar top, and a bike has no cross top levers, there will always be a delay in moving the hands from the bar tops to the hoods or drops where the brake levers are, and that delay can make the difference between crashing or not crashing. If the bike has bar-tops, the cyclist isn't going to need to "think" about where her brake levers are, (s)he will instinctively reach for the lever most convenient to his/her default hand position, as opposed to discovering there are no levers there, and then reaching for the hoods or drops.

    Modern bar top levers (or interrupter) levers are perfectly safe, and even safer if your normal preference is to ride with your hands on the tops. Even if you like the hoods or the drops, but move your hands around to prevent numbness, and you occasionally find your hands on the tops, cross levers will be there to stop you quickly in an emergency without having to take time to reach for brake levers elsewhere.

  25. #25
    Senior Member badger_biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by onbike 1939 View Post
    Do any of the Cross levers allow for smaller hands by having an adjustment to bring the levers closer to the bar similar to Sora for example?
    I have Specialized levers and yes they do have a set screw that adjusts how much they open up for hand size. I wouldn't be without them on a touring bike any more. I like being on the bar top in traffic and hazardous situations and they really come in handy.
    1975 Motobecane Le Champion
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