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Adding brake levers

Old 06-24-20, 07:27 PM
  #1  
wxep
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Adding brake levers

Hi all

I just picked up a nice 1983 Trek 501. It only has brake levers on the drop bars and I'd like to add a set of upper levers for casual riding. I'm looking for a bit of advice from you all.

I have an old Peugeot that's unrideable (bent fork), but it has a set of safety brakes. I asked the guy at my local bike shop if he'd take the levers from the Peugeot and put them on the Trek, but he advised against it, saying that you lose a good chunk of braking power at the hinge and will never really get great results. I used to ride that bike all the time and never had issues with these brakes. What do you all think?

The bike shop is also out of stock on new brake levers. He said I could order a set online and he would install them for me. If I opt not to swap the levers from the old Peugeot can someone recommend me a good set of levers that I can order online?

(I'd post pics of both sets of levers but the forum doesn't allow me since I don't have 10 posts yet)

Thanks!
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Old 06-24-20, 07:40 PM
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Those old "safety" brake levers are also referred to as "suicide" levers. The better alternative are called interrupter or cross levers. Do a search, they are all pretty much the same. A lever with a hinged clamp will allow you to open them up to mount them without having to remove the other levers already mounted to the bar. Here is one example: https://www.amazon.com/Cane-Creek-Cr.../dp/B07CRM4W9N of course you will need to ensure that the clamp diameter fits your bars.
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Old 06-24-20, 10:18 PM
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The type of brakes dsbrandtjr referenced are really good. Iíve mounted a set on my wifeís bike and she uses them more than the drop bar brakes.

When I first saw them years ago I was confused how as to how they worked, but installation is really easy. You donít need a separate brake cable or have to clamp the cable. They work by moving the cable housing. Basically they are movable cable stops. if the cable is a fixed length and you move the housing to make I longer the brake closes.

John
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Old 06-25-20, 05:39 AM
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One caveat - the described interrupter/cross levers work best with aero brake levers, where the cable is running along the handlebar under your bar tape. If you have the original 1983 brake levers on the Trek where the cable comes up out of the hoods, cabling the interrupter levers is a bit awkward. So if you go that route, you might want to consider upgrading to aero levers at the same time.
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Old 06-25-20, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by wxep View Post
I have an old Peugeot that's unrideable (bent fork), but it has a set of safety brakes. I asked the guy at my local bike shop if he'd take the levers from the Peugeot and put them on the Trek, but he advised against it, saying that you lose a good chunk of braking power at the hinge and will never really get great results. I used to ride that bike all the time and never had issues with these brakes. What do you all think?
I rode my old Sears 10-speed for fifteen years and many thousands of miles and used those "safety" brake levers about 99% of the time, and I had no issues either. I suppose by the conventional wisdom nowadays, I should have died many times over.
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Old 06-25-20, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
Those old "safety" brake levers are also referred to as "suicide" levers. The better alternative are called interrupter or cross levers. Do a search, they are all pretty much the same. A lever with a hinged clamp will allow you to open them up to mount them without having to remove the other levers already mounted to the bar. Here is one example: https://www.amazon.com/Cane-Creek-Cr.../dp/B07CRM4W9N of course you will need to ensure that the clamp diameter fits your bars.
+1
I installed those Cane Creek levers on my bike. They work very well.
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Old 06-25-20, 06:47 AM
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The 'turkey wing' levers were terrible. Anyone who says they are fine has no idea what 'good' brakes are.
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Old 06-25-20, 06:52 AM
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So I have two bikes that are simultaneously being upgraded for brakes. One is an old Cannondale Crit, a very nice bike but the braking was so-so, and the hoods are shot. No suicide levers on this one. The other is an old Bianchi that has even worse braking and also has suicide levers. With the suicide levers pressed as hard as I could I can still move the rear wheel. On the C'dale I'm putting new calipers, levers, cables, and now decided on cross levers as well, I'll go with Tektro since they make the Cane Creek levers too. It'll be a really nice setup on a bike that is worth it. On the Bianchi, I'm going to recommend that we try replacing the pads with Kool Stop salmon and call it a day. It just isn't worth spending the money on an old steel frame with CroMo on the main tubes only, and steel rims.

For a road bike the Tektro RL340 or 341 short reach are hard to beat price-wise. The cross levers I'm getting are the Tektro RL720. I went with Centaur dual pivot calipers because I'm a Campy guy and they are cheaper than 105. Don't forget new cables and housing, and I always like Jagwire, plus they come in colors.
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Old 06-25-20, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by BNSF View Post
I rode my old Sears 10-speed for fifteen years and many thousands of miles and used those "safety" brake levers about 99% of the time, and I had no issues either. I suppose by the conventional wisdom nowadays, I should have died many times over.
I don't know where you rode that old Sears bike with its "safety levers" (talk about a misnomer!!) but it couldn't have been in any really hilly area. I remember them from years ago too and thought bike all had really bad brakes until the first time I rode a bike with proper brake levers and decent calipers.
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Old 06-25-20, 11:33 AM
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Another vote aero, cable under the tape, brake levers and 'interrupter brake levers , I call them that because they interrupt the housing .
Spreading the housing , relatively shortens so tightens the cable...

Way back 1 guy figured out how to combine 2 cables into one and so had 2 pairs of brake levers.. a bit of a bodge those 4 cables

But he won that year's cyclo cross UCI pro series.. so the cleaner designs were motivated..






...
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Old 06-25-20, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by wxep View Post
Hi all

I just picked up a nice 1983 Trek 501. It only has brake levers on the drop bars and I'd like to add a set of upper levers for casual riding. I'm looking for a bit of advice from you all.

I have an old Peugeot that's unrideable (bent fork), but it has a set of safety brakes. I asked the guy at my local bike shop if he'd take the levers from the Peugeot and put them on the Trek, but he advised against it, saying that you lose a good chunk of braking power at the hinge and will never really get great results. I used to ride that bike all the time and never had issues with these brakes. What do you all think?

The bike shop is also out of stock on new brake levers. He said I could order a set online and he would install them for me. If I opt not to swap the levers from the old Peugeot can someone recommend me a good set of levers that I can order online?

(I'd post pics of both sets of levers but the forum doesn't allow me since I don't have 10 posts yet)

Thanks!
So if you just picked this up I would ride it for a while before you make changes. I'm not saying don't do it but maybe wait a while.
Most people can comfortably ride a drop bar bike from the hoods or the flats without need for interrupter levers. And obviously the drops as well
So it may be a matter of fit and the position of the levers now or simply getting used to it.
Do the brakes work good?
Are the levers easy to reach?
It's very rare that you would need to panic brake from the flats because you are generally riding slowly.
And maybe you would actually prefer flat bars.
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Old 06-25-20, 12:03 PM
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Thanks for all the responses.

I just learned what brake hoods are. It wasn't intuitive that I could ride on those and pull the levers from there. I'll try that for a few days and see if it works. Otherwise I will order the ones that were recommended above.

Shows what a bike newb I am
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Old 06-25-20, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
I don't know where you rode that old Sears bike with its "safety levers" (talk about a misnomer!!) but it couldn't have been in any really hilly area. I remember them from years ago too and thought bike all had really bad brakes until the first time I rode a bike with proper brake levers and decent calipers.
Like I said, I probably should have died at some point. The OP, too. We are statistical anomalies.
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Old 06-25-20, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by BNSF View Post
I rode my old Sears 10-speed for fifteen years and many thousands of miles and used those "safety" brake levers about 99% of the time, and I had no issues either. I suppose by the conventional wisdom nowadays, I should have died many times over.
Sears Free Spirit 10 speed road bike. I remember my wife and I, and another couple, rode close the to start/finish of the 1984 Olympic Road Race on Sears Free Spirit bikes. We camped out over night and 2 of us went to Winchell's before the race for some donuts and juice. Looking back I feel so embarrassed for riding along the course over the chalk writings in front of the crowd on my Free Spirit and a box of donuts on the bike rack. Then again, somewhere John Belushi may have been smiling.

John
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Old 06-25-20, 03:51 PM
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The so called 'safety levers' (aka suicide levers) that are mounted between the main brake lever and the brake lever body take up a lot of the main brake lever travel. Usually the result is a spongy feel when using the safety lever and greatly reduced braking when using the main brake lever. There were some safety levers that had an end that fitted directly into the main brake lever side. Those felt firmer but were still nowhere near as good as a dedicated cyclo-cross/interrupter lever paired with an aero brake lever.

One of the biggest problems with the saftey lever was that it was quite weak in braking ability compared to a dedicated drop-bar brake lever and people would get used to modulating their speed with the safety lever but couldn't switch to the main brake lever in a panic stop situation where maximum braking was needed.

I use interrupter levers and aero brake levers and have positive braking with either type of brake lever.

One neat thing about the safety lever is that when removed from the brake body, you can file flats on the protruding stud the safety lever was mounted on, and then mount your stem mount or downtube shfiter there.




Cheers
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Old 06-25-20, 09:58 PM
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Kind of like a reverse direction Kelly Take-off.

John
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Old 06-26-20, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Kind of like a reverse direction Kelly Take-off.
Wow, a reminder from the past! In 2006 I installed Kelly Take-offs using 7-speed downtube levers on a used 1983 Trek 400 for which I couldn't justify the cost of brifters. They were heavy but functional and a lot easier to use than either barcon or downtube levers. They lasted until I converted the Trek to a fixie for my son-in-law. I had nearly forgotten about them until you mentioned them.
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Old 06-26-20, 09:01 AM
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I recently went through a lot of my parts to organize them and found a set I had. I thought they placed the levers too far away from the hoods, so I never really used them. I might get them modified to bring them closer to the bars.

John
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