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Brake lever placement on drop bars - advice needed

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Brake lever placement on drop bars - advice needed

Old 04-10-22, 11:54 AM
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schwim
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Brake lever placement on drop bars - advice needed

Hello there, folks!
I replaced the bars and levers on my Schwinn Katana and I want to make sure I've got them placed correctly before applying the tape. With mountain bikes, I just take pull the wrench out and move them while riding but this seems a bit less handy so I want to make sure I get it right the first time.

This is my current bar/lever placement(picture taken at 0



I rode it a bit sans tape and it feels like I could pull the levers even higher but when I Google placement, everyone states the bottom of the lever in plane with the flat of the bottom portion of the bar and when I watch vids and look at pictures, it looks to me like they're placing the levers right about where mine are at the moment.

I should also say that I'm brand new to road bikes so I have no personal experience to fall back on; I don't know what feels "right" because I've not got any real rides under my belt yet.

Insight and thoughts would be welcome. Thanks for your time!

EDIT - It seems I'm not trusted enough to post links, images or upload a file so I'm going to post the broken URL below since this topic is completely useless without visual reference. Sorry about the hassle.

i.imgur . com/tjcfmzs.png
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Old 04-10-22, 12:00 PM
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https://i.imgur.com/tjcfmzs.png

Looks a little far forward but don't take my word for it as I've not ridden drop bar bikes for a long, long time.

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Old 04-10-22, 12:07 PM
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It's personal preference. Put 'em where you want 'em.
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Old 04-10-22, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by JanMM
Looks a little far forward but don't take my word for it as I've not ridden drop bar bikes for a long, long time.
Thanks for the help. Do you mean too far down the drop bar or do you mean the entire bar is too far forward due to the length of the stem?

Originally Posted by SurferRosa
It's personal preference. Put 'em where you want 'em.
As stated in OP, I don't have any experience on a road bike and was asking for those that do what the starter placement was for the levers. I understand that preference will come into play but if I don't understand what the ergonomics of the lever is designed for (hands spend most time on the horns, where's people's hands usually are on the bar when braking), I will spend a lot more time trying to figure it out.
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Old 04-10-22, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by schwim
...I don't have any experience on a road bike...
I'd wrap the bars temporarily, sparsely around the lever/handlebar connection that allows a little adjustment of the lever position. Ride it for a couple of weeks, adjusting and getting it just right, then do the final wrap.

The old rule "bottom of the lever in plane with the flat of the bottom portion of the bar" is just a very loose guide - don't be constrained by that.
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Old 04-10-22, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by schwim
As stated in OP, I don't have any experience on a road bike and was asking for those that do what the starter placement was for the levers. I understand that preference will come into play but if I don't understand what the ergonomics of the lever is designed for (hands spend most time on the horns, where's people's hands usually are on the bar when braking), I will spend a lot more time trying to figure it out.
Yeah, it unfortunately is a matter of personal preference so just set it up with what feels comfortable on a short spin and with enough miles you'll find the best setup for you. Don't bother using any "rules" for brake position other than as a starting reference. My setup would be a disaster for many others but works for me.
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Old 04-10-22, 01:09 PM
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Personally Id want the levers a bit higher. Id try scooting them up. Of course its a matter of preference.
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Old 04-10-22, 01:54 PM
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They look too far forward. Personally I prefer the hoods to be level with the bar tops. I'd also rotate your bars further forward.
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Old 04-10-22, 02:58 PM
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Go to a shop and just look at how new bikes are generally set up. Don't ask too many questions while there though. Just look. I agree that they look too far forward myself. I like the hoods to be level with the plane formed by the curve of the bar and these are a little below that.
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Old 04-10-22, 03:00 PM
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Thanks very much for the help, everyone! I made some adjustments based on your help and will go ride it for a couple hours with my trusty allen wrench and will see how everyone feels before I wrap it up. I figure I can get by with some gloves for a short duration. I used a bit of tap to get the cables where they need to be so I think that'll get me by for just one ride.
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Old 04-10-22, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by KJ43
They look too far forward. Personally I prefer the hoods to be level with the bar tops. I'd also rotate your bars further forward.
Originally Posted by zacster
Go to a shop and just look at how new bikes are generally set up. Don't ask too many questions while there though. Just look. I agree that they look too far forward myself. I like the hoods to be level with the plane formed by the curve of the bar and these are a little below that.
Thanks guys. I'm pretty sure I understand what you mean both with the hoods and rotating the bars forward a bit. Based on the picture I posted, it looks to me like the bars should be rotated forward until the top is level all the way to the start of the downward curve and my bars rise at the point prior to the horns of the levers. I'll level that out and see how it goes.
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Old 04-10-22, 05:06 PM
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Ya, I'd slide them a bit higher up too but as stated by others, it's personal preference. FWIW, I'd also rotate the bar "back/up" a little bit. Another "old school" guideline is to have the flat part of the "drops" follow an extended imaginary line that intersects the rear axle. Again, just a guideline (and an old one at that) and also again, personal preference. I generally use both "guidelines" for initial setup and fine tune from there.
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Old 04-10-22, 06:51 PM
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For me it is also about finding a good position based on riding in the drops.

John
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Old 04-10-22, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO
For me it is also about finding a good position based on riding in the drops.
On an average ride of yours, what percentage of time would you say you spend in the drops? In the very short ride I had, it seems like it's something you'd use a lot when settling in for a long stretch or do you need to alternate some just to fight positional fatigue?

I'm just curious if it's like a cruiser position or something you use primarily when putting in more effort.
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Old 04-10-22, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by sovende
Another "old school" guideline is to have the flat part of the "drops" follow an extended imaginary line that intersects the rear axle. Again, just a guideline (and an old one at that) and also again, personal preference. I generally use both "guidelines" for initial setup and fine tune from there.
That's the exact type of thing I was lacking, I was just hoping for guidelines to get started in finding what works. Thanks very much for the help!

Last edited by schwim; 04-10-22 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 04-10-22, 08:12 PM
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Back in the day, the starting point was the bar ends pointed just above the rear axle and the flat point on the brake lever hoods would be perpendicular to the crook of the thumb and first finger as they applied pressure to the hoods while sitting on the saddle. The theory was that is enabled a more relaxed grip on the brake levers. The setup can be different on the same bike if you start moving your saddle forward or backward too.

In your photo they look too far forward to me. When you hit bumps in the road, you don't want your hands slipping off the front of the hoods. But, too far back and it wears out your hands. A lot of it is personal feel. I like to feel like I can totally relax my hand grip and not slip off the levers while riding.
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Old 04-10-22, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by schwim
On an average ride of yours, what percentage of time would you say you spend in the drops? In the very short ride I had, it seems like it's something you'd use a lot when settling in for a long stretch or do you need to alternate some just to fight positional fatigue?

I'm just curious if it's like a cruiser position or something you use primarily when putting in more effort.
For me riding the drops are generally when heading into the wind or if I want to pick up some speed with no more effort. It is also nice cornering on a downhill.

At my age, Im pretty happy riding 30 minutes in the drops, before going to the hoods for a while.

John
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Old 04-11-22, 06:14 PM
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Hi there everyone!

I got to ride today and I got to look at a lot of other bikes on the trail and understand the suggested placement. By mile 30, I fully understood why. With as low and far away as the horns are on mine, there's just a ton of stress on the wrists. I ended up doing almost the entire ride on the high flats. Everything else became uncomfortable quickly.

I'm going to move them tomorrow and fix a front derailleur problem then go for another ride. I think the simple handlebar changes and raising the seat a bit is going to be all I need to maximize comfort. I think the frame is a bit small for me but I can make it work.

I'll update the thread after the next ride but just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the help you have provided. It's invaluable for someone like me, muddling through being new to road riding.
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Old 04-11-22, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by schwim
Hi there everyone!

I got to ride today and I got to look at a lot of other bikes on the trail and understand the suggested placement. By mile 30, I fully understood why. With as low and far away as the horns are on mine, there's just a ton of stress on the wrists. I ended up doing almost the entire ride on the high flats. Everything else became uncomfortable quickly.

I'm going to move them tomorrow and fix a front derailleur problem then go for another ride. I think the simple handlebar changes and raising the seat a bit is going to be all I need to maximize comfort. I think the frame is a bit small for me but I can make it work.

I'll update the thread after the next ride but just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the help you have provided. It's invaluable for someone like me, muddling through being new to road riding.
Don't rule out maybe raising the stem a bit or possibly the frame really is too small and can't be overcome. Just sayin', not trying to complicate things more for you. Just keep doing what you're doing trying different setups and with more miles you'll either find the right setup or figure out you need another bike but hopefully not. Nothing worse than an ill fitting bike.
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Old 04-11-22, 07:11 PM
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You're taking the right approach by trying things out and observing. You'll get it tuned in.

A word of caution about where the bar ends point. Bars have different angles now and that old rule of thumb does not apply, if it ever really did.
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Old 04-12-22, 12:24 AM
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I generally follow these two guides:

How to set up road bike drop handlebars — tips and guidelines - CyclingTips

Road bike handlebar buyer's guide: width, shape, material, setup - BikeRadar (set up section)

For reference, I use the terminology here (Drop bar hand positions | BikeGremlin) to describe the different sections of a drop handlebar.

On my (one and only) road bike, when the fork and stem are pointed straight ahead, I have the end of the drop just about parallel with the (sloping) top tube (of the bike), in order to (a) provide good support when I am using the drops, and (b) avoid my bar ends hitting the sides of the top tube if the handlebar is turned all the way. I have tried the rule of thumb of pointing the bar ends at the axis of the rear wheel, but that (a) makes me feel like my hands may slide off the end of the drops, and (b) increases the effective reach of the handlebar and puts the hoods too far forward. Then I set the hoods far back enough on the curves to ensure a smooth transition (i.e., slightly increasing slope) from the ramps of the handlebar onto the rear ends of the hoods while keeping the brake levers within reach when in the drops.
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Old 04-12-22, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by schwim
Hi there everyone!

I got to ride today and I got to look at a lot of other bikes on the trail and understand the suggested placement. By mile 30, I fully understood why. With as low and far away as the horns are on mine, there's just a ton of stress on the wrists. I ended up doing almost the entire ride on the high flats. Everything else became uncomfortable quickly.

I'm going to move them tomorrow and fix a front derailleur problem then go for another ride. I think the simple handlebar changes and raising the seat a bit is going to be all I need to maximize comfort. I think the frame is a bit small for me but I can make it work.

I'll update the thread after the next ride but just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the help you have provided. It's invaluable for someone like me, muddling through being new to road riding.
The general guidance for brake lever placement on drop bars is that the tip of the lever should just touch a straight edge that is on the underside of the lowest section of the bars. Think of a line projected forward from the underside of the "drops" part of the bar and the tip of the brake lever just touching that line.
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Old 04-13-22, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by KerryIrons
The general guidance for brake lever placement on drop bars is that the tip of the lever should just touch a straight edge that is on the underside of the lowest section of the bars. Think of a line projected forward from the underside of the "drops" part of the bar and the tip of the brake lever just touching that line.
This is a known guidance for most of the seasoned dropbar users, but why (without customer input) would the LBS not have it like so before handing off the assembled bicycle?
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Old 04-13-22, 02:58 PM
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I can only speak to what works for me, but from the pic it looks like the levers themselves (relative to the ground) are about right. However, the bar looks like it is tilted back farther than I like. I like the ramps level with the ground.

So if it were me I would tilt the bars down a tad, which will means sliding the lever up a tad to compensate.

But really this is all personal preference. You will see a lot of different setups out there.
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Old 04-15-22, 02:24 PM
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Hello there friends!

I got another ride in and kept moving the brakes up the bars until I found a happy spot and I can say that with them in their current location, it really changes the ride. The shifters are perfectly situation for thumb action, braking is easy and it helps some with the wrist/shoulder pains further in the ride.

I'm sure I'm on too small of a bike now, it's almost assuredly a medium frame and I'm historically a large frame rider. I will, however ride it until it dies and just try to make some adjustments to lessen the impact.

Thank you all for all the help, it was a game-changer!
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