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Torpado bike can't reach brakes

Old 08-21-17, 11:17 AM
  #1  
vivivi
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Torpado bike can't reach brakes

Hi there,
I got nice vintage Torpado as a birthday present, when I went for my first ride I realised that brakes are not just very tight but I find it very difficult to reach them.
I am pretty small girl so was wondering is there any other dropdown levers I could get, but still keep the vintage look? Ive been looking at maybe getting cyclocross levers, but seems like people have split opinions about them, also probably wont help me if I don't feel comfortable to reach the main brakes, specially cycling in London.

Would appreciate any help, thanks heaps
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Old 08-21-17, 11:26 AM
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Hello vivivi and welcome to the forum

If might help readers to give you more meaningful advice if you could post an image or two of the present arrangement.

Hope you enjoy your Torpado.

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Old 08-21-17, 11:28 AM
  #3  
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Are you sure the bike fits you?

I can understand if the brake levers are too big for your hands, but if you can't reach the brake levers, I think the frame might be too big.
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Old 08-21-17, 12:23 PM
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We will need pictures.

Imagining what could be your problem though - many of the older bikes (circa pre 1970) often do have long reach brake handles. Here is my Mafac equipped Champion Strada (actually being a Legnano Roma Olimpiade from early to mid 60ies). If having small hands there will be a problem reaching the brakehandles when in the drops... I imagine...


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Old 08-21-17, 12:35 PM
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Hmmm... read OP again. Me not being native English speaking is a challenge here sometimes. Are you not reaching the top of the brake handles? Then you either need to exercise stretching a bit more or get a shorter stem.
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Old 08-21-17, 12:41 PM
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I have helped a few people with small hands to reach brakes. The best solution that I have, assuming it is a hand size issue, is to go with Aero levers. For some reason they are much easier to use and reach...

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Old 08-21-17, 01:35 PM
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Here is my unridable beauty. The frame is 49cm, my fixie which I have been rinding for years was 52 and was fine but didint have dropdown levers.

I think the issue is that the brakes are pretty tight, but not sure does changing to another vintage would help. Been looking at safety levers, but everyone seems to have very different oppinition about them.
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Old 08-21-17, 01:55 PM
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Yes shorter stem, but maybe also more modern short/shallow handlebars.
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Old 08-21-17, 03:00 PM
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"junior" brake levers as were made for 24" wheeled road bikes would work. Designed for smaller hands.
I would find a shop with a long history in business and see what they might have or order for you.
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Old 08-21-17, 03:07 PM
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CLB made "youth" sized levers that should work for your small hands. EBAY usually have a few for sale regularly for reasonable prices.....
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Old 08-21-17, 03:29 PM
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Vivivi, without knowing your body proportions, we can just guess about the overall fit -- i.e. are you comfortable reaching the tops of the brake levers (hoods)? or does that feel like a stretch? If it's just a matter of your fingertips having trouble reaching the brake levers while you are gripping the bars, you can 1) insert some rubber shims between the brake lever and the brake body to limit how far the lever can return, or 2) swap them out for shorter reach levers. Back in the day, several manufacturers offered "junior" or shorter reach brake levers for young adults, or women with smaller hands. They're few and far between on Ebay, but you may have luck calling around any well established bike shops or co-ops in your area.

If you don't mind the slightly more modern "Aero" style with hidden brake housings, these Tektro junior levers would probably offer improved braking performance, and certainly more comfort: Wiggle | Tektro RL320 Junior Road Racing Brake Levers | Brake Levers

I haven't found any easy sources for the shims, but basically, you just need something 2-6mm thick, that will stop the lever from coming back up all the way, ideally with a small hole in it, to thread the brake cable through. Having the cable pass through it will keep it from falling out when the lever is pulled. They wind up being rectangular(ish), and maybe 10mm x 15-20mm, with the hole about 1/4 of the way across the long end.
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Old 08-21-17, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
CLB made "youth" sized levers that should work for your small hands. EBAY usually have a few for sale regularly for reasonable prices.....
Good call on the CLB levers. Here is a resonably priced set in France: "NOS" VINTAGE CLB RACE CHILD LEVERS. LEVIERS DE FREINS | eBay
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Old 08-21-17, 04:23 PM
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Just change the drop handlebar to a North Road style one.
If you can't reach even the brake levers, you will never ride on the drops.
And a North Road handlebar is safer in city traffic.

By the way, your stem is unusually long for a small bike, probably 10 cm (a typical 49 cm bike has a 6 cm stem). Also your current handlebar is too long. Check this handlebar for a comparison: https://i.ebayimg.com/thumbs/images/g...yus/s-l225.jpg


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Old 08-21-17, 04:42 PM
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In the second photo it appears that the brake lever bodies (Universal?) are fairly long. Changing to a Weinmann/DiaCompe pattern lever might gain you a few mm's of reach. We do not know how much reach shortening you need for a good fit. Weinmann makes a special drop bar lever designed for small hands. It employs the same body as the regular model(s) IIRC.

See model 157 and 158 below -



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Old 08-21-17, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Yes shorter stem, but maybe also more modern short/shallow handlebars.
I agree with both of these suggestions with the caveat that we really don't have any idea what your actual reach is. I might also suggest moving the levers up and around the bars toward the top a bit more. No, it's not the greatest aesthetic, but it sounds a lot like you're needing better grip and I'm going out on a limb by saying that I bet you're riding the top of the bar more than the drops. If so, then easier access to the levers will help out. OK, that said, if you're not finding the brake "grip" adequate for clamping down on the rims you probably need to also replace the cable and housing with modern (slicker) stuff. Trust me on this: you'll thank me later for that small upgrade.
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Old 08-21-17, 05:14 PM
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You could always go with a pair of in-levers. Cheap and work great.

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Old 08-21-17, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by thinktubes View Post
You could always go with a pair of in-levers. Cheap and work great.
If she can't use the main brake levers, what's the point? She can just get a flat bar.
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Old 08-21-17, 06:41 PM
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You might check out this article by a female cyclist with small hands who found that Tektro short reach brake levers made riding a drop bar possible for her. Vintage look isn't as important as being able to safely stop IMHO
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Old 08-21-17, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Barabaika View Post
If she can't use the main brake levers, what's the point? She can just get a flat bar.
Was of time and money.

Sell the bike and get a hybrid.
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Old 08-21-17, 07:56 PM
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The o.p. mentions the brakes being very tight.
Now does this mean she can reach them but can't pull them which may mean it's a servicing issue.
But she is probably better of getting some newer levers and calipers with new brake cables.
An easy fix really.

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Old 08-21-17, 07:57 PM
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Two things: 1) the levers are too far down on the bend. Most folks line them up so that the tips are level with bottom edge of the drops. You can try that right away. Bring them up and back a little more AFTER you try the tips level. This will make it easier to ride on the hoods and reach the brakes from the hoods. 2) the reach on your bars is pretty long. They make bars with a shorter reach -- check the stem's clamp size and get some bars with a shorter reach. Very nice present you got there.
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Old 08-21-17, 08:16 PM
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My question is, how are you riding?

Seems a previous rider placed the levers for riding the hoods and you may be trying to ride in the drops.

If this is greek to you, please read this thread and try riding the bike with the original bar position using #1 in this write-up: Lovely Bicycle!: Drop Bar Hand Positions: an Introduction

See if it makes your bike more rideable for you, and if you can't gain some added leverage on the levers you didn't have before.

There's nothing wrong (IMO) with having tight brakes - beats the crap out of the opposite. I don't think "loosening" your brakes is the solution, I think adjusting your riding style and/or lever position (which requires a bar re-wrap) is the proper fix.
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Old 08-22-17, 12:17 AM
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Hi and welcome @vivivi ! I'm sure all these suggestions are a bit to take in at first blush. They are good suggestions. Lovely Bicycle is a great resource and an enjoyable read, as well (for me, certainly).

Brake lever design and effort has evolved so much over the years, and for the better, thankfully. Still, for those with smaller hands and not as much grip/clamp power (which is many people), the old stuff is difficult or at least inconvenient to operate, if not unsafe in quick-paced city environments (I ride in the city, too). The dilemma between 100% original and vintage and lovely and "I need this to work well, easily, and safely for me" is legitimate.

Old brake calipers often had very strong springs, strong enough that I don't like operating them, and I'm tall and "strong enough" to supposed to be fine operating them.

Dia Compe made 'compact' brake levers in the 'aero' form (no exposed brake cables going up out of the levers) back in the '80s, and they feel quite nice. I think the overall key is to get brake calipers that have softer springs--you'll notice the difference squeezing one or the other in your hand. 'Aero' levers brought with them much improved ergonomics (lever shape/profile, hood shape, and hood-to-handlebars transition in the comfort sense).

If the brake cables and cable housings have not been replaced in a long time, that will also make a huge difference in lessening the squeezing effort.

We're happy that you are here and asking questions, as we love to help out anyone with interest and a C&V bike. And in the end, we want you to enjoy it and that means you feeling confident in the bike, that it is safe enough to use and encourages you to take it out. And if you need to change a few things to do so, that's ok. You'll still get the heart of that bike's experience, just with it tuned for your physical needs etc. There are many of us, myself included, that have the classic frame, but with fully modern components, and everything in between. We understand the purist mentality, and we also understand the hot rod mentality.

Let us know what you're thinking, even in bits! We'd love to see that out on the road!
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Old 08-22-17, 03:20 AM
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The stem length (100mm+), bar shape (long reach Maes) and brake lever positions (for riding in the drops) are the biggest issues. They make for a stretched-out position on the bike, which yields easier power transfer in races - mainly for male riders with longer torsos.

The brake levers are for bigger hands. The brakes are single pivot types and have heavy springs, so lever force is going to be high. Non-aero levers can be awkward to use when riding on the hoods, due to the emerging brake cable limiting the available hand positions.

Vintage race bikes look cool but are often really awful to ride. If you're set on keeping the bike, the solution is swapping out the parts (bars, stem, levers, brakes, shifters, seat, crankset, freewheel, etc.) until you get something you are comfortable with, long term. This can have the unfortunate effect of marring the aesthetics, though.
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Old 08-22-17, 07:44 AM
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Lots of advice, some pertinent, some not. @Classtime and @styggno1 brought up some good points. I'll try to re-inforce them with some suggestions.

From the pics it looks like you have a very long reach stem for the size of the bike. Shorter ones are available. Swapping stems isn't hard but does require getting the right clamp size, and removing and re-installing one of the brake levers and that side's tape. And as pointed out, those levers are pretty far down on the bar.

There are different styles for how to position the handlebar in the clamp. Some like the drops horizontal, some like the ramps horizontal. I prefer the latter. That moves the brakes closer and makes riding the hoods easier. Horizontal drops is good if you ride in a tucked aero position, which is not so necessary unless you are competing. So the easiest thing you can do it rotate your handlebar up a bit.

Another question I didn't see discussed is how you reach the brakes. Some people operate them from below, squeezing the levers from the forward part of the D. That really does place them far away and hard to reach. Instead, you can brake from the hoods with your fingers by rotating your wrists downward instead of squeezing.

Before you go about swapping handlebar and brake levers try re-positioning the bar, and maybe the levers on the bar. Then consider a different stem.
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