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Bicycle Brakes Standard

Old 12-28-19, 06:27 AM
  #1  
alloo
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Bicycle Brakes Standard

Hello,

Just curious. Is there an industry standard for where front and rear brakes are activated on the Handlebars. Specifically RH Levers are rear brakes and LH levers are front brakes? What is the history on this? Background? Thank You.
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Old 12-28-19, 07:09 AM
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I don't know if there is a written standard anywhere, but it's certainly common practice for the right hand to operate the rear brake and vice versa. I heard somewhere that's. because the right hand operates the rear shifter so the two functions would be similar but I don't really know for sure. Many brake calipers and cable guide locations have obviously been designed to facilitate this arrangement.

I can also tell you that I've reversed the brake operation for several customers who also ride motorcycles and wanted their bicycle to operate similarly.
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Old 12-28-19, 07:15 AM
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There was a discussion about this in a paper copy of Bicycle Quarterly a few years ago. A few riders do switch, and prefer it that way, but it might be confusing if someone borrows the bike.
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Old 12-28-19, 09:04 AM
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In the United States, bicycles are regulated as toys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (rather than as vehicles by the Department of Transportation).

Requirements for bicycles being sold, new, at retail, are specified in Requirements for Bicycles 16 C.F.R. Part 1512.

Concerning the placement of hand brake levers, it says: Unless a customer specifies otherwise, the hand lever that operates the rear brake must be on the right handlebar. The lever that operates the front brake must be on the left handlebar. A lever that operates both brakes may be on either handlebar.

The purchaser may specify the other orientation.

This requirement only applies to the initial sales of new bicycles.

This orientation is the opposite of that specified by the Department of Transportation for motorscooters and motorcycles.

There may be some state or local requirement that augments this, but that's unlikely.
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Old 12-28-19, 09:23 AM
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The idea was that as the cyclist has just one hand on the bars as they signal a turn or stop,



using the arm signals adopted from automobiles



it was safer to have the remaining (right) hand on the bars operate the rear brake, making flipping the bike impossible.



Last edited by tcs; 12-28-19 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 12-28-19, 10:45 AM
  #6  
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Riding on the left!

I heard some discussion on this topic while watching the Tour of California early this year. Tejay van Garderen was one of the leading riders when he had a mechanical at a critical stage of that day's race. One of his teammates came by and gave up his bike. Tejay took off after the lead group. He soon came up on a tight right hand turn, but instead of leaning into the turn he skidded off the road!

According to the race announcers, the teammate who gave up his bike was from Australia, where they drive on the left, and his levers were reversed; left lever controlling the rear and right lever controlling the front.

I didn't hear any more about it but it seemed to make sense to me...
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Old 12-28-19, 11:09 AM
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Best thread ever- look at all this input! Thanks everyone.
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Old 12-28-19, 12:09 PM
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I switched to a Right-Front, Left-Rear about 10 years ago after a very scary panic stop. Having my dominant right hand actuate the most effective brake allows me to stop quicker with much more control.
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Old 12-28-19, 12:14 PM
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I prefer front brake on the right, rear on the left. For me makes more sense. Motorcycle front is on the right, and in the case of older British motorcyles 50s and 60s, the gear shift was also on the right.. rear brake on the left.

Panic stop, go to your left to grab rear brake and clutch... on the left. I would never grab the front brake in a panic stop.

I'm also left handed.
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Old 12-28-19, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post

it was safer to have the remaining (right) hand on the bars operate the rear brake, making flipping the bike impossible.
Interesting.

My own thought, back when I rode fixed a lot, was exactly the opposite: my dominant (right) hand should control the brake with more stopping power. Flipping was fortunately never an issue.

I still keep the brake levers reversed (right-front, left-rear) on my single speeds, but normal on bikes with derailleurs and STI. (I'm also mixed dominant, right handed and left footed, so keeping track of what limbs are supposed to be doing is pretty normal.)
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Old 12-28-19, 01:16 PM
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Right rear is so hardwired into my brain at this point that I'm pretty sure I'd hurt myself if they were flipped. Funny if it really was because of the hand signal thing because that's a really bad reason.
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Old 12-28-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by alloo View Post
Hello,

Just curious. Is there an industry standard for where front and rear brakes are activated on the Handlebars. Specifically RH Levers are rear brakes and LH levers are front brakes? What is the history on this? Background? Thank You.
In Germany, the opposite is the standard configuration for location of hand brake levers.
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Old 12-28-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by alloo View Post
Hello,

Just curious. Is there an industry standard for where front and rear brakes are activated on the Handlebars. Specifically RH Levers are rear brakes and LH levers are front brakes? What is the history on this? Background? Thank You.
growing up in Ireland and the UK, right/front was standard, and I’ve maintained that ever since because it makes sense for a right-handed person. Your dominant hand - be it left or right - has the most strength and modulation - that’s the hand that should be operating the brake that does 75% of the braking
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Old 12-28-19, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
I prefer front brake on the right, rear on the left. For me makes more sense. Motorcycle front is on the right, and in the case of older British motorcyles 50s and 60s, the gear shift was also on the right.. rear brake on the left.

Panic stop, go to your left to grab rear brake and clutch... on the left. I would never grab the front brake in a panic stop.

I'm also left handed.
I'm also left handed, but I've ridden the standard config for so long that when I did consider switching, I decided that I'd probably grab a big handful of front brake and flip myself over.
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Old 12-28-19, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
The idea was that as the cyclist has just one hand on the bars as they signal a turn or stop,



using the arm signals adopted from automobiles



it was safer to have the remaining (right) hand on the bars operate the rear brake, making flipping the bike impossible.


And word is that Great Britain, Japan, and other countries that drive on the left side of the road is the basis for the arm signals being done by the right arm. Which would be a reason for the front brake to be on the right of a bicycle.
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Old 12-28-19, 02:10 PM
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All of my bikes (velo) have been RH-rear for brakes and shifting, even my mid-70s Japanese-built-and-sold road bike. Never felt like it was 'wrong' I just learned to ride it the way it's set up.
Likewise all of my motos have been modern american and japanese, so the levers are the 'moto' conventional (RH-throttle/brake, LH-clutch) Never had problem with that.
Never had a problem transitioning between velos and motos and grabbing the wrong lever in an 'emergency' I instinctively know what kind of bike i'm on and act accordingly.
Besides, braking on a bike, even in a high speed or technical trail situation requires a lot less dexterity than say, playing the piano or violin. I can't play piano, but i can brake or clutch pretty well with either hand.
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Old 12-28-19, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
I prefer front brake on the right, rear on the left. For me makes more sense. Motorcycle front is on the right, and in the case of older British motorcyles 50s and 60s, the gear shift was also on the right.. rear brake on the left.

Panic stop, go to your left to grab rear brake and clutch... on the left. I would never grab the front brake in a panic stop.

I'm also left handed.
Same here. All due to my time on motorcycles. But, I do grab the front brake in a panic stop, just like I did on my motorcycles. I just shift my weight rearward on my bicycles when braking hard, just like I did on my motorcycles.
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Old 12-29-19, 11:38 AM
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In Britain we have the front on the right, with UK spec bikes.
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Old 12-29-19, 05:17 PM
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RH-rear for me ever since I was a kid so I don't see myself switching. If I ever end up in a country with the opposite, I'll make sure to remember the switch!
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Old 12-29-19, 09:25 PM
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About two years ago I was talking with a bicycle cop who was complaining that when he pursued someone and tried a quick dismount he had trouble controlling the bike because he tended to lock the front when doing a simultaneous hard stop and dismount. I suggested that he have the bike mechanic switch the cables so the left brake controlled the front. Next time he saw me he couldn't thank me enough and that most of his fellow officers had requested a similar change.
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Old 12-30-19, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
Same here. All due to my time on motorcycles. But, I do grab the front brake in a panic stop, just like I did on my motorcycles. I just shift my weight rearward on my bicycles when braking hard, just like I did on my motorcycles.
It's a good idea to shift your weight to the rear during a panic stop regardless of which hand controls which brake. This maneuver should be practiced so that it is automatic.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Moe Zhoost View Post
This maneuver should be practiced so that it is automatic.
BTW, we get our miles (kilometers) in, do intervals and climb & decend. IMO it's also a good idea to go down occasionally to an empty parking lot (car park) and practice braking from various speeds. Again IMO, a truly competent road cyclist should be able to lift the rear wheel in a controlled stop without flipping, and brake hard with the rear tire (tyre) in contact with the ground and just barely not skidding. Also nice to know how to get one's self down a BIG descent on the personal cycle w/o overheating the brakes, rims, tubes, etc.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Moe Zhoost View Post
I switched to a Right-Front, Left-Rear about 10 years ago after a very scary panic stop. Having my dominant right hand actuate the most effective brake allows me to stop quicker with much more control.
A very valid choice.

As mentioned, the USA's CPSC regulates bicycles as toys, and they had to consider the safest standardization for untrained/self-taught children.

Of course in the real world, kids don't use hand signals, but still...
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Old 12-30-19, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
A very valid choice.

As mentioned, the USA's CPSC regulates bicycles as toys, and they had to consider the safest standardization for untrained/self-taught children.

Of course in the real world, kids don't use hand signals, but still...
Wasn't right hand-rear wheel, left hand-front wheel already the typical if not standard configuration for bicycles sold in the USA without coaster brakes before CPSC regulations were promulgated?
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Old 12-30-19, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Wasn't right hand-rear wheel, left hand-front wheel already the typical if not standard configuration for bicycles sold in the USA without coaster brakes before CPSC regulations were promulgated?
Don't know for sure, but it's not unusual to adopt regs that simply codify general industry standards.

Ultimately, in this case, it probably didn't matter which standard was applied as long as there was one standard. I'm very right-hand dominant, but I don't think there's any significant difference between control of my right vs. left brake handle.
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