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Advisability of Dual Pull Brake Levers?

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Advisability of Dual Pull Brake Levers?

Old 12-12-20, 11:34 AM
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hobbes8813
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Advisability of Dual Pull Brake Levers?

I am a novice bicyclist, so any guidance here is much appreciated.

I have an older (late 1970s) road bike with 'dual' brake levers (sometimes called safety brake levers i think). Basically, rather than just the one bike lever on the end of the handlebar stem, these also have a second lever that runs parallel to the flat part of the handlebar stem. I have found these to be very convenient as I can easily use the brakes even while sitting up on the bike and not leaning over towards the handlebars.

However, when I read about replacement bike levers, I found several online commentaries that said that these types of dual brake levers are not very common anymore because they have found to be inferior to standard pull levers. A common reason cited was that, inherent in their design was that they did not work as well over time and tended to cause malfunctions. Also, commentators mentioned that a properly fit standard brake would eliminate the need to have a secondary braking lever.

So my questions is, is this sentiment true that dual pull brake levers are not worth using, in that they tend to cause more problems than benefits?

And if I may ask a follow-up question, are cylocross/interrupter levers are better alternative that can achieve the similar result of being able to have a second braking point on the handlebar?

Thanks in advance for any insights!
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Old 12-12-20, 11:49 AM
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Gresp15C
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Anybody who rode a Schwinn ten-speed in the 70s or 80s remember those levers. There's an unavoidable safety aspect, which is that you don't have much leverage for controlling the bike when your hands are close to the stem under a hard braking situation. But I consider that to be folklore, as it's something I've heard about but have never seen actually cause a problem. Since they've more or less disappeared, it would be hard to get any contemporary info, but surely there are others who remember these levers or have them on older bikes.

The other issue that I've observed is that it's hard to get the brake levers into a position where you can actually get full braking force on the extension levers unless the components are actually high quality and everything is absolutely set up just so, from the levers down to the brakes and the truth of your wheels.

So the two open-ended questions are: Do they really work, and is it safe to use them? For casual cycling around town at low speeds, probably OK, but then at least in my case, the thing that worked even better was an upright handlebar and high quality braking system.
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Old 12-12-20, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Anybody who rode a Schwinn ten-speed in the 70s or 80s remember those levers. There's an unavoidable safety aspect, which is that you don't have much leverage for controlling the bike when your hands are close to the stem under a hard braking situation. But I consider that to be folklore, as it's something I've heard about but have never seen actually cause a problem. Since they've more or less disappeared, it would be hard to get any contemporary info, but surely there are others who remember these levers or have them on older bikes.

The other issue that I've observed is that it's hard to get the brake levers into a position where you can actually get full braking force on the extension levers unless the components are actually high quality and everything is absolutely set up just so, from the levers down to the brakes and the truth of your wheels.

So the two open-ended questions are: Do they really work, and is it safe to use them? For casual cycling around town at low speeds, probably OK, but then at least in my case, the thing that worked even better was an upright handlebar and high quality braking system.
the old “safety levers” didn’t allow the rider to exert much force, because the extensions were in front of the bars - requiring them to be pulled up with the fingers while rotating the palms backward - a pretty awkward maneuver. Also, on most of the sets I saw and used, the pivots set into the sides of the lever bodies quickly became loose, further decreasing power and modulation - in short, sh1te excuses for brakes. They might help to slow you down, but I doubt if you could brake hard or safely with them. They’re worse than useless, because they provide the false impression that you can stop hard if, for example, a car pulls out. Better to not have no brake extensions and adjust your riding approach accordingly. Interruptor levers, or “cross levers” are squeezed against the bars, so the rider can apply way more force. Between the two types of accessory brake levers, it’s a no-brainer, IMO
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Old 12-12-20, 03:34 PM
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I had them on my first road bike, and since then on several old bikes I picked up from friends or the trash. I found the safety levers useful and not dangerous in any way, but I almost never rode or used them from the top of the bar. I liked holding the bar at the curves just behind where the lever is mounted.* Here, my fingers can comfortably and securely operate the safety lever nearer to it's pivot.

It worked well for me but I also always kept my braking system and entire bike in top condition... which you should be doing no matter what system you have!

*Palms facing towards each other, similar to holding the hoods.
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Old 12-12-20, 03:57 PM
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I always called them 'suicide levers' because getting leverage to activate them required hunching over the bars, which put your weight forward. Upon braking, the rider was catapulted you over the bars and onto their head. The modern version is 'interruptor' type levers and are much safer because you can activate them while still keeping your weight back.

Suicide levers were generally only found on low-end models since they were marketed toward beginners who liked the idea of keeping their hands near the stem. The same bikes often had stem-mounted shifters, too.
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Old 12-12-20, 04:01 PM
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Probably another thing to consider is to get advice about when it's safe to ride on the tops of the bar, such as not when you're going 50 mph downhill. But since I gave up on drop bars years ago, that's outside of my bailiwick.

Chances are that on a lot of those early ten-speeds, the drops were rarely or never used.
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Old 12-12-20, 06:59 PM
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How many people over the decades these were in common use didn't die from them?
Like them? Use them. Yeah, will they work as well on a 40 mph downhill, of course not. Don't? Don't use them or take them off.
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Old 12-12-20, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Probably another thing to consider is to get advice about when it's safe to ride on the tops of the bar, such as not when you're going 50 mph downhill. But since I gave up on drop bars years ago, that's outside of my bailiwick.

Chances are that on a lot of those early ten-speeds, the drops were rarely or never used.
Haven't seen anyone ride on the tops in a downhill yet but I can see the temptation in a steep down hill where the gradient places you in a very hunched down position, making you want to go upright to alleviate pressure off your hands and neck.

If they had brake levers on the tops, they probably would do downhill on tops.
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Old 12-14-20, 08:38 AM
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Had a Varsity & rode it daily delivering newspapers, as well as on longer recreational rides. They work well if you keep your cables well adjusted. For the time you want a maximum g stop, you want to get low anyway & use the front levers. Only takes a moment to drop to that posture. Hopefully you'd anticipate needing to stop like that, and would reach for the drop brake levers automatically. They are uncomfortable, though, if you want to ride on the hoods.
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Old 12-14-20, 07:34 PM
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Cross levers do work fine and now you can even get hydraulic ones from Shimano which is pretty neat. I have them on my touring bike but none of my other drop bar bikes. I simply wanted them on the touring bike for some comfort on long rides if I decide I want to slow a bit but don't want to be on the hoods I can do that but honestly I don't use them a huge ton so I could probably get rid of them at some point and not mind. They work a whole lot better than the old suicide levers.

Personally I would rather just have a nice comfortable drop bar brake lever (or STI lever) For those I would go SRAM S500 (as I have on several bikes) or if it was a vintage bike probably the TRP RRL SR or go with a vintage lever.

If you are running a vintage bike you might consider these little babies and get some downtube cable bosses and be all set no more reaching down to your downtube or bar end or stem to shift everything is done more similarly to modern bikes with integrated shifter and brake levers like STI, DoubleTap or Ergopower. However with the Gevenalle you can sweep up and down your freewheel or cassette with speed and ease. I have a set again on the touring bike and aside from the hood shape which is fine (but not as nice as the SRAM S500) are excellent. I really wish my custom built ones could have worked and maybe someday I will revisit now that I know how to improve it and have better access to some useful tools and machinists.
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Old 12-15-20, 04:23 PM
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It depends on how that auxiliary "safety lever" is mounted to the main brake body. The cheap ones had a part that fit between the main brake lever and brake body thereby greatly reducing the amount that the main brake lever could travel. That reduced the amount of braking possible with the main brake lever. Additionally many of those "safety levers" were quite flexible and thus had poor braking.

Some of the safety levers were better designed and were fitted directly to the main brake lever and were quite rigid.

I don't think that "safety levers" are all that safe and I'd remove them. Interrupter levers with aero main brake levers is a much more positive braking system.

If a person rides on the top of the handlebar a lot then the stud sticking out from the side of a safety lever pivot can be modofied to mount either a downtube shift lever or a stem mount shift lever.




Cheers
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Old 12-15-20, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by hobbes8813 View Post
...

And if I may ask a follow-up question, are cylocross/interrupter levers are better alternative that can achieve the similar result of being able to have a second braking point on the handlebar?
Yes, cyclocross/interrupter levers are are way better than those old "safety" levers. I use them because I often ride in high-traffic areas (around cars, pedestrians, skateboarders, etc.) and want to have my head up high with a finger on the brakes.

Some handlebars are tapered at the location I want the interrupter levers mounted, so my desire for interrupter levers limits my choices in handlebars.
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Old 12-15-20, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by hobbes8813 View Post
I have found these to be very convenient as I can easily use the brakes even while sitting up on the bike and not leaning over towards the handlebars.
If they're working for you, you should use them without concern.

They're not appropriate for every type of riding or every braking circumstance and I'm sure newer versions are significantly better, but these are original equipment and if they work for you and your riding stye there's no reason to consider changing anything. A lot of folks rode with them for a lot of years without any problems when I was young. And if they're working well on your bike, there's no reason they won't give you years of service.
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Old 12-15-20, 07:58 PM
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I agree with folks about the "cross levers". I put a pair on my bike when I had shoulder surgery (the first time) to take some of the pressure off my shoulder. Now I have them on three bikes. They actually have more stopping power than the regular brake levers.

This is my touring bike set up with "cross levers".




I also set up my CX bike, a Banchi Volpe, that I use for touring with them. Can you tell that I really like them?

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