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Getting the levers level, drop bar.

Old 01-18-21, 04:26 PM
  #1  
rosefarts
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Getting the levers level, drop bar.

So here's what I do, it's time consuming and I hate it.

1. Two levels, one on seat tube and one on seat. This is to confirm that laying a level across the seat actually is level due to inconsistent pads or something.

2. Level across the seat and long level across the hoods. Adjust accordingly. This works well on my old trainer and old bikes but is not compatible with thru axle and I never use a trainer otherwise, so I'm not getting a new one.

3. Try to find point to point measurements to reassure myself. This never helps.

4. Eyeball it and call it good.

5. Wrap the handlebars and ride. Realize it's wrong.

6. Carefully unwrap the bars without tearing the tape and repeat steps 1-5 in any order.

7. Admit defeat, ride. We're all a little lopsided anyway.


Also important, the marks in the stem clamp region of the stem are occasionally not the dead center. I feel like there should be a Park Tool for centering bars.

With the advent of flared bars and long levers, I haven't had any luck running a straight edge to the lever tips. Come to think of it, I've never had any luck with that trick.
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Old 01-18-21, 04:37 PM
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That is a really involved process.

I make the bike vertical then just measure from the ground to the top front corner of the hood. And will also measure from the ground to the bottom point of the brake lever. Then repeat on the other side.
...Or just use bars with lines on the hooks which makes it very simple to get them even.

You can also just pull a string tight on the outside of each lever(placing the string behind the lever body so its even for both sides) and compare the string line to the tops of the handlebar. But thats just sighting the setup. I guess levels are a good way to get it right...though I admittedly dont follow your process.
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Old 01-18-21, 04:41 PM
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Straight edge from one lever top to the other, making sure it's at exactly the same place on both levers. Stand in front of the bike, and eyeball the gap between the straight edge and the bar top. If they're level, the gap will be the same on both sides. If not, it'll be obvious. No need to level the bike, OR to ensure the front wheel is absolutely aligned.
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Old 01-18-21, 04:43 PM
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Tie a string from one lever to the other in the same place on each lever. Then use a line level across the string.

Of course, you have to have the bike vertically level.

Or, best yet, get bars with markings for the levers.
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Old 01-18-21, 04:55 PM
  #5  
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The last time I did it about two days ago, I used the markings on the bars themselves and placed both levers so they were about the same. Then with the bike standing upright I could see one was a bit off so I partially undid the bolt on it, nudged it a bit, redid it and then eyeballed that it was good. A quick 100k ride confirmed it was fine (I also turned the lever hoods inward a bit, and it's actually pretty comfortable that way).

Previously I used a plastic kitchen cutting board and placed my phone atop it with a digital spirit level app and that worked a treat, too. Get one lever right and then move the other one to match, though.
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Old 01-18-21, 05:04 PM
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A "T" square & a speed square works. I hate using those tools for the intended work they're meant for, but for the bicycle, I grow more appreciation for the tools.
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Old 01-18-21, 05:17 PM
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I'll use a straight edge (a level, usually) from the flat of the /bottom/ of the drop, and align that with the bottom of the brake lever.

But this can vary depending on the curve of your bars. Here's a good video that shows just about every method already mentioned above (and not the one I use, coincidentally).

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Old 01-18-21, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Mojo31 View Post
Tie a string from one lever to the other in the same place on each lever. Then use a line level across the string.

Of course, you have to have the bike vertically level.

Or, best yet, get bars with markings for the levers.
I did that, but it turned out the markings were off a bit. Back to the straight edge.
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Old 01-18-21, 05:20 PM
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I lay a 6" ruler (or whatever is handy) against the dropbar flat bottom and measure how far the lever extends past the ruler. (It always does on my bikes.) Adjust other side to duplicate. Not very hard. Been doing that since the dark ages.
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Old 01-18-21, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Straight edge from one lever top to the other, making sure it's at exactly the same place on both levers. Stand in front of the bike, and eyeball the gap between the straight edge and the bar top. If they're level, the gap will be the same on both sides. If not, it'll be obvious. No need to level the bike, OR to ensure the front wheel is absolutely aligned.
The woodworking equivalent of this is winding sticks. Very quick and accurate. That's a great idea!
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Old 01-18-21, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Straight edge from one lever top to the other, making sure it's at exactly the same place on both levers. Stand in front of the bike, and eyeball the gap between the straight edge and the bar top. If they're level, the gap will be the same on both sides. If not, it'll be obvious. No need to level the bike, OR to ensure the front wheel is absolutely aligned.
That's what I do. Pull back (forward) the hood rubber and set the straight edge on the lever mounts right next to the bars. Putting the straight edge on top of the hood rubber can be problematic/less precise, IME.
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Old 01-18-21, 06:52 PM
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Put one lever on the bar where you want it. Stick a piece of masking tap from bottom edge of the lever clamp, along the inside of the curve to the end of bar. Mark the tape at end of the bar. Put the other lever on the other side, way high. Move the tape from one side to the other, use the tape mark. Move lever #2 to where it belongs, tighten. Check ride, go by feel. You can double check with a straight edge across the hoods, same spot both sides, straight edge should show even parallel with the handlebars.
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Old 01-18-21, 07:35 PM
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Not using drop bars currently, but I just put the bars on the floor in the garage and adjust lever tips till they both barely touch the floor. If the stem is not open faced, I just loosen it so it can be out of the way. I also trace along the bar clamps with pencil once thats done for future reference.

Oh yeah, this is with classic round bend bars that sit nicely on a surface and plain brake levers, where the lever tip in line with the bottom of the drop bar section is an optimal alignment.

Otto

Last edited by ofajen; 01-18-21 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 01-18-21, 07:56 PM
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Broom handle to level 'em first and metric ruler to get 'em perf.
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Old 01-18-21, 08:39 PM
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Hold a straightedge along the bottom of the straight end of the drops, or put the bars on a flat surface,

and measure how far the lever ends are above the straightedge, or plane. Maybe what 79pmooney was saying.

I thought this was more widely done.

Last edited by woodcraft; 01-18-21 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 01-18-21, 11:53 PM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Hold a straightedge along the bottom of the straight end of the drops, or put the bars on a flat surface,

and measure how far the lever ends are above the straightedge, or plane. Maybe what 79pmooney was saying.

I thought this was more widely done.
I would have thought so too but I've known plenty of other mechanics who struggled through the who level stuff. A square works best for this but I usually don't head to the woodshop for mine. But yeah, any straight bar, stick, etc off the bottom of the bars and measure up to the bottom of the lever. Bars are fairly consistent as are brakes levers, never had an issue and takes all of a couple minutes at best.
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Old 01-19-21, 12:19 AM
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The foolproof way to level the brake hoods, preferrably BEFORE you installed the cables and bar tape.

Watch the video:



Correct brake hoods position (Noting you don't adjust the brake hoods to fix reach and stack issues):


Last edited by cubewheels; 01-19-21 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 01-19-21, 07:07 AM
  #18  
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It used to be that deeper drops that were so common "way back when" have been replaced by shallow drop ergonomic bars, so this has affected lever placement quite a bit. I use the straight edge beneath the drops, extended to the tip of the lever, method for the first lever placement. But this is only possible where the depth of the drop permits it.

The second lever position is found by straight edge across from the first. Eyeball from the front, getting the straight edge parallel with the handlebar center portion.

With modern bars, all bets are off for the first lever position. That must be eyeballed from the perspective of hand placement and aesthetics with that particular bar. The second lever position is the same, though. Straight edge.
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Old 01-19-21, 04:27 PM
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No straightedge. Before installing handlebar tape, use a cloth measuring tape, the sewing kind. On one side of the handlebar, measure from the handlebar tip along the inside top of the bar to the bottom of the lever clamp. Match this measurement on the other side of the handlebars.

With this method, it's easy to get the levers even, down to the millimeter.
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Old 01-19-21, 04:34 PM
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When building a bike, I put the shift levers on the bars before I put the bars on the bike. If they're level with one another, the bar and shifters will rest squarely on a table. If they're not even, they won't.
If it's a bike with a quill stem, then the bars have to go on the bike first. In that case you can simulate the effect with a board (a 1x6 should do).
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Old 01-19-21, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bocobiking View Post
No straightedge. Before installing handlebar tape, use a cloth measuring tape, the sewing kind. On one side of the handlebar, measure from the handlebar tip along the inside top of the bar to the bottom of the lever clamp. Match this measurement on the other side of the handlebars.

With this method, it's easy to get the levers even, down to the millimeter.
This is what I do, but I measure the bottom of the handlebar from the bottom of the lever body to the tip of the bar along the outside radius of the hook. It does the same thing but I find measuring the outside of a curve to be easier than the inside.
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Old 01-19-21, 04:56 PM
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In stall bars/levers. Go for a ride. Adjust stem height. Go for a ride to dial in. Adjust bars drop angle to get drops right. Go for a ride. (may have to re-adjust stem height and or drops angle). Go for a ride... Tweak. Go for a longer ride... Tweak again...


ONLY THEN should you worry about brake levers. It might take several attempts with different levers/reach/position on the bars...


ONLY THEN do you wrap!

.
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Old 01-19-21, 05:02 PM
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On a new build, I do it with the bars off the bike. Get the levers as level as you think they are, then set the bars on a flat table. Any wobble will indicate uneven brake lever placement.
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Old 01-19-21, 05:33 PM
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I've been riding with drop bars since I was in diapers. I had no idea that they were so complicated.
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Old 01-19-21, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by grizzly59 View Post
Put one lever on the bar where you want it. Stick a piece of masking tap from bottom edge of the lever clamp, along the inside of the curve to the end of bar. Mark the tape at end of the bar. Put the other lever on the other side, way high. Move the tape from one side to the other, use the tape mark. Move lever #2 to where it belongs, tighten. Check ride, go by feel. You can double check with a straight edge across the hoods, same spot both sides, straight edge should show even parallel with the handlebars.
^This^, but w/ a cloth measuring tape (ideally) or a regular one if it's not available. The tape is a good idea.
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