Braking on the hoods

sosidge Posts: 16
edited August 2007 in Road beginners
I've seen a few people on the forums saying that braking on the hoods is easy and is no reason to be put off riding with drops in the city.

How are people doing this?

Are they using these newer Shimano levers that have an extension towards the front? Or is there a special technique?

I am riding an old Raleigh racer with what I would call conventional drop handlebar brakes, and there is no way I could put any braking pressure on them from the hoods without some kind of bionic finger implant or blood transfusion!


  • acorn_user
    acorn_user Posts: 1,137
    It's far easier for me with Campag levers. You should look at the positioning of the lever, and how tight the brakes cables are. You could adjust the brakes to come on quite quickly if your wheels are true enough. Old bikes often have non-aero levers. You could improve the braking by buying some of the cheap Tektro Campag knock offs and some new pads/cables.
  • OnTow
    OnTow Posts: 130
    Ah - depends on how old your bike is.
    The "new" bikes use dual-pivot brake calipers.
    They look, at first glance, just like the sidepull Weinmanns I have on my 1980s racer - But they're hugely more effective!

    Modern road bikes have machined rims, which make for enhanced braking too.

    My Shimano 105 levers, with standard pads, and dual-pivot calipers on Mavic OP rims are stonking.

    The Tektro calipers on my Campag. rims are not as good - fine for commuting, but I used to get sore hands on long descents - I'm not fearless enough to hammer down them!

    I do prefer the Campag. levers though - they feel lighter and more positive, and I prefer the clean "washing line free" hoods.

    Apologies if I've just stated the blindingly obvious.

    You could also try uprating your brake pads to something like Swissstops (Green) or Koolstops.... soft, but they stop you superbly!

    I took the 80s road bike out in the wet a week or so ago - and promptly nearly killed myself! I'd forgotten how poor the brakes are!
  • AndyGates
    AndyGates Posts: 8,467
    Get strong hands. Been doing this since 1986, on and off, and single-pivot old horrids were as tough then as anything you can find today. Squeeze harder, Grasshopper - and don't do long descents on the hoods. Get into the drops where it's good and aero!
    Wanted: Penny farthing. Please PM me!
    Advice for kilted riders: top-tubes are cold.
  • Old Tuggo
    Old Tuggo Posts: 482
    I agree with the last poster - the more you do it the stronger your hands will become - so keep practicing.
  • PHcp
    PHcp Posts: 2,748
    I don’t like braking from the hoods, even with modern Ergos and brakes. Not only do you need more strength, I find I don’t have the best grip on the bar for heavy braking, particularly in traffic where I may be braking and signaling.
    I’ve added a set of cross top levers, which are at least as good as braking from the drops. ... 7&N=Tektro RL720 Series Lever Set
  • tatanab
    tatanab Posts: 1,283
    acorn_user wrote:
    You could adjust the brakes to come on quite quickly if your wheels are true enough.

    I think that might be part of the difficulty. I like a large lever movement which means that my fingers wrap well around the lever when braking from the hoods. I suspect that with only a small lever movement I might not be able to develop enough pressure.

    I have been braking from the hoods all my 40 years of club riding, only braking from the drops when racing or when on a mountain descent and looking to rest my fingers a bit. Obviously I have used (and still use) old non aero levers with no ill effects, and these days I use Campag Ergos but have no experience of the Japanese offering. Certainly I experience no lack of control when braking with one hand and signalingwith the other arm.

    Apart from that - I agree with all the comments about using good quality after market brake blocks.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    I don't see what the problem is? It's harder to brake from the drops than it is the hoods.
    I like bikes...

  • pw1brown
    pw1brown Posts: 243
    I don't agree with some of the previous posts. I've been bothered by the relative weakness of braking from the hoods and I've concluded that ergonomically you just can't get as much, shall we say, leverage from the hood position. Having said that, most braking is to control your speed, not to stop you dead (you wouldn't stop dead anyway - your wheels would lock and you'd go sliding uncontrollably along the road).

    PS. I also prefer flat bars and V brakes for riding in traffic, etc.
  • I use ULTEGRA levers and DURACE ACE or SL callipers on my road bikes and find the leverage from the hoods is superb with no need to go onto the drops.

    Where I live in Spain we have some long (10km+) climbs and equally long descents, often twisty and often you need to be on the hoods for a while just to be in a good recovery position after the climb so good leverage is essential.

    I also have an old road bike built up in the early 80's which uses CAMPAG SUPER RECORD callipers and the old SHIMANO 105 levers (some of the earliest facilitating "hidden" cables), and these coupled with the old MAVIC rims work superbly from the hoods.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    Leverage better on the drops? My fingers can barely touch the levers on the drops, but on the hoods I can get my all 4 fingers around the levers.
    I like bikes...

  • sosidge
    sosidge Posts: 16
    Well, for what it's worth I had a bit of a ride to practice braking with the hands up on the hoods and it was fine for riding when you were keeping your momentum but I wouldn't want to have to come to an emergency stop that way.

    Perhaps more confidence will come with more time. I think some new extra-grippy blocks will be a definite improvement, will have to try and get hold of some.

    I suppose a lot of it depends on your own riding style and how you like the bars to be set up. I can't imagine getting all four fingers around the lever with my setup and I have big hands.
  • acorn_user
    acorn_user Posts: 1,137

    You have a set up problem :) You should be able to reach the levers from the drops easily. Next time you change your bar tape, you could try moving the levers down a bit. You could also try different bars. Bars have all kinds of reaches. I'm probably going to use ladies bars next time...

    Oh, you could also try rotating the bars down in the stem. When I have mine rotated up for maximum hood comfort, I can't reach the brakes on the drops well either.
  • craigenty
    craigenty Posts: 960
    Imagine going down a hill at 70kph on the hoods.
    An imaginary voice says "when I tap this pen on the handlebars I want you to perform an emergency stop".
    If you can't lock both wheels up instantly your brakes are set up wrong.
  • primalcarl
    primalcarl Posts: 579
    There's a huge amount of difference between the hoods and the drops. With my Dura Ace brakes I'm quite happy braking on the hoods, but was recently caught out ona a very short, fast 40mph hill when I nearly didn't have enough power on the hoods. The power from the extra leverage of the drops is awesome. I'm still happing using the hoods on hills unless I'm tucked down on the drops to gain a little aerodynamically

    Brakes do make a huge difference though. Stock Cannondale brakes can be very ineffective generally and especially on the hoods.

    Something that will help you brake on the hoods is ensuring your brake cables are well lubed so the lever pulls easily and smoothly. Gives you a much better chance of pulling the lever effectively
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,098
    Muhahaha practice on my old commuting machine a bit

    CLB brake levers and Weinmann 633 centre pulls

    I have arms like a builder :lol:

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    Well I did what was recommended further up in the thread. I rotated my handlebars forward.

    The forward rotation improved breaking from the drops slightly, and slightly decreased the effectiveness of braking from the hoods, however I seem to be in a more aero position on the hoods now as I seem to be going faster with similar effort.

    I think if you are having problems braking from the hoods, and you want to feel safer in traffic rotate your handlebars back.
    I like bikes...

  • when decending (at speed) the drops are definitly best. Your fingers are pulling streight as opposed to almost pushing down.

    The problem with braking on the hoods using Shimano is that they can move side to side and that can have a delay. I find that Campag are a little more direct. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule to positioning. Just let your hands fall comfortably and that works.

    10TT 24:36 25TT: 57:59 50TT: 2:08:11, 100TT: 4:30:05 12hr 204.... unfinished business
  • Rich Hcp
    Rich Hcp Posts: 1,355
    To me there is less leverage on the hoods, but that is not a problem for me.

    On a fast descent, I'm on ther drops and anywhere else I'm not worried!

    If I was riding a lot in traffic I would use straight bars though.

    Giving it Large
  • morrisje
    morrisje Posts: 507
    I find braking on the hoods is more difficult if the brakes aren't setup correctly. If the pads are just a millimetre from the rims then only the slightest presure is required on the levers and that can easily be done from the hoods. If the pads are far from the rims, usually due to a wheel slightly out if true, then the levers need to be pulled in further and that is difficult on the hoods.
  • Rich Hcp wrote:
    To me there is less leverage on the hoods, but that is not a problem for me.

    On a fast descent, I'm on ther drops and anywhere else I'm not worried!

    If I was riding a lot in traffic I would use straight bars though.

    I'd agree, and guess I'm pretty much similar to most, I brake using the hoods most of the time but if on a fast downhill, I'll use the drops.