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Question r.e shifter/brake position on drop bars

u33dbu33db Posts: 68
edited June 2012 in The workshop

At Christmas time i rebuilt my dads old racer using new parts.

Depsite spending a fair amount of money doing i've actually only used the bike 2-3 times.

The reason for this is i have never felt comfortable with the position of the brakes/shifters when in the drops. Its always felt as i've had to bend my hand awkwardly to pull them on, and the time taken to do so could see me in an accident if something pulled out in front of.

Now, i've been using my MTB to commute to work recently but in the quest for more speed i want to use the racer.

Today i have played about with the position of the brakes/shifter. What i have found is that by moving the shifter downwards i seem have have lost that awkward feeling but going by most other bikes this seems to be a lot lower.

I have put a picture below to show what i mean - the nearest shifter (minus bar tape) is my now preferred position wheras the shifter (with bar tape) on the other side is how i did have it.

My questions is;

- Is there a "recommended" position for these?
- Have i put it too low?
- Does my bike now look weird after the the change?

Thoughts appreciated.




  • andrewjosephandrewjoseph Posts: 2,165
    Comfort in the drops and using brakes is a priority, it does look odd but that's not going to make you uncomfortable.

    However, are you now comfortable on the hoods? if not then you may find you have to be in the drops all the time.

    Unless you are really lucky, brake position is a compromise between great on hood or great in drops. if you can find a comfortable position on both, then great. but from the look of your bike, you may have problems when on the hoods as your wrist may be bent downwards at an awkward angle. may be fine for a short ride, but longer periods may cause problems.

    I found I could not get comfortable in the drops with the 'ergo' bars, got a set of compact bars and position is much better as my fingers can reach the levers easier and I'm fine on the hoods too. Same goes for my wife.

    you can also get shims to put the lever closer to the bar, or get different shifters that have less reach in the first place, and then add shims. On my wife's Dolce, I had to glue slabs of rubber on to get the reach correct.
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • u33dbu33db Posts: 68
    Thanks for the reply.

    Yes i've been out playing with it again and realised my wrist was bent down...ive adjusted the levers back a little bit so my wrist is straight when on the hoods...the shifter is probably in the middle of both of the above positions now but its still brought the levers back towards my fingers by 15-20mm which is a good improvement.

    Its comfortable on the hoods and in the drops.

    I've also realised i've been a bit of a idiot...when i got the bike i was used to a very upright position on my mtb (hence not using the racer) but since i started commuting i've continually adjusted my mtb riding position downward (fat bars, inverted stem etc).

    Putting the 2 bike together now it seems the bars and seats of both bikes are pretty much level - so basically (bar the 15-20mm reach improvement above) i removed the tape off of what was almost a perfect handlebar setup for me - doh!

    Oh well - just wating on my wiggle order to arrive (new tape + continental gator tyres) then i can try it out on the way to work!
  • corshamjimcorshamjim Posts: 234
    I've yet to fathom what it is exactly that makes me comfortable or not with brake lever positioning. Two things that seem to have helped are I got a shorter stem and I changed the levers from Shimano to Tektro. The shape of the Tektro levers encouraged me (when on the hoods) to push the levers back with the tips of my fingers rather than trying to grab them under my knuckles. I dare say I could do the same with the Shimano levers, but it was the shape of the Tektros that got me thinking to do that.

    If it's any consolation, I've spent quite a lot on bar tape faffing about with different setups lately too.
  • jomojjomoj Posts: 777
    IMO it looks like you've got the levers in the right place on the bends of the bar but the bar is tilted forward too much. Personally I like to have the top of the bar and the top of the hood in line (as you have) and parallel or even slightly tilted up relative to the ground. This gives a large surface for you to rest your palms on and reduces pressure points.

    I'd second the comments about ergo bars - I just couldn't get on with them but you're a bit stuck for choice with a 1" steerer and 26mm stem - most newer compact shapes are 31.8mm oversize only. FWIW my favourite bars are the FSA compacts (see link below) and Deda RHM which are a slightly deeper shape but work really well with shimano levers.

    There's no rule though, you just have to look at some of the pro's setups to see some weird configurations.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    The normal starting position, found on well setup bikes in any shop is:
    -lower section of bars pointing back and down, roughly to the rear axle.
    -botton tip of the brake lever meets a ruler running under the drop section.
    -brake hoods point directly forward (zero cant).
    Once you have set these, you can play around with rotation of the bars and the position and rotation of the hoods.
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