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In this blog, we will walk through brake lever mounting and positioning on drop handlebars. Brake lever mounting & positioning is part of our blog series – The Park Tool Guide to Rim Brakes Watch this blog to see how we’ve organized the content in the series. Otherwise, let’s begin.
Hello, Calvin Jones here, with Park Tool Company. First, let’s go over the tools & supplies needed. Hex wrenches for tightening the mounting bolt, a straight edge to help set the height, a string to help set equal lever height, and a torque wrench. Drop bar brake levers are held onto the handlebars with a mounting strap. The mounting strap is pulled up with a bolt, and the bolt head will be often under the gum rubber hoods. The first process is then to find the location of the bolt head. For the integrated shift lever brake levers of SRAM or Shimano that route the cables along the handlebars and then are covered later with handlebar tape, the location of the mounting bolt is pretty much the same. In either case, we pull the gum rubber hood forward, and behind we can find the socket head bolt that pulls up the strap. For the SRAM system, pull the gum rubber hood forward, that’s the location we’re looking for, tighten to align or mount. In the Shimano hydraulic lever, the mounting bolt is along the side. In the SRAM hydraulic lever, we roll the gum rubber hood forward. The bolt head is at the top. On the microSHIFT integrated brake lever/shift lever, pulling the hood forward shows nothing. This one has an access port from the front. The wrench is put inside, you feel for the socket head, and that’s where security is done. On the brake lever designs that are brake lever only, without any shifting options, the bolt head is often in the middle of the lever body. Reach through the lever body with the hex wrench. For the Shimano designs that are shift lever/brake lever but route the shift housing outboard, not under the tape, use an access port on the outside of the lever body. The hex wrench goes through there and engages the bolt head to tighten the strap. For the Campagnolo brake lever/shift lever integrated system, roll the gum rubber hood forward, and expose the fastener head at the top of the body. This design is brake lever-only. In the vintage designs, the housing went straight up, did not go under the tape, just simply came straight up to housing stops. Here, we’re going to find the fastener inside. To install levers on a drop bar, loosen the strap mount, but be careful – don’t loosen it so much the strap falls off. Engage the strap on the drop, slide the lever up into what we think is going to be the position, and snug the mounting bolt, but not so tight that we can’t adjust it a bit later. Repeat the process on the other side. After both levers are installed, set the height. A good rule of thumb on height is to reference the bottom edge of the drops. Extend that line with a straight-edge – say, a headset wrench. We engage on the lower part, extend it, bring the lever tip even with our straightedge. Here, we’re a little bit too low. That’s a good general setting. You can change from this setting, and there’s reasons to do that. Going higher than this is going to mean the levers are easy to reach from the top. They’re going to be a little more difficult to reach from the drops. If you set the lever a little bit lower, here we’ve made the lever easy to reach when we’re down here, but it’s going to be a bit more awkward when you’re on the top. For this bike, we’ll set them level. Before tightening them down, do a simple height check.
This is where the piece of string comes in, or even a shifter or brake cable. Pull the string tight and place it on similar points on both levers and use it as a straightedge and compare the handlebar as a line, seeing is it parallel to our straightedge as a line. Here we can see that we are not. The rider’s left lever is a bit too high, or possibly the right one is a little bit low. Next, sight over the bars and look at the rotation of the two brake levers. We want them to be parallel to each other and to the center plane of the bike. So here, we’re pulling this one over slightly, then we’re looking pretty good. After levers are fully aligned, it’s time to tighten them down fully. Manufacturers’ recommended torques can go from 6 to 10 Newton meters, which is about 90 inch-pounds. The location of the bolt head makes it often impractical to get in there with a torque wrench, so perceived torque by hand is an important concept. Tighten down the lever incrementally. Here, with a carbon bar, and/or a plastic body, we want just enough torque so it doesn’t move. If I’m able to push the lever over easily, that is too loose. Continue tightening. Now, it’s difficult to move, that one is adequate. And that is the basic process for brake lever mounting and positioning for drop bars. The next section in our rim brake series is on installing housing and cable. There are two blogs to choose from, depending on whether you’re working with upright handlebars or drop handlebars. And again, read this blog for an explanation of how we’ve organized the content in this series. Thanks for reading and be sure to share for the latest blogs from Park Tool. .