Big 'Hoods, Little Hands
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  1. #1

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    Question Big 'Hoods, Little Hands

    My wife is having trouble with braking her road bike.
    She is 5' tall and peite in all respects. She is riding a 44cm Mercier with 105 components throughout. The trouble comes when she tries to apply the brakes on long descents. All she can manage is the tips of her first two fingers on the brake levers with her small mitts, and she cannot apply enough pressure to feel safe at speed.
    I've always wonderd why I lose her on the downhills and finally got her to explain the problem.

    Can anybody think of possible solutions?

    thanks
    'the place was really jumpin to the high-watt amps, 'till a 20 inch cymbal fell and cut the lamps...

  2. #2
    NeoRetroGrouch
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    On the hoods or in the drops? (nm)

    12345
    "Don't those guys know they're old?!!"
    Me, off the back, at my first 50+ road race.

  3. #3

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    On the Hoods

    In the drops, the problem is maginified as it is harder to get those short fingers all the way out to grasp the levers
    'the place was really jumpin to the high-watt amps, 'till a 20 inch cymbal fell and cut the lamps...

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beantown
    My wife is having trouble with braking her road bike.
    She is 5' tall and peite in all respects. She is riding a 44cm Mercier with 105 components throughout. The trouble comes when she tries to apply the brakes on long descents. All she can manage is the tips of her first two fingers on the brake levers with her small mitts, and she cannot apply enough pressure to feel safe at speed.
    I've always wonderd why I lose her on the downhills and finally got her to explain the problem.

    Can anybody think of possible solutions?

    thanks
    I remember seeing some short-reach STI levers on Shimano's website last year, though I don't know anyone who actually got them. You could check to see if they're still available. If they are, any shop with a QBP catalog should be able to get them for you.

    If you can find some bars without the "ergo" flat spot in the drops, that might let her hands get closer to the levers. I'm a little marginal on the reach myself, and have been thinking about trying to find some traditional-bend bars. Finding them with a short reach and drop like I like could be hard. Anyway, a shop with a QBP catalog would be the place to look. Those catalogs are awesome. They have everything....

    Kathy
    "Riding the wheel, our powers are revealed to us..." Maria Ward, Bicycling for Ladies, 1896

  5. #5
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    Look into short reach levers

    Quote Originally Posted by Beantown
    My wife is having trouble with braking her road bike.
    She is 5' tall and peite in all respects. She is riding a 44cm Mercier with 105 components throughout. The trouble comes when she tries to apply the brakes on long descents. All she can manage is the tips of her first two fingers on the brake levers with her small mitts, and she cannot apply enough pressure to feel safe at speed.
    I've always wonderd why I lose her on the downhills and finally got her to explain the problem.

    Can anybody think of possible solutions?

    thanks
    I know Shimano makes a "short reach" version of the Ultegra STI's, but not sure if they make it in the 105 or any other line.

    Bryan

  6. #6
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    tough problem...

    Quote Originally Posted by Beantown
    In the drops, the problem is maginified as it is harder to get those short fingers all the way out to grasp the levers
    Shimnao makes a short reach version of their STI levers, which will help in the drops, but not on the hoods.

    Campy ergo levers have smaller hoods, which might help, but the reach in the drops is probably a bit worse. See if you can find a Campy equipped bike for her to try out the levers. Campy ergo levers can also be modified to reduce the reach in the drops by about 1/2 inch, so there is only a 1-inch gap between the bars and the inner shift lever. It's not difficult to do, requiring the application of a small amount of epoxy on the ergo lever body, behind the quick release pin. I can provide detailed instructions, if interested.

    A Campy 10 ergo lever can be used to operate a 9-speed shimano rear derailleur by routing the cable in a special manner. Veloce levers are only about $130.

    http://www.hubbub.com/ergoleverswshim9.htm

    Changing handlebars won't help much. I've tried several that claimed to reduce the reach to the brake lever and found little difference. The problem is the fact that all bars are about 1-inch in diameter where the lever mounts, so regardless of the shape of the bar, the lever is going to be a fair distance away.

    I can recommend Salsa Poco (womens) bars for providing a good position for technical descents. These bars require a 1cm longer stem to produce the same reach as most others. I switched both of my bike to these bars last year. They work great going down a mountain.
    Last edited by C-40; 04-26-2004 at 06:17 AM.

  7. #7

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    I have Veloce and have problems with reach

    Quote Originally Posted by C-40
    Shimnao makes a short reach version of their STI levers, which will help in the drops, but not on the hoods.

    Campy ergo levers have smaller hoods, which might help, but the reach in the drops is probably a bit worse. See if you can find a Campy equipped bike for her to try out the levers. Campy ergo levers can also be modified to reduce the reach in the drops by about 1/2 inch, so there is only a 1-inch gap between the bars and the inner shift lever. It's not difficult to do, requiring the application of a small amount of epoxy on the ergo lever body, behind the quick release pin. I can provide detailed instructions, if interested.

    A Campy 10 ergo lever can be used to operate a 9-speed shimano rear derailleur by routing the cable in a special manner. Veloce levers are only about $130.

    http://www.hubbub.com/ergoleverswshim9.htm
    In Chicago, its not a big deal, since I don't do much decending. On a ride in Wisconsin, where I was decending 1+ mile hills, I had some problems. The reach to the levers is so long that my hands got tired before I reached the bottom...And that was only 1 mile. If I ever do any decents longer than 10 minutes, I think my hands might fall off.

    I was told that both Salsa and Ritchey make drop bars that have an extra notch grooved into the drop to help with reach. I haven't tried this, and I assume that using these bars would force you to place your levers specifically on the bars so they up with the notch--which may not be where she wants them overall. Still, it might be something to look into.

  8. #8
    NeoRetroGrouch
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    Common problem...

    The most common solution is to glue something in the gap to keep the lever part way open. This places the lever closer to the front of the bar. Example pictured below using feet made for electronic equipment (Radio Shack). Get a few sizes of feet and stick them in there to get the right size. Epoxy the final version. Downside - they act like little wind scoops and get dirty faster and the brakes are harder to set up because you have used up some of the cable pull.

    The Shimano short reach levers (R-600) mentioned below are Ultegra level shifters that come with little wedges that you glue in the gap. Nicer looking and keeps some of the dirt out of the shifter. Expensive solution - especially if you get them via your LBS from QBP.

    Also mentioned are different bars. I have mounted and measured Ultegra levers on 6 or 7 different bars including those marketed for short hands. Maximum of 3mm difference. Position on the bar also makes no difference for those with short hands. "Normal" handed people will say that the position does matter, but what they mean is that it makes the lever closer or farther from where the place their hands. Those small of hand have no choice as to where to place their hands. BTW, the Salsa Short & Shallow and Poco, though not providing any lever relief, are nice for the smaller rider because of the drops are higher and the front of the bars are not as deep.

    If you have Campy levers, reply and I'll post the Campy solution courtesy of C-40.

    Hope this helps,
    TF
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    Me, off the back, at my first 50+ road race.

  9. #9

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    I have campy!!

    Quote Originally Posted by TurboTurtle
    If you have Campy levers, reply and I'll post the Campy solution courtesy of C-40.TF
    I have campy--please do post it.

  10. #10
    NeoRetroGrouch
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    Campy Levers - Thanks to C-40...

    Posted by: C-40
    Dec-09-03, 05:53 PM
    "Short reach Campy brake levers..."

    Since I had no luck posting the complete instructions for modifying Ergo levers to reduce their reach, I'll try again. Hopefully, all 8 steps will show up.
    I’ve got short fingers and always struggled to reach the brake levers with Campy Ergo levers. I tried several different bars, but found that none reduced the reach more than 3mm at best. I improved the situation by setting the brake cables fairly loose. This allows some movement of the lever, to get a better grasp, without creating any braking action. While this was an improvement, I found it uncomfortable to partially compress the levers for long periods as required on technical mountain descents. I’ve found a fairly easy method to solve this problem.
    The Campy levers have a lot more travel than necessary to operate the brakes. Before starting this modification, adjust the brake cables so the levers are only 1/8” to 1/4" away from the bars with the brakes fully applied. Just don’t set the cables so loose that the levers hit the bars and can’t apply full braking power!
    Campy brake levers use the quick release pin (in the lever) as a lever stop. To bring the levers closer to the bars, the area behind the pin-rest merely needs to be “built-up”. I used 5-minute epoxy glue to build up the pin-rest area on the ergo lever body. Once this modification is done the new resting position will be the same as when the levers were compressed about 1/2 inch. If you object to the “look” of the lever with the top edge slightly protruding in front of the body, then don’t consider this modification. Personally, I think most folks would have to look closely to notice the difference. For me, the improvement was well worth the effort and I don’t object to the look of the lever in the resting position.
    The required tools and materials to build-up the ergo lever body with epoxy are:
    120 grit sandpaper, miniature sanding drum
    acetone or lacquer thinner
    masking tape
    5-minute epoxy glue
    toothpicks or jewelers screwdriver (to apply epoxy)
    rags or paper towels
    small electric drill or “Dremel” tool
    single-edge razor blade, Xacto knife, or utility knife
    1. Push the brake release pin into the released position.
    2. Clean the area where the quick release pin rests with acetone to remove any dirt or grease.
    3. Place a small piece of masking tape on the brake lever to cover the area adjacent to the pin-rest, to avoid getting glue on the lever. Additional masking can be done on the lever body to prevent adhesive from contacting the lever body, if desired.
    4. Lightly sand the pin-rest area to provide a rough surface for good adhesion of the epoxy. This can be done by rolling up a small piece of 120-grit sandpaper to the approximate diameter of the pin and sanding by hand. The rolled-up sandpaper can also be placed in a drill to sand the area quickly (but gently). Those who own a Dremel tool may have a miniature sanding drum than would work even better. I also chose to drill a very shallow 1/16 inch hole in the center of the pin-rest area to create a “post” from epoxy that may improve adhesion of the built-up material. This may be overkill, but it was simple to do and only took about a minute.
    5. When all the above preparation is complete, the bike must be stood up so the pin-rest area is pointing straight up (if the ergo levers are mounted on the bike). If the bike is mounted in a workstand , this is easy.
    6. Mix a small amount of 5-minute epoxy and apply a large “drop” to the bottom of each of the pin-rest areas. Use a toothpick or jewelers screwdriver to apply the glue. Try to keep the glue away from the brake lever, but if it flows into it, don’t worry. The masking tape on the brake lever will prevent the glue from attaching to the lever. With 5-minute glue you have to work quickly or the glue will get tacky and string from the applicator, creating a mess. Do not allow glue to run onto the outside of the lever body. If it does, use a rag wetted with a small amount of acetone to wipe it off before it hardens.
    7. After the glue has hardened (at least 30 minutes) check to see if glue appears stuck to the masking tape on the brake levers, or has run into the small gap between the lever and the body. If it has, use an Xacto knife or double edge razor blade to carefully cut a gap between the lever and the body. It’s best to do this before the glue sets really hard. When this is complete, the brake lever should be free to move without disturbing the built-up epoxy on the pin-rest.
    8. After the epoxy has cured more completely (2 hours), push the brake release pin into it’s normal position and check the lever position when at rest. If enough epoxy was applied the lever should protrude in front of the lever body (where “10 SPEED” or “CARBON-BB SYSTEM” is written). Measuring from the front of the lever body to the front edge of the brake lever, the protrusion should be much more than 1/8 inch, otherwise the total travel of the brake lever will be reduced too much. This amount reduces the reach to the brake lever from the drops by about 1/2 inch. The amount of lever protrusion can be much less if a full 1/2 inch reduction in reach is not needed. I use a 1-inch diameter dowel rod as a gage to place between the bars and the shift lever. This is the absolute minimum distance that I would recommend to leave sufficient travel for proper brake operation. If too little epoxy was applied, the levers may not be as close to the bars as desired. If this is the case, repeat steps 4-7 to add thickness. If too much epoxy was applied, use the rolled sandpaper, mounted in the drill, or a miniature sanding drum in a Dremel tool, to sand away some of the epoxy. Be sure to remask the brake lever to prevent scarring the lever during the sanding process. The sanding process should be done slowly to avoid removing too much material and having to repeat steps 4-7. On the second pair that I modified, I got one side sanded to the proper depth quickly, but the other side took about 8 iterations of the sanding and checking process to get it match the other lever. It was still faster than reapplying more epoxy (steps 4-7).
    "Don't those guys know they're old?!!"
    Me, off the back, at my first 50+ road race.

  11. #11
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    I'm getting better at this...

    On the last pair of levers that I modified, all I did was clean the area where epoxy is placed, with acetone. I was able to get one side perfect on the first try and only had to apply a second small dose of epoxy to one side. Didn't take long at all to do.

    Another thing that you can do is check the epoxy for hardeness fairly frequently in the first 15 minutes after application (if you have extra epoxy left over, check the hardnes of the leftovers). When the epoxy is hard enough that it's not tacky, but soft enough to deform under pressure, the quick release pin can be slide back into position to test the result. If there's just a bit too much epoxy, a little forward pressure on the lever may deform the epoxy enough to produce the desired position without sanding. If there's not enough, wait a couple of hours before touch-up sanding and applying another dab.

  12. #12
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    Use round bars

    I had a hard time reaching the brake levers from the drops when I was using an ITM anatomic bar. I switched to a Nitto round bar, and now I can reach the brakes easily. There are several rounds bars still on the market, including the Deda 215 shallow, favored by Lance. Ritchey also makes one. I have Campy levers.

  13. #13
    NeoRetroGrouch
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    Do you have very small hands...

    Quote Originally Posted by bw77
    I had a hard time reaching the brake levers from the drops when I was using an ITM anatomic bar. I switched to a Nitto round bar, and now I can reach the brakes easily. There are several rounds bars still on the market, including the Deda 215 shallow, favored by Lance. Ritchey also makes one. I have Campy levers.
    and have your hands placed up into the front of the drops as far as they can go?

    TF
    "Don't those guys know they're old?!!"
    Me, off the back, at my first 50+ road race.

  14. #14

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    Epoxy Putty for Campy

    You can get a 2 part epoxy putty from automotive stores, that has the consistance of poster putty and easy to mold and won't drip or shift before in it sets up. This I would think would work very well for reducing reach.

  15. #15

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    Does this procedure affect the brake release at all?

    Probably a dumb question, but I'm not hardly mechanical. My extent of doing this will be to print it out and take it to someone's house along with my bike and a couple steaks.
    Thanks for the info. I have the printed out and will try this before heading to the mountains. (Yah, right!)

  16. #16

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    Solution for Shimano levers

    My wife recently bought a bike at our LBS (Hutch's in Eugene, OR). They have been turning normal shimano levers into "short reach" levers by gluing a little rubber wedge in between the top of the lever and the hood. I am pretty sure that these wedges are made by Shimano (they look 'stock', like they belong there). They have tabs on the top that fit into recesses in the newer STI hoods, but they will fit in the older ones too if you cut the tabs off and superglue them in place. The shop seems to have a bunch of them and doesn't charge anything to put them in, so they are probably available really cheap from some source or another. Inquire at your LBS! Hope this helps.

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