Brake Levers – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Bicycle Components Glossary

I. What are brake levers?

Brake levers are an essential component of a bicycle’s braking system. They are the part of the handlebars that the rider uses to activate the brakes, which in turn slow down or stop the bike. Brake levers are typically mounted on the handlebars near the grips, within easy reach of the rider’s hands. They are connected to the brake calipers or disc brakes via cables or hydraulic lines, depending on the type of braking system.

II. How do brake levers work?

When the rider squeezes the brake lever, it pulls on the cable or hydraulic line, which in turn applies pressure to the brake calipers or disc brakes. This pressure causes the brake pads to make contact with the wheel rim or rotor, creating friction that slows down or stops the bike. The amount of force applied to the brake lever determines how quickly the bike will come to a stop. Some brake levers also have adjustable reach, allowing riders to customize the distance between the lever and the handlebars to suit their hand size and riding preferences.

III. Types of brake levers

1. Cantilever brake levers: Cantilever brake levers are commonly found on older road bikes and mountain bikes. They are designed to work with cantilever brakes, which use a cable to pull the brake arms towards the wheel rim. Cantilever brake levers have a longer reach and a different cable pull ratio compared to other types of brake levers.

2. V-brake levers: V-brake levers are designed to work with V-brakes, which are a type of rim brake commonly found on mountain bikes and hybrid bikes. V-brake levers have a shorter reach and a different cable pull ratio compared to cantilever brake levers, making them incompatible with each other.

3. Disc brake levers: Disc brake levers are designed to work with disc brakes, which use a hydraulic system or a cable to actuate the brake calipers. Disc brake levers have a different shape and feel compared to rim brake levers, as they are optimized for the unique requirements of disc brake systems.

4. Aero brake levers: Aero brake levers are designed for use on aerodynamic handlebars commonly found on time trial and triathlon bikes. They are integrated into the handlebars to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. Aero brake levers often have a minimalist design and may offer limited adjustability compared to traditional brake levers.

IV. Factors to consider when choosing brake levers

1. Compatibility: When choosing brake levers, it is important to ensure that they are compatible with the type of brakes on your bike. Using the wrong type of brake levers can result in poor braking performance and potential safety hazards.

2. Reach and adjustability: Consider the reach and adjustability of the brake levers, as this can affect your comfort and control while riding. Adjustable reach levers allow you to customize the distance between the lever and the handlebars to suit your hand size and riding preferences.

3. Material and construction: Brake levers are typically made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of materials. Aluminum levers are durable and affordable, while carbon fiber levers are lightweight and offer improved vibration damping. Consider the material and construction of the brake levers based on your riding style and budget.

4. Ergonomics: Choose brake levers that feel comfortable and intuitive to use. Ergonomically designed levers can reduce hand fatigue and improve control while riding. Consider the shape, size, and texture of the brake levers to ensure a comfortable and secure grip.

V. Maintenance and care of brake levers

1. Regular inspection: Inspect the brake levers regularly for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. Check the cables or hydraulic lines for fraying, kinks, or leaks, and ensure that the lever action is smooth and responsive.

2. Cleaning and lubrication: Clean the brake levers and cables regularly to remove dirt, grime, and debris that can affect their performance. Use a mild detergent and water to clean the levers, and apply a small amount of lubricant to the pivot points for smooth operation.

3. Adjustment and alignment: Periodically check the alignment and adjustment of the brake levers to ensure optimal braking performance. Adjust the reach, tension, and angle of the levers as needed to suit your riding preferences and hand size.

4. Professional servicing: If you are unsure about how to maintain or repair your brake levers, seek professional servicing from a qualified bike mechanic. They can inspect, adjust, and repair the brake levers to ensure safe and reliable braking performance.

In conclusion, brake levers are a critical component of a bicycle’s braking system that allows riders to control their speed and stop safely. By understanding how brake levers work, the different types available, factors to consider when choosing them, and how to properly maintain and care for them, cyclists can ensure optimal braking performance and safety while riding.