Tuesday, July 17, 2012


When I replaced the cockpit on my Saluki a few weeks ago, I accidentally set up the brakes opposite the way I have them on all my other bikes.

Instead of the left lever controlling the front cantilever, I ran the cable so that my right hand controls the slowing of the forward wheel.

This is backwards to how most bikes in the U.S. are set up; apparently, though, it’s more common in England.

And, for what it’s worth, the late, great Sheldon Brown used to run his bikes with the front lever on the right, too.

It turns out I like it this way and not just because I’m reluctant to redo everything.  Since I usually rely more on the front brake to stop my bike than the rear, it make sense that my dominant, stronger hand should be in control; it seems to me that I get faster, more reliable slowing.

One downside is that with downtube shifters, my right hand naturally controls shifting the rear cassette, so if I want to change gears while braking, I’ve got to reach across with my left; not a big deal, but something to note.

Also, Sheldon counsels against having different set-ups on different bikes since, in an emergency stop, you might be apt, relying on your automatic responses rather than conscious intent, to apply the rear brake when you mean to slam on the front, thereby failing to stop quickly enough.  However, unlike Sheldon, I’m a two-brake panic-stopper; when I have to stop on a dime, I grab both levers, so I needn’t worry that I won’t slow down in time to keep from sliding under the pick-up truck or whatever.

The most compelling case for switching the levers back is that I mixed them up unintentionally; it’s kind of amateur to run set-ups that are accidental; on the other hand, now that I’ve ridden like this, I would have done it on purpose had I known.


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