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Thread: Old School Lever Position

  1. #1
    fixednwinter is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Old School Lever Position

    Near the beginning of Craig's Smoked Out thread, he made an astute observation about steel frame set-up & sizing from the '90's and earlier, with brake levers being positioned quite low on bars that had deeper drops, compared to what we have today. That old school position is what I started on back in the mid-80's. It's been a while since I've ridden a bike with that set-up, but when I went to revive my MX Leader, I decided to remove its new school Deda bars which had a flat transition and levers high, to an old school, re-issued Criterium bar.

    Which generation of Campagnolo brake-only levers for MX Leader re-build?

    Levers are positioned with the bottom of the blade in line with the bottom of the bar, instead of high up. The drops are nearly parallel to the horizontal top tube. I placed the bar clamp at -5.5cm below the saddle, which was my old position. A negative 5.5cm drop was relatively aggressive for the small frame size that I use (51 or 52cm).

    This is obvious - with the levers positioned low on plunging Criterium drops, it lowers the hood contact point another 4cm, so that the total drop from the saddle to the hoods is nearly 10cm - a lot for a small guy like me, riding a tiny frame. When I was setting it up on the MX Leader a couple of weeks ago, I thought, it looks period-correct and old school, but there's no way I'm going to be able to tolerate this drop. My current bikes (Hampco and Primus Mootry) have a -6cm drop to the bar clamp, but the hoods are also at -6cm too, with their flat transition.

    I decided to try out the nearly -10cm drop from saddle to hoods anyway, and the last half a month have been surprising. Sure, there's a lot more pressure on the web of my hands, where it rests in the hoods. But not only was it tolerable on my hands and back, it took a lot of pressure off my saddle and it put me in a much more powerful position.

    Another interesting effect is that due to my old school down tube shifters on the MX Leader, I had to move my hands off the hoods far more frequently than if I was using Ergo shifters. So the choice of DT levers alone meant there was frequent relief for my hands.

    For this reason, I'm not likely to replicate such a low drop on my contemporary bikes, but I found it interesting how effective and comfortable it was to ride with the low lever position. I may try dropping the lever position on my current bikes below 6cm, but not as extreme as -10cm.

  2. #2
    bigbill's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    I set my bikes up with the bottom edge of the lever on an imaginary plane with the bottom of the bars. I'm a big and powerful rider who stretches out when I motor on the flats, kind of like an old, fat Sean Yates. Never was much of a climber and was more of a break away rider than a pack sprinter so the position with the levers low always worked for me.
    I heart brown bikes.

  3. #3
    wasfast is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    The "fashion" seems to be levers ar near 45 degrees these days. I can't see how one would use the brakes or shifters in the drops that way if you race. I'm still way old school as well, Campy 10 spd levers with the top of the hood set parallel to the ground and the flat section of the bar (Ritchey Evolution or Shimano Pro Vibe 7) just about parallel to the ground.

  4. #4
    Gummee is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    I've got the opposite problem. I have an older Allez that I've got older (ITM Pro 260) bars on it with 10sp STI and want that flat transition.

    Problem is... I've got a Syncros stem I don't want to give up with a 26.0 clamp.

    I want the flat transition with old school bar diameter.

    M

  5. #5
    RickM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    I do believe that a lot of it is that "Normal" is what you get used to. Many of the same scribes who comment on the "old school" setups will also write that the contact points between New and Old skool sled setups are basically the same..so whaddya' gonna do?

  6. #6
    fixednwinter is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by chancerider View Post
    I do believe that a lot of it is that "Normal" is what you get used to. Many of the same scribes who comment on the "old school" setups will also write that the contact points between New and Old skool sled setups are basically the same..so whaddya' gonna do?
    I must admit, I kind of thought that my old and new positions were a lot closer, before reviving my MX Leader in the old position. What I found, at least for me, is that if I set the saddle height and set-back identically, that's good for comfort there. Setting the bar height at the clamp identically, is where the hood position changes drastically as the lever position and bar position on today's set-ups are different. We all knew this was the case, but to actually experience it was an interesting excercise these past couple of weeks.

    I can see that if one wanted to keep the hood position of the old school, with a current bike using a flat transition bar and levers high on the bars, that the bar clamp can be considerably lower than old school.

  7. #7
    sonny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    wow, i think we just dissected the modern "slam"

  8. #8
    Fixed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    learning to ride in the 70's with cables coming out of the brakes leaver and d.t. friction shifting
    it seems i rode more on the bars top hooks drops not as much on the hoods
    if i remember correctly a lot of water has passed by since then
    cheers
    I love bike racing

  9. #9
    timto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Post pics please!

  10. #10
    RickM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by wasfast View Post
    The "fashion" seems to be levers ar near 45 degrees these days. I can't see how one would use the brakes or shifters in the drops that way if you race. I'm still way old school as well, Campy 10 spd levers with the top of the hood set parallel to the ground and the flat section of the bar (Ritchey Evolution or Shimano Pro Vibe 7) just about parallel to the ground.
    Not a bar even close to parallel with the ground here. Of course, no hoods either. Ca. 1925.

  11. #11
    Gradient's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Apologies for the attached photo where the perspective is to low. This illustrates how late '90's early '00s handlebars lend themselves to that nearly horizontal bar to hoods configuration. This is a TTT Forma bar that has to steep of a drop, but you can see how flat the tops are. I did not think that I would like this configuration, given that I also have fairly small hands, but the shifting has been easy without to much over extension of the wrist. These bars are going to be swapped out for something shallower, but I may try to keep the horizontal plane.

    08192011+002.jpg

  12. #12
    RickM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradient View Post
    Apologies for the attached photo where the perspective is to low. This illustrates how late '90's early '00s handlebars lend themselves to that nearly horizontal bar to hoods configuration. This is a TTT Forma bar that has to steep of a drop, but you can see how flat the tops are. I did not think that I would like this configuration, given that I also have fairly small hands, but the shifting has been easy without to much over extension of the wrist. These bars are going to be swapped out for something shallower, but I may try to keep the horizontal plane.

    08192011+002.jpg
    It's the 'Ergo" hooks that screw over some otherwise-nice bars that have a decent flat ramp before the bend. You have probably a pretty good idea of what you're looking for in a new bar, but at the risk of being tiresome..here's an unsolicited suggestion if you want a nice flat section behind the hoods..and a shallower bend. The Nitto model 177 "Noodle" bar. A couple of views below so you can really see the bar. Tons of other images all over the interwebs.


  13. #13
    TMB
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by bigbill View Post
    I set my bikes up with the bottom edge of the lever on an imaginary plane with the bottom of the bars. I'm a big and powerful rider who stretches out when I motor on the flats, kind of like an old, fat Sean Yates. Never was much of a climber and was more of a break away rider than a pack sprinter so the position with the levers low always worked for me.
    This made me laugh.

  14. #14
    Fixed's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    a few pictures from the past
    cheers
    Attached Images Attached Images
    I love bike racing

  15. #15
    Gradient's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by chancerider View Post
    It's the 'Ergo" hooks that screw over some otherwise-nice bars that have a decent flat ramp before the bend. You have probably a pretty good idea of what you're looking for in a new bar, but at the risk of being tiresome..here's an unsolicited suggestion if you want a nice flat section behind the hoods..and a shallower bend. The Nitto model 177 "Noodle" bar. A couple of views below so you can really see the bar. Tons of other images all over the interwebs.
    Yea, that bar pretty much nails part of my reach/shifting issue, the other being the reach with my short(er) arms. The reach is already shorter on the Noodle and the tops further bend the reach in another cm or so. I can't believe I stuck with the old TTT Formas for a couple of years, but I don't really spend any time in the drops.

  16. #16
    longlegged is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    On my classic frames I usually position the drops at or near level to the top-tube.

  17. #17
    longlegged is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    I have nearly 5 pairs of Noodles (too many I know, need to thin down to two). I also have a pair of the Mark's Bar and the Randonneur. They are all great bears. However, I sometimes which for a subtle ergo bend and/or a shallower drop. But that's just me, I ride very upright.

    Quote Originally Posted by chancerider View Post
    It's the 'Ergo" hooks that screw over some otherwise-nice bars that have a decent flat ramp before the bend. You have probably a pretty good idea of what you're looking for in a new bar, but at the risk of being tiresome..here's an unsolicited suggestion if you want a nice flat section behind the hoods..and a shallower bend. The Nitto model 177 "Noodle" bar. A couple of views below so you can really see the bar. Tons of other images all over the interwebs.


  18. #18
    C.Dyer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Quote Originally Posted by longlegged View Post
    I have nearly 5 pairs of Noodles.
    So, 4 then?

  19. #19
    xjoex's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    I ride with my levers set up like deer antlers. Its pretty sweet.

    Whatever works for you.

    -Joe

  20. #20
    longlegged is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Old School Lever Position

    Ah! good catch. And actually, I really only do have 4, just checked.

    Quote Originally Posted by C.Dyer View Post
    So, 4 then?

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