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I took a hard spill the other day on my mountain bike and snapped my left hand brake lever in to pieces. The ones that snapped are stock alloy rubbish that came with a Specialized Hardrock 2010 Disc Brake model. They are standard Bowden Cable brake wires with the little barrel shaped bit at the end that fits to the brakes. (Do they have a name?)

I'm having some trouble purchasing levers and there doesn't seem to be much information on it online or much information on the products I'm finding.

To the point

What I need is Bowden Cable compatible brake levers but I have no idea how to search for them. Sometimes descriptions will mention that they are for pneumatic, V-brakes, caliper or canti brakes but I've never seen anything saying that they would be compatible with my bike on any site.

What am I doing wrong? Or what should I be searching for here?

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From your description, there's nothing unusual about the brake cables. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 9 at 1:43
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Presumably the barrel you're talking about is a ferrule. The brake cables are plain ole' brake cables and the brake levers are just plain ole' V-brake (a.k.a. linear pull) brake levers, such as the Avid Single Dial 7/FR-5 or Shimano Deore BL-M590 or whatever. You can also easily grab a V-brake lever from a LBS parts bin for a buck or two (though you may not get a matching set, like you do when you buy a new lever). –  Batman Jan 9 at 7:05
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Your need is to find a lever with the proper shape and fit to replace the old one, and also with the proper "cable pull" distance. "Cable pull" differs about 2 to 1 between older caliper/cantilever levers and newer V-brake levers. Most likely your discs are designed for V-brake levers, but it's hard to say that with certainty. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 9 at 12:00
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Since it sounds like you have mechanical disc brakes (Avid BB5 or Tektro Novela not hydraulic) then any direct-pull or V-Brake lever should work fine with your cable. Searching for 'V-Brake levers' or 'mechanical disc brake levers' should provide plenty of responses.

For example, if you look at the spec page for the Avid FR-5 lever, you will see that they are compatible with both "Mechanical disc brakes, Linear-pull brakes." V-Brakes are a type of linear-pull brakes.

Note that most levers designed specifically for Cantilever Brakes will NOT be compatible. The key issue is that the levers must be direct or linear pull.

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A slight note on the last point: Shimano sells 2 finger and 4 finger brake levers which are v-brake compatible. Some of the 4 finger brake levers (e.g. ST-EF60 shifter+brake lever combo) are switchable between canti's and V-brakes (AFAIK, all Shimano V-brake levers which are 2 finger are V-brake only). If you don't set them to V-brake, you're not going to pull enough cable for proper braking. But you're probably going for the 2 finger variant anyway. –  Batman Jan 9 at 7:24
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You should be looking for mechanical disc compatible mountain levers. I have used recycled linear-pull (rim brake) levers with mechanical discs without issues. However they may have been disc compatible. If you check with your local bike shop or any of the online retailers you will be able to select something that meets your budget. They may be specified as disc or disc/linear pull levers. I would suggest replacing both levers as the replacement will most likely have slightly different geometry from the original. The geometry difference will mean the pull, reach, leverage and modulation will differ from front to back.

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As far as I know, all mountain bike mechanical disc brakes use V-brake (i.e. long pull) levers. There are road models which are short pull (that is, use same levers as calipers/canti's). The lever doesn't care whats on the other end of the cable (V brake or a normal mountain bike disc or even a cantilever with a travel agent pulley in backwards)- you just need the long pull cable amount. –  Batman Jan 9 at 6:55
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