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This is not a complete answer, but one factor certainly is that nowadays bikes often use powder coating as their finish, rather than liquid paint. Powder coating has signifcant advantages over paint (more resilient coating, no risk of running, no solvents required), but the surface characteristics are different. In particular, the sparkle effect of metallic ...
These lever style are mainly used in triathlon bicycles because of their smaller profile and positioning on aero-bars. You can read more about the evolutions of these levers here: http://university.tri-sports.com/2010/08/11/stop-triathlon-bike-brake-levers/
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