I have been riding mountain bikes for over 20 years and am just going back to a road bike. I find the modern bars and hoods and combined levers a very strange position. I have actually loosened them and pushed levers further down bars to be more like a 60s or 70s brake position and redone the tape. I think perhaps I should have not done this and just got used to the modern position.

However, I am worried about braking. I was going down to the drop position to use the brakes and found this uncomfortable and a stretch. But I see some people use them with their hands on the hoods. Can you get full brake power in this position? Is it safe enough for going down big hills?

  • There's a lot of difference from one bar to the next. Some have a roughly 45-degree area for the levers so you can comfortably ride on the hoods, others make it virtually impossible to position the levers for riding on the hoods. Some have deep drops where you can't reach the levers from the drops (and, at my age, can't reach the drops anyway), while others have shallow drops. Unfortunately, there's not a really good way to pick a good bar, and swapping them is a royal PITA. (However, in my experience, if the hood position is "right", you can brake very effectively from the hoods.) Jul 12, 2012 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


most mid level and up brakes / levers will offer 75% or better power from the hoods. Max brake power from the drops.

The handle bar position is critical on long rides to offer 3 or so different hand positions. Start with the hoods level, to just above level and move around from there. I tend to micro adjust them as i get comfortable on a new bike. Seat height, frame size, stem length all play a factor in finding that sweat spot.

  • thanks Matt and Daniel for the replies. i shall ride a bit more and then start moving them back to where they were bit by bit. a pain redoing the tape each time. here is a link to a picture of where they are now farm8.staticflickr.com/7249/7549716200_e229cdaa3f_b.jpg
    – mikey
    Jul 13, 2012 at 14:36
  • 1
    no problem. Those are pretty aggressive. I would bring the brakes up an inch or so, then use the tilt of the bar for micro adjustment. Looks like your bars are in the right position.
    – Matt Adams
    Jul 13, 2012 at 19:38
    – mikey
    Jul 14, 2012 at 17:46

I was getting disatisfied with the brakes on my drops and found that I wasn't able to use the brakes effectively from the hoods.

I found a few sites that suggested a good base line including http://www.sutherlandsbicycle.com/Chapter11.pdf

Now I put a straight edge along the bottom of the drop extending forward and lined up the tip of the brake lever with this. I also use the straight edge across the outside of the bars to line the levers up fore and aft.

This provides a good base line to make adjustments from.

After a few days riding I decided that I actually wanted to be about 6mm below the straight edge and pointing about 5 degrees in.

I left the tape off while I was experimenting. Remember to keep the end plugs in.

I found that my original set-up was about 30mm below the line and meant that my hands were turned down too much to comfortably use the levers from above.

  • Thanks Dan, i is making more sense to me with these comments. shall study a few bike pics as well..
    – mikey
    Jul 14, 2012 at 17:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.