I'm new here and hoping someone might have thoughts on this - had a look and couldn't find an answer elsewhere! Apologies for the kind of long question, and if it's silly, but any thoughts would be appreciated :)

My situation is this: I ride a simple hybrid bike just to and from work/uni most of the time, though I'd like to get a road bike one day. I do also like "mountain" biking on flat trails but borrow bikes for this.

I have very mild cerebral palsy on my left hand side. It affects muscle strength and fine motor skills but only slightly. If I wanted to apply the rear brake, on my left handlebar, it's difficult for me to get up enough force quickly. (steering and controlling bike are totally fine)

I'm great at using the front brakes though, and it's never caused me problems before (I don't go that fast anyway), but I just started wondering, if I want to get a road bike or do more risky mountain biking, perhaps I should consider what's safest and whether modifications would be possible.

So firstly I'm wondering whether anyone thinks this is worth investigating, or if only front braking should continue to be fine.

Secondly, if I should try find a way to rear brake, does anyone have any suggestions? Is there any way to control both brakes from my right handlebar (I'm pretty quick and strong on my right, due to always having had to compensate for my left)? Also, when I was a kid, my dad used to find/make me bikes that applied rear brakes when I back-pedalled - is that a thing? (Google directs me to coaster brakes) But I can't remember if I also had a front brake on those bikes.

I'm not good at DIY, due to the lack of fine motor skills from one of my hands, so if I want to go the path of trying a modification I guess I also want to try work out what I'd get charged for it by a store here in Australia.

I may just be overthinking this, but I've always felt kind of nervous on road bikes (only ridden my boyfriend's a couple of times), so if I do want to get into riding one, I want to know I've got the best set up for me.

Thanks so much!

(also my injury tag = disability, wanted to create the tag but couldn't due to being new. I felt it might be useful to link it to injury anyway in case someone looks there for answers on how to ride after an injury to a hand)

  • It would be a good idea to say what country you're in -- in the UK, ikes have to be sold with the front brake on the right, in much of the rest of the world it's the other way round.
    – Chris H
    Feb 26, 2016 at 16:21
  • Related: bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/28539/7309 (especially my answer)
    – Chris H
    Feb 26, 2016 at 16:25
  • 4
    Many experienced cyclists almost exclusively use the front brake anyway. I only use the rear brake on long descents mostly to have heat distributed to both wheels, or when there's a possibility of the front wheel locking up due to traction issues (lots of water, or gravel). The front brake is the only brake capable of stopping you in a minimum amount of time in an emergency. Feb 26, 2016 at 23:17
  • 2
    You can have your bike set up how you want it to be. Noone else is going to ride it. I'd suggest a coaster brake on the rear (back peddling brake) and a front brake lever under your "good" or "responsive" hand, and no brake lever under the bad hand to help remind you.
    – Criggie
    Feb 27, 2016 at 8:16
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    @Emyr in the answer I linked to I go into a little more detail. There are exemptions (which are likely to apply here) but the regs are clear. I suspect post-sale professional adaptation is the proper route
    – Chris H
    Feb 27, 2016 at 13:06

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking your off hand should be the front brake, so if you're right handed the front brake should be the left. They can be set up either way, though, especially if you're using cable-driven (non-hydraulic) brakes. Even with hydraulics you should have no problem making the right hand brake the rear. I would highly advise this, as in a panic situation while mountain biking if you grab the front brake hard, you're more than likely going over the bars.

There are levers that work both brakes. They are out there!

dual pull brake lever

Here is one that pulls 2 cables at the same time, so you could use it to pull both the back and the front brakes. http://www.jbi.bike/web/checking_product_description.php?part_number=13748

There is also a company called Surestop whose product I believe works off of one lever and won't engage the front brake until the rear is already engaged, thus making it very difficult to catapult yourself over the bars. They are for V brakes only though, I believe.

The backpedalling braking is indeed a coaster brake: you are correct on that note.

  • 1
    Sheldon Brown suggests that the left brake be used on the more dominant hand since it should be used most often on the road and requires the most fitness.
    – jfa
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:36
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    "left brake" being the rear that you're referring to correct? Because being the left is dependent on the country of origin. In the US our bikes come with the left brake as the front and the right as the rear.
    – Nate W
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:43
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    As you hand over brake control to your subconscious - it makes little difference what you dominant hand is. (Do you think "I need to stop, I need to pull the left lever little and the right lever a short time after, oh, too much, now I am skidding, a little less", or does it all "just happen" and your first though is "that was close".......). Based on that normally your brakes should be set up like everyone else does in your country, especially if you plan to borrow bike. Anyone who has experience riding a bike with brakes opposite you what they are use to knows why.
    – mattnz
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:49
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    @NateWengert >.< front brake, sorry
    – jfa
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:55
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    As a motorcycle rider, I cannot imagine having the front brake anywhere but on the right handlebar. I swapped my cables just because of this.
    – user22506
    Feb 26, 2016 at 19:45

I was amazed the right is the front but found this

Australian Standard AS1927 – 1998 Pedal Bicycles – Safety Requirements, page 16 Section 2.14 Braking System states the following: Handbrake lever location: The brake lever for a front brake shall be positioned on the right-hand side of the handlebar, and that for a rear brake on the left-hand side.


  • Continue to use the right as the front
    This may be your best option as most of the braking is from the front
    If you have learned to control this (not go out the front) then not a bad option

  • Continue to use the right as front with a drop seat post
    Getting your weight back is the best defense to not going out the front
    On the street for emergency braking no help
    But on mountain bike you could drop the seat for downhill sections

  • Dual pull cable
    This is covered in the answer from Nate +1

  • Rear coaster
    With a single speed or internal hub you can get a rear coaster brake
    An internal hub with coaster would be kind of expensive and not even sure it would be compatible with your existing bike

  • Dual hydraulic
    Put a split on the hydraulic line go to both front and rear
    But then would need to find a brake lever to put out twice the volume or find brakes that only need half the volume
    Another problem there is with same in front and rear on hard braking it would not be much different than front only - as you go out the front there is no weight on the rear wheel
    You could tune it with a larger brake on the rear
    Cars do do something like this
    It would be an expensive custom build

Down hill is where you need to be very careful as easy to go out the front. But down hill the rear wheel is already unweighted by the angle so you need to use the front just be careful.

  • 1
    A split in the hydraulic line to feed both brakes with one lever is unsafe, a single leak will leave the brakes non-functional. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:17
  • @TimothyBaldwin And leaks in two brake lines is equally unsafe. A single point of failure does not instantly go from safe to unsafe. Automobiles today are susceptible to a single point of failure and it is managed effectively.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:24
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    @ Frisbee, Australian Standard: It is common in left-side of the road driving countries to have the front brake on the right lever. Any other country would have it on the left, generally speaking. There are however personal tastes and preferences.
    – Carel
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:38
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    The brake system goes to four wheels via a minimum of two physically separate systems on all modern cars. This costs manufacturers more money but it's cheaper than paying out millions in punitive damages for installing inherently dangerous brake systems. If you can't envision a hydraulic system losing pressure at the worst possible moment, then I have no idea what you mean by manageable. Redundancy of critical systems is a hallmark of good engineering, and yes, I can calculate the odds of a dual failure vs. single failure. Let's just say the latter is far more likely. Feb 27, 2016 at 0:36
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    If you want to run two hydraulic brakes from one lever, don't mess with the hoses, just get an appropriate dual lever. This one has the right master cylinder size to drive two mid-range Shimano calipers: www.tartybikes.co.uk/hydraulic_disc_brakes/tensile_shimano_twin_caliper_hydraulic_disc_brake/c558p13126.html
    – Emyr
    Feb 27, 2016 at 8:03

Have you thought about modifying a lever so there is less pull, less reach to the lever too, and having that on your restricted side? If you know any 2nd hand parts places and had a rummage through the old stuff you might find something to play with. Could you operate a brake lever fitted under the heel of your hand?

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