# Is it possible to control two brakes from a single lever?

Up until the start of the year, I was a keen road cyclist, I even dabbled a bit on here amongst the experts, but unfortunately in February I suffered a stroke.

I am gradually starting to pick things up again, one of which is a desire to get myself riding once more.

The stroke has left me with some damage, in particular it has paralysed my left arm and left me very unbalanced(!). I'm hopeful that maybe converting to a tricycle will help with the latter, but I have a question specifically about the former.

For the sake of this question, the bike I'm thinking about converting is about 5 years old, has brifters and dual pivot rim brakes. It shifts mechanically.

Now, I figure that it might be possible to rig something up, so as to allow me to operate the front derailleur with my right hand. An inventive use of a bar-end shifter, perhaps? But I'm at a loss as to how I can get the bike to brake smoothly, operating both front and rear brakes at once. One solution I can think of would be to control both brakes with the same brifter, and I was wondering, is this even possible in practise?

Also, I'm aware that an easier option, given my disability, might be to use an electronic shifter. In this scenario, I wouldn't even try to modify the existing bike, but would instead buy something new. But of course, current fashion dictates that new bikes commonly ship with disc brakes, and so I have a secondary question regarding how I might do this with hydraulic disc brakes. (Presumably, with mechanical disc brakes, the approach would be the same as for dual pivot brakes?)

Please note I'm not looking for a product recommendation here - I'm quite capable of doing this myself - but if someone can say "Yes, I've seen it done", and maybe suggest some search terms, then I would be grateful. As things stand, I'm not even sure what to look for.

• If you check BMX brake items you can find a variety of levers with double cable pulls in a single handle. There are also "Y" brake cables that actuate two cables from a single lever. They are typically used with "Gyro" headsets. – mikes Oct 23 '16 at 13:09
• For mechanical (cable-operated) brakes you need something slightly more complex than a simple Y cable. Due to temperature changes, cable stretch, pad wear, etc, even if you precisely adjust the two cables from a Y to equally activate both brakes, there will be some imbalance in short order, so an "equalizer" (eg, a short lever at the head of the Y) must be used. However, this needs to have a "safety" feature so that all braking will not be lost if the cable on one side breaks or some such. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 23 '16 at 20:02
• You could go to mechanical disks (e.g. BB7's) if you don't want to deal with hydraulics. Also MTB's a loosing the front deraileur, with insane rear clusters e,g, SRAM have a 12 speed 10-50, and 11 speed 11-42 common, so loosing the front mechanical is entirely possible, so with a problem solver you could use a brifter on a MTB rear. – mattnz Oct 23 '16 at 20:35
• @mattnz - That's a good point re the front derailleur. I guess in the UK, discs might be nice for the rain, but rims should be adequate. I don't see a nice way to shift the front with one arm with a bar end or something and staying in control easily. Also, the part is a JTek Shiftmate in that case (which is a UK based company, so shouldn't be hard to find). – Batman Oct 23 '16 at 21:32
• @DanielRHicks - That seems hard. With one lever, you're always going to have one brake cable out that can break, so you'd need something like a brifter and an interrupter lever. One of the brakes is hooked up to a splitter (e.g. Cable Doubler 2:1) with one end going to the interrupter lever, and the other to a combiner (e.g. Cable Doubler 1:2) along with the other brake, which is hooked up to the brifter. Then, if any one cable breaks, you still have braking. But you'd need to stick a bunch of barrel adjusters and stuff and faff with regular tuning (which is unavoidable). – Batman Oct 23 '16 at 21:36

You can use a Problem Solvers Cable Doubler 1:2 to pull 2 brakes with 1 lever. Its a little device which you hook up the two brakes to (assuming they have the same cable pull) with 2 sets of brake cables, then run something to the levers. This works for essentially any pair of cable operated brakes with the same cable pull.

For hydraulic brakes, there are some lever mounting strategies here, but I'm pretty sure the obvious solution (using a Y-splitter in the hydraulic line) won't work.

You also might want to look at this question for general one armed cycling stuff.

As for shifting, a bar end shifter is probably easiest, or shimming a thumb shifter. Depending on how your strength is distributed, an interrupter lever might be useful as well.

• Cheers @Batman, these things look ideal, and I seem to be able to get hold of something in the UK. I'm obviously getting sufficiently strong to be starting to think about cycling once again, I see you're just as prolific on here as you always used to be! The two brakes are identical, btw, so pull will not be an issue. – PeteH Oct 23 '16 at 15:02
• Also, I've just spent the last couple of hours looking at new bikes on the web. Even if I end up going down a Di-2 (or something) route, several bikes still seem to come with rim brakes. So it looks like my question about hydraulic systems was pirely academic. – PeteH Oct 23 '16 at 15:21
• @Batman I'm not a cyclist, but I do work on car brake lines. On older (non-fancy/simpler) vehicles, the two rear brakes were fed by one line that was split by a simple Y to go to each wheel. The two rear wheels receive equal pressure. The two front brakes are fed a little differently, but they still have equal pressure between the two of them. The fronts gets higher pressure than the rears. There are devices called adjustable proportioning valves that allow gear-heads to adjust the relative front and rear pressure. I don't know if it would be compatible with bicycles though. – Zach Mierzejewski Oct 23 '16 at 15:55
• @ZachMierzejewski - You'd need something like an adjustable proportioning valve since you need to keep the relative pressures in the front and back different on a bicycle for good braking. But I think you need to put some booster or something for using just a Y, else the lever will probably just bottom out. – Batman Oct 23 '16 at 21:08
• @PeteH - Problem Solvers is a part of QBP, so a ton of shops should be able to order it (especially shops that sell Salsa/Surly/All City/Civia, since those are all QBP brands). A lot of bike shops in the US buy their stock from QBP so they can normally special order it. As for the DI-2 stuff, I'm not sure that shifting is designed to be significantly easier. Worst case, JensonUSA ships world wide and would charge about 68 USD(56 GBP) for the device with shipping; 20% of it is shipping and stuff. You could probably also grab some inline adjusters at the same time to ease setup for little more. – Batman Oct 23 '16 at 21:17

Brake Director appears to be another option.

• That looks neat (and probably better than the problem solvers solution if you don't have enough hand force). – Batman Oct 24 '16 at 15:11