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I have recently upgraded my hybrid with regular flats for a road bike with drops. Much to my surprise I adapted to the drop handlebars pretty quickly, however, even though I have a ladies' specific road bike, I still have an issue putting enough pressure on the brakes when working off the hoods. I have to take my right hand off and place it on the drop to pull the brake in fully. This actually makes me feel a tad nervous. My husband suggested that it might be possible to fit interruptor brakes on the handlebars as well which sounds like an ideal solution to me but am not sure if this is possible on a road bike. I can only find references to fitting the to CX bikes. I also have a bit of an issue with arthritis in my thumb joints, which makes it even harder for me to put so much pressure onto the brakes when working off the hoods.

I have a Trek 1.2 with the Shimano Sora triple chainset and I have already enquired as to whether it would be possible to adjust the brakes, but apparently this is not possible with the Sora system.

Does anyone know whether interruptor brakes would be feasible or not please?

Thanks.

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    Welcome to bikes stackexchange! I added the tag "women-specific" even though your question isn't entirely women-specific. However, many man women find brake levers (and other components) to be sized too large, and I want them to be able to find your question and the answers. – RoboKaren Mar 7 '17 at 17:45
  • @Tracy - my wife had the same problem as you (her shifters/brakes levers are 105's rather than Tiagra) with not being able to brake effectively from the drops. The interrupter brakes took care of the the problem, and 6 years later, have not caused any problems. She normally rides on the top flat bars near the brakes except when she needs to shift, and she's happy with the layout. (though she'll change position to the drops or even the hoods from time to time on a long ride and doesn't want to switch to flat bars) – Johnny Mar 8 '17 at 10:57
  • I think I am probably similar to your wife in that I quite like riding on the hoods most of the time but find it annoying that I have to move my hand to the drops to effectively use my brakes and therefore interrupters are looking like a great option. Thank you. – Tracy Mar 8 '17 at 20:04
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The other answers answer your specific question of buying interruptor brakes. Interruptors are fine, but they only work when you're riding the bars and you can't shift on the bars. You should really fix the main problem which is comfort and reach when riding the hoods, which is where most people like to have their hands when road biking. It's both a safety and comfort issue because you need to be able to steer, brake and shift.

First I'd like to answer the pre-question as to why you can't ride the hoods, both from a woman's perspective and then from an adaptive sports (arthritis) perspective.

Women have smaller hands then men while ... surprise-surprise... brake levers are designed by men for male hands and as a result, tend to be too large. Even women's bikes tend to use male components because we're not a large enough market (yet) to have our own. And you have the added issue of arthritis.

1) Reach: Almost all road bike brake levers can be designed to reduce the "reach" necessary to grab the brakes. This video shows how to adjust the reach on a typical road bike, but you can find more by just googling road bike brake reach adjustment:

This thread on bikeforum notes that the Sora STI's do have a brake reach adjustment:

The Sora STI levers on my Giant SCR have adjustable reach.If you look on top of the hoods where your hands go there is a hole, and inside that hole is the slotted head of a screw-turn this and it moves the lever closer to the bars-it a bit of a crude adjustment as the screw is in effect an adjustable backstop,but it works.

In the absence of an adjustment screw (which is the case with some older brakes), you can glue a small wedge into the gap created when you pull the brake levers. This prevents the brake lever from returning out all the way (and is effectively all that the adjustment screw does).

For more information, there is also a related question: How do you adjust the set-up of road bike brakes for women with small hands

2) Brake sensitivity: You can also tune and adjust the (presumably caliper) brakes themselves so that they are more sensitive / require less pull to actuate. You'll need to do this when you adjust the brake reach. If you tune it finely enough, you should be able to balance reach and good brake sensitivity even with a smaller range of motion on the brake lever.

In addition, if you switched to a mechanical disc brake (which would depend on frame/fork compatibility), you could further increase brake sensitivity. For example, I can do a forward somersault (not a good thing) with just one finger pulling just the slightest distance with disc brakes. In fact, I find I have to detune my disc brakes slightly now while I get used to them.

3) Position and Comfort: You can also adjust the position of the lever so that it rides up higher or lower on the drops. Depending on the ergonomics of your hand/wrist, this might give you better reach. Some padding on the hoods might improve comfort at the expense of reach.

4) Body: If it's the size of the hood itself that is too large, you might be able to find a smaller brifter/brake lever itself.

5) Handlebars: have you considered changing handlebars? Even if you kept the drop style you could find slightly wider or narrower options, or a different radius on the drop curve.

Finally, if after all the adjustments, the drop style just isn't working for you, have you considered changing handlebars to a non-drop style? If you can't ride the drops or hoods, you can't shift. So you might want to seriously consider changing out the handlebars.

6) Adaptive solutions: You might want to talk to your sports physiologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or adaptive sports center about what your other handlebar and brake/shifter options might be. They might recommend straight bars, a slightly curved bar, modified aerobars or something else. Which ever solution you have, you want to be able to steer, brake, and shift (in that order of importance). Since interruptors only do the first two, I'd still strongly suggest not going for that stop-gap solution and exploring further.

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    Most Sora STI levers also use the older pivot design (pre SLR), which does not provide very powerful braking from the hoods, even if you have reasonably large hands. The newest Sora R3000 brake levers do however, which might make it easier for smaller hands. Beyond that, hydraulics STI levers would make it easier for smaller hands as hydraulics requires less lever force - but now we are getting in to crazy expensive solutions. – Rider_X Mar 7 '17 at 20:18
  • Thank you everyone for the advice. I think my bike must have the older style brakes as there is definitely no adjustment screw under the rubber. – Tracy Mar 8 '17 at 20:28
  • @Tracy - even if you don't have the adjustment screws, you can glue small wedges (or use Sugru) to shorten the reach of the levers. This technique is documented in the thread above or I can clarify further in the answer. – RoboKaren Mar 9 '17 at 15:50
  • For what it's worth, I've found that on older style STI levers, having them set to engage with lower pull can actually be counterproductive, and that I actually get better leverage from the hoods when the brake is engaging with the lever closer to the bar. But different people have different physiology, perhaps give both a try. – Jamie A Mar 10 '17 at 19:19
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I've got Tiagra triple shifters and interruptor brakes; I don't see why Sora would be significantly different. While they are more common on CX bikes, there's nothing fundamentally different about road bike handlebars that would make fitting them any different.

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  • Thank you for this. Do you find the braking a lot easier with the interruptor brakes over the drop brakes please? – Tracy Mar 7 '17 at 13:26
  • Maybe a little. Mostly it means if I have my hands on the bars for a more upright position than on the drops for a better view in traffic, I don't have to move them onto the hoods. If I'm on the hoods already, I use the standard levers. But if you can't use the brakes effectively from the hoods, you will still have to move, just with a choice of the tops as well as the drops. So when, for example, lovelybike.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/… says "you cannot reach the brakes from the tops", it solves that, but that's not your problem. – armb Mar 7 '17 at 14:12
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    So overall, it might help, but I'd think about changing to flat bars as a backup plan. There are Sora flat bar triple shifters. (You might also need a new front derailleur; whether flat bar road shifters work with the same derailleurs as drop shifters seems to be either "maybe" or "it depends on the year; Shimano changed it so don't trust everything you read".) – armb Mar 7 '17 at 14:21
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As long as you have brake cables that route under your bar tape (at least one black tube that pops out of the bar tape) you should be able to install interrupt brakes/ cross levers. I'm not sure if it would help, but you should also be able to shorten the reach to the lever on your existing Sora shift/brake levers and that may put the levers in a more comfortable position. Additionally, a good quality dual pivot caliper brake with decent quality brake pads can do a lot to inspire confidence in your braking

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  • +1 for "shorten the reach". I'm fairly sure Sora does have the reach adjustment shims. (It isn't, however, possible to adjust the mechanical advantage to make the brakes "more powerful" for the same lever force in the way that traditional cantilever brakes allow; maybe that was what the store meant when they said adjustment wasn't possible.) totalwomenscycling.com/road-cycling/maintenance/… – armb Mar 7 '17 at 16:48
  • Google says I'm wrong about Sora having the adjustment shims, but it does have an adjusting screw that does the same job. – armb Mar 7 '17 at 16:54
  • I think that I will go back to the bike shop and see about getting interruptor brakes fitted as I think it will certainly make me feel a bit safer having access to brakes on the top of the handlebars. – Tracy Mar 8 '17 at 20:32
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usually unless its really old brakes ( and even then ) you can adjust the handle of the brake for tension and position. ( reach) so that its sits closer or farther relative to handlebars( it is usually a screw on the top preventing the brake to "fall back" as far as it can screwing it brings it closer to handlebars unscrewing goes farther.

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    Welcome to the site. The question mentions Shimano Sora, do these brakes have reach adjustment and if so, which generations? Also do you have any comment on interruptor brakes? – Swifty May 23 '19 at 6:45

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