I have gravel bike for around 3 months now with mechanical disc brakes and one thing I have problems with is braking. When I ride on drops (which I do rarely) I can brake well -- I pull the brake lever by its bottom end so I can even lock the wheel.

However with hands on hoods I cannot reach the far end of the lever so I have two fingers close to rotation axis of the lever. As the effect I can pull the lever slightly but not to such degree as riding on drops -- as the effect I am slowing down but not really stopping, I cannot execute emergency stop for example.

Which of course worries me. So is there some trick I didn't figure out? Or there some levers with different shape which help braking on hoods?

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  • Do you have small hands ? (Serious question) Could be a reach problem on the levers themselves
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 4:20
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    @Criggie, I wear typically L gloves, the length from middle finger to wrist is 19.5 cm. So far I had impression I have regular hands, only narrow wrists (but they don't play role here). Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 5:57
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    Are you braking with your front or rear brake? In case you brake with your rear brake the weight balance on your bike might be the reason. Your seat is very far forward.
    – gschenk
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 6:13
  • @gschenk, both -- I start with rear more to slow me down, and then I brake more with front to avoid skidding. As for the seat maybe I chose the wrong size of the bike, I don't know but I moved it forward to get my knees over middle of the pedals (basic adjustment). Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 17:53
  • @greenoldman The rear brake is less effective than the front; the hoods give you less leverage than the drops. So you're combining the worst of both worlds. As well as adjusting your hand position, you should try using the front brake more than you do. You're not going to go over the bars unless you pull on it way too hard. In the majority of situations on the road, braking equally and simultaneously with both brakes is completely safe. Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


Braking is always stronger from the drops than the hoods, as you noted only your lower fingers have mechanical advantage when braking from the hoods, when braking from the drops you have much better mechanical advantage for all your fingers.

That said, when properly set up, you should have no problems locking up both wheels on gravel from the hoods. You should also have no problem locking up the rear on asphalt.


There are a lot of factors that can affect brake effectiveness, how you set up your handlebar (ergonomics) can be one major component. These include:

  • Brake hood position: if the hoods are angled down, or the brake hoods and bars are angled down, it will be harder to brake effectively from the hoods. You will however be able to brake effectively from the drops.
  • Handle bar reach: If the reach is set too far it can make braking difficult to get a firm grasp on your brakes from either the hood or drop position.
  • Bar height - If your handle bars are too low you may also find it hard to brake, raising the bars can improve your reach as well as making it easier to brake from the drops.
  • Brake reach adjustment: Many road shifter/brake (i.e., brifters) come with reach adjustments which can be used to shorten the reach slightly.
  • Brake hood ergonomics: Each brand has slightly different ergonomics, and at times slightly different pivot locations for the brake lever. The ergonomics has also changed over time. I personally found mid 2000 Shimano brifters never braked well from the hoods, newer Shimano ergonomic design has improved this greatly, but some of the lower tier models still use the old design and pivot point location.

Observing some pictures of your set-up and your set-up in use would help

  • Thank you very much, I guess Sora falls into lower level category :-) I uploaded the picture with my bike. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 17:42
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    @greenoldman older Sora did have that ergonomic issue, but newer Sora (what is on your bike) uses the newer form factor that has better brake ergonomics. Your handle bar and hood setup also looks good and you have good quality mechanical callipers. Nothing leaps out at me as causing the issue.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 17:45
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    Ask your Local Bike Shop to check if you have shims already installed on your brifters, As @ Rider_X mentioned, These position the levers so the starting or brakes off position is closer to the bar. This increases the leverage as you squeeze the lever. It may require the cables to be adjusted to prevent drag.
    – mikes
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 20:05
  • I've got recent sora and big hands, and with the default setup the reach is about as much as I'd like from the hoods (obviously the bars make a difference too). I'm generally limited by how hard I want to brake
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 11:04

Looks like quite an upright seating position, so your shoulders are high and your arms are probably straight while riding. Also your saddle is aggressively forward, so that raises your shoulders even more. Quite an upright position is the root cause of your poor braking on the hoods.

First thing to try is bend your elbows which will lower your face. This will allow the fingers on the hoods to reach a bit further down the levers.

Second suggestion - the hoods look to be angled up a bit, like cowhorns. Personally I'd prefer the top of the hoods to continue the horizontal line from the sides of the handlebars. That would mean untaping the bars, sliding the levers around the curve a bit, retighten, and retape the bars. As a quick test though, you could loosen the bar/stem bolt/s and rotate the bars a wee bit, but straighten them up again if you do the retape.

Why? Picture your normal riding/braking position on the hoods. Is the brake lever closer to parallel with your index finger, or is it closer to parallel with your knuckles?

Ideally you want your forearms level, elbows bent, and brake levers approximately in-line with your knuckle line.

  • Angling the hoods up works better with an upright position. If you have a lot of bar to saddle drop, the horizon hoods work better.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 14:22
  • @Rider_X "works better" with the caveat of a bad angle onto the brake levers. If an upright position is desirable perhaps OP needs to look at interrupter levers for the tops ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 23:03
  • I have taken photos - will add after work...
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 2:04
  • Photos didn't really work - will have to find a tripod to make it consistent.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 20:15

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