I'd like to adjust the reach (distance from the drop bars to the brake levers) on my Ultegra 6510 levers. The Shimano instructions don't mention the ability to adjust this at all, which seems odd to me, since even basically junk mountain bike levers are adjustable in this way. Is there a way to adjust this on these levers? Is it "normal" for road levers to not be reach adjustable, or is this just a Shimano thing? From searching around a bit, it looks like you can use "Specialized Slim Shims." Is that the way people typically adjust the reach? Anyone have any better "home-brew" way to make them adjustable?


The Specialized shims are probably what you will end up using, however, before ordering them up, see if there is anything you can do by changing the location of the levers on your handlebar.

Drop handlebars can be adjusted in a multitude of ways. You can adjust the overall angle and slide the levers forwards or back to compensate for a change of bar angle, to keep the hood position where you are used to it being. Sometimes you can push the levers mounting position forwards/down, to interact differently with the curve of the bar to give a shorter reach. How exactly this works with your bike depends on how 'anatomical' or 'track style' your bars are. This will involve a lot of adjustment of bars, levers, cables and tape, but it is something you may want to investigate.

Alternatively go with the Specialized shims or simply rely on the fact that you can always reach your brakes if the threat is scary enough and slacken them off a bit so that, once you have got the lever, you are not working it with your fingertips to effect useful braking.

  • Thanks for the info. I'll try playing with the position on the bars and see if I can make that work. I just got new cables anyway, so will be re-cabling the entire bike in the next couple days, so I'll have the bar tape off anyway. Perfect time to fiddle with the lever positions. The way they are now, with my hands in the drops, the pads of my middle and index finger touch the side of the brake lever, and just barely around the front. Its not hard to brake from the hoods, but i have to stretch my fingers to get them around the levers from the drops.
    – rally25rs
    Sep 13 '11 at 13:28
  • It's pretty normal to have to stretch (at best) to reach the levers from the drops. I would think that this could be improved (eg, by reshaping the ends of the levers), but it's "tradition". Sep 13 '11 at 19:36

I've never seen brake levers that WERE adjustable (*), other than by sliding the unit up/down a drop bar, and that's probably not what you want.

The shims sound like your best bet, though I would think it's also possible to shim up at the bar/lever mount point, at the expense of affecting the brake hood fit.

After shimming (however you do it) be sure to check that the brakes don't drag and the levers don't "bottom out".

(*) However, you might look and see if any of the sites specializing in women's bikes has something. I checked the Terry site and didn't see anything, but I think there are a few other sites specializing in women's stuff.

  • Same here, I've never seen ones that were adjustable either. I can't say I've ever heard of anyone having a problem with the reach the way it was right out of the box. I'd guess tha most people get the reach the way they want it just by locating it at a different point on the bars. Sep 13 '11 at 12:55
  • People with smaller hands (eg, women) would tend to have problems. And rotating the levers to a different spot on the bar may lead to a less ideal position for the hands when riding on the hoods, etc. Sep 13 '11 at 19:33
  • I realize this answer is quite old, but SRAM brifters from around the same time (late '11) did have reach adjustment (via some tiny nubbins under the hoods). And Shimano got it at some point as well. Dec 29 '14 at 5:13

I had a similar problem on my bike and used shims. But I'm pretty sure they weren't "Specialized" branded ones. I was told they were supposed to come with the brifters but most bike shops don't put them on. Check with the bike shop you got the bike at to see if they have some lying around and perhaps you can get them for free. I agree that it's kind of odd that there's no reach adjustment, and only 1 size of brifters. My hands aren't that small. I would wonder how a woman with small hands would be able to reliably reach the brake levers at all, give how little room there is for adjustment. Biking in cold weather with gloves adds even more complication to the problem.


Most new levers are adjustable. Check out this video:


  • Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. We prefer the answers in our Q&A format to be standalone, not dependant on some other website. Video is helpful to expand and reinforce the answer, but could you please edit your answer and summarise the points of the video?
    – Criggie
    Oct 26 '15 at 6:01
  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. We prefer answers on this site to be self-contained. That way, the answer is still valid if the link dies. Please summarize what information is contained in the link within the body of your answer. Otherwise, it is likely to be downvoted, flagged, and ultimately deleted.
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    Oct 26 '15 at 11:10

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