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I purchased a bike from Germany and I noticed the front brake lever is on the left and the back brake level is on the right. I'm from the UK, and all the bikes I've ever ridden have had a setup that's opposite to this.

It looks like the only way I can solve this would be to pull the brake wires out from their cables, and run them back through the levers again. This means I may need to cut the end of each brake wire.

I'm wondering if there is an easier way to do this? For example, working from the levers and unhooking the top part of the brake wires? I remember when I used to repair my bikes as a teen, there was a part that I'd hook and unhook, but not 100% sure this was something to do with the brakes.

I haven't worked on, or ridden a bike since I was a teen. I'm going to buy some tools to carry out this work, but just wanted to know how to easily switch over the brake order.

Thanks in advance

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  • 2
    The brake lever clamps look hinged. Is it not possible to simply unbolt them from the bars and flip the side they are on? – Deleted User Dec 11 '19 at 17:07
  • @DeletedUser Those look like they may be crosstop levers, given that it looks like a drop-bar bike. If so, they're just inline with the normal drop-bar brake levers. – Andrew Henle Dec 11 '19 at 17:15
  • Hi, that was my first thought, but the other side of the leave has a nice shiny screw for an allen key. I don't think it would look nice if they were facing upwards. – LondonGuy Dec 11 '19 at 17:16
  • Is that the only brake lever? Those don't look like normal brake levers for drop bars. – DavidW Dec 11 '19 at 17:22
  • Some lever designs allow you to discombobulate the cable from the lever without having to disconnect the other end of the cable, but most don't. Hard to guess about yours. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 11 '19 at 18:44
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With the setup you have shown here, it looks like you could unclamp the brake levers from the handlebars, flip the left and right, clamp them back on, and be done. The fixing bolts would be on top rather than the bottom, but if you can live with that, that would be the simplest method.

Normal road-bike levers located on the drops are often specific to the left and right hand, so this approach wouldn't really work. You'd also need to rewrap the bar tape, at minimum. So in that case, you'd need to re-run the cables and cable housings, which is what you are proposing.

This is not a difficult maintenance task, but having the right tools makes all the difference.

Tools

  • a cable cutter, ideally a "bypass" cutter that leaves clean ends.
  • a "4th hand" tool to tension the cable correctly. Not strictly necessary but makes the work easier.
  • Allen key--4 mm or 5 mm to lock the cable to the brake arm.
  • Pliers

Parts

  • 2 new brake cables. Brake cables are different from derailleur cables, so make sure to get the right kind. You might be able to get away with the existing cables if there's enough excess left after you snip off the existing cable endcaps.
  • 2 brake-cable endcaps

What to do

  • Snip the ends off the existing cables and pull them out through the brake levers.
  • Swap the cable housings between the left and right levers.
  • Brake cables usually have a mountain-bike tip at one end (looks like a small cylinder going sideways to the cable), and a road-bike tip at the other (looks like a sort of teardrop inline with the cable). For these levers, you'll want to keep the road-bike tip, so cut off the mountain-bike tip.
  • Thread the cable. Finger-tighten the fixing bolt on the lower brake arm and leave your allen key hanging in the bolt.
  • Use your 4th-hand tool to pull the cable: hook the cable grabber onto the excess cable below the lower arm so that the cable grabber is at the bottom, butt the other side up against the lower brake arm, then squeeze.
  • Once the brake pads are within a few mm of the rim, tighten the cable fixing bolt.
  • Cut off the excess cable a few cm below the fixing bolt, then slide on the cable endcap on and crimp it with pliers.
  • Marked up everyone as all answers were helpful, but I was able to follow your detailed guide and finish the job in under 15 minutes. Now I just need to find some decent front and rear lights. – LondonGuy Dec 12 '19 at 21:58
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If you are against the look that would be provided by simply swapping the levers, you would need to re run the cables.

You might be able to get away with simply crushing the cable end in the opposite direction and removing it (this has worked for me semi-regularly). This may or may not leave a frayed end making rerunning the cable difficult. The clamp area on the brake may have also create a flat or bent spot on the cable making the cable difficult to rerun.

The safe bet would be to buy an additional/new set of cables and stops, simply cut and remove the old ones and run the new ones after switching the housing ends.

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It’s a bit of a project, but certainly don’t need to cut the wires. If you grip the metal cap at the end of the wire with pliers, you can easily pull it off. Then redo the cable and housing routing as you like. You probably can’t reuse the cable ends that you removed, but a shop will probably give you new ones for free to crimp on. In the meantime, a bit of tape is a good temporary solution.

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