I have an older Windsor bike that came with some long arm side pull caliper brakes. I was using it with a pair of avid fr-5 brake levers that are stated on the specs as "Compatible - All levers are compatible with mechanical disc brakes and linear-pull brakes to work seamlessly". The levers use mountain bike style brake cable ends.

They work great, but I'm curious cause from what I understand linear pull is a long pull and side pull calipers are short pull. Why does this combination work so well?

I switched to bullhorn handlebars and put in some cross top brake levers that were on a road bike (they use road bike style brake cable ends) and they can hardly stop the bike. These are I'm assuming short pull levers and in theory side pull calipers are also short pull. So why doesn't this combination work?

Do I need to find long pull levers that I can get onto my bullhorn handlebars? I can't seem to find cross top brake levers or bar end brake levers that are long pull.

This shows my brake setup. (https://i.stack.imgur.com/qW12u.jpg)

These are the caliper compatible crossroad I tried initially and that did not work with my brake setup in terms of having enough power (https://i.stack.imgur.com/sVolM.jpg)

Following Nathan's hints as to what my issue might be, this is the solution I finally went with, which is to just put my linear pull brakes on the bar. (https://i.stack.imgur.com/99m2M.jpg)

  • Long pull levers work with any brake, provided that you have sufficient muscle strength in your forearms and/or your brake pads have enough grip. They only fail to work when you cannot put enough pressure on the lever to produce the desired braking effect. Oct 31, 2021 at 14:58
  • Good question - it might be improved by editing in some pictures of your brake calipers and levers.
    – Criggie
    Nov 1, 2021 at 0:01
  • I added some pictures. The first is the brake setup. The second is the solution I ended with, which was to basically put my avid fr-5 brakes on the bars. So now all works great.
    – mo_maat
    Nov 1, 2021 at 8:30

1 Answer 1


If the FR-5s were producing more braking power than a crosstop, that would suggest that the particular long-reach sidepulls you have feature actuating arms that are also extra long, or you're running the pad high up in the slot, or both. I think it's likely in your situation that what's going on is the physics of your particular brakes is putting them somewhat in between long- and short-pull.

Braking power off crosstops can be mediocre at the best of times because the lever part is short and has bad ergonomics. To that end, you could try using reverse levers, although it might not work because they can be a little constrained on travel distance, which if the above is true could become a limiting factor. I think if you went that direction, probably what would happen is you'd have to adjust the brake for a pretty small pad gap, but power would be good.

Bullhorns are in the "road" genre of parts and dedicated long-pull levers don't really exist for them. What does exist, barely, are pull conversion devices. There is an in-line adapter that was once made that would apply here, but I'm forgetting the name of it. It's truly old and weird and probably wouldn't be worth tracking down. It looks like a lever floating in space with some housing stops on a little mount. If you search enough Web 1.0 pages about weird bike projects you'll see it. It's not the Problem Solvers Travel Agent or World Class V-dapter, neither of which would work here.

If the root problem here is that you've got a brake where the actuation arms have been made extra long to compensate for the long reach, but your frame/fork geometry has you running them with the pad super high up in the slot, you might be able to eliminate the problem by just going to the next shorter reach class of brake, which would allow for a more normal adjustment and probably work okay with the crosstops you have. In other words: two pretty common types of long-reach brake are the 55-73mm(ish) class and the 47-57. If someone put the 73mm type on your bike but it really only needs the 57, and the pad location wants to be about 55-57mm away from the mounting bolt, it could get you into the spot you're in now.

  • You are right on Nathan. I think about the root problem being that the pads are high up in the arms. I added some pictures to illustrate. I wasn't aware that could change change the short pull attributes of the brake. In the end I just opted to put my Fr-5 levers on the bullhorn as illustrated and it works great.
    – mo_maat
    Nov 1, 2021 at 8:37
  • Putting the FR-5 levers in the bullhorn was my initial intent but I read a lot of stuff online suggesting you should go with cross tops or reverse levers. Is there any reason not to just put regular levers on the bar other than the inconvenience of not being able to remove them without removing the tape ?
    – mo_maat
    Nov 1, 2021 at 8:41
  • I'm curious whether putting in a set of brakes that wouldn't require the pads to be moved up would eliminate the problem? I found a solution, but I would be curious to know if anyone has successfully used a short pull lever or a lever that is supposedly compatible with side pull calipers and still have the braking power. That's what still baffles me, given that I tried a brand new set of cross top levers that are stated to be compatible with caliper brakes. Perhaps cross tops are not meant to be used stand alone? Or they may yield odd braking power results when used as standalone brakes?
    – mo_maat
    Nov 1, 2021 at 8:59
  • Most bullhorns are the 23.8mm "road" brake lever clamp diameter and mountain levers like yours are 22.2, so that usually works badly if at all. A lot of people use crosstops as standalone and it's basically fine, but no it's not their intended use. Whether they're standalone doesn't effect their power. Nov 1, 2021 at 16:34
  • If you can honestly get good stopping power on those brakes with an FR-5, that by itself is telling us that this is a case of the caliper design had the actuation arm length increased to balance out the long reach, but then you're not using much of that reach, so there's a leverage ratio going on within the caliper itself that is basically a much bigger number than a dual pivot would usually have, hence not resulting in the usual extremely poor braking power situation that usually happens when pairing a long pull lever with a short pull brake. Nov 1, 2021 at 16:39

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