I have a mid-2000's MTB project bike where I changed the 3x drive train to a 1x. However the original shifters were integrated with the brake levers (Shimano BR-M465 with Shimano ST-EF35 EZ Fire STI).

I have no problem with the original mechanical disc brakes, but I need new levers. The 2nd hand market where I am mostly consists of new hydraulic brakesets or levers.

So my question is, can I use hydraulic levers with mechanical brakes? or am I better off just changing the whole set.

Would be looking at something like Shimano Alivio M425 levers.

2 Answers 2


Traditional MTB mechanical brake levers and road rim brake levers pull metal cables to actuate the brakes. Hydraulic brake levers actuate the brakes by moving brake fluid, which is mineral oil or DOT fluid, similar to the brakes in cars.

Thus, there is no way for mechanical brake levers to actuate hydraulic levers. Neither are there are any adaptors, to my knowledge. Some cable-actuated hydraulic brakes exist. They use cables, but have a hydraulic cylinder on the brake (whereas hydraulic brakes have the cylinder in the lever). You should be able to find cable MTB brake levers on Google, however. It appears that some are still made.


No, not possible. Your options are:

  • Buy a pair of simple brake levers for cable-operated brakes. This is the cheapest and simplest option. Cable operated brakes will work well enough, and will look stock.
    For simple pootling-around, this would be my choice.

  • Buy two sets of low-end hydraulic brake-sets. You can look out for something like the Shimano BR-MT-200 or BR-MT-401 which are a pre-assembled single-brake set of a caliper, an average length of hose, and a handlebar lever with a charge of mineral oil.
    They're low-end brakes but perfectly adequate and at about $100 for each, then they're affordable.
    For a bike where you intend to do more serious rides, this would be my choice.

I could not imagine a way to actuate a hydraulic caliper with a cable brake lever. The brake is the most important safety system on your bike, and bodgery has no place on a brake.

I have one bike that has a hydraulic front disk brake and a cable-operated rear disk brake, so there's no reason you have to have both the same.

  • 1
    MT-200 are good, but the hoses on the pre-bled kits are really long. Reckon on cutting and bleeding if you want it to look tidy (mine are on an XL MTB and have loads of slack)
    – Chris H
    Jul 31 at 8:31
  • @ChrisH yes, they do err on the side of longer, which is better than too-short ! Personally I'd suggest OP goes with cable levers as separates.
    – Criggie
    Jul 31 at 10:57
  • 1
    I'd also stick with cables in this case - get some levers online, at a bike jumble, or even from a donor bike if it comes to it. They're just V-brake levers after all.
    – Chris H
    Jul 31 at 11:19

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