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Brake Lever Comparisons - road w/o shifter

Old 06-27-22, 11:28 AM
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Lasue
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Brake Lever Comparisons - road w/o shifter

I am updating my gravel/ rando bike to 11sp soon (from 10sp). Brakes are the Shimano disc R517 (road short pull) and I am quite happy with these and their adjustability. I need to pair them with a brake lever (without a shifter). I believe these are the options available on the market that are new: Shimano BL-R400, SRAM S 500, TRP ROAD RRL-AL ALLOY, Tektro RL-340

I am a small person. That means, the hoods do not need to be big but still must be comfy since I ride long distances. My favorite hoods of all time are the ultegra 6600 hoods. The Shimano GRX hoods are absolutely awful for me and add tons of reach, which I am too short for. I also have SRAM AXS Force. I really like the length and feel of the hoods but the width could be a bit wider.

There are no shops that have these available for me to put my hands around but as I understand it, the SRAM S500 are the only ones with an adjustable lever (to make the lever closer to the bar)? The Shimano are thinner than the STI Shimano levers I heard?
The TRP look really nice but they look similarly long to the GRX. Anyone able to verify this?

I am assuming that all of these brake levers perform equally well, of course but am trying to get an idea about the fit of each one so am excited to hear your feedback.
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Old 06-27-22, 02:08 PM
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clasher
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I've bigger hands (size 11 gloves) and found the tektro rl-340 was a good fit for my meat mitts. The shimano bl-r400 feel much smaller in my hands, but I don't mind that either. If you have small hands I'd go with the shimano bl-r400. I would guess the tektro RRP levers to be on the bigger side of things, they look to be close to the same size as the rl-340 levers. I've never seen a sram s500 in person so no idea there.
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Old 06-27-22, 04:58 PM
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If I was switching to a 1X system and looking for a brake lever, I would do some internet searching to see what the bike manufacturers are mating to the brifter that I planned to use. Maybe I would get used to it if my brake levers did not match, but I think it would drive me nutty if they didn't.
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Old 06-27-22, 05:23 PM
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I have not had a brake lever w/o shifter in over 30 years, so, I cannot directly help.

What you might consider is ordering online some of your choices and returning the losers keeping the keeper. I doubt anyone can really give you good advice. I wills say the adjustable reach on the SRAM AXS is nice.
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Old 06-27-22, 05:28 PM
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Shimano BL-R400 levers look exactly the same as the 1055/RX100 levers that came out at the beginning of the 1990s. So, the levers are full-size, but the hoods are a very comfortable non-bulky size.

(It must be nice for Shimano to just keep selling some of the same parts for 30+ years. )
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Old 06-27-22, 05:33 PM
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Tektro makes another lever, the RL341, which is specifically designed for people with smaller hands. Might be worth a look, as they are very reasonably priced
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Old 06-28-22, 04:50 AM
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Look to see if you can get the Tektro RL320* - Junior Road Race Lever

The hood shape is based on Campagnolo V2 body but a tiny bit wider, very comfy, not excessive reach, but the lever is a bit smaller and smaller reach as designed for Juniors or people with smaller hands and reach.

It might not work for your specific preferences but it's worth checking out and is very popular with people who have smaller paws either through genetics or age.

*This appears to be also sold as the RL341 in some markets, either way the hood shape is different to the 340 and much nicer IMO
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Old 06-28-22, 05:47 AM
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Brakes like the Tektros come in a left and right.

Some brake lever models, you would not notice the difference between a left and a right, but some you would notice.

I mention that in case you have a bike coop or bike charity in your community, they often have bins of used parts like brake levers. When I built up my rando bike over six years ago I used an older style right hand Tektro lever on the left side (right side in photo) because that is what was available at a bike coop. That older style can be used as a right or left without noticing the difference in lever shape.



But, some of the newer levers, such as newer Tektros, you would notice the difference between right and left.

This photo of a newer Tektro is from Velo Orange website. I think it clear the right and left would feel quite different so you would have to make sure you get the correct one if you buy one of this model out of a bin.



In my case, there were lots or right hand brake levers in the bin, I think a lot of people that bought pairs to build up a 1X bike donated the unused right hand levers to the bike charity I bought mine from.
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Old 06-29-22, 04:33 PM
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I use the SRAM S-500 on my single speed. Like them alot.
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Old 07-05-22, 09:34 PM
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I use the TRP RRLs on my rando bike and I find them very comfortable. Compared to a modern hydraulic Shimano brifters, which seem realllly long, they’re way smaller. But bigger than my Shimano BL-600s, which are also very comfortable.

I have the Tektro RL-340s on another bike and they’re fine, not quite as comfy as the RRLs and chunkier (wider). I’m relatively taller and have bigger hands, so ymmv, but I’d go with the RRLs.
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Old 07-12-22, 11:16 AM
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Lasue
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Thanks!

First off, thank you all for your feedback. Got some good info here. Will definitely have to check on some of the recommendations that were not on my list. Which ones have adjustable reach? I think the SRAM ones do… I have Sram AXS Force on another bike and love that I can get the levers closer.
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Old 10-27-22, 09:12 PM
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I'm quite fond of the Origin8 Classiques I've got on my Fuji. The bodies are similar in size to the great Shimano SLR levers, but more rounded in shape. Nice, softish hoods. Weird blades that work really, really well. Feel great in my hands. About 50 bucks a pair.

--Shannon
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