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Vintage brake lever set-up for small hands

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Vintage brake lever set-up for small hands

Old 06-05-23, 06:44 PM
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Vintage brake lever set-up for small hands

I built up a '83 Guerciotti with full Campy SR for my wife. The issue I'm running into is her reach from the bars to the brake levers. She's 5'0" so she has fairly small hands and has trouble having her hands on the drops and reaching/engaging the levers. On her Trek Emonda she has Dura-ace 11 and Shimano makes a shim to rotate the brake levers around 5-10 degrees, so we were able to get her set up well on her CF bike.


What are my options on this?

Has anyone tried using the Shimano shims (or an equivalent) on a set of vintage Campy brake levers?

Are their period (or at least visually) correct options?

Mike
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Old 06-05-23, 08:13 PM
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Way back there were “junior” brake levers CLB made them and some others. What Art Stump did was weld a U section to the top of the Campagnolo lever for those with small grip capacity.
Campagnolo would not be a good lever, Weinmann probably, but I have filed back the bottom of the lever body on some levers for my son 14 years ago, those were aero levers, and I added inline cyclocross levers with adjustable reach. Bike was sold off years ago and the petite woman who bought that bike was so excited she could safely brake.
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Old 06-05-23, 10:46 PM
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-----

one non-aero lever to stay away from for riders with small hands is the Galli

in my experience it has the greatest reach of any non-aero lever have worked with

---

Campag made a change in the R/NR lever about '76 and reduced the reach from what it had been at launch

wrote of this in a forum post and was advised by the Tullio mavens that the Campag lever went through a number of revisions/generations

---

will be interested to follow along where posters write of modifications such as that mentioned of Stump

would expect that G. Terry would be expert on this question given the target market for her creations...

-----
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Old 06-06-23, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Way back there were “junior” brake levers CLB made them and some others. What Art Stump did was weld a U section to the top of the Campagnolo lever for those with small grip capacity.
Campagnolo would not be a good lever, Weinmann probably, but I have filed back the bottom of the lever body on some levers for my son 14 years ago, those were aero levers, and I added inline cyclocross levers with adjustable reach. Bike was sold off years ago and the petite woman who bought that bike was so excited she could safely brake.
@repechage the filing down the bottom of the levers sounds like a better solution than using a shim that wasn't designed for the levers. I'll play around with a set of levers to see how much I would need to file off.

When you suggested Campy lever's wouldn't be good for this, was it something to do with the Campy levers? Or was it, those are expensive levers, you may not want to screw them up?

Mike
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Old 06-06-23, 02:44 PM
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There's the tektro RL 320 short reach brake levers. Not sure what else.
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Old 06-06-23, 03:03 PM
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For someone with small hands, there's another issue. I got to see this with my not so small (but not super strong) hands when I paired NR calipers (that fit nicely on a race bike I was using as a commuter) with regular Tektro levers. Stopping power. In the dry, so-so. Downhills in the rain had me wondering more than once or twice the very simple "can I stop at all?"

I would never put those calipers on a bike of someone I cared about who wasn't strong. The have been famously known as being to adjust your speed, not stop you. The creator of the brake has even been quoted as saying as much. I did that one year and decided I hadn't crashed yet but it was time to stop pushing my luck. (The Grand Comps I raced made roughly the same year (1976) were decent stoppers with levers smaller than my hands like. Yes, those Grand Comps were nothing close to my city bike's Mafacs. I had to ride them in the wet planning ahead but I never recalled them being scary.

Edit: I was fully aware all my braking days that both bikes I raced out-stopped the Campy NR/SR bikes by so much I needed to remember to be careful. Stock brakes on first a Lambert, then a Fuji Pro.

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Old 06-06-23, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
I built up a '83 Guerciotti with full Campy SR for my wife.
It won't look perfect, but you could change out the calipers to 7400 or something that's easier to operate. Aero levers would make it almost too easy.
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Old 06-06-23, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Way back there were “junior” brake levers CLB made them and some others. What Art Stump did was weld a U section to the top of the Campagnolo lever for those with small grip capacity.
Campagnolo would not be a good lever, Weinmann probably, but I have filed back the bottom of the lever body on some levers for my son 14 years ago, those were aero levers, and I added inline cyclocross levers with adjustable reach. Bike was sold off years ago and the petite woman who bought that bike was so excited she could safely brake.
I've been experimenting with this on a pair of levers with a little success so far. (A couple mm less reach and they'll be perfect!)
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Old 06-06-23, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
@repechage the filing down the bottom of the levers sounds like a better solution than using a shim that wasn't designed for the levers. I'll play around with a set of levers to see how much I would need to file off.

When you suggested Campy lever's wouldn't be good for this, was it something to do with the Campy levers? Or was it, those are expensive levers, you may not want to screw them up?

Mike
Weinmann, Dia-Compe and early Shimano levers have the attachment bolt passing through a pivoting pin, so the bolt will align with the clamp. Campagnolo would not allow that very well.
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Old 06-06-23, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Weinmann, Dia-Compe and early Shimano levers have the attachment bolt passing through a pivoting pin, so the bolt will align with the clamp. Campagnolo would not allow that very well.
Ahhh. Got it. Thanks of the clarification.
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Old 06-06-23, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
I've been experimenting with this on a pair of levers with a little success so far. (A couple mm less reach and they'll be perfect!)
I can see this being very iterative. I think I can come up with a target of how far to move the levers in. But you don't really know if it comfortable until the levers are on and a few rides happen. Since her 11 speed bike has comfortable levers, I should be able to get a reasonable target for this (but I can also see handlebar shape, etc. will impact the results).
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Old 06-06-23, 04:36 PM
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Dura-Ace AX levers (BL7300) have a small 'perch' that's good for small hands, and the reach is adjustable with a small screw from underneath. (built-in feature, no modification needed)
Don't know first-hand, but I assume their down-market cheaper variants like 600 have the same feature.

The BIG downside is unavailability of the rubber hoods. If you don't mind just taping them, or using an ill-fitting hood made for a different lever, that opens up possibilities, but they're ugly with the hoods off. Fresh OEM hoods, or levers with good intact hoods, are usually super expensive when they show up on ebay, and that is rarely. Even hoods from whatever kit is 3 or 4 notches cheaper than D-A go for big $$. The metal parts sell for cheap, mostly due to this lack of hoods and being ugly without 'em.

My fond hope is someone will decide to make repro hoods, as they do for other vintage levers. Probly ain't gonna happen though.
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Old 06-06-23, 05:55 PM
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I would sell the Campag brAkes off and get Shimano levers and calipers of new or recent model. In the "vintage" era there were no brakesets other than Mafac with much power and no small-handed levers of good quality. Rideability over authenticity, I say.
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Old 06-07-23, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
I can see this being very iterative. I think I can come up with a target of how far to move the levers in. But you don't really know if it comfortable until the levers are on and a few rides happen. Since her 11 speed bike has comfortable levers, I should be able to get a reasonable target for this (but I can also see handlebar shape, etc. will impact the results).
I figure it should be simple geometry. If you use the two contact points of the lever body as your reference, the distance to the hook of the brake lever will be some multiple of their spacing. For example, the contact points on this lever are about 1.25" apart. And the hook of the lever is 4.5" from the upper contact point, so it's a 3.6x multiple. So (forgive me for switching to whatever units are most convenient) if you were to sand 1mm off the bottom contact point, that should bring the hook of the lever in by 3.6mm:



Of course, imprecision happens in real life and my assumptions may not be completely valid, so it's always good to do a little at a time and check how it's turning out.
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Old 06-07-23, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
I figure it should be simple geometry. If you use the two contact points of the lever body as your reference, the distance to the hook of the brake lever will be some multiple of their spacing. For example, the contact points on this lever are about 1.25" apart. And the hook of the lever is 4.5" from the upper contact point, so it's a 3.6x multiple. So (forgive me for switching to whatever units are most convenient) if you were to sand 1mm off the bottom contact point, that should bring the hook of the lever in by 3.6mm:


Of course, imprecision happens in real life and my assumptions may not be completely valid, so it's always good to do a little at a time and check how it's turning out.
I was thinking the iterative part was not in figuring out how much to file and the execution of said filing, but more with the "Does this feel right?" aspect. If the bars had the same bend as what I'm trying to math (My wife's Emonda) I think it would be straight forward, but if the bars have a different shape, even if the distance is the same it might not feel right.
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Old 06-07-23, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Feldman
I would sell the Campag brAkes off and get Shimano levers and calipers of new or recent model. In the "vintage" era there were no brakesets other than Mafac with much power and no small-handed levers of good quality. Rideability over authenticity, I say.
That's what I resorted to on my Bianchi, which came with Modolo (almost Campag. clone) levers and calipers. I switched first to Shimano aero levers, so that I could grab a fistful of braking power in a panic stop. I then switched to Shimano dual-pivot calipers and new low-friction, low-compression Shimano cable housings, and now I have superb braking force, albeit a bit touchy, like automotive power brakes. The older Mafac, Modolo, and Campag. brake levers are designed for larger hands than mine. Besides the Shimano aeros, my other go-to levers are good old Weinmann 999s, but the aeros have about a 15% leverage advantage over them.
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Old 06-07-23, 10:13 PM
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One good way to gain "reach" is to use bars that do NOT have that once trendy straight section just above the drops.

More curvature allows the fingers to reach surprisingly forward.

Soma Hwy One handlebars are helpful.
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Old 06-08-23, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by John E
That's what I resorted to on my Bianchi, which came with Modolo (almost Campag. clone) levers and calipers. I switched first to Shimano aero levers, so that I could grab a fistful of braking power in a panic stop. I then switched to Shimano dual-pivot calipers and new low-friction, low-compression Shimano cable housings, and now I have superb braking force, albeit a bit touchy, like automotive power brakes. The older Mafac, Modolo, and Campag. brake levers are designed for larger hands than mine. Besides the Shimano aeros, my other go-to levers are good old Weinmann 999s, but the aeros have about a 15% leverage advantage over them.
I'm hoping to stay with non-aero handles, but if that is what it takes to have my wife comfortable on the bike, then I'll switch.

Based on all the advice/inputs I think my plan of attack will be to modify some brake angles I have, if I can get them to the right portion, great. If not, then I'll probably look at the tektro or the 7400. Once I have the levers figured out, I'll see if she'd comfortable with the braking power. If not, then I'll put on some dual-pivot calipers.
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Old 06-08-23, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
What are my options on this?

Has anyone tried using the Shimano shims (or an equivalent) on a set of vintage Campy brake levers?

Are their period (or at least visually) correct options?

Mike
Dia-Compe BRS-400 “compact” levers. They were built with extra bend so the blade is closer to the bars. They’re also period-correct for the Gooch.

Like these: (sold out)

https://bikerecyclery.com/dia-compe-...ods-near-mint/
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Old 06-09-23, 06:59 AM
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I have some junior (short reach) levers; Ultegra aero NIB and some older non-aero Weinmann or CLB. They're buried in the garage. I can look for them if you like.

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Old 06-09-23, 10:25 AM
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I have small hands and had trouble reaching the Mafac levers on the 1971 PX-10 that I restored. To bring the levers closer to the bars, I first took the plastic caps that come on inner tube valves and drilled a hole in the end. Then, when installing the cables, I put the cap between the lever itself and the lever body, then ran the cable through. Once installed, the plastic cap keeps the lever from opening fully, thereby having the lever in a better position.
I got the idea from the following video:
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Old 06-09-23, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by thumpism
I have some junior (short reach) levers; Ultegra aero NIB and some older non-aero Weinmann or CLB. They're buried in the garage. I can look for them if you like.
@thumpism, I'd be interested in the non-aero levers. I'm trying top keep the bike Cino/Eroica compliant.

If you find them send me a PM and we can work out the details.
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Old 06-09-23, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Brad L
I have small hands and had trouble reaching the Mafac levers on the 1971 PX-10 that I restored. To bring the levers closer to the bars, I first took the plastic caps that come on inner tube valves and drilled a hole in the end. Then, when installing the cables, I put the cap between the lever itself and the lever body, then ran the cable through. Once installed, the plastic cap keeps the lever from opening fully, thereby having the lever in a better position.
That's a cool little trick. I had debated trying to figure out a way to keep the brake levers from closing all the way. I don't think my wife would like the look of the gap, but I can see it being very useful in determining how far the levers need to move in before doing a permanent modification to the handles.
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Old 06-09-23, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
That's a cool little trick. I had debated trying to figure out a way to keep the brake levers from closing all the way. I don't think my wife would like the look of the gap, but I can see it being very useful in determining how far the levers need to move in before doing a permanent modification to the handles.
The gap ends up being very small and is not really noticeable. Here are the levers after doing this.


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Old 08-22-23, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by SwimmerMike
@thumpism, I'd be interested in the non-aero levers. I'm trying top keep the bike Cino/Eroica compliant.

If you find them send me a PM and we can work out the details.
SwimmerMike, found 'em. Posting here so folks won't think I'm old and forgetful. Well, I am but I try to keep up with this bike crap when I've made an offer. Here's one beside an aero road lever to give an idea of the size difference.


The gum hoods are kinda crusty and likely won't survive long in use.


I made a little time this morning away from the remodel to dig around for these things. Also needed an old kickstand to complete a repair on a neighbor's bike. When was the last time you saw one of this brand? It probably came off my old Batavus.
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