Small hand modifications: Adjusting your lever reach

by Kristen Legan


While ripping down a twisty mountain descent, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you can easily and comfortably reach your bike’s brake levers for an unexpected stop.

Women with small hands struggle most often with this problem because most bikes come set up for riders with larger hands. The bike’s brake and shift levers stick out too far from the bar, making it difficult for shorter fingers to reach and wrap around the levers.

Fortunately, there’s a quick and easy fix for this problem thanks to reach adjustment options found on most modern shift and brake components. These reach adjustment mechanisms are straightforward and easy to work on at home with a standard multi-tool or screwdriver. So put your mechanic hat on and give these quick adjustments a try.

Shimano

Shiman Adjustment Bolt (1000x563)

Shimano electronic and mechanical shifters use the same adjustment mechanisms to change lever position. However, different models require different Allen keys or screwdrivers for loosening and tightening the adjustment bolts.

Shimano Mechanical and Electronic Shifters

  • Peel Back Hoods – Start by peeling back the front portion of the rubbery lever body hood.
  • Adjustment Bolt – Locate the adjustment bolt on the top, front portion of the lever body.
    • Di2 shifters use a 4mm slotted screwdriver
    • Mechanical Dura Ace and Ultegra use a 3mm slotted screwdriver
    • 105 and Tiagra use a 2mm Allen key
  • Turn Bolt Clockwise – Turn the bolt clockwise to bring the shift and brake levers closer to the bar.

SRAM

SRAM Unpeel Hood (1000x563)

SRAM shift and brake levers move independent from each other and have two adjustment mechanisms to work with. This is useful if you prefer to have your shift levers closer to the bar than your brake levers.

SRAM Brake Lever Adjustment

  • Peel Back Hoods – Start by peeling back the front portion of the rubbery lever body hood.
  • Adjustment Bolt – Locate the adjustment bolt on the lever body. This requires a 2.5mm Allen key.

Turn Bolt Clockwise – Turn the adjustment bolt clockwise to bring the brake lever closer to the bar

SRAM Brake Adjust (1000x563)

SRAM Shift Lever Adjustment

  • Adjustment Bolt – Locate a small bolt on the inside of the shifter paddle where the shift lever attaches to the lever body. This also requires a 2.5mm Allen key.
  • Turn Bolt Clockwise – Turn the adjustment bolt clockwise to bring the shifter lever closer to the bar.

Campagnolo

Campy shifters do not offer a reach adjustment for smaller hands. A shim placed between the bar and the lever body can move the shift and brake levers away from the bar. However, this is only useful for people with larger hands or who prefer a longer reach.

Let me know how it goes or if you have any further questions in the comment section below.

Kristen is an athlete, writer and coach. She raced triathlon professionally from 2009-2013, but has since switched her focus to exclusively racing bikes. In 2012, she was one of six women to complete the entire Tour de France route as part of the Reve Tour. Living, training and working in Boulder, Colorado, Kristen coaches for APEX coaching and has a degree in Molecular Biology & Neurology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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