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  • Mayhem

    Could’ve mentioned that the brakes will also need to be adjusted. You’re not just adjusting the neutral position of the lever after all, the brake wire moves along with it!

  • Allez Rouleur

    I keep on wondering when companies will offer different sized shifters. Seems pretty obvious that everyone has different sized hands and a few size options would be nice. Isn’t it all about market segmentation anyway?

  • Winky

    Why does the top photo show a hand using the brakes from the hoods? The adjustment of the lever wouldn’t seem to make much difference when doing that. The adjustment is surely most relevant when riding in the drops.

    My observation of many women cyclists (when not riding in the drops) is that they tend to position their hands well back away from the hoods when riding, resting more on the horizontally curved part of the bar with their wrists well inside the line of the bars. Whether this is to achieve a more upright position, I’m not sure, but probably doesn’t help much with access to the brakes, regardless of hand size.

    • Derek Maher

      I would hazard a guess that many people use a handlebar stem that is to long to ride in a relaxed position.So tend to use the top of the bars behind the hoods.Of course a shorter stem may make the bike handling more lively ?.

      • Winky

        I think you’re right. Correct set-up for smaller cyclists requires deliberate decisions on things like stem length, whereas average-sized cyclists are more likely to be satisfied with stock gear. Many cyclists don’t bother with fit (or don’t know better) and it shows. I’d perhaps suggest an article on Ella regarding bike fit for smaller cyclists, with a strong recommendation to get it done professionally.

        • Kristen Legan

          Great story idea! Bike fits are important for all riders but it might be even more important for smaller riders since most bikes come set up and equipped for larger riders.

        • ML

          Mattio Montesano wrote up a guide to diagnosing and adjusting cockpit issues back in 2011. A bit outdated in the components recommendations but here it is anyway: http://halfdraft.us/post/499859320/get-a-grip-handlebars-stems-and-levers

    • Kristen Legan

      The reach adjustment is certainly very relevant while riding in the drops. However, it still affects the leverage and contact points of the fingers when riding on the hoods.

  • Eleri

    I’ve got small hands and have tried a number of adjustments, shims and whatever to find a setup that works for me. Basically I have to compromise between being able to brake on the drops or the hoods because I can’t have both. Adjusting to optimise hood braking means that I have to reach further on the drops. What I do is set up as best as possible but keep a fair bit of play with the blocks so that I can take-up a bit of slack with my hands on the levers before the blocks actually touch the rims. That way I have a bit more purchase when the brakes start to bite.

    And yes – I’ve got my bike set up well. Yes I’ve played with the rotation of the bars and the hoods.

    • Kristen Legan

      Do you use ergo/anatomic bend or classic bend handlebars? Anatomic bars have helped me with this problem. But everyone is different in preferences and anatomy.

      • Eleri

        I have ergo bends on a couple of my bikes and it all helps to some extent and I’m not unhappy with my set up. But I’m often advised to adjust the levers or the shims and it’s just not that simple and I suppose the point I was trying to make is that just setting it up to work well on the hoods may mean it’s worse on the drops (or vice versa).

    • Mark Wells

      Eleri, I’m a guy with small hands and this has been a long term problem for me and have had to make compromises exactly as you have described. Before the current generation of adjustable brakes I had to resort to shims like these – http://www.evanscycles.com/products/specialized/slim-shim-brake-lever-spacer-ec008424. Shimano were really problematic which I always found odd as I had assumed that being Japanese they’d be better sized for people with small hands ( I love clothes shopping in Japan as they have my size! )

      • Eleri

        You would think. Must try clothes shopping in Japan then :-)

  • Larry Theobald

    Me and the wife both have small hands. We set our Campagnolo-equipped bikes with enough slack in the brake cables to allow us to hold the bar with three fingers and thumb (in the drops) and operate the brake lever with the index finger only. This means the brake levers are actually pulled in some, but not enough to actuate the brakes until we pull a bit more. One finger is plenty with modern, dual-pivot brakes and there’s no reason to fear not having enough braking lever travel – we can ride down the fastest, steepest descents in Italy this way with no problem. Of course it would be better to have the levers rest in this position for easy access but until Campagnolo designs that feature in, this compromise works well for us AND CycleItalia clients with small hands who use our Campagnolo-equipped rental fleet.

  • Andy Griffiths

    For Shimano STI shifters (on my ultegra 6800 anyway) remove the plastic adjustment screws and replace with M4 x 12mm grub screws (eBay). These will screw in far enough that the levers come close enough for small hands.

  • Amber Pierce (Rais)

    This is such a key issue for many women, but especially juniors! A quick-and-dirty solution for any model of brake/shifter is to give the brake cable some slack, pull the brake lever in as far as is comfortable, then insert furniture pads in the open space created at the top of lever. From there, you’ll need to adjust the brake cable to dial in the brakes, but it’s an easy fix you can use on any gruppo. I know a number of junior cyclists for whom this has worked wonders! Thanks Kristen for bringing attention to this issue, as being able to reach one’s brakes comfortably is such an important part of feeling confident on the bike!

  • weiwentg

    Found this discussion a bit late, but still wanted to add some perspective.

    I’m a small male cyclist (5’4″). I started cycling in 2001. To the best of my knowledge, there was no reach adjustment on any production lever at the time. SRAM was still only making MTB components. Shimano was the main game in town, and a small minority of people used Campagnolo. The Shimano shifter bodies were quite a bit too big for me, and I had to move my hands quite a lot to shift in either direction in both the drops and on the hoods. I actually converted to Campy as a result of that. I found that the 10s Ergo levers worked for me as is, from both drops and hoods. I’m actually still on 10s, and waiting for stuff to wear out.

    Campy’s 11s shifters have larger bodies than the 10s. I think they are roughly comparable to SRAM lever bodies, but I don’t have any non-Campy bikes. I agree that Campy can and should build in mechanisms to alter the reach, given that change. I will say that Ultra Shift levers, which are found on Chorus, Record, and Super Record (top 3 component tiers) have the traditional thumb shifters that can be hard to reach from the drops. The Power Shift levers, which are found on Potenza (which is roughly comparable to Shimano Ultegra) or below are easier to hit from the drops because of the position of the thumb button. So, while I agree that the lack of adjustability isn’t good, I’d say that smaller riders should give Campy levers a try if they can get access to a bike that has them (e.g. a friend’s bike, a bike in store). Campy’s low adoption rate does hurt them in this regard, though.

    I put my hands on a bike with 6800 Ultegra levers in a shop, and that lever will likely work for me with the mechanisms to modify the default lever position. Personally, I have some minor annoyances building with Campy not related to lever size/reach, and I would consider switching to Shimano in the future.


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