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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
:confused: Hello all,
I am a beginner who just purchased a road bike two months ago. I love it but I'm having a little trouble getting it fully adjusted. The biggest problem I'm having is I can only seem to get one finger around the brake lever while in the drops. I went to my LBS and they ordered inserts that were supposed to bring the levers closer but when they installed them they moved the brakes further up on the bar because they thought they were too low. So it seems that negated any help that the bumpers may have offered. I've tried rolling the bars down but then the hoods are too low. I've heard some refer to raising the stem but I'm not sure how to do that. I've also seen some referals to reach distance in the bars but I want to be sure before I purchase new bars. Does anyone have any ideas?

My current setup is a Jamis Ventura Comp. I have Easton aluminum bars and stem and shimano 105 shifters/brake levers.

Any help anyone could offer would be appreciated. Thanks


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6,492 Posts
It's almost infinitely adjustable, and you can do it

Assuming you don't have supernaturally tiny hands, it's probably a matter of adjustment, and there's nothing there you can't do yourself. Moving the levers around on the bars doesn't mess with your driveline or brake adjustments, and it only takes simple tools. The toughest part of the job is learning to retape the bars smoothly, and that's easy.
First, remove or at least partially unwrap the bar tape, so you can move things around. Then loosen the bolt(s) on the stem that hold the bars.
Don't take any rules like this as inviolable, but one place to start is to rotate your bars so the open end points at the rear brake. Feel free to deviate from that to suit your body--personally, I point them a little lower, to give more of a flat area behind the brake hoods--but that's a traditional beginning point. Then loosen the levers (there's probably an allen bolt inside the housing--look through the part that opens up when you squeeze the lever) and slide them up or down to suit. The traditional starting point is to place them so a straightedge along the bottom of the drop portion of the bars, extending forward, just touches the bottom of the lever, but you can fudge it. I mount mine about 1/4 inch higher.
Sit on the saddle and try various riding positions, moving the levers around until you get a compromise you can live with, then tighten everything up and retape the bars.
As for the stem, I'm assuming you have a threadless one (bolts to the steerer tube) rather than a quill stem (shaped like a number 7, and fits INTO the steerer). See if flipping it over would raise the bars, and if so, you can try that. Otherwise, you may need to buy a new one, but they're not very expensive.
The Rivendell Web site,, has a pretty good explanation of all this in its CYCLING 101 section.

· Registered
284 Posts
Getting it Right

When I have changed something-seat, stem, etc. I do the following.

Remove the bar tape, it is really easy to retape it just go slow. Find an empty piece of road. First loosen the clamp on the bars just enough so the bars can be rotated while riding but with some effort. Ride, rotate up and down, get the bars comfy. For me that's where my hands/arms seem to feel best in the drops and on the hoods. It is always a bit of a compromise to get both feeling as close to "right" as you can. Then re-tighten the clamp and ride with it for a few minutes. If that feels right, then loosen the brake/shifter levers just enough so they can be moved and play with this position to get them where they feel OK to match the new bar angle you have just set. Then re-tighten these. The brake levers take longer to be just right. I leave the tape off for a few solo rides and take my bar clamp and shifter allen wrenches along to make any further modifications needed. Then retape, maybe with a new color!!

There is no law that you have to stick with what does not feel right.
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