How to set up and adjust your brake levers

Our guide to getting your brake levers in a comfortable position on your road bike

ClockUpdated 09:00, Monday 4th December 2023. Published 11:00, Tuesday 5th September 2023

The combined brake and gear levers on road bikes are known as STI levers, short for Shimano Total Integration. Whether you're fitting new ones, or just adjusting the ones already on your bike, here's how to position them correctly.

In our tutorial, Manon uses SRAM Red STI levers, but the process is the same whether you're using SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo or any other brand of shifter. The bolt might be positioned slightly differently, but the process is broadly the same

Read more: From box to bike: How to build a brand new bike

Tools Needed

Peel back the hood to reveal the bolt

Step 1

Locate the mounting bolt

Whether you're adjusting your levers that are already on your bars, or fitting new ones for the first time, you need to peel back the hood to find the clamp bolt, and loosen it with a 5mm Allen key.

If you can’t find it, some models of brake levers have an access channel from the front of the hood, marked by a little slot or groove. You can insert your Allen key through there to access the bolt.

Start with a neutral position, then adjust from there

Step 2

Set your levers to a neutral position

Slide the levers into a neutral position. As a guide, try placing something flat under the bars. The ends of the brake levers should sit on the same level as the bottom of the drops.

Slide the levers up and down until you're comfortable

Step 3

Adjust the height of the levers to suit your preference

Experiment with the placement of your levers. You can position the levers higher on the bars for easier access when riding on the hoods or lower to make it easier in the drops. Of course, raising them will make it harder to reach when in the drops and lowering them will make it harder on the hoods.

Top Tip

Take your bike for a quick spin to test each setup before you put the bar tape on. It's much harder to adjust the lever position once the bars are wrapped.

Once you're happy tighen the levers correctly

Step 4

Tighten to the correct torque

Once you’re happy with the position, gently tighten up the lever to the recommended torque setting, then match the same position on the opposite side. Use a straight edge or a piece of string stretching from one lever to the other to make sure they’re even, and don’t forget to check from above as well.

Some levers have reach adjustment too

Step 5

Adjust the reach

If your levers allow you to adjust their reach, use this adjustment to make it easy to get your fingers around the levers on the hoods as well as when in the drops. The reach is normally adjusted via a bolt on the top of the hood using an Allen key.

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