Top 5 Factors to Look for in Brake Levers and Shifters

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Top 5 Factors to Look for in Brake Levers and Shifters

Brake levers and gear shifters are necessary items for all cyclists and are used to control stopping power and change the gear speed of the bike. These are relatively easy to change but there are a number of factors buyers should look for when searching for replacement parts. These include the style of the gear shifter and the material the brake lever is made from. Buyers also need to be aware of the type of gear mechanism their bike uses and what type of brakes they have.

eBay is an ideal place to search for both brake levers and gear shifters, and buyers who do so will find an extensive selection at lower prices than those found in cycling stores or on specialist websites. The following guide shall examine the top five factors all buyers should be aware of when searching for these parts, and how to find suitable brake levers and gear shifters on eBay.

Brake Levers and Shifters

The following are the top five factors all buyers should consider and look for when searching for brake levers and shifters.

1 - Style of Braking System

The majority of modern and vintage bicycles use rim brakes, but there are a number of variations of this braking system. The style of the braking system will influence what braking levers can be used with the bike e.g. modern mountain bike brake levers are not particularly efficient when combined with a vintage road bike calliper brake. The following are the most common brake levers found on bicycles today.

Brake Style


Calliper Brake

Calliper brakes utilise two arms that extend down over the rim of the wheel and pull towards one another when pressure is applied to the brake lever. As mentioned above this type of brake is suitable for use on bicycles with thinner wheels, such as those found on road and racing bikes. Buyers should avoid mounting calliper brakes onto mountain and hybrid bike wheels as the arms can snap from the size of the wheel. Calliper brakes are generally connected to the bicycle fork, just above the top of the wheel.

Cantilever Brakes

These brakes use a double straddle wire design to stop the wheel. Pulling on the brake lever pulls the brake cable tight and squeezes the two arms against the wheel rim. This is one of the most common rim braking styles and can be found on new and vintage road bicycles, and a large number of modern mountain bikes. Cantilever brakes need to be precisely mounted to the rim to make sure that the brake pad is in line with the rim. If this is not done then the brake will not be able to bring the wheel to a halt, and it can cause a high-pitched squeaking sound.


Originally designed and manufactured by the Shimano cycling company, V-brakes are very popular with professional cyclists who take part in competitive races. These have a similar design to cantilever brakes but have much longer arms which gives the cyclist greater stopping power. V-brakes can be used on a range of bicycles including racing bikes and hybrid bikes.

2 - Braking Lever Design

This is very important, as the shape and style of the actual lever needs to be suitable for the handlebars it will be attached to.

* Drop bar handlebars found on road and racing bikes need levers that can be attached vertically, and will drop down along the curves of the handlebars.

* Bullhorn handlebars on touring and track bikes can have brakes levers attached to the straight middle part of the handlebar, or along the raised cured ends of each side.

* Straight handlebars such as those on mountain bikes require small and compact brake levers that will attach to the bar on the inside of the cyclist's hands.

3 - The Gear Mechanism

This is the starting point for shifter searching, and the gear mechanism on a bicycle will determine what types of shifter are compatible with it.

* Friction shifting is common on older bikes and those made for speed. This is the simpler of the two mechanisms, and operates by using the pull of the chain to change gears. Friction shifting can take time to get used to, and inexperienced cyclists may have trouble stopping the chain from slipping. However, a great benefit of using this system is it allows cyclists to move from high to low gears and vice versa without needing to stop on the gears in between. This is very beneficial when racing or competing in time-trails.

* Index shifting is generally found on more modern bikes and is the standard for most mountain and hybrid bikes. As the name suggests, the gears used on this mechanism are indexed and assigned to a specific setting on the shifters. Some people prefer this form of mechanism as it reduces the risk of the chain slipping and stalling.

4 - Types of Shifter

Once buyers are aware of what type of gear mechanism they have on their bike they can then begin to look at the different types of shifter that are available to buy today. There are many variations of shifter, but the following three are the most common.

Shifter Type


Down Tube/Stem Shifter

These are ideal for use with friction shifting mechanisms, and as the name implies are attached either to the down tube or the stem of the bicycle. This style of shifter comprises of two levers that are manipulated to change the gear. However, using the down tube and stem shifters requires the cyclist to remove their hands from the handlebars, which can be a safety risk. Down tube and stem shifters are found on road and racing bikes.

Twist Shifter

Twist shifters are used on the majority of mass-produced mountain and hybrid bikes sold today. The shifter mechanism is mounted onto the handlebars and the cyclist simply has to twist the shifters forwards or backwards to change the gears. These are much safer than the shifters mentioned above, but are not compatible with friction shifting mechanisms.

Bar End Shifters

Found on bicycles with drop down handles, bar end shifters are attached to the very end of the handles, and comprise of a small thin lever. These are popular with professional cyclists who partake in races, as they allow them to change gears while maintaining a leaning forward position. The problem with bar end shifters is they cannot be used when the cyclists are sitting back in the seat.

5 - Shifter Speed

After the buyers have decided on the style of shifter they want, they need to make sure it will work with their bike. The shifter speed refers to the amount of speeds that the bike can achieve using the two derailleurs. This is worked out by multiplying the cogs on the rear derailleur with those on the front. So if a bike is described as being ten-speed, this means there are five cogs on the rear derailleur and two on the front (5X2 = 10).

Searching for Brake Levers and Gear Shifters on eBay

Once buyers have some idea of the brake lever or gear shifter they want, then they should head to to start a search. To find an apt part take the following steps.

* First, click on the Shop by Category drop down menu found to the left of the page, and then click on the Cycling title underneath the Sporting Goods header.

* On the Cycling listings page, click on Bike Components & Parts.

* Buyers will then find a comprehensive list of Cycling listing pages includingBrake Levers and Shifters. Click on the relevant title to be brought to the appropriate listings page.

* The Brake Levers listings page contains a number of further filters that can be used to speed the search up and make it more precise. The first thing buyers should check here is the For Brake Type filter. Once they have found their relevant brake type they can type the name of a specific brand into the search bar, or browse through the various brake levers listed for sale. Buyers can also use the Materials filter to search for brake levers manufacture from different types of materials, including Carbon Fibre and Aluminium.

* Buyers searching for gear shifters should first click on the Number of Speeds filter to find the shifter suitable for their bike. Buyers also have the option to look for shifters made from specific materials such as Titanium and Carbon Fibre. If looking for a particular style of shifter then enter the name of the shifter into the search bar and press enter e.g. Twist Shifter.

* Because of their function and importance for safety, it is advised that buyers search for new brake levers and gear shifters only. Used levers and shifters may have worn parts that could breakdown when in use.

* Buyers should check the description box on the item page for information regarding the lever or shifter size and composite material.


Although searching for replacement brake levers and gear shifters can at first seem like a complicated process, once buyers are fully aware of the various factors that influence bike compatibility they will have no problem finding a suitable lever or shifter. There are many manufacturers that specialise in these components, the price of a part will reflect on its quality and function. All buyers are advised to search for new levers and shifters only, as this will guarantee that the component is in fully working order.

Searching for brake levers and gear shifters on eBay is a great idea, and the site has a large selection at very reasonable prices. Remember to check the description box on the item page for additional details, and request further information using the Ask a Question feature.

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