Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
The problem with used parts isn’t typically an issue at all unless you discover that the history of the items are questionable. For example, the brake levers that I built the Raleigh Kodiak up with came from my ’90 Schwinn Voyageur. The Schwinn was hit by a car… with me on it. With the building of the Kodiak, I decided to repurpose all parts, replacing only what was 100% necessary and “upgrading” anytime I could with parts I currently had on hand. The stock Kodiak brakes were weak at best, so on went my graceful Dia-Compe levers from the wrecked Voyageur.
These are fantastic levers for many reasons (clean lines, period appropriate, great feel, etc.) and at the time, moving them from a wrecked bike to a new build seemed like a no brainer.
Fast forward past the wiring of the derailleurs and brakes, fine tuning and wrapping the bars. Let’s go to, oh, say, 50-75 miles into riding the bike as a main commuter. This is about when I started noticing that the braking power of my rear canti’s was not as effective as the initial adjustments. Try as I might, the lever would become, well, wonky. It wouldn’t retract to it’s flush position, the stopping power was slipping and nothing I did could fix it. It turns out, the rear brake lever was the lever that took part of the impact from the asphalt when the Schwinn hit the ground. The levers looked and behaved normal off the bars, but when wired up and used in daily operation, the game changed.
Sadly, the levers had to go so I decided to entertain the idea of something a bit more modern and functional since the Kodiak is a daily commuter. However, keeping the levers clean and minimal, like the Dia-Compe’s, was essential. Minimizing their attention, since they are the only parts that are technically “modern”, was the goal.
The TEKTRO R200A levers seemed to fit the bill nicely.
In my search through a fair amount of local bike shops here in Portland, I discovered that these levers are now discontinued and replaced by the TEKTRO RL340 levers. The RL340’s are different from the R200’s because of an ergonomic upgrade (the levers bend outward), which aesthetically, I personally think is horrible looking. So, off to eBay for a set of levers. I am pleased that they are still available but something tells me that scooping up a few extra pairs isn’t a bad idea for the future. These levers are fairly inexpensive and abundant now but the future may not be so kind to those seeking a set. So, take note, cycling fanatics, buy up any R200’s you can now!
I have had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of miles on the new levers and knowing my riding habits, I believe I am going to like the recent additions. I typically ride on top of the hoods and the TEKTRO’s give a robust spot to rest my hands at a relaxed and comfortable grip, unlike the slender Dia-Compe’s which felt decent but more like a place to quickly rest the palms rather than spend most of ones ride. In fact, by the end of my daily commute of 10 miles, my hands typically would feel a bit numb/tingly. I have not had that happen since the installation but then again, there are other factors that could have played into that, such as the geometry of Voyageur versus the Kodiak, stem length and height of each bike, etc. So, blaming the brake levers isn’t quite fair. Other positive elements discovered is the pull power of the TEKTRO’s, which is excellent and needs just a slight tug to do the job effectively. I also opted to debadge the levers (difficult to see in the images below) and I believe the downplayed look is compatible with my clean and minimal goals. Overall, I am very pleased with this “necessary” replacement.
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I have a pair of Tektro R200s and a pair of R100s currently mounted on bikes. Frankly, the comfort of both is superior to nearly every vintage lever combo I can think of. They fit the vintage aesthetic well, without standing out like a sore thumb either. I didn’t realize the R200 model had been discontinued…that is really too bad.
The more I ride with these levers the more I too am sold on them. What’s funny is, I have a modern Campagnolo Chorus groupset on my Pinarello. Holding these two levers next to each other is absolutely identical except for the badging. Perhaps that’s why TEKTRO decided (or was forced?) to discontinue.
The Cane Creek SCR-5 levers are the same as Tektro R200a with a different texture on the hoods, so you’re not totally out of luck with that style of hood.
Good point, Ian. I also found that Origin8 Road Aero brake levers were similar as well.
I believe Shimano levers are more durable than the new Tektro & Cane Creek ones. That thick plastic holding the axle of the aluminium Tektro brakes is rather uncomfortable and fragile in case of a fall.
Which Shimano levers do you speak of, Ben? I have been using the TEKTRO’s now for over two months on a regular basis and have been very pleased with their performance. I have also been stocking up on R200’s when I see them. I recently picked up a pair that have obviously seen some hard use and possibly even a wreck but even they too seem solid.