These $35 levers, for cyclocross riders, are unique in that they alone are compatible with a 31.8 drop handlebar.
By Thanita Adams
As I’m primarily a mountain biker, I was more than happy to give these brake levers a try; they add levers to the top of drop bar cross bikes, which to me feels much more natural. Keep in mind, though, that (as with all such levers) stability and control are compromised a bit because of the relatively centered placement. But, no biggie.
I have to say, installing these babies was an exercise in frustration; it was extremely time consuming. The cable housing has to be cut just so in order to get a good feel and effective braking. This characteristic is not unique to Salsa levers, it’s just the nature of the beast; I guess what I’m saying is that you may want to get them professionally installed.
These levers are unique in that they alone are compatible with 31.8 handlebar diameters; a shim is included (which I used) to fit 26.0 bars. Another highlight of the levers is the barrel adjuster, which is placed at a 10 degree angle to the lever—this provides a straighter line for the cable routing, which is meant to increase braking efficiency and reduce that dreaded mushy feel; although I don’t have that much experience with cross levers in general, this makes sense to me.
The Salsa Cross Levers also feature a Delrin bushing, a piece of fancy trademarked plastic that negates the need for a return spring and thus reduces weight. This Delrin bushing is supposed to “self lubricate” as it rubs against the metal, allowing for smoother action. The idea of plastic lubricating itself seems rather odd to me, but my job is to provide information, so information I will provide.
The levers themselves have holes drilled into them for better grip, which is useful when things get slick or muddy (as I would guess often happens on cyclocross courses and which I know happens when generally tooling around). And, if you’re a weight weenie, you’ll be happy to know that the holes also drop a bit of weight.
When I first began to ride with these levers, I was a bit perturbed by a slightly mushy feel, particularly with the back brake. As with time-consuming installation, this is also a common occurrence, as the cable was doubly routed from the hoods to the top levers. And, with the back brake, there’s a lot of cable to pull. Anyway, I griped a bit about this to Salsa Brand Manager Chuck Hood who suggested I try the extra-wide Salsa cable hangers (meant for any road bike levers used with cantilever brakes). These pull more cable, which theoretically provides stronger braking action. I definitely noticed a difference in the front brake—it’s now nice and crisp. The back brake, not so much. FYI, the Salsa 50mm wide cable hangers go for $11 each (silver only).
Despite the universal complaints that seem to follow this type of lever, I love ‘em. The Salsa Cross Levers, in particular, have some nice features, are quite lightweight (92g for the pair), and affordably priced at about $35 for the set. You can get them in any color, as long as it’s black.