Shifters often don't ship in the proper position

I built my first bike. Who knew it was so hard and easy at the same time? I had to purchase a lot of specialty tools to do it correctly, but I now feel much more comfortable working on my own bike. It was a great learning experience. My question is, it seems that my shifters/brake levers don’t match my bars, because they are really far away and hard to reach when in the drops. Is it possible  they’re in the wrong position or I picked the wrong bar?

As silly as this seems, shifter hood position on a bar is often wrong. For example, Diamondback sent us a bike with what might have been one of the worst attempts I’ve seen to date, but most out-of-the-box builds put them too high on the curve of the bar. This results in the brake lever being too far from the bar. It will also result in an abrupt transition from bar to hood most of the time, too.

The trick I was taught is to use a ruler along the bottom of the drop and align the bottom of the brake lever with it. This will result in a uniform position left to right and works on about 95 percent of drop-bar shapes. Then you can fine-tune the position to your specific needs and preference. Another good rule of thumb on most bars is to look for markings printed on the bars. Normally, if you use the ruler trick, you will fall in the middle of these markings, but they can be a good starting point, too.

Last tip is for those that like the hoods tilted a bit higher. Instead of moving the hoods on the bars, rotate the whole bar. This maintains the reach if you are in the drops while still delivering the raised position. Better yet, try a zero-degree stem or raised stem instead of moving the hoods for an elevated position.

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