Twenty6 Dualie Brake Lever
Mountain biking is an American sport, forged on the heels of the 1984 Olympics by a band of riders likely discouraged by the traditions and narrow views of European style road racing. The pioneering spirit that drove these folks into the mountains and woods left them with no choice but to modify existing bikes with off the shelf and homemade parts. With no rules and mucho enthusiasm, new bike and component designs were made to fill the needs of this new breed of cyclist. Some of the forefathers have prevailed and are still in the industry manufacturing bikes and such.
Then, at the end of the cold war, the mountain bike market was literally flooded with anodized and CNC’ed billet componentry from ex-aerospace companies looking to avoid bankruptcy. As the years past, most of that stuff has disappeared. Some of it was junk, some useful, and most very artful. However, the rigors of mountain biking demand function as a priority over form. Only a few companies of that cottage industry remain. Those that do had great designs for useful products and most are diehard cyclists. It seems that it takes one to know one and know how it all needs to work.
Fast forward to the present, and a new company has emerged with a small selection of cnc’ed and anodized components and it reminds us of the good old days -- days when Americans were winning world cups, both cross-country and downhill. We’re thinking of Juli, Johnny T, and H-ball. Nevermind our teary-eyed reminiscing. There is a small company operating out of the big sky country and they are making some high quality brake levers and pedals for mountain bikers. Twenty6 Products from Belgrade, Montana is a component company created by a guy named Tyler Jarosz, who is a pretty hardcore dude in his own right. By hardcore, we mean we’re impressed by anyone who has a CNC mill and lathe in their home shop. We also understand that he’s a studly rider. He understands mountain bikes and the needs of the hardcore rider.
Twenty6 Products has created the Dualie Lever to solve some issues that hamper stock brake lever blades for some riders. Tyler makes the levers to fit Formula, Hayes, Avid, and Shimano brakes. They are a direct replacement for the stock lever blades. In addition to fitting many popular models, they come in a rainbow of anodized colors -- black, blue, green, orange, pink, purple, red, and yellow. We tested the Formula and Avid levers. Our test units were polished and clear anodized, but the production colors are awesome. We have been testing these two models for over six months on a variety of bikes and for different purposes. We’ve run them while riding street/urban trials, dirt jumping, hardcore trail/free riding, and even during strenuous cross-country racing. One constant remains, we like what we’ve felt.
While some aftermarket levers simply offer more flash than the original OEM levers they are meant to replace, Twenty6 Products has taken a more performance oriented approach to the design of their Dualie Levers. Tyler has taken a close look at the shortcomings of the stock brakes and has found that by changing the position of the pivots on the levers, in turn altering the leverage ratio, he can fine tune the sensation at the riders' fingertips while braking. It is also true that the resulting performance of the brakes is changed. What we found with both the Avid and the Formula Dualie Levers is that they both offer an immediately noticeable increase in the ability of the rider to modulate braking force -- this is really saying something as the modulation of Formula brakes is something we've gushed about in the past. It was arguable whether or not the Dualie Lever actually increased total braking power. At times we thought yes, but other times no. That type of objective conclusion was hard to reach.
The increased modulation was very noticeable when we entered loose, fast corners. The Dualie Lever helped keep us from skidding by allowing us to ease into the brakes, even when we were surprised by the trail. Some brakes have a tendency to either be off or on with no in between. These levers mitigate that binary feel. We also found that the superior performance was apparent during a wheelie or manual. If you rely on the back brake to keep the balance point in check, then a light touch is required. A grabby brake is no good as it will send the front tire right back down to earth before you realize what's happening. The Twenty6 Dualie Levers and the added modulation capabilities really made our wheelies easier. We found ourselves with a finer degree of control over the rear brake.
In terms of ergonomics, Twenty6 Dualie Levers are great in two respects. First, they feature a two finger design -- hence the name. They have subtle, yet defined indentions machined into the blade for the first two fingers. While they are a two finger lever, it is also comfortable and natural to use them with the pointer finger only. Most trail riding situations only call for the one fingered technique. This position offered us more steering and bike control by keeping three fingers on the bars. One fingered braking with the Twenty6 Dualie Levers was more than adequate to control our speed on the trail. Only in the most desperate situations did we need to use two fingers on the lever to keep ourselves out of trouble. While the machining is top notch, the corners of the Dualie lever have a small radius. The face of the lever blade itself is a little flat, leaving the lever feeling “square” compared to some of the OEM blades.
The second thing we liked about the Twenty6 Dualie Levers was the angle of the lever blade relative to the handlebar. For most applications, the Dualie Lever is positioned more parallel to the bar than the stock units. The increase in distance between the pivots translates in less lever movement for a given stroke at the plunger. We liked the fact that the levers were closer to the bar at rest and were easier to get to from a non-braking hand position. The Twenty6 Dualie levers would be great for a smaller rider as the levers would be easier to reach with small hands.
Twenty6 has successfully redesigned some common and often overlooked bike parts. The Dualie Lever is example number one. By reducing the leverage ratio of the lever, the Twenty6 Dualie Levers provided an increase in braking performance by refining modulation and increasing the sensitivity at the lever. Total stopping power was not a problem as we could always lock either brake at will. They also work well for small hands, as they rest closer to the bar. The only complaint some of the testers had was the squarish feel of the lever took some getting used to. Throw in a dash of gorgeous ano, and they make for a great addition to any steed.