Homemade Brake Lever

I looked here and online for anything on homemade or custom made unicycle brake levers and could not find anything. So I’m starting a new thread.

I was adding a brake to my new Nimbus 36er and wanted something that was made to work well on a unicycle. I did not want to adapt a brake lever that was designed and build for a bicycle as is normally done. I wanted something that was reliable, trouble free, easy to work on and did not look like an add-on after thought. That is, I did not want a hydraulic bike brake lever but I did want something that had the control of a hydraulic.

The brake I came up with is incorporated into the handlebar rather then something added on the outside of the handlebar. I used a TRP Spyre caliper that seems to be highly rated and can be adjusted to work with very little cable pull. My installation has a very short brake cable housing, less then 24”, with only very slight bends. The short length and relatively straight run reduces friction in the brake cable. I believe it performs similar to a hydraulic but has the simplicity and reliability of a manual brake. The lever has a 2 to 1 mechanical advantage with a silky smooth travel from full release to full brake. The full travel of the lever is about ½”. The lever is tucked under the saddle and is easily accessible with any number of fingers from either side or the front of the seat handle. Yet the saddle handle is fully accessible as normal when the brake is not needed.

Even though I’m a total novice at operating a unicycle brake, I had to try it out. I was able to “level out” a 17% grade on my driveway with very little pull from a single finger. The 160mm disk rotor I used has no problem controlling the speed or even stopping on this grade. It seems to work well.

Although this exact configuration would not work for others because my handlebar is unique, maybe an idea or two could be used for others to come up with a unicycle brake lever rather then adapting bicycle levers for unicycle use.



This is great!
I was daydreaming the other day about a button/lever which fills the hole in the top of the grip (I set my lever up on top of my bars so I push down with my thumb rather than pull with fingers). It wouldn’t take a lot to turn your design into a giant button which fills the gap and fits slightly recessed in the top hole. Unobtrusive and crash resistant, even without a handlebar fitted.
I set mine up this way because it feels like I lose pulling strength when braking if the lever is underneath. My thumb is not used when hauling hard on the handle.

Good job.

I guess most of us are using hydraulic brakes though so it’s not feasible to make something like that (yes I get that Spyres may be just as good - in my case I had a spare hydraulic brake in my bits box!) I did make my own adapter out of plywood, which would have looked really nice (if still an afterthought) except that I found whilst it worked fine in normal use it broke on first impact with the ground, so it’s now wrapped in gaffer tape and looks rubbish. Functionally my brake lever isn’t much different to yours, but yours looks a whole lot better!

I considered a thumb push lever too. There may be kind of a self correcting feature with a thumb push lever. When the brake is applied too much the uni tends to slow and the seat tends to dip down. The downward moment may tend to reduce the pressure on lever when pushing down. With the pull up lever the opposite may be true; too much brake, the seat dips and this results in even more braking. Everything goes down hill from there.

In the end I did not do try a thumb push lever on this saddle because the “thumb hole” is quite small and a little sharp. I have another homemade saddle with a much larger front handle that a thumb push brake may work on.


A lot of amazing riders use the conventional, under-the-grab-handle setup…with great success. Ben Soja uses that setup on technical muni with a freewheel unicycle. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect setup, but you can’t argue with results. It takes experimentation, like you’re doing, to find the best setup. Everyone will benefit in the end.

I think your description of the physics of the pull-up vs. push-down brake is correct, but there is another aspect: As the seat dips and braking increases, pulling up on the brake/seat/handle increases the leverage to pull the wheel out in front of the rider, making a necessary correction.

My 26" muni is set up with the grab handle removed and a short bar setup protruding from the Shadow base. The brake is attached more forward (just back enough so I don’t destroy it during a UPD), increasing the leverage (referred to above) when the braking force increases. I consider my setup to be more immune to UPDs caused from a sudden increase in braking pressure. A sudden decrease in braking pressure, on the other hand, for example my fingers slipping off the lever…would probably cause a UPD.