Shimano 105 disc brake lever travel question

My girlfriend just bought a new Trek Domane with 105 hydraulic disc brakes. Upon her first ride she noticed that to fully engage the brakes she has pull the levers almost all the way to the handlebars. She’s used to my SRAM disc brakes which are adjusted to what I feel is normal bite. I told her it’s probably a free stroke adjustment that the shop would do as part of the post break-in adjustment.

However, they say that’s just the way they are and that she’ll get used to it. I’m thinking either they didn’t want to adjust the free stroke, or possibly they need to be bled, which I’m sure they don’t want to do either.

Or do the new 105’s actually have this much lever pull before the brakes bite?

The reach and lever fit are good for her.

Thanks for any insight.

Yea both my 105 bikes, and ultegra bike are like that. To really get the brakes to clamp down the pointy bit on the shifter is right against the bar tape.

You can adjust the free stroke, and I share your impression that the people in your bike shop seemingly didn’t want to deal with that. Free stroke is a matter of preference, and should be adjusted properly. You should not need to wait until the levers hit the bar tape (unless that is how you want it).

If the bike is new and the free stroke adjust does not cure the problem, I’d go back and insist that they fix it. If the brakes have not been bled properly during assembly, then this will cause problems down the road (literally).


The bike mechanic must be an idiot. They should be able to adjust both the free stroke and the reach. Bleeding should not be necessary. There are youtube videos on how to do it yourself.


Are you able to adjust the pads inward, closer to the rotor? It sounds like a poor adjustment at the caliper.

Edit. Check page 54 here. Free stroke looks very easy to adjust.

1 Like

I have Ultrega on one bike and 105 on another.

With the 105 I almost have to pull the levels all the way to the bar tape before I feel like the bike is slowing.

With the Ultrega, I get about 1/2 to the bar tape. Any further than that and I lock up the wheel.

I’m planning on asking my LBS to adjust the pull on the 105s when I take it in for service in the fall or winter.

My new 105 is like that too. I assumed it needed a proper bleed but have been to lazy to do it since it works “good enough” for now and returning to the LBS wasn’t an option since they are in the UK and I’m in Canada

I’d be wary of any brake lever setup where lever travel can get close to be limited by hitting the bars. If it’s set up that way, you are a little pad/disc wear (or pad/rim for rim brakes) away from a drop in max braking force. Would you drive a car with a brake pedal that can touch the floor? I wouldn’t either.

Read under the green “tech tips” box. Unfortunately R7020 doesn’t have that adjustment

1 Like

I just read that too.

Thanks for the replies. I’m not sure what to do given that the R7020 does not have free stroke adjustment. It also sounds like others have experienced the same amount of travel in order to get full braking bite. I too had considered what happens as the pads wear.

She loves the bike, but is really unhappy with this braking performance.

Huh, that’s weird? I have the previous-gen 105 level hydraulic STI levers, and I have free stroke adjustment.

Brake bleed made the travel what I would consider to be expected. Just frustrating when someone at the shop says “that’s how they’re supposed to be, you’ll get used to it”. Maybe they said this because she’s a female, and they didn’t feel like bleeding the brakes on a new bike.

1 Like

Weird? Are you sure that wasn’t just reach adjust? I doubt they would remove a feature like that.

The shop confirmed what the Shimano manual says, and that is that the new R7020 does not have a free stroke adjustment.

I have Shimano 105 and brakes work perfectly normal, they brake fully when I get to about halfway point to the bar tape as they should.
And I don’t understand some other comments here where people accept something fishy about brakes as “I’ll get used to it”. Brakes should feel intuitive, easy and comfortable, anything less than that and you have a top priority issue that has to be fixed.

That is indeed what the shop manual says - see the post from @BRad704 above, top right corner of the extract from the shop manual “Tech Tips - Free stroke adjustment cannot be performed for ST-R7020/R7025” . This said, most testers (, for example) have found the R7020 levers to be very good braking-wise.

I’m pretty inexperienced with disc brakes in general… but it is realistic to shim the pads inward to decrease the free stroke, since there is not an actual adjustment?

My only hydros are on my mtb, and my CX bike is mechanical disc which DOES have an adjustment to move the pads in/out very easily.

I’d think the answer to your question is in the user manual posted above. I believe these brakes have self-adjusting calipers to compensate for pad wear. Not sure how that would figure in to any manual adjustments that are made. If manual adjustments are possible at all.

Has anyone found a resolution since? I just built up a new road bike with the same problem, brakes don’t actually bite until they’re close to the drops. Additionally my right lever still feels soft despite going through the “tilt 45° forward and back lever squeezing process”, and I think I can hear bubbles in the lever when I squeeze it. Anyone have input, or can point me to a helpful source?