This was originally going to be a question... but after about an hour of tripping round various websites I found the answer I was looking for. I thought I'd post it here anyway for reference and for any other confused Europeans out there.
I just bought my first bike in the US (been bike-less for 2 1/2 years ). I got my shiny new Jamis Dakar Sport home and was looking it over when I found something not quite right... the right brake lever operated the rear brake instead of the front (something I totally didn't notice when I test rode it!). I took a quick look at my hubby's bike which he bought at the same shop at the same time, just in case it was a mistake... but his was the same way.
I was about to ask advice from you folks when I found this from www.sheldonbrown.com:
So I guess it's something to do with what part of the world you grew up in rather than anything technical. Since the instinct to use the right hand for the front brake is so ingrained in me (20 years of doing it that way!), I'll be taking my bike back to the shop tomorrow to ask if they can swap them overThere is considerable disagreement as to which brake should be connected to which lever:
Some cyclists say it is best to have the stronger right hand (presuming a right-handed cyclist) operate the rear brake.
Motorcycles always have the right hand control the front brake, so cyclists who are also motorcyclists often prefer this setup.
There are also observable national trends:
In countries where vehicles drive on the right, it is common to set the brakes up so that the front brake is operated by the left lever.
In countries where vehicles drive on the left, it is common to set the brakes up so that the front brake is operated by the right lever.
The theory that seems most probable to me is that these national standards arose from a concern that the cyclist be able to make hand signals, and still be able to reach the primary brake. This logical idea is, unfortunately, accompanied by the incorrect premise that the rear brake is the primary brake.
For this reason, I set my own bikes up so that the right hand controls the front brake, which is not the norm in the U.S.
I also do this because I'm right handed, and wish to have my more skillful hand operate the more critical brake.
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