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Overhauling vintage Shimano brake levers

In this article I’m going to explain how I overhauled my Shimano brake levers. They are really beautiful first generation Shimano Deore XT BL-M700 brake levers from a 1986 Koga Miyata Adventure MTB / Trekking Hybrid.

brake lever 1

The levers are massive and feel really solid. At least now they do. Of course they were in used condition with the black anodization on the levers coming off and the aluminum shining through.


And their levers were damaged, probably because of the bike falling over.

So it’s once again time to disassemble, clean, sand, polish and reassemble bike parts.

Let’s get started!

Video Tutorial

Cleaning the vintage Shimano brake levers


Although they weren’t necessarily very dirty, it’s always nice to work with clean parts. Also disassembling stuff helps you get to know the material you’re going to be working with. And I was missing one of the bolts as it turned out.

Sanding the vintage Shimano brake levers

The next step is sanding the levers themselves. I only did the handles that had turned silver. I had already done a similar job on my Cannondale Super V (black / silver combo on the brake levers), which had turned out great.

I start off with an 80 grit sandpaper and move up all the way to 800 wet-sanding. In between are the following steps: 150, 220, 400, and 600. Afterwards it’s machine-polishing time.

Machine-polishing brake levers

machine polishing

Probably the most used restoration tool I own in terms of hours spent with it: the machine polisher. At 50 euros it’s not even that expensive. But the result you can obtain with it is absolutely amazing. And for these vintage shimano brake levers it means restoring them to perfection again.

The machine polisher has two wheel and you use four compounds, two for each wheel. With each compound the result get smoother and the shine brighter. Though, truth be told, already in the first step you probably get 95% of your shine.


I’ve started using a mask to prevent inhaling the compound after my wife noticed my entire face being black. My guess is the stuff simply cannot be healthy and I advise you to do the same.

And you will need a cloth to hold onto the metal. It gets so hot you’ll be unable to hold it otherwise.

Removing play


There was also a lot of play in the lever. This was easily fixed by really tightening the bolt. Since there’s a washer on each side of the lever within the lever mount, they maintain their operability.



A small drop of sewing machine oil made sure that the lever still moved freely within its mount.

And that’s how I overhauled my vintage Shimano brake levers ! If you like this article give it a thumbs up. If you have any questions or suggestions for new articles, let me know in the comments below. Cheers.

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