A Problem Solvers Travel Agent is installed on the front of a green bike at the fork.

Travel Agent: Making Five-Star Trips Possible When Your Levers Don’t Match Your Brakes

We recently reintroduced the Travel Agent, a Problem Solvers staple that had been out-of-stock for nearly a year (our deepest apologies, folks). A brief history follows…

Brave, creative, and borderline irresponsible people have been riding bikes modified for off-road conditions for nearly as long as there have been bikes and roads. Mountain biking as a sport, however, didn’t really gain a foothold until the 1980s, when road bike makers first branched out and began mass-producing bicycles specifically built for rough terrain.

Problem Solvers’ parent company Quality Bicycle Products was early to the scene, founded in 1981 with the express mission to import hard-to-find mountain bike parts from Japanese suppliers. As interest in the discipline grew tin the 1990s, mountain biking moved from a niche sport to the mainstream—right around the time Cousin Will left Philadelphia to stay in Uncle Phil’s Bel Air pool house.

This mountain biking boom brought new riders to the sport and rapidly advanced the technology and equipment used on mountain bikes. And as you know, when one kind of gear gets an update, that often means another perfectly good part becomes obsolete or incompatible with the Fresh new thing. Introduced just over 20 years ago, the Travel Agent was designed to address the incompatibility between short-pull levers and long-pull brakes.

Moody photo of a Travel Agent installed on a Bike Polo rig, circa 2009


Simply put, the short-pull brake levers like the ones found on common road bikes don’t provide enough leverage to get full stopping power out of the long-pull brakes first introduced on mountain bikes in the ‘90s—also known as V-brakes (Shimano Trademark) or linear-pull brakes. Whatever name you use to describe them, these levers and brakes are not designed to work together, as long-pull brakes require about twice as much cable pull to operate than short-pull levers can provide. This hasn’t stopped imaginative tinkerers from throwing road-style drop-bars and integrated shift and brake levers on their old mountain bikes, nor has it stopped well-meaning but distracted shoppers from buying super-expensive short-pull flat-bar levers without looking at eBay’s return policy.

Line drawings that show the front and back designs of the Travel Agent
Fortunately, in 1998 engineers at QBP invented the Travel Agent: a brake-cable pulley system that doubles the amount of cable pull simply by swapping it out with the brake noodle. As the smaller inner pulley rotates, it routes the cable to a larger outer pulley where it travels around a greater circumference, thus increasing the amount of cable pull and ensuring you get adequate stopping juice when you squeeze the levers. Originally housed in QBP’s Alloy Accents brand, the Travel Agent was a more elegant solution than alternative solutions like the World Class V-Dapter.
Alloy Accents logo - looks to have been created in Clarisworks...

BONUS: the Travel Agent can also be used as a roller to smooth out that brake-lever action on most linear-pull brake setups, without changing travel. Please note, however, that Travel Agents are not recommended for use with all brake and lever combinations, and should you have any questions related to compatibility, we encourage you to contact Problem Solvers or visit the experts at your local bike shop.

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