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  1. #1
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    Very Stiff 105 FD Shifter - LBS Says "this is normal"

    My girlfriend bought an '06 Cannondale R700 Optimo Féminine size 43, and is just getting started in road cycling. She told me that the FD is too difficult to shift, and therefore she keeps it in the middle ring (she's running a Truvativ triple w/ 105 FD Ultegra RD) the entire time she rides.

    I thought she was just being a bit inexperienced, but after asking her about it a few times, and her similar responses that it was "too hard to shift," I took a closer look at her bike. I was surprised to see that she wasn't kidding and it's very difficult to shift without a good deal of effort. The shifter doesn't snag, bind, or get stuck, but it does take some effort to move. I have a 105 FD and find that my setup is much easier to shift than her setup.

    The one thing that I did notice was the shift cable housings/casings were fairly long. They cross over each other in front of the handlebar by quite a bit. They seem to be about 3 in. too long, and I think they are increasing the effort needed to shift. Is this a normal installation? The RD is difficult to shift as well, but not as bad as the FD.

    The handlebars are a bit narrow (not sure of the size) and the shifters are a "women's specific" size which means that they have a shorter reach, but I'm not convinced that the housings should be so long. Took it to LBS where she bought it and they said, "that's just the way they are, and her hands will get stronger." Not great news for a petite, 5'2" woman with small hands.

    Any suggestions on how to make the shifting less onerous? I'd appreciate any helpful feedback. I want her to really enjoy cycling, but this is slowing her down (literally! ) Thanks for your help.

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  2. #2
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    Your local bike shop is giving you the shaft. I have had both the 105 and ultegra on bikes and have not found them hard to shift dispite the fact than I am an eighty five year old man whose muscles have atrophied till I am weaker than any woman and I still use little strength in shifting either front or back. Get angry when you go back to the shop and tell them off.

  3. #3
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    I went through that with my ultegra short reach...same line of BS from the shop. We finally found a good shop that reworked the cables, lubed them, fiddled around with the FD, and adjusted the reach inward a tad more on the shifters, and wala - it great. 10k miles no problem.

    I agree short fingers have a harder time, but mine was harder my husbands older bike with Tiagra as well as his newer bike with DA10. Needless to say we have not been back to the shop where I bought it. Morons they are.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your comments. That pretty much was what I thought as well. Do you have any idea if the cable housings are too long? The setup on my 105 does not have any significant crossover of the cables (like my GF's bike). Think this might have anything to do with it? Also, if this is the culprit, is it difficult to cut and adjust at home (I'm fairly good with a wrench.) Thanks much!
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  5. #5
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    The Park Tool site has some guides on how to adjust derailleurs on their site http://www.parktool.com/repair/. If you feel like tackling it yourself, it's not very hard, especially since the various limit screws are already setup for you.

    One thing you can try doing that doesn't involve cutting the housings is to run the cables criss-cross. i.e., now you have your left brifter cable running down the left side of the bike. Just detach things so that it runs down the right side of the bike. The cables will cross at a point underneath but the friction from the cables is negligible. Sheldon Brown's site has some information here: http://sheldonbrown.com/cables.html#crisscross.

    Normally I don't see any appreciable performance difference between criss-cross and normal routining, but your cables look way too long so it might make a difference for you. Sheldon's whole page on cables is worth reading in your case actually.
    "There is more to life than increasing its speed" -- Mahatma Gandhi

  6. #6
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    I would take a look at the height of the front derailleur over the big chainring. It should have a dimes worth of clearance ( from the park tool site ). If its too high, shifting effort will be hard and not smooth. If its too low, it will bind on the ring.

  7. #7
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    Wow. Thanks for all of the helpful tips and suggestions. This is much better than the "get stronger hands" technique that the LBS recommended. I'll check out the links and the position of the FD to make sure that it looks setup properly. Much appreciated! Have a great weekend.
    :: 2006 Scott CR1 Team ::
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    :: 1991 Bridgestone MB2 Comp :: - ridden away by a thief!
    :: 1990 Bridgestone RB1 ::

  8. #8
    Mooninite shakeNbake's Avatar
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    Yeah, I call BS on your LBS.

    Hey, that rhymes!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by shakeNbake
    Yeah, I call BS on your LBS.
    +1. My wife is very petite and has ultegra shifters with no problems. As has been mentioned, you can learn to adjust them if you take the time to do a little research on it. Remember, its just a bicycle. A fairly simple machine. You can pick up a basic bicycle repair book or just learn from this forum and the Park Tools site. With basic tools and a few specialty ones, you can completely assemble a bike. Just take your time...
    Everyone has a right to an opinion. However, this does not mean that one's opinion is right.

  10. #10
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Yeah, ge that fixed ASAP...that's what was happening shortly before my front 105 brifter blew up on me.
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  11. #11
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    One note, don't obsess on the length of the housing...

    The difference between the image you show, and what you are probably used to seeing is a difference in length of maybe 1 inch per cable housing. Unless there are some wicked bends crated by the extra inch, and it doesn't appear that there are, it should not have a significant impact on shifting.

    Feel free to shorten them, as it may make a minor difference (probably not noticeable), just don't go hacking off 2 or 3 inches or you will need to buy new housings.

    I speak from very recent experience (Thursday evening).
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  12. #12
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    could also be that the cable guide that lives on the bottom of the bottom bracket shell is out of place, or that the FD cable is not routed properly through it.

    it also does look like there could be a bit too much overlap of the housings. i like to set them up so that they just barely touch each other above the front wheel.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I'd try to isolate the problem. It has to be either in the derailleur, the shifter, or in the cable and housing.

    1. Disconnect the shift cable from the derailleur. Try to move the derailleur with your finger.

    2. Now grab the loose end of the shift cable and try to work the shifter. How hard is that to to?

    3. If it still works hard, shift into the smallest chainring position and pull the shift cable completely out. If it comes out hard, chances are you have a burr in one of the cable housing ends. Work the shifter without the cable to be sure.

    4. If the shifter still works hard, that's the problem. I'd think that would be a warrantee issue, but I don't call the shots for Shimano.

  14. #14
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    If you can do your own cable work or find another bike shop, as the one you're using is full of it, do the following. Remove the cable and inspect both ends. I will just about guarantee that the cable housing ends have not been dressed properly if at all. When the cable housing is cut a small burr will be formed that pokes down where the cable will drag on it. Just take a very small blade like you would find on a Swiss army knife that's made for poking holes in leather and run it into the housing and twist it to snap off that burr. Next thing to do is to go to Wal-mart and purchase a spray can of Super TECH white grease making sure the little straw you put in the nozzle is taped to the side of the can. To lube your cables simply put that straw in the nozzle and then insert about 1/4" into the cable housing on the shifter or brake lever end. Shoot the grease into the cable housing. When you push the cable into the housing you will help push that grease throughout the housing. The shifting should become very easy after you dress and grease the cable housings. Do your brakes as well as the other shifter while you're at it. I like moustache handlebars, which are notorious for hard shifting with bar-con shifters due to the long cable housing lengths and all the curving around all those bends. My first go at moustache handlebars did produce hard shifting and braking but after application of the white grease and making sure of no burrs in the cable housings easy and smooth shifting and brake operation was restored.

  15. #15
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    This is interesting... My girlfriend has the same exact problem with her bike. She has a Dolce Elite with 105 shifters and the left shifter gives her the same problem that your girlfriend is having. I had her take it to the LBS and the didn't really do anything that helped. hmm, funny that it's both the 105 shifter for the FD.

  16. #16
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    Well, it looks like there are few different things for me to look at to see if I can get this fixed. I have to say that I'm mostly disappointed that the LBS didn't really make much of an effort to really find out what the problem is with the shifter. Perhaps it's because the repair guy is about 6'3" with big hands and was able to shift the FD without much effort while it was on a repair stand. This of course, doesn't really represent how tough it is for a small woman to do this while riding the bike at the same time. It kind of made me feel like when you take your car to the dealership for a problem that you KNOW exists, but the shop passes it off as "unrepeatable" or "normal" and sends you on your way. I had that same gut feeling when I was talking with the repair mech - like he really didn't care all that much, or he just felt that I was a PITA and didn't know what I was talking about. Thankfully, I can get some real suggestions here to fix this and my GF can get it back out on the road and in top gear. I really do appreciate your helpful messages. Thanks again.
    :: 2006 Scott CR1 Team ::
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    :: 1991 Bridgestone MB2 Comp :: - ridden away by a thief!
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  17. #17
    Senior Member EGreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shakeNbake
    Yeah, I call BS on your LBS.
    Not to take away from the mechanical issue at hand, some LBS employee's get snobbish with the lower end (not DA or Record) components.

    I had a 105 equipped bike I bought from a shop that wasn't shifting well due to typical and expected cable stretch. When I brought it in for the free life time tune up, the guy nearly sneered at my bike and told me to lower my expectations.

    (btw, I have a DA equipped bike, not hugely better shifting than the 105.)

    You should expect nearly effortless and precise shifting on that bike.

  18. #18
    Direct Hit Not Required BlastRadius's Avatar
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    I have cables that cross over that much and they work fine. Being this is a new bike, I bet the shop didn't take the cables out to lube them. Drip some Boeshield into the cable housing and she'll probably feel a world of difference.
    http://www.boeshield.com/t9bikeinfo.htm

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by n4zou
    If you can do your own cable work or find another bike shop, as the one you're using is full of it, do the following. Remove the cable and inspect both ends. I will just about guarantee that the cable housing ends have not been dressed properly if at all. When the cable housing is cut a small burr will be formed that pokes down where the cable will drag on it.
    Very good advice for dealing with brake housing (or older shift housing) that has a spiral design. This bike has modern shift housing, good quality cutters or a dremel usually give a clean cut but sometimes you need to use a grinder to get a clean finish.

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