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.