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  1. #1
    Senior Member kbblodorn's Avatar
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    Shimano RSX brifter shifting problem

    I have a road bike that I don't use anymore that has Shimano RSX brifters on it, from about 1998. I am thinking about steeling the drop handlebars from this bike, brifters and all, and putting them on my mountain bike that I use for commuting. Before I do that though, I want to determine if a problem I'm having with the RSX shifter is a simple maintenance issue, or a bigger problem. On the left shifter, the lever that clicks the gears from a larger ring to a smaller ring usually does not work. The lever moves but does not engage the mechanism to index the gear; it just moves freely. With just the right pressure on the larger brake lever and a little luck, the smaller lever will occassionally engage and shift the gear. If I go ahead with changing the handlebars, I'll have my LBS do that work. But before I cart the two bikes there and have them tear into it, I would just like to know if this is a simple fix.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member FlatFender's Avatar
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    take the cables out, and blast the shifters internals with wd-40 or pb-blaster or the like, then allow then to dry, and lube the internals with some graphite.

    My old RSX brifters need this from time to time.

    DO NOT DISASSEMBLE THE SHIFTERS!!!!!

  3. #3
    Senior Member limeylew's Avatar
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    Re: Shimano RSX brifter shifting problem

    Quote Originally Posted by kbblodorn View Post
    I have a road bike that I don't use anymore that has Shimano RSX brifters on it, from about 1998. I am thinking about steeling the drop handlebars from this bike, brifters and all, and putting them on my mountain bike that I use for commuting. Before I do that though, I want to determine if a problem I'm having with the RSX shifter is a simple maintenance issue, or a bigger problem. On the left shifter, the lever that clicks the gears from a larger ring to a smaller ring usually does not work. The lever moves but does not engage the mechanism to index the gear; it just moves freely. With just the right pressure on the larger brake lever and a little luck, the smaller lever will occassionally engage and shift the gear. If I go ahead with changing the handlebars, I'll have my LBS do that work. But before I cart the two bikes there and have them tear into it, I would just like to know if this is a simple fix.

    Thanks!
    I have fixed a dozen or more of these by squirting plenty of WD 40, or Silicone lube, through them.

    The factory lube, plus accumulate road grime, seem to harden up after time and simply cleaning the mechanism has worked for every one that I have come across so far.

    Hope this will help you.
    Lewis.
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  4. #4
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    I had the exact same problem with my RSX front derailer brifter. It sounds like you are doing the same thing I was, which was to very carefully downshift by applying just the right pressure in just the right place. It's a really simple fix: just flush the whole assembly out with WD-40 (using more than you think you need), then lube it with something heavier (I use Tri-Flow). I've done this to great success on both the aforementioned RSX front brifter and a 600 rear brifter, the latter which didn't respond to anything before using WD-40/Tri-Flow. If it's really shot, you might need to let it sit overnight with the Tri-Flow (or whatever lubricant you use).

  5. #5
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    This is GREAT ADVICE

    Hey, this reply might seem like thread necromancy, but for anyone googling "Shimano RSX", this is the best advice they could stumble across. I found a Novara Randonee at Desert Industries (like Goodwill for Mormons, based in Utah) with full Shimano RSX for dirt cheap. The front brifter worked fine, but the brifter that shifts the rear derailer was broken. Without dismantling it, it seemed really ****ed up. Like completely non-functional. I assumed some fine toothed piece was broken inside, and thus it was a lost cause. I was searching Ebay for a replacement. I found this thread, and thought what the hell. I used a degreaser where the cable exits the shifter, and poured as much in as I could. Then, I worked the levers back and forth. I was amazed to find that it started to ratchet the cable in and out, instead of doing nothing as it was before. I worked it some more, and poured a bunch of prolink inside. After working the lever for a good 5 minutes while adding more oil (to the shifter cable ratchet, don't just peal the hoods back and pour it into the brifter body, locate the cylindrical ratchet device at the very front of the brifter), it began to shift perfectly. After dicking around with it for 10 minutes it was totally revived. It now shifts perfectly. If you have RSX Brifters that aren't working properly, don't hock them and buy expensive replacements on ebay. Just hose that mother out with wd-40 or some kind of degreaser while working the leavers, then oil it up with your favorite chain lube. If you need better access to the cable ratchet, you can undo the Allen bolt on the very front of the device and remove the faceplate, but be prepared to mess around with it until you figure out how to get the spring properly seated again (this was the hardest part of the procedure, but don't panic it just requires patience). I don't care how many forum posts say these are low level garbage equivalent to modern day plastic Tiagra... Once cleaned and lubed, they click reliably and solidly. Keep em lubed and I bet they will outlast any budget plastic replacements floating around today.

  6. #6
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    Road bike shifters onto a mountain bike? An issue I had with trying to put road brifters on my
    Scott sportster (my commuter) was the front shifter / derailleur was not compatible. Apparently, the MTB front der requires more cable pull to get from the big wheel to the little ( 3 spd). I could never get it adjusted for all 3 wheels ... I could get small and middle or large and middle but not all three. Had to abandon the brifters and go with barend shifters.

    Not that you will have this same problem but might as well check for it first ...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nota's Avatar
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    ...I'll 2nd, 3rd, and 4th what everyone else has already told you...."spray the hell out of it with WD40".

    I had the EXACT same problem with the left RSX shifter on my '96 Bianchi a few months ago, and took the advice of an apparent "expert" on them (Andy Zeigler andyzeigler@gmail.com ) that I stumbled across on an old bike forum thread, and he advised me to spray lube it - and it worked!

    If you still have problems with it, Andy says he rebuilds them for $25 ea. He says he's sucessfully ("sucessfully" being the operative word here) rebuilt several dozens of these old RSX's. You certianly can't get even cheap replacements for less than that.

    I'm holding off til the end of the "season", before shipping my off to him for a little TLC tune-up.

  8. #8
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    I'll second tippy's warning that an MTB front derailleur generally won't index properly with road brifters. I "roadified" an older Trek MTB and the rear 105 STI worked fine but the front wouldn't index all three chainrings with the stock Deore LX fd. The odd cable routing prevented me from using a road fd so I used a barend shifter (friction) for front shifting.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    What they all said.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  10. #10
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    I was given a set of 'dead' RSX STI levers a few years ago, and the rear worked fine, but the front did not. I tried the WD40 trick and that did not help. Much to my surprise, there was actually something wrong with them beyond hardened Shimano lube... the return spring on the top ratchet pawl was broken (or bent - I forget) and I was able to revive them by re-bending a new end on the spring with a set of tiny needlenose pliers (and about 3 hours of spare time). They have worked well ever since.

    I did have to flush the rear shifter with degreaser at one point, though.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    I'll second tippy's warning that an MTB front derailleur generally won't index properly with road brifters. I "roadified" an older Trek MTB and the rear 105 STI worked fine but the front wouldn't index all three chainrings with the stock Deore LX fd. The odd cable routing prevented me from using a road fd so I used a barend shifter (friction) for front shifting.
    My front der has a low clamp because the seat tube diameter starts expanding in the area where a normal high clamp would fall. If I could have found a road compatible low clamp front der I would have swapped it.
    The bar end shifters ended up a better option due to simplicity.

  12. #12
    Roadie CyclingTony's Avatar
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    I have a 1999 Trek 2100 with RSX STI. One year on TOMRV the left STI jammed in the outer chain ring. Not good when your climbing 6000 feet of hills in a day. At the first sag stop one of the wrenches was there. Unfortunately he wasn't a certified mechanic and didn't know not to take the STI apart. He called the lead mechanic that was at the next stop and he drove back to fix my bike. He was a bit pissed he took the STI apart. He put it back together. Flushed it and lubed it with ProLink. He told me if it every happened again. To do what was said here. Flush it and lube the ratchet. Mine has worked ever since. He stressed never take this STI apart. Because I had to wait and I was a regular customer they didn't charge me. I was just relieved I had my granny back for the next climb.
    Mind over pain

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    I have a really stupid question. I have seen the term "cable ratchet" many times in this thread. I really want to know what exactly is cable ratchet? Is it the shift cable housing that come out horizontally from the brifter? Do i have to take the cable out or just the cable housing out in order to blast WD-40? How can i take the cable or cable housing out from the brifter??

    Also, if you blast WD-40 and then lube to the cable ratchet, the brifter will be filled with those liquid. Will those WD-40 and lube go down to the bar tape? and soak the bar tape?? Or i have to take the brifter out from the bike before i do that?

    I know these are really basic. I as well have a RSX 7-speed drivetrain that i may need to service later.

    Thanks!!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Nota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oceantin View Post
    I have a really stupid question. I have seen the term "cable ratchet" many times in this thread. I really want to know what exactly is cable ratchet? Is it the shift cable housing that come out horizontally from the brifter? Do i have to take the cable out or just the cable housing out in order to blast WD-40? How can i take the cable or cable housing out from the brifter??

    Also, if you blast WD-40 and then lube to the cable ratchet, the brifter will be filled with those liquid. Will those WD-40 and lube go down to the bar tape? and soak the bar tape?? Or i have to take the brifter out from the bike before i do that?

    I know these are really basic. I as well have a RSX 7-speed drivetrain that i may need to service later.

    Thanks!!
    I'm not certain, but I suspect when they say "cable ratchet", they're talking about the mechanism down inside the brifter, that looks like a little toothed gear, that literally "ratchets", as it moves up or down a toothed knotch. It's this ratcheting action that takes up or lets out very small amounts of the shifter cable slack, in order to make the derailleurs move.

    Yes, when you blast down inside the brifters with WD40, it WILL run down your bar tape and make a mess. I found out the hard way, right after having brand new white foam bar tape installed, when I switched to a wider set of bars. I'll tell you what I wish someone had told me...WRAP SOME RAGS TIGHTLY AROUND THE BASE OF THE BRIFTER, BEFORE YOU SPRAY IT!!!

    Best of luck with it, and if all else fails, take 'em off the bike and send 'em to Andy Zeigler (see his email contact info in my previous post in this thread); he'll fix 'em.

    Cheers
    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.” Mark Twain (apocryphal)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by oceantin View Post
    I have a really stupid question. I have seen the term "cable ratchet" many times in this thread. I really want to know what exactly is cable ratchet? Is it the shift cable housing that come out horizontally from the brifter? Do i have to take the cable out or just the cable housing out in order to blast WD-40? How can i take the cable or cable housing out from the brifter??

    Also, if you blast WD-40 and then lube to the cable ratchet, the brifter will be filled with those liquid. Will those WD-40 and lube go down to the bar tape? and soak the bar tape?? Or i have to take the brifter out from the bike before i do that?

    I know these are really basic. I as well have a RSX 7-speed drivetrain that i may need to service later.

    Thanks!!

    THe term "ratchet" generally refers to something that turnd freely in one direction but has limited or blocked motion in the other - like a "ratchet" socket set that can tighten a bolt in one direction and spin freely in the other to put the wrench in position to tighten the bolt some more.

    I believe the "cable ratchet" people are talking about is the internal mechanism in the shifter that can be twisted with the large lever to pull cable in, and does not allow cable to slip back out until you use the small lever to release the mechanism by one click.

    Lubing the cable ratchet is probably best done by pulling the brake lever toward the bars (or to where the bars would be if the shifter is not on the bars) and look inside for a mechanism made up of small parts and springs and such. THe grease in this mechanism is notorious for hardening and making the mechanism malfunction after several years, and some WD40 or degreaser in this mechanism can help thin it out and get the shifters working again. Since the mechanism is not well sealed, any fluid sprayed in will simply run out the bottom... the stuff that doesn't will eventually evaporate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nota View Post
    I'm not certain, but I suspect when they say "cable ratchet", they're talking about the mechanism down inside the brifter, that looks like a little toothed gear, that literally "ratchets", as it moves up or down a toothed knotch. It's this ratcheting action that takes up or lets out very small amounts of the shifter cable slack, in order to make the derailleurs move.

    Yes, when you blast down inside the brifters with WD40, it WILL run down your bar tape and make a mess. I found out the hard way, right after having brand new white foam bar tape installed, when I switched to a wider set of bars. I'll tell you what I wish someone had told me...WRAP SOME RAGS TIGHTLY AROUND THE BASE OF THE BRIFTER, BEFORE YOU SPRAY IT!!!

    Best of luck with it, and if all else fails, take 'em off the bike and send 'em to Andy Zeigler (see his email contact info in my previous post in this thread); he'll fix 'em.

    Cheers
    Thanks for the information. So how did you spray the WD-40 to the brifter? Did you hold the brake lever and then spry inside? or pull out the shift cable housing on the brifter to spray into it?

  17. #17
    Senior Member Barchettaman's Avatar
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    Sorry to bump an old thread, but HUGE thanks for the advice in this one.
    I´ve just successfully revitalized a seized pair of RSX shifters with half a can of WD40 - they were completely, utterly seized and now shift silky smooth.
    I´ve saved $$$ on a new pair!

  18. #18
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    Another satisfied customer

    Just fixed my Shimano RSX shifters with advice from this thread - thanks to all.

    Richard

  19. #19
    Winter blues... slacker00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    I was given a set of 'dead' RSX STI levers a few years ago, and the rear worked fine, but the front did not. I tried the WD40 trick and that did not help. Much to my surprise, there was actually something wrong with them beyond hardened Shimano lube... the return spring on the top ratchet pawl was broken (or bent - I forget) and I was able to revive them by re-bending a new end on the spring with a set of tiny needlenose pliers (and about 3 hours of spare time). They have worked well ever since.

    I did have to flush the rear shifter with degreaser at one point, though.
    I had the exact same problem. The return spring for the downshift pawl broke on my summer bike during the last ride of the season. I found this thread last night and started tinkering an hour ago and was able to make the exact same fix. It took me an hour fidgeting with the needlenose pliers which were probably a size too big and too loose. But when I got the spring back on I tested it a dozen times and perfect shift every time. It looks ugly as hell, but I think it'll hold up. I kept bending the spring in the wrong spot with the crappy pliers, so I've got some kinks in the spring now. At least it works. *brag*

  20. #20
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    Repair tips

    Since I, like Andy, have rebuilt many of these shifters (several hundred) let me add a few pointers to this string. Using the WD-40 flush will make them work for a while. Many of the shifters I have repaired came from people who tried this first. I dissasemble the shifters and remove the ratchet that causes the problem and clean the shaft it rotates on completely so I can guarantee it won't jam up again. If you want to try this flush yourself, I highly recommend that you remove the levers from the bike and remove the hoods. Wetting the hoods with water first makes them much easier to remove and replace. Longterm exposure to WD-40 and various lubes tends to swell the rubber in the hoods and then they will move around on the bracket and wear themselves out. New hoods can be very hard to find. I have a few pair if you need some.

    The preferable lube for these shifters is grease, not any kind of oil. I am starting to see a large number of these shifters with a groove worn in the ratchet everyone is talking about due to inadequate lubrication from flushing and inadequate relubrication. The only fix is to replace the ratchet from a parts shifter which requires dissasembly. You can buy a grease that sprays in with a carrier and dries into a normal grease. I use a white lithium and a spray version can be bought at most auto parts stores. White lithium is a synthetic grease that will not dry out like the original organic grease and it is supposed to be waterproof so it will not wash out when you clean your bike. It costs a litlle more, but is well worth it. Shimano seems to use this type of grease in their newest shifters.

    Yes they can be completely dissasembled and reassembled. Is it easy, no. I do not recommend you try the complete dissasembly at home. They fit together multiple ways, but only one way works and it is very easy to lose parts. You have to compress springs while at the same time rotating parts and it would be easier to do if a person had three hands. Sometimes it takes me several tries to get it right and I have done piles of them. I charge double my normal repair price if someone else takes them apart and I have to put them back together.

    If the flush does not work, there are actually four springs that can be the problem. Three of them can be fixed like a couple of people have described, two of them are easier than what has been described. Who knows how long that fix will last, but it can be worth trying instead of scraping a shifter. That fix is not for the faint of heart as some of you have found out. The easiest and best way to rebend the springs is to remove them from the shifter, but again you probably don't want to try this at home. The ultimate solution is to replace them with a spring from a parts shifter that is broken because of the fourth spring being bent or broken. The fourth spring that can be a problem gets bent from people trying to force a shift when the shifter is not working properly and they jam some of the parts together. Once this spring is bent the shifter is shot and it usually breaks pretty quickly.

    One of these days I will get the time to post the numerous pictures I have taken of these shifters in various states of dissasembly, etc. Until then if you want to see pictures of the ratchets that are mentioned, broken springs, complete breakdown, etc. email me direct (jrmcvey@aol.com) and I will try to respond as quickly as possible. If one of you wants to post the pictures you have me permission to do so, but please let me know where so I can access them.

    Good luck in your repair efforts.

  21. #21
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    Even after that long essay I missed a few of important points.

    If you flush your shifters with WD-40 you need to wash them out before relubing them. WD-40 is a solvent and you don't want solvent contaminating your new lube.

    If you take the front cover, namplate, off be very careful putting it back on. The small tab that sticks through the main lever can get bent very easily. If you push the tab in too far you may lose or hinder your shifting to the last one or two large cogs on your cassette. To fix the problem, you have to take the shifter apart and bend it back out.

    One last point that I have never seen discussed before. If you are going to store your bike for any extended period of time; shift the small levers as many times as possible so your bike is in the small chainring, small cog combination. This leaves the shifters with all of the springs in their most uncompressed state and they should work better longer. I have only seen one broken because of this (not one of the four mentioned above), but hey why take chances for something that is so simple to do?

  22. #22
    Senior Member sk0tt's Avatar
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    LarDasse74 and slacker00, I’m wondering if you still have the RSX shifters you fixed, I have the same problem when shifting from a larger ring to a smaller one (the small lever).
    The plastic cover that covers the inside was broken so I pulled it out and there is a small spring that is not doing anything, I assume it is meant to hold the pawl down to stop it slipping up.

    I have tried to carefully tension it while trying to get the end of the spring to sit in the groove in the pawl but it doesn’t seem to be long enough. Does it look broken to you? Do you have a photo?

    The rear 'brifter' doesn’t have the same plastic cover as the front one, so I can’t look inside to see what it should look like without taking it apart.

    I cant email from here atm, so cant ask eeforme to see if I can get some pics of the spring.


    Scott.
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  23. #23
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    RSX Spring Problem

    The spring is definitely your problem. It is hard to tell what the exact problem is from you picture. The spring has to be broken or incorrectly installed to be in teh postition it is in. As you note it should be pressing down on the ratchet. If the spring rotates freely it is broken or the other end is not in place correctly. If you could see in the right side it would look the exact same, but a mirror image. Some people claim to have fixed the spring in place. I take them apart, but as others in this post have noted I would not recommend you do this. You can contact me directly at jrmcvey at aol dot com.

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    I just looked at your picture again. The spring is not broken it has come unwrapped by one turn. Notice the other end ot the spring sticking up. It should be flat against the metal piece it is above with tension on it.

  25. #25
    Senior Member sk0tt's Avatar
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    Thanks eeforme,
    I thought that was the problem, but couldn't get the spring rotated 1 turn, it didn't seem long enough.
    I'll have to try again.
    Last edited by sk0tt; 05-12-09 at 07:23 PM.

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