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Old 10-22-09, 09:49 PM   #1
HillyBiker
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upgrading old Shimano shifters/brake levers?

My commuter bike is a MTB from 1996 or so and the components are Deore LX from that era. It is an 8-speed rear and the shifters/brake levers are integrated. The front shifter is broken and can only use the 2 smaller chainrings. I want to upgrade the shifters & levers to separate units instead of integrated.

I have read about the non-trivial internal differences between today's XTR and Deore components, and I'm willing to pay for the better quality of XTR (or something close). My commuter will become my tourer later. I don't understand a couple things, though:

- am I right to go for non integrated shifters/levers or does that matter these days?

- will today's shifters work with my old 8-speed drivetrain? Or do I have to seek out an older 8-speed shifter?

- can I upgrade the shifters/levers now and the derailleurs later? Or does it have to be all at once?

- is this job something I can learn from a pal or should it be left to a LBS mechanic?

- what are your favorite resources for Shimano MTB components?

- other advice on this kind of upgrade?

Thanks!
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Old 10-22-09, 10:17 PM   #2
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1) doesn't matter, you can also "unintegrate" your old shifters if you don't want to also buy a new lever if you are going to go the seperate route - we've done this before for repairs and the result is usually oustanding
2) You need an 8 speed shimano compatible shifter
3) You don't need to upgrade the derailleurs
4) I dunno, how good is your pal? Your LBS will probably charge you somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20-$50 labour for cable+housing + brake/shifter unit install.
5) Not sure what that means
6) no
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Old 10-22-09, 11:00 PM   #3
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Shimano doesn't provide for shifters in 8 speed in their higher end groups any more, not XTR, not XT, not SLX, not even LX (and believe similar for the road groups). What is broken about the front shifter? It's possible that if it's not functioning correctly it could simply be the grease has gunked up over the years; it might benefit from a solvent flush then a re-lubing (just use something like WD40 sprayed thru the cable access, don't try and take the mechanism apart, and work the lever as you do it then re-lube).

While not to say the Shimano 8 speed shifters you can still get are bad or anything, just that it might be worth a shot to simply save your current shifters. Separate units are fine and all, but unless you're changing over to hydraulic discs may simply not gain you much if the current units work otherwise, unless you've got a problem with the ergonomics of the combo units.

Or, it's time to think 9 speed and get a new cassette and chain along with your new separate shifters and brakes (you can still use the old derailleur, it won't care if it's 8 or 9 speed)...

I still use integrated brake/shifter units, XT ST-M750's (9 speed), for several bikes that use mechanical discs. Still have a few XTR ST-M950s kicking around, too.
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Old 10-22-09, 11:16 PM   #4
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+1 on seeing if you can un-gum the rachet mechanism in your front shifters, especially since it currently works over two cogs already.

What exactly, in terms of performance, were you hoping to gain by buying XTR over Deore? For a commuting bike? (or a touring bike)
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Old 10-23-09, 09:39 AM   #5
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I had a LBS look over & tune up the bike back when I resurrected it from the basement this summer to start commuting. At that time they said that the front shifter wouldn't go to the big chain ring, that the internals "were shot cuz there's a lot of plastic in there that just wears out" and that it would be more cost effective to just replace the shifter. I live in a hilly area (thus the screen name!) and frankly for the first month or so I had no need for the big chain ring. So I let it go until now.

Now I've improved enough that I can actually get some use out of those bigger gears.

I've read that the higher end Shimano components use bearings instead of plastic bushings, etc and this makes a real difference in lifespan. I plan to put this commuter to use for some touring in the future and I just don't want to bother with mostly plastic internals when I have a choice. Admittedly, I don't know how high in the Shimano hierarchy I have to go to get beyond disposable components. That's why I used the "XTR" term, but I am not informed enough to really know for sure.

I didn't realize I could separate the brake levers from the shifters; good to know. That might save me some money up front. I can see how a Deore brake lever would be close to XTR-level durability since it is such a simple device, as opposed to a shifter.

>"5) Not sure what that means"

It means "what/who are your favorite sellers for buying Shimano components?". Google searches yield thousands of hits so I'm looking for guidance on where to buy the hardware.
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Old 10-23-09, 10:00 AM   #6
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I have the same LX shifters on my mountain bike that came with the GT Karakoram I bought in 1997, and they work flawlessly. I mention this because, if your shifters are actually broken (and not just gummed up with old grease, which is very very common), it is an anomaly. Since the early '90s, SHimano shifters from Alivo up to XTR, have all been very reliable components.

If you can find some NOS LX or XT 8 speed shifters they will probably outlast the rest of the bike. ALivio level shifters are, I think, still available in 8 speed from most LBSs, and these are also a very good product... and they are inexpensive.
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Old 10-23-09, 12:43 PM   #7
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If you need new shifters it makes good economic sense to upgrade to 9-speed with new shifters, cassette, and chain. The old derailleurs will work fine. The shifters, chain, and cassette need to match in "speeds". With XTR you'd be paying a premium for light weight. One of the intermediate groups would be just as good otherwise, like Deore XT.
I agree with bikinfool, above.

Al
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Old 10-23-09, 01:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HillyBiker View Post
I had a LBS look over & tune up the bike back when I resurrected it from the basement this summer to start commuting. At that time they said that the front shifter wouldn't go to the big chain ring, that the internals "were shot cuz there's a lot of plastic in there that just wears out" and that it would be more cost effective to just replace the shifter.
Before taking the LBS' word that it's irreparable, just try the WD-40 trick. All you have to lose is 5 minutes and a little WD. A year ago, I resurrected a left shifter with the exact same problem and it's functioned perfect since. It wasn't the plastic that was worn down, the grease had gotten too thick and wasn't letting the pawls catch on each other.
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Old 10-23-09, 01:16 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by JiveTurkey View Post
Before taking the LBS' word that it's irreparable, just try the WD-40 trick. All you have to lose is 5 minutes and a little WD.
Quite right, nothing to lose. I will try it.

Thank you, everyone, for your feedback. I am very detail oriented so the whole ball of wax regarding components, compatibility, and installation feels overwhelming to me. I just want my bike to work. Here's hoping for WD40 success!
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