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  1. #1
    rj987652003
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    stem shifters vs. bar end shifters. Why are bar-ends more popular?

    I've been looking to upgrade my downtube shifters and I am considering buying either a set of friction stem shifters or bar-end shifters.

    The stem shifters seem much more convient....since I ride on the tops or brake hoods most of the time.

    Are there any shifting disadvantages with stem shifters over bar end shifters?

    Any reliability differences?

    THe bar-end shifters seem more popular in these forums for reasons not really clear to me. Is it because you guys like to ride on the drops more than I do or is there some other reason why the bar-ends are more popular?

  2. #2
    Queen of France Indolent58's Avatar
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    Stem shifters might be better for you if you know aren't going to use the drops much or at all. It is pretty difficult to reach up to stem shifters when you are in the drops, whereas it's an easy reach to bar ends when you are on the tops.

    Most of the bar-ends you see today are usable in indexed or friction mode, but are usually are being used as indexed shifters. I am not aware of any indexed stem shifters, but they may be available.

    Stem shifters were popular in the 70's and 80's on mid and low priced road bikes but are much less common today. One of the major issues was safety. Many stem shifters had oversized levers that protuded well above the top of the stem, creating an impalement hazard in a crash.

    I have seen simple brackets that let you use standard downtube levers in a stem mounted position. Since downtube levers are considerably smaller and would protrude little if at all above the top if the stem, I assume they would be safer.

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    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Another option might be to use horizontal thumbshifters. You can either get older MTB thumbies (SunTour XC-Pro or Shimano Deore XT are of pretty good quality and can still be found if you look hard enough) or use conversion kits that will allow you to mount barcon/bar-end shifters in a horizontal fashion on the tops of your bars. One such kit is sold by Paul Component.



    There are a variety of other options too including the old SunTour Command-Shifters.



    Kelly Take-Off Shifters will allow you to mount downtube shifters to the side of your hoods.



    I've also mounted GripShifts to the end of my handlebars before. I'm not sure if there's a way to snake them all the way onto the tops though.
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    I can't believe how much more I enjoy riding with brake-lever integrated shifters. I rarely ride in either the drops or the tops; rather I am on the hoods almost all the time. With the integrated shifters, I am shifting far more often, resulting in a much greater likelihood of appropriate gearing.

    I LOVE 'em.

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    Old dude on old bikes Seeker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Indolent58
    I am not aware of any indexed stem shifters, but they may be available.
    Actually, just last week I bought a Fuji Sagres at a pawn shop for about $50 that had Shimono indexed shifters on the stem. It's a pretty weird bike with lots of anacronisms so I've had a hard time fixing a manufaturing date on it, but anyway yeah there ate indexed stem shifters out there somewhere, not saying there not rare as hens teeth though.

  6. #6
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Unless you are racing (in which case you are probably not in the friction shifter market!) what type of shifter to use is basically a matter of personal preference. I like bar end shifters, but stem mount and down tube are perfectly acceptable substitutes. All three use the same basic design for the shifter so there is no reliability issue between them.

  7. #7
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    I had DT shifters on my touring bike that I set up to race cross last year and shifting was trecherous. The barcons are safer because as you shift you also maintain control. This may not be a terrible concern on the road. Also with stem mounted shifters you may hit them with your knee if you climb out of the saddle.

  8. #8
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    I hate stem shifters and consider them hazardous. If you don't like barcons, strongly consider either thumb shifters or Take-Offs, as suggested by others in this thread. (I find Take-Offs extremely interesting, because in the late 1960s I experimented with clamping my downtube shifters at various places on my drop handlebars. I guess I should have patented the idea. The experiment would have been more successful if I had been using something better than my Huret Allvit rear derailleur, which required both high cable tension and a long throw.)
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  9. #9
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    indexed stem shifters were certainly made, i just do not know if any one is making stem shifters any more. i reccomended handlebar end derailleur control levers to one of my friends and he told that he never rides with his hands at the end of the drops so i said, you ride with your hands on the shift levers on the down tube? that is obviously nonsense, but he did take my advice. next time i saw him he said i hate to admit this but reaching to the shift levers at the end of handlebars is lot easier then reaching for control levers on the down tube. several posts on this subject complained that harris cyclery only had indexed handlebar end levers but both suntour & shimano levers had a friction & index options. if you use brifters index is the only option. i like the fact that the front levers are friction only, so you can use any combination of control levers & derailleurs, my chainrings have the center & large rings closer together than the center to granny ring.

  10. #10
    tcs
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    The heyday of the stem shifter was maybe the late 1960s to the early 1980s, when even some very nice bikes came with them.

    Quote Originally Posted by gear freak View Post
    indexed stem shifters were certainly made, i just do not know if any one is making stem shifters any more.
    What's Shimano's highest sales volume derailleur? The Tourney - and yet you won't find it on their web site.

    Stem shifters and even indexed stem shifters in 2011? You bet - just go look at some of the bikes @ Target & Walmart.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  11. #11
    Ride More seedsbelize's Avatar
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    I have no issues with my stem shifters. I like them. I've never tried bar ends though, and would like to check them out.

  12. #12
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    Didn't the USCPTA ban them? Around 1974 the Hurst-ish bar shifters went away. On Sting Rays & Raleigh Choppers. Stem shifters might be nice if you have drop bars and want to switch to mustache or trekking bars.
    Last edited by TireLever-07; 05-03-11 at 08:18 AM. Reason: typo

  13. #13
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Sheldon Brown on stem shifters:

    These were popular in the late '70s and early '80s because they permitted shifting without having to lean down to reach down-tube mounted shift levers. Stem shifters, along with brake extension levers, encouraged riding using only the top of drop handlebars. This riding style was popular at the time, because many casual cyclists bought bicycles with drop bars for reasons of fashion and style, even though drop bars were not suited to their low-intensity riding style.
    If you're never riding in the drops, you're not getting any benefit from having them. Either your bars are set too low or too far forward, making it uncomfortable to ride in the drops, or your riding style is not aggressive enough to warrant drop bars. Figure out your handlebar situation, then choose the appropriate shifters.

    I personally don't mind DT shifters on anything but a race bike, and I like bar-end shifters quite a bit except for the awkward cable routing they create. I'm not a fan of stem shifters.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

  14. #14
    Collector of Useless Info
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    These days stem shifters get a bad rap from being associated with turkey wing brake levers and low-quality bike-boom bikes. They're perfectly functional and no more dangerous to use than down-tube shifters, as far as needing to remove your hands from the handlebars to shift. But, bar-end shifters still have a modicum of control since your hand is actually on the bar when shifting. Plus they're associated with higher quality constructeur bikes, and a bunch of us here are hoity-toity retro-grouches about stuff like that.

    Even though I have a bike with bar-end shifters, indexed integrated brake and shift levers are much better for everything, in my opinion. Easier to shift while still maintaining control and plenty reliable. I just upgraded a bike from down-tube shifters to 9-speed brifters (well, actually they're 10 speed using the alternate cable routing)- got them from Nashbar for $129 with 25% off. But, I already had the derailleur and 9-speed cassette wheelset and chain. I was able to use my original 7-speed crank and front derailleur, and it works great.
    Last edited by cycle_maven; 05-03-11 at 09:08 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Actually your down tube shifters are lighter and have virtually no friction. They stay in adjustment far longer. Plus your bike is cleaner.

  16. #16
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    Stem shifters are perfectly fine for some people, not for me however. They came with my '80 Raleigh when I bought it new and were a novelty at first. I replaced them many years later with bar end shifters and when those were robbed for the touring bike's build I tried the stem shifters one more time. Still not right for me and I just finished installing DT shifters on the Raleigh.

    I can see where stem shifters could perhaps be handy for those using trekking bars.

    Brad

  17. #17
    Duo
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    Count me in for liking stem shifters. I have them on an old 80's kind of bike and they are the most hassle free maintenance item on all my bikes. Also note the 'suicide brake levers'. LOL and they work fine.

    i like riding on the top bars so these levers are fine for me, no city riding, so no suicide stopping either.

    In the end its ride what you like. Too bad the stem shifters were not more available in Quality as they sport the Best of all worlds kind of bike components.

    Hmmm, i can see a cash register in the back ground and the price of 'high quality brifters'. Ok nuff said.

    My other bike has $$$ Tiagra shifters. And my MTB has the thumb shifters, again works fine and virtually no maintenance. Did i mention the MTB was about 25 years old?

    Wish i had a bike with bar ends, as their are advantages to them. Take the Touring Bike; many like them because if something goes wrong with the shifter, a repair is possible on the road and tend to be more immune in a crash vs brifters.

    Look at my old bike and note the position of the stem shifters, hmmm below the bars. Yep, some have said that stem shifters are 'dangerous' because they extend above the bars, and in a crash when you go over the bars, that will hurt.

    Well if you are in a crash, i think a lot more will hurt than those stem shifters.

    Most of my riding is rural, so DT shifting is fine. We go miles before stopping and i like the simplicity and beauty of them. Now i need to find a nice bike so equipped. Delightful problems indeed.

    Something i have noted upon growing older is the simple appreciation of things. Some types of people just won't be seen with whatever and carefully guard their image of who they are, projecting this and that.

    Gets old.

    Want more fun? Ride a unicycle or Recumbent bicycle. Perhaps an old Tandem with a handicapped friend, i do.

    And you know what happens when you 'take the road less traveled'?

    (pssst, it makes all the difference)

    bye
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    Last edited by Duo; 05-03-11 at 01:00 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rj987652003 View Post
    I've been looking to upgrade my downtube shifters and I am considering buying either a set of friction stem shifters or bar-end shifters.
    Stem shifters likely wouldn't be an upgrade, more a sidegrade or possibly downgrade depending on your current shifters.
    Quote Originally Posted by rj987652003 View Post
    The stem shifters seem much more convient....since I ride on the tops or brake hoods most of the time.

    Are there any shifting disadvantages with stem shifters over bar end shifters?
    None that I can think of.
    Quote Originally Posted by rj987652003 View Post
    Any reliability differences?
    I've some Suntour stem shifters built like a tank, would shift for many miles. Increased chance of crash or parking damage with barends could be considered a plus for stem shifters in reliability department.
    Quote Originally Posted by rj987652003 View Post
    THe bar-end shifters seem more popular in these forums for reasons not really clear to me. Is it because you guys like to ride on the drops more than I do or is there some other reason why the bar-ends are more popular?
    They're more popular because:

    1. Stem shifters have been commonplace on lowend bikes so they're seen as a sign of junk.

    2. Guys are scared of skewering their scrotum on 'em in a crash. I'm not sure how many crashes these guys have where the stem contacts crotch to be worrying about the shifters in that way

    3. Higher level barend shifters are available. I don't think there were ever Dura-Ace stem shifters, but there are DA barends.

    4. I reckon more people find them convenient. The reach to the barends is kinda like the reach for DT shifters, but on the way. The reach for Stem shifters is in a different direction. Takes some getting used to.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 05-03-11 at 12:43 PM.
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  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Handle bar end shifters, which I have on my Extensively toured upon bike has used,
    and the Mustache bars of my winter bike is fitted with also,
    offer the benefits of even while shifting , both hands are on the bars.
    the lever itself is simple and a reliable mech.
    the 70's Campag bar end shifter Is a friction lever..
    Suntour power ratchet pulls a bit more cable..

    and even if the 9 speed index Shimano lever is selected, the left one is not indexed,
    so any front crank set you choose will work, compact mountain to
    big road go-fast Triples.

  20. #20
    Junior Member instructions's Avatar
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    barends are a godsend when you're tired and on a loaded bike trying to shift down to climb a hill.

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I really liked the Backwards Front derailleurs , High Normal , for that reason ,
    grabbing the Granny gear when 'nackered' on a hill..
    You pulled on the cable to downshift, which is more insistent than the return spring.

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    I think the real reason stem shifters are no longer found on low end bikes is the move to threadless headsets. Clamping to a quill stem is easy. Clamping to a threadless headset is more complicated.

  23. #23
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    if more expensive have all the most desirable options you can wonder why suicide brake levers & stem shifters only appeared as standard equipment on gas pipe bicycles & lower cost quality bicyles.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by TireLever-07 View Post
    Didn't the USCPTA ban them? Around 1974 the Hurst-ish bar shifters went away. On Sting Rays & Raleigh Choppers. Stem shifters might be nice if you have drop bars and want to switch to mustache or trekking bars.
    I believe it was the toptube mounted "stick shift" levers as used on Schwinn Sting Rays and similar kid's bikes that were banned by the CPSC due to several damaging crashes. Since these lever stuck up quite high above the toptube and were located close to the saddle nose, it is obvious what kind of a hazard they represented. Incidentally, IIRC, they provided the first type of index shifting.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I think that it depends on how you use your bike.

    A rider who spends a lot of time riding in the drops is going to hate stem shifters because he'll have to raise his torso every time he wants to shift. Bar end or down tube shifters will be more convenient.

    Even if you ride most of the time with your hands on the brake hoods moving your hand to a bar end shifter will be more convenient than raising your torso to access a stem shifter.

    If you like to stay upright when you ride with just the tips of your fingers on the handlebar, you'll probably find stem shifters more convenient to use. If that was the case with me, however, I'd be looking to make a handlebar and stem change to match my riding style.

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