I've spent the last few weeks reading everything I could on the web about downtube to STI conversions. There's a lot out there, and I've learned that you always have to be aware of WHEN something was written since things change over time in the real world but writing on the web is usually frozen in time. It all seems to come down to how bad you want to do it and how much money you want to spend.
Anyway, the bike is an early 90s steelie road bike with with full 105 groupset (7 speed cassette freehub) and 130 rear spacing. Front and rear derailleurs are indexed. I spend almost all my time on the hoods and this is a 100% commuting bike, so the ergonomics are worth it and I'm not bothered by the some of the drawbacks that the odd racer posts here and there. I am however unwilling to spend more than a couple of hundred bucks, since I'm not in LOVE with the bike and could just as easily sell it and buy something newer.
Anyway, as I've researched and watched the potential cost and complexity rise, I've made a few mental trade-offs and compromises. I'd like to do the conversion, but I also want it to be cheap and I want to do the work myself. I wonder if you more experienced bike techs might take a look at my thinking and poke holes in it?
[I knew beforehand that I didn't want some of the other solutions like barcons or the Kelley TakeOff: I'm definitely an on-the-hoods guy, so those options don't offer much more than what I have with downtube shifters already.]
OPTION 1: A full Shimano conversion with new 105 parts, but I nixed this pretty quick since I would need to buy the levers (costlier than older NOS stuff) and also change the freehub, get the wheel redished etc. Way too expensive and I couldn't do the work all by myself.
OPTION 2: A Shimergo (Shimano + Camagnolo Ergo) setup, which offers the benefit of Campy's internal cable routing. I didn't mind mixing and matching components between both vendors, but things get complicated quickly with differences in gear ratios, cable pull lengths etc. I also would need a new derailleur and chain, and could never figure out if there were other possible drivetrain changes. I realized it was getting expensive and that I probably couldn't do the work myself. So I nixed that idea, and sadly reconciled myself to the likelihood of a new set of wires messing with the clean lines of my lovely quill stem and vintage handlebars. Oh well.
OPTION 3: Put on some 8-speed Shimano SORA brifters. From what I can tell, this would be 100% compatible with my early 90s 105 mech and would let me keep my freehub and wheel because I can use the limit screw on the rear derailleur to make it like there's no 8th gear. I won't love the pokey new cables, but what can you do... Makes sense?
OPTION 4: The last current best option is to put on some 7-speed Shimano RSX brifters. It looks like they will work fine with my 7 speed set-up and there's no need for a new wheel. Also no need to fine tune the rear limit screw to fake out the 8th gear built into the shifter. I've looked into the technical side and I feel pretty comfortable making the swap myself since I've built up a frame before and I went ok.
So the RSX option is the one I am looking to go with. The brifters are a bit tricky to track down but they are out there and still way cheaper than a new 105 or Campy set. Am I missing something obvious here?
Thanks for reading and helping out. I'll post before and after pics once it's done. I've been inspired to do this by discovering this forum and reading through the Mechanics and C&V threads for a couple of months.