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Old 04-01-12, 02:34 PM   #1
ppg677
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1-year old 105 STI shifter feels "mushy"

< 1000 miles on a 2011 bike with 105 components. The right STI shifter is not feeling very crisp. Kind of "mushy" if you know what I mean. A few weeks ago (when it was colder), it wouldn't even return all the way when up-shifting. That is, I would do a full press shifting three gears. And then if I did a single press to shift one more gear, it wasn't catching. Well haven't noticed that with a few more rides and warmer weather.

Several months ago I did a 62-mile ride in the rain. Maybe that is related.

I'm considering:

1) squirt some light lubricant in there (i.e., no WD-40)

2) replace cables with higher-quality stuff.

These days I prefer to do my own bike maintenance, but I will take it to the shop if they've got magical means of making these things work better.
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Old 04-01-12, 03:09 PM   #2
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A few things to consider before you expend possibly unnecessary effort.

The fact that it has such poor winter performance, and is recovering as the weather warms up indicates that the problem is related to lube viscosity either in the cable housing or lever mechanism. A dose of light oil, (not a heavy oil thinned with solvent) may reduce the "hydraulic dampening" you're getting and restore some snaap to the system.

The other possibility is the chain. As chains were they develop increased side flex which can make shifting sluggish especially at the small end of the cassette where the jockey pulley is farther away from the sprockets. Also, (warning-consider the source) chain lubrication, or the lack of it can affect shifting. Before you make any effort elsewhere, or remove what may be perfectly good cables, dry wipe your chain to remove accumulated crud and lubricate it with your favorite stuff.

In all my years of working with bikes the two things I've found to make the biggest difference in performance for the least effort or dollars are proper tire inflation and decent chain lubrication. Do the easy stuff first, then see where you stand before doing the complicated, or expensive.
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Old 04-01-12, 04:24 PM   #3
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If it's not 'catching' that 3rd gear, I'm guessing that it probably has to do with the shifters/cables. My wife has the older 5600 105 stuff and for whatever reason, she seems to go through right-side shift cables more quickly than I do. I've replaced hers as many times as mine, and her's is 2-3 years younger than my bike, with far fewer miles (though still plenty). The cable strands will start breaking where the cable end wraps around the shifter barrel. You can see it by releasing the rear brake quick-release, and then pull back on the right brake lever and look in behind it. You'll be looking into where you would feed the new shift cable in if you were replacing them. If you start with the bike in a hard gear (small cog) you'll see the steel cable stud terminating in your shifter. If you then pedal the bike slowly and shift it to lower gears (while still keeping the brake lever pulled back) you'll see the cable being wrapped around the barrel. It's at this bend that the cable will begin to fray. If you see any broken strands, the cable needs to be replaced. Those broken strands will stick out and get in the the way of smooth and reliable cable pull and release, and your shifting will be wonky. I once had my rear shift cable finally break completely loose at mile 51 of the palm springs century. Thankfully it's an effectively flat event, and I was able to get home comfortably...but it was that experience that turned my attention more regularly at the condition of the cables.

I also agree that it could be lubricant viscosity. My bike's shifters don't shift right over the last 3 winters or so as the internal grease has thickened with age, but every summer when it warms up they come back to normal function. My symptoms seem different than yours though. When my shifters are cold, they simply won't release cable. They'll shift to easy gears, but the 'pawl' that engages the small shift paddle to click and release the cable sticks. The result is that going to easy gears is easy, but shifting back to harder gears requires me to push the small shift paddle sometimes 4-5 times before it will finally engage and allow the shift to happen. Annoying for sure.

If your cables aren't frayed at the shifter, and you've added a bit of light oil to the shifter mechanism as FBinNY suggested without improvement. I would pull the cables out of the housing, clean and relubricate them. Flush the housing with some silicone or teflon lubrication spray and reinstall the cables. The most likely portion of the cable (and especially cable housing) to be in need of cleaning is the small loop just in front of your rear derailleur. That's the one that get's most of the road grime built up in it and develops the most friction. Then, rinse off the RD with some low pressure water so it's fairly clean, dry and then lubricate the pivot points on your RD with a drop of light oil on each pivot point and wipe up the excess.

And most importantly...Let us know what you find as the problem. It's always nice to hear back, even if our advice was wrong. =) Good luck.

-Jeremy

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Old 04-01-12, 04:59 PM   #4
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A yearly replacement of cables and housing is always a good idea.
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Old 04-01-12, 05:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by UnsafeAlpine View Post
A yearly replacement of cables and housing is always a good idea.
+1 worn or dirty cables are a frequent source of shifitng woes. Also, it is a major hassle if the cable head breaks off inside your shifters because it has frayed. If you decide to replace them, make sure that the housing ends are cut square and filed flat and are equipped with the appropriate ferrules. Use lined compressionless shifter housings, NOT brake housings and die-drawn stainless inner wires. There are a lot of good choices, you don't need anything fancy or exotic. Lubricating them may do more harm than good, here's Sheldon Brown's take on lubrication: http://sheldonbrown.com/cables.html#lubrication
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Old 04-01-12, 05:51 PM   #6
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what about cable adjustment due to stretch?
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Old 04-01-12, 06:17 PM   #7
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I've been running 105 for the last 3 years with no problems at all. Replace the cables & housings, clean lube the derailiers & adjust if needed. Regardless as to what yu run, you must maintain it.
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Old 04-01-12, 08:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
+1 worn or dirty cables are a frequent source of shifitng woes. Also, it is a major hassle if the cable head breaks off inside your shifters because it has frayed. If you decide to replace them, make sure that the housing ends are cut square and filed flat and are equipped with the appropriate ferrules. Use lined compressionless shifter housings, NOT brake housings and die-drawn stainless inner wires. There are a lot of good choices, you don't need anything fancy or exotic. Lubricating them may do more harm than good, here's Sheldon Brown's take on lubrication: http://sheldonbrown.com/cables.html#lubrication
I completely agree with you with regards to petroleum based lubricants. Teflon and Silicone lubricants however, don't take up any space, dry out completely and will often times give you back your 'like new' shifting/braking feel. You have to be careful about the type of spray you get. Some are 'contains silicone' or 'contains teflon' and sometimes both...you just need to make sure it's the type that's going to completely dry out after application. Completely dry lubrication cannot collect dust, cannot thicken and will only help reduce friction in your cables.

I won't apply it to new cables because there's no purpose. But cleaning and reviving some older (but still good) cable housing, it really makes a positive difference without any of the risks being warned about by Sheldon.

-Jeremy
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Old 04-01-12, 08:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
The fact that it has such poor winter performance, and is recovering as the weather warms up indicates that the problem is related to lube viscosity
Yep, most common failure mode for STIs: gummed-up grease. Search STI & WD40...
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Old 04-02-12, 07:39 AM   #10
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If the shifter is one year old, I suspect it's not the shifter itself. The grease will become sticky over time, but it usually takes years and most often happens when a bike isn't ridden much. I would look at the cables.

New bikes often come with plastic ferrules at the ends of the cable housing, and they can bend. Look at the loop of housing at the rear D...that's where the ferrules most often bend. If they are bent, even just a little, go to the LBS and get some metal ones.

BL
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Old 04-02-12, 01:21 PM   #11
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Yep, most common failure mode for STIs: gummed-up grease. Search STI & WD40...
Yep, WD40 is the STI owner's best friend.
And it could well be a dirty short cable housing at the rear derailleur.
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Old 04-07-12, 09:01 PM   #12
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Just a quick update-- I tried applying some Hob-e-Lube UltraLight oil in there. This is a very fine, light oil that I've used for precision stuff before (like camera shutters).

It might have helped a bit. I no longer have shifting problems now that I've been out riding before. But the shifting still isn't as crisp/light as I would like (my wife's Tiagra feels crisper). Hence I may try new cables next.
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Old 04-08-12, 06:39 AM   #13
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Do not just replace the cables, replace the housings as well.
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