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  1. #1
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    Converting drops to flats-- shifter question

    I've ridden drops for 20 years but (after commuting with a flat bar hybrid) have come to prefer the wider hand position of flat bars. I'm going to convert my road bike over and I'm looking at the shifters that Shimano designed for this ("sl-R440/R441) They list these as "2/3" referring to either a double or triple. I take that to mean they can be used for either. I don't know how that would work. I want to use them for a double, has anyone installed a set of these shifters and can explain the installation? Is there an ajustment for one or the other?

    I also have another question. Will any brake levers designed for flat bars work with the existing 10 year old Ultegra calliper brakes I now have or do I need to look for a specific model?

    Thanks,
    Bob

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    Yes, the 2/3 means the front shifter will work with either a double or triple crank. The shifter will have four clicks that give four front derailleur positions, one is a trim. For a triple crank you use them all. For use with a double you adjust the front derailleur's low limit screw to keep it from moving too far inward and set the shift cable tension to use the outer three fd positions. (small ring, trim, big ring)

    The reason for setting the double that way is that if you use the non-functional click, the cable merely goes slack. If you set the shifter to use the inner three positions and try to shift into the fourth non-available position you can break something.

    Any flat bar brake levers designed to use with cantilever or caliper brakes will work with your Ultegra brakes. You cannot use levers designed for V-brakes.
    Last edited by HillRider; 11-26-12 at 07:32 AM.

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    Do not get caught up in the Shimano hype that you *need* the SL 440 shifters, they are identical to standard mountain bike shifters in every way. As a matter of fact, I have a set of those SL440 and a set of Mega 9 mountain bike shifters and they are totally identical except that the 440 is silver and the Mega 9 is dark dark grey/black. All you need is a good set of mountain bike shifters.

    Your current rear derailleur should work just fine, there isn't any difference between road and mountain bike derailleurs in regards to the rear ones for the most part (newer stuff does have some gotchas).

    The big gotcha is the front derailleur. For proper operation, you will need to replace the front derailleur with one from the 440 series of Shimano derailleurs. They are designed with a cage made for the tall chainrings of a road bike (48t and taller) but with the cable pull of a mountain bike shifter (flat bar shifter). MTB/flatbar shifters pull much more cable per click than road bike shifters so its just much easier if you start out with compatible parts when converting to flat bars with road bike gears/chainrings.

    So use any MTB shifter set that you find for a reasonable price that matches your current speeds, and get a front derailleur like the FD-443 which will allow the MTB shifter to work properly.

  4. #4
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    Do not get caught up in the Shimano hype that you *need* the SL 440 shifters, they are identical to standard mountain bike shifters in every way. As a matter of fact, I have a set of those SL440 and a set of Mega 9 mountain bike shifters and they are totally identical except that the 440 is silver and the Mega 9 is dark dark grey/black. All you need is a good set of mountain bike shifters.

    Your current rear derailleur should work just fine, there isn't any difference between road and mountain bike derailleurs in regards to the rear ones for the most part (newer stuff does have some gotchas).

    The big gotcha is the front derailleur. For proper operation, you will need to replace the front derailleur with one from the 440 series of Shimano derailleurs. They are designed with a cage made for the tall chainrings of a road bike (48t and taller) but with the cable pull of a mountain bike shifter (flat bar shifter). MTB/flatbar shifters pull much more cable per click than road bike shifters so its just much easier if you start out with compatible parts when converting to flat bars with road bike gears/chainrings.

    So use any MTB shifter set that you find for a reasonable price that matches your current speeds, and get a front derailleur like the FD-443 which will allow the MTB shifter to work properly.
    In my experience Shimano isn't in the habit of putting out 'hype'. The chain line on a road bike is different than a mtb or hybrid (except for a few 'performance hybrids'). Shimano mtb front derailleurs are speced for a chainline from 47.5 to 50mm whereas their road (and flatbar FD's) are speced from 43.5 to 45mm. A mtb front derailleur isn't an optimal choice to deal with either the chainline or the larger chainring of a road bike, and as you already pointed out - the cable pull on a road bike FD is different than a mtb FD.

    Therefore the LH shifter specifically designed for flat bar road bikes IS different than the LH shifter for mtb bikes. If you're happy with something that's less than optimal - thats a personal choice, but IMO - when a compatability chart (like for that front derailleur you recommended) says: "Designed to be used with R440 or R660 shifters only." there's probably a good reason.
    Last edited by Burton; 11-26-12 at 11:59 AM.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Convert to a Thumb shifter pair, , and then all combinations will be fine ..
    cantilever brake type flat bar levers. pull less cable than V types .

    So if you have V levers, a lot of pad to Rim space can be left , no QR on the brake will be OK.

  6. #6
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Yes, the 2/3 means the front shifter will work with either a double or triple crank. The shifter will have four clicks that give four front derailleur positions, one is a trim. For a triple crank you use them all. For use with a double you adjust the front derailleur's low limit screw to keep it from moving too far inward and set the shift cable tension to use the outer three fd positions. (small ring, trim, big ring)

    The reason for setting the double that way is that if you use the non-functional click, the cable merely goes slack. If you set the shifter to use the inner three positions and try to shift into the fourth non-available position you can break something.

    Any flat bar brake levers designed to use with cantilever or caliper brakes will work with your Ultegra brakes. You cannot use levers designed for V-brakes.
    Ditto most everything. You might find Tektro 316AGs still around for about $10. These levers are dual position for V-brake and short-pull depending on which hole you attach the brake cable end to (sort of like your 2/3 front shifter!).

    The only exception is cable slack. If you do let cable go slack on the front, ensure you have snug cable housing ends that stay put inside their stops and the stops aren't slotted. If they wobble around, I've had some cheap ones continually fall out of slotted housing stops come back to haunt me as possible law suits (Knock on wood - never had one yet). Couldn't see a reason why it'd happen and it's never happened to me in the short time I did that because the amount of cable pull shouldn't have been long enough to allow the cable to go that slack to come out, but it did happen. So the safe thing was to keep it the cable taut always. YMMV.
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    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    In my experience Shimano isn't in the habit of putting out 'hype'. The chain line on a road bike is different than a mtb or hybrid (except for a few 'performance hybrids'). Shimano mtb front derailleurs are speced for a chainline from 47.5 to 50mm whereas their road (and flatbar FD's) are speced from 43.5 to 45mm. A mtb front derailleur isn't an optimal choice to deal with either the chainline or the larger chainring of a road bike, and as you already pointed out - the cable pull on a road bike FD is different than a mtb FD.

    Therefore the LH shifter specifically designed for flat bar road bikes IS different than the LH shifter for mtb bikes. If you're happy with something that's less than optimal - thats a personal choice, but IMO - when a compatability chart (like for that front derailleur you recommended) says: "Designed to be used with R440 or R660 shifters only." there's probably a good reason.
    I can vouch for bobotech's observation, with the FD-R440 (for 9-speed doubles) you can use a Shimano Rapidfire shifter, like the Deore SL-M590. If there' any compromised performance when matched with a road double, I've yet to notice it.
    If you have to force it... you probably shouldn't.

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    Thanks for all information! It was very helpful.

    Bob

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cale View Post
    I can vouch for bobotech's observation, with the FD-R440 (for 9-speed doubles) you can use a Shimano Rapidfire shifter, like the Deore SL-M590. If there' any compromised performance when matched with a road double, I've yet to notice it.
    As far as I know - Shimano products are coded in an effort to make everybody's life a little easier. So ROAD specific products are coded with an R and MTB specific products are coded with an M. There are sections of the catalogue -trecking for example - where some components are mixed and the M components are matched against T (trekking) components. So they aren't in the habit of relabeling products and presenting them as 'new' in another section.

    So specific to this posting: Shimano makes two different models of the 440-series RapidFire shifters. The SL-M440 set has a LH shifter (M440) with a cable pull specific to MTB front derailleurs. The SL-R440 shifter has a LH shifter (R441) with a cable pull specific to road front derailleurs.

    If that hasn't given you an issue yet - I assume you don't use the front derailleur much and you've been lucky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    In my experience Shimano isn't in the habit of putting out 'hype'. The chain line on a road bike is different than a mtb or hybrid (except for a few 'performance hybrids'). Shimano mtb front derailleurs are speced for a chainline from 47.5 to 50mm whereas their road (and flatbar FD's) are speced from 43.5 to 45mm. A mtb front derailleur isn't an optimal choice to deal with either the chainline or the larger chainring of a road bike, and as you already pointed out - the cable pull on a road bike FD is different than a mtb FD.

    Therefore the LH shifter specifically designed for flat bar road bikes IS different than the LH shifter for mtb bikes. If you're happy with something that's less than optimal - thats a personal choice, but IMO - when a compatability chart (like for that front derailleur you recommended) says: "Designed to be used with R440 or R660 shifters only." there's probably a good reason.
    Here is a picture that I took a long while back. It is of an Ultegra front derailleur (road bike) and my FD-R443 flat bar conversion front derailleur.
    road vs mtb.jpg
    You will notice that the ONLY difference is the length of the pivot points. The Ultegra has a much shorter road bike derailleur hence road bike front shifters pull very little cable per click. On the other hand, the FD-R443 has a much larger pivot point requiring the MTB style shifter pull. MTB front shifters pull much more cable. The cages are identical to allow for the large road bike chainrings rather than the smaller MTB chainrings.

    I wish I had taken the same picture with a front typical MTB derailleur as well then you could see that the FD-R443 has the same exact pivot point length that the MTB front derailleurs have. That is why you can use any standard MTB front derailleur with the FD-R443 flat bar derailleurs. I have measured it.

    That is why I find those 440 series shifter sets to be an uncessary expense when you can use any standard Shimano (and I even think most Sram) MTB shifter sets. Much easier to get any ole Shimano MTB shifter set at your local bike store/coop rather than having to special order the shifters.

  11. #11
    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    As far as I know - Shimano products are coded in an effort to make everybody's life a little easier. So ROAD specific products are coded with an R and MTB specific products are coded with an M. There are sections of the catalogue -trecking for example - where some components are mixed and the M components are matched against T (trekking) components. So they aren't in the habit of relabeling products and presenting them as 'new' in another section.

    So specific to this posting: Shimano makes two different models of the 440-series RapidFire shifters. The SL-M440 set has a LH shifter (M440) with a cable pull specific to MTB front derailleurs. The SL-R440 shifter has a LH shifter (R441) with a cable pull specific to road front derailleurs.

    If that hasn't given you an issue yet - I assume you don't use the front derailleur much and you've been lucky.
    It would equally easy to theorize that Shimano designates the Road specific shifters because they are color matched to the derailleurs. Companies frequently compose groupset where color is the only differentiation.

    As far as my use of the my front derailleur, I have a double, of course I use it frequently. :-)
    If you have to force it... you probably shouldn't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cale View Post
    It would equally easy to theorize that Shimano designates the Road specific shifters because they are color matched to the derailleurs. Companies frequently compose groupset where color is the only differentiation.

    As far as my use of the my front derailleur, I have a double, of course I use it frequently. :-)
    Not in this case as Shimano road and MTB front derailleurs aren't identical. However, getting a double crank to work with the "wrong" fd and shifters isn't that hard as the cage travel is set by the limit screws and the shifter only has to move it, not position it in any intermediate place like a triple.

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Tell you what -I'm personally not interested in 'theorizing' anything. So I'll get in touch with the Shimano technical support regarding both the shifters and the derailleurs and get back to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Therefore the LH shifter specifically designed for flat bar road bikes IS different than the LH shifter for mtb bikes. If you're happy with something that's less than optimal - thats a personal choice, but IMO - when a compatability chart (like for that front derailleur you recommended) says: "Designed to be used with R440 or R660 shifters only." there's probably a good reason.
    In my experience, the "flat-bar" and "mountain" shifters differ only in color. My recumbent has the "flat-bar" shifters, my wife's has the "mountain" shifters. The derailleurs are identical between the two: FD-R443 on the front, Deore LX on the back. There's no difference in shifting action or adjustment.

    My bike: http://home.comcast.net/~jeff_wills/jeff-grr/index.htm
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    Shimano likes to over-spec parts compatibility. I'm sure it's some mix of covering themselves in case of a failure, or if a frankenstein mix of components doesn't work to the user's liking. (If you check the instructions included with cassettes, for example, there are dire warnings against mixing and matching cogs from different cassettes, and to only use Shimano chains. )
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Tell you what -I'm personally not interested in 'theorizing' anything. So I'll get in touch with the Shimano technical support regarding both the shifters and the derailleurs and get back to you.
    Are you a professional bike tech? I'm only wondering because you are doing your customer's a disservice by going strictly 100 percent by the book. Sure you are right but companies like Shimano want you to buy their products and will not recommend otherwise perfect product matches. Will Shimano say "Yes, a Sram 8 speed shifter will work great with this 8 speed Shimano cassette"? Of course not even though bike techs know that it should work. They want you to buy their product lines. For the record, my Diamondback hybrid bike came new with a Shimano FD-R443 front derailleur in a mix of otherwise complete SRAM X something component group including the SRAM shifters. That is how Diamondback specced and assembled the bike for sale to bike shops.

    Its just about opening your eyes to alternative views and observations by other professional bike repair techs. But Shimano tech support isn't going to give you the answers that we have already deduced. Shimano is going to go strictly by the book and only reaffirm your conclusion that the 400 series of flat bar shifters are the only ones that will work with the FD-R44x series of flatbar conversion front derailleurs since that is what their books say.

    There are lots of instances where people figure out compatible products because mechanically they might be identical to another product line but cosmetically they differ greatly. Kind of how 105 vs RX100 are the identical products but they have different finishes.

    I just want to try to let you know that even if you call Shimano and talk to their tech people, they probably wont' tell you that "Sure our expensive Flatbar shifters are basically the same as our standard MTB shifters" because its just not in their best interest to do so either for CYA or sales reasons.

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Tell you what -I'm personally not interested in 'theorizing' anything. So I'll get in touch with the Shimano technical support regarding both the shifters and the derailleurs and get back to you.
    So first my apologies if it seemed I wasn't open to 'options' other than what's spelt out in the Shimano publications. I would like to point out that some of the people I'm working with have dealt with Shimano for over 30 years and I've met their reps in house and at trade shows numerous times myself. Your experience may be different - I've never found them to be anything other than friendly, professional, helpful, and honest about everything - including delivery and design issues. So I took a little exception to insinuations that their flat bar rood components were largely hype and a paint scheme.

    So the reality is a little more complicated. The Shimano FD R440 and FD R453 9 speed front derailleurs and Shimano FD R440A and FD R443A 8 speed front derailleurs do in fact, use the same cable travel ratio as MTB front derailleurs. However, they are expected to be used with large chainring sizes normally found on road bikes - up to 50T. Therefore the LH shifter SL-R441 has a different internal mechanism which includes a TRIMMING. A functionality not necessary on mtb shifters because of the smaller chainrings.

    The SL R780/783 and SL R4600/4603 flat bar shifters are optimized with a pull ratio to be used directly with existing road front derailleurs which will accept chainrings even larger than 50T. All of these models also incorporate a TRIMMING functionality.

    So can you just replace the front derailleur with a FD R440 and use any 9 speed mtb shifters. Sure - if you're willing to live without TRIMMING. And if you're happy with replacing three components instead of just two. (I can't see any cost / quality advantage in doing that) Or if you're running a large chainring of less than 48T - but at that point I personally wouldn't call it a 'road bike' any more - I'd call it a 'hybrid'.

    I'm going to repeat it again - the LH shifter specifically designed for flat bar road bikes IS different than the LH shifter for mtb bikes. If you're happy with something that's less than optimal - that's a personal choice, but IMO - when a compatability chart says: "Designed to be used with R440 or R660 shifters only." there's probably a good reason.

    Posted just in case one or two people that might actually be interested.
    Last edited by Burton; 11-29-12 at 03:32 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    Burton:

    Nice points on the trim for the SL-R44x shifters. Forgot that with short chain stays and more narrow FD cages, chain rub at the extreme will require trim. Just like even the low-end brifters that have trim. I never had an issue with mtb, since usually, the FD cage is slightly wider and funnelled slightly and shaped to shift over the wider ranges well, whether 42T max or 48T max.
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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gyozadude View Post
    Burton:

    Nice points on the trim for the SL-R44x shifters. Forgot that with short chain stays and more narrow FD cages, chain rub at the extreme will require trim. Just like even the low-end brifters that have trim. I never had an issue with mtb, since usually, the FD cage is slightly wider and funnelled slightly and shaped to shift over the wider ranges well, whether 42T max or 48T max.
    Thanks - can't really take credit for that though. I felt a little sheepish when it was politely explained that it was all covered in the tech docs for each flat bar shifter too. I had never thought to look.

    But there HAS been a lot of controversy around these so at least the info might help a few people make informed decisions. For example - anyone that wants to run a smaller main chainring than 48T for touring or radonneuring could go straight to a mtb FD and mtb RapidFire shifters with no issues.
    Last edited by Burton; 11-29-12 at 08:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Yes, the 2/3 means the front shifter will work with either a double or triple crank. The shifter will have four clicks that give four front derailleur positions, one is a trim. For a triple crank you use them all. For use with a double you adjust the front derailleur's low limit screw to keep it from moving too far inward and set the shift cable tension to use the outer three fd positions. (small ring, trim, big ring)

    The reason for setting the double that way is that if you use the non-functional click, the cable merely goes slack. If you set the shifter to use the inner three positions and try to shift into the fourth non-available position you can break something
    I have 105 5600 shifters that are 2/3 speed. They are set up per the instructions to use the lower positions: click all the way to the slack position and set up the front derailleur on the inner ring, shift up to the large ring (middle position) and use the high limit screw to prevent shifting to the highest position. I am not directly familiar with MTB or flat bar shifters, but the principal would seem to me to be the same. If you set up on the high two positions, you can still shift the shifter to the lowest position, as it does not know or care what the derailleur is doing, then you would have to shift twice to get to the large ring. Maybe on mountain bikes you are more worried about breaking something, but on my bike you would really have to push hard to get past the limit screw.
    Last edited by MikeWMass; 12-01-12 at 10:27 AM. Reason: reread original

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