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Old 02-11-12, 09:35 AM   #1
Drummerboy1975
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What makes index shifting indexed?

Is it the the actual shifter itself, or is there more to it? My '81 Fuji has friction shifters. Can I just change the shifter and make it indexed by adding index shifters, or would I need to change more components?
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Old 02-11-12, 09:49 AM   #2
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Probably not, but you may get lucky. It all depends on the design of the derailleur, and whether the shifter can draw enough cable to achieve the shift from the RD before it hits its stop. Might have a better chance on DT than brifters.
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Old 02-11-12, 09:49 AM   #3
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as far as I know, it is just the shifters themselves but I only have one indexed bike which will have to be sold soon.
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Old 02-11-12, 09:53 AM   #4
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The "indexed" thing is the shifters; they click. However, all the components of the shifting system need to be calibrated to the amount of cable pull for each click. You may be able to get away with the same derailleur and freewheel, but you will get much, much, much better shifting if you get a ramped freewheel (about $20). Then if it doesn't shift properly, you may need to get the rear derailleur to go with the shifter. On most older road bikes, only the RD is indexed; the front is still friction.

I put a ramped freewheel on a couple bikes and use friction shifters to drive them and it provides very close to indexed shifting performance. Very clean shifting between gears; if I don't quite get the shifter in the right spot, I just trim it a bit. I'm please with the performance bump just from putting a ramped freewheel on.
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Old 02-11-12, 10:18 AM   #5
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Of course anything is possible. The other option is embodied in Shimano's illl-fated Positron system, in which the indexing is built into the derailleur. I don't know of any other implementation of this principle.

http://sheldonbrown.com/shimano.html#positron

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Old 02-11-12, 11:55 AM   #6
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Of course anything is possible. The other option is embodied in Shimano's illl-fated Positron system, in which the indexing is built into the derailleur. I don't know of any other implementation of this principle.
Indexing was built in the rear derailleur on the Shimano AX derailleurs, SunTour S-1, Sachs-Huret Commander and Mavic ZAPP. As for Positron being ill-fated, that's just a myth. If you want an ill-fated indexed sysyem, just look to Campagnolo Syncro.
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Old 02-18-12, 03:06 PM   #7
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The plot thickens....... doom doom doom.....
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Old 02-18-12, 03:30 PM   #8
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The plot thickens....... doom doom doom.....
Wait until you ask about chain lube. Talk about doom.

My career in the bike business spans the introduction, development, and widespread adoption of index shifting. (Dammit... I lived through the '80's.) Not only was it changes to shifters and derailleurs, it was improvements to the entire shifting system including cables, cable housings, and quality of frame construction. That said, you can convert a good-quality friction-shift bike (like your Fuji) to index shifting, but you have to know what affects what if you run into glitches.
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Old 02-18-12, 03:39 PM   #9
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The indexing is in the shifter, but derailleurs are designed to accomodate indexing too. You may have poor results using a friction derailleur with indexing levers. Pull ratios also have to match. It's not as easy as saying "indexing is in the shifter".
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Old 02-18-12, 03:53 PM   #10
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Seems simple, shifter has little notch so it pull only enough to make it shift one gear per click.
But there are details and gray areas

The shifter needs to match the number of cogs and the brand of cogs for the shifter. I.e if you have a five speed freewheel an 10 speed shifter will not work because the spaceing between the gear does not match how far the the derailler moves with the click. but is some cases an 8 speed shifter will work with a seven speed cassette.

but is some

Shimano and Campy used different distance between cogs, so the are basically not compatible, but you can get a dohickey to change the pull so you can use camply ergo shifters with shimano cassetes.

and there wore some durace that was not quite compatible with other shimano groups.

and then you need to thing proper chaing as you get into 8,9,10,11

best
is to match shifters, derailers and cassette.
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Old 02-18-12, 04:27 PM   #11
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The shifters and derailleurs are designed together. The shifter pulls a certain length of cable for each position, which corresponds to how far you want the derailleur to move to get to the next sprocket. I assume the amount of cable pulled between gear X and gear Y is the same as the amount between gear Y and gear Z, but I don't know this for a fact.

Here is a video of a cable-pull measuring tool Dan Burkhart made. You can find Dan in the mechanics section of bikeforums.

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Old 02-18-12, 09:37 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Drummerboy1975 View Post
Is it the the actual shifter itself, or is there more to it?
Think of index shifting as a system. The derailleurs are designed with a certain pull ratio, which the the shifter drum matches while also providing ratchet stops compatible to the number of gears to be shifted. The jockey wheel on the RD may also be designed with a bit of 'wiggle' to ease gear change and gear teeth designed to engage and release the chain quickly.

You maybe able to go indexed with a set of shifters and a matching RD.

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Old 02-18-12, 10:57 PM   #13
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So the Suntour Vx RD on my '81 Fuji probably won't work with a set of Shimano indexed shifters?

One more.question while we're on this subject. Does an '87 Cannondale have indexing shifters? That's the bike that these shifters came off
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Old 02-18-12, 11:06 PM   #14
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Index shifting. The actual index is in the shifter. The cable housing needs to be linear. The rear derailleur is designed to function in the system. With Shimano, the guide pulley has some side to side play. The gear cluster has optimized ramp patterns and the teeth are offset to make for better shifting. All the parts work together for the index shifting. It may work with one element missing, but not optimally.

The Suntour Vx isn't designed for an index system. It may work, but since it isn't designed for it, I believe it will be a problem. A derailleur designed for indexing will work with a friction shifter, but not so much the other way around.
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Old 02-18-12, 11:09 PM   #15
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So the Suntour Vx RD on my '81 Fuji probably won't work with a set of Shimano indexed shifters?

One more.question while we're on this subject. Does an '87 Cannondale have indexing shifters? That's the bike that these shifters came off
Yes, either Suntour or Shimano groups. Worth trying, good luck.

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Old 02-18-12, 11:47 PM   #16
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I've tried, and had some success, using indexing shifters on derailleurs not designed to index, though its always been very fidgety. Now that I finally decided to go all in on indexing on one of my bikes I don't think I'll ever mix and match ever again. If I want a bike to index, I'll make the investment to get the correct shifters, cables, housing, cassette, chain, and derailleur. Otherwise I'll keep it all friction.
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Old 02-18-12, 11:57 PM   #17
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All good advice. Thanks everyone
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Old 02-19-12, 07:55 AM   #18
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My career in the bike business spans the introduction, development, and widespread adoption of index shifting.
I know what you mean, but let's not forget our vintage and classic history. While the French spent decades refining the concept of friction shifting derailleurs, German and British cyclists rode index-shifted multi-gear bikes from the beginning of the 20th century.
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Old 02-19-12, 08:18 AM   #19
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So the Suntour Vx RD on my '81 Fuji probably won't work with a set of Shimano indexed shifters?
I don't know about the Vx, but the V Luxe and Luxe GT index perfectly with Shimano index shifters.
You'll also need a Shimano SIS-spaced freewheel or cassette that matches the shifters.

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Old 02-19-12, 08:27 AM   #20
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Do the older derailleurs even have a constant cable-throw throughout their entire range of motion? It wouldn't take much deviation in this to cause even the best indexed shifting lever matched to the derailleur at one end to not work once it got to the other side of the freewheel/cassette. Why would the manufacturers put so much effort (cost) into pre-indexing derailleurs to get them to be perfectly linear across the entire range of motion in a friction system? It would be a lot of effort to do this when it wouldn't really add anything to friction-shift system. A tiny amount of variation couldn't be felt by the rider in a friction-system as it would be hardly measuraable. But in an indexed system it would make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the world between a system that works and one that doesn't.
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