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Old 12-17-05, 07:04 AM   #1
garth
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Shifter type: bar-end, down tube, brifter

I need to weigh in on this issue as I noticed it came up on the thread "Just rode new bike". I have tried all the major types of shifter styles and I have a definite preference for down tube shifting. Brifters are a convenience, no doubt, but even Lance Armstrong uses a downtube mid 80's Dura Ace shifter for the chainrings on the left side, while admittedly does use the brifter for the rear on the right side. Why would a world champion use a dt shifter for the chainring...? Well his mechanic says it is lighter, more reliable!!!, and easier to trim. The only good reason for using the brifters are that they are more convenient and that one can shift without signaling to the rest of the peloton that you are about to make a shift. That is not an issue for me, because you can suddenly increase your cadence without any shift at all for an attack and I haven't reached Lance's level of competion either. Now I don't prefer bar end shifters because they add confusion in the area of cables and bar feel even with double crimped bars, and I feel that it makes the bike look less clean.

Do I have a preference in the area of downtube indexed or downtube friction. Well I am one of those that says that if you have a really quality rear derailleur like a mid 80's Suntour or Shimano that having friction is almost the same as indexing. Even a modern derailleur like a Shimano 105 can be so fast with friction that it's almost like indexing, especially if you have a relatively close ratio freewheel like a 13-19 or 13-23, 6 or7 speed. (Classic mid 80's bikes). I do have Suntour Accushift on two of my bikes and the shifting is perfect with no supprises no rubbing, no maintanace issues and no chain scraping the side of the next cog. The chain can be replaced with a quality chain every year or two for the unbelievably reasonable cost of $8.00 as opposed to $40 for a modern 10 speed chain which even has to be replaced 2 or 3 times for every one 6,7 or 8 speed chain. (9-10 chain is thinner, and more delicate!). Now it is true that Shimano 7 speed down tube indexing is about the best indexing that ever was and my ex had this on her mid 80's Giradano, 105 equipped bike and the shifting was absolutely faultless and has worked perfectly for almost 20 years, and sometimes without any regualar attention. Try that with brifters!

If a brifter breaks it will sometimes cost $150 to replace one and they are so delicate and complicated that this will be a frequent and unavoidable event. When 10 speed or even 9 speed shifting goes out of adjustment the effect is devastating as the sound is simply annoying. Don't even get me started on the benefits of a simple lugged steel frame over a harsh aluminum one made to be more livable with the addition of carbon fiber fork or rear triangle (carbon fiber won't last from one presidential administration to the next and is trully the disposable bike part along with brifters).

As far as friction goes, yes I am slower with my Suntour Superbe pro friction system, but more because the friction levers require more leverage than a good indexed one than the actual loss of time to make the shift. Maybe I lose a half a second for every shift when I am on my friction bike over one of my indexed bikes, and that time is real but I don't feel I give up anything to a brifter equipped bike with old fashioned indexing. Downtube shifting benefits you with increased peace of mind, reliability, improved appearance and servicability. Give a fine old steel lugged bike a chance with dt shifting and you won't wonder why so many are making the switch back to a classic ride. If it were as cheap to make a quality lugged steel bike as it is to extrude aluminum or glue up some fiber, than the peloton might still be using it today. Shimano knows that by putting brifters on all bikes today they guarantee a future replacement brifter will be made a few years from now, while the downtube crowd will still be swapping parts on Ebay decades from now, and the second owners will be getting good service from these well designed parts as will the third owner and the forth.
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Old 12-17-05, 07:23 AM   #2
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If a brifter breaks it will sometimes cost $150 to replace one and they are so delicate and complicated that this will be a frequent and unavoidable event
I have heard this, but haven't found it to be true.

How about the rest of you? Your brifters breaking all the time?

My 1999 Lemond has Shimano 105's brifters - original - with close to 14,000 miles and never a problem of ANY kind.

My Windsor Leeds has Sora brifters - about 2,000 miles - no problems.

I am going to set up a poll and let's find out from the group.

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Old 12-17-05, 08:18 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by garth
...I have tried all the major types of shifter styles and I have a definite preference for down tube shifting...The only good reason for using the brifters are that they are more convenient...Now I don't prefer bar end shifters because they add confusion in the area of cables and bar feel even with double crimped bars...
Hi Garth!

I believe you're in a definite minority in prefering down tube shifters. The main reason to go to bar ends or brifters is that one needn't remove hands from the bars for a shift. Although this may not be an issue for you, I consider it a definite safety advantage.

I don't see a big reliability difference between any of the shifting technologies, and I use bar-ends because I don't mind the extra cable.

If you're a down tube guy, though, I say go for it! Your shifters definitely are the lightest, and have the most direct cable routing of all. Your money - your choice.
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Old 12-17-05, 09:03 AM   #4
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The bar end shifter thing I can't really get used to. How do you do it. If I remember you have to grab the end of bar with two fingers while you manipulate the lever with your pinky and part of your palm. The only way I see this as convenient is if you have bar end indexed shifting which is common of course. If one has the older bar end friction on the rear derailleur it might be too difficult to quickly find the sweet spot without taking the whole right hand off the bar... Right?
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Old 12-17-05, 09:36 AM   #5
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Garth.....I friction shift my 105 9spd using DuraAce bar ends--which are great shifters in either mode. With such close set cogs, the action is very subtle in friction but not an inconvenience. The DuraAce shifters are wonderfully precise and butter smooth on friction.

The shifting hand movement is almost unconscious after a few rides. Slide hand down hooks to bar end, push with heel of hand (I automatically curl my pinky under the lever) or same movement and pull up with ring & middle finger. Left hand fd trimming is even easier.
My hand never completely leaves the bars...just some fingers or part of my hand. No, not as totally convenient as brifters, but very efficient nonetheless.

I have SunTour barcons/7spd XCPro on another bike and, with wider chain, wider cog spacing, friction mode is almost a never miss and very fast. Finally, I have some Mavic retrofriction dt's (the kind you find on ebay with previous owners but still good as new) on another bike with 6 spd: almost thoughtless shifting there too...though not as fast as indexed-- but still fast enough.

That said, I'm considering switching the 9spd to Veloce brifters (with ShiftMate) just to get some variety and see what the last several years in shifting have been all about.

Ultimately, all systems will get you down the road happily enough....a matter of personal style and taste.
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Old 12-17-05, 11:39 AM   #6
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It's simple: Whatever floats your boat!
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Old 12-17-05, 12:18 PM   #7
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i liked friction because:
it is simple
easy to maintain
no tolerances except top and bottom.
easy to use

after crashing my iron steed i bought a hi tech cf which came equipped with DA shifters. I got used to them very quickly and no problems after 1.5 y of use. I would not mind returning to down tube friction if I had to replace the brifters but it would be like finding a 286 processor and installing into a hi end computer.
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Old 12-17-05, 01:40 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by garth
The bar end shifter thing...How do you do it?
Like almost anything (clipless pedals???) you get used to it and it becomes second nature. You're tuned to shift those downtube levers in your sleep - I'm tuned to reach for my bar-Cons. The learning curve is not hard to overcome, and if you tried, you'd get used to ANY other shifter technology within two weeks.

Even though I haven't shifted downtube levers since the '70s, I'm sure I'd adapt within a couple of weeks if I had to go back to them. I used a bike with brifters for a few months and I got used to that without any problem.

Not being able to imagine anything but what you currently have is just a mental block on your part. You'd find that you could use anything if you wanted to. Heck - if I forced myself, I'm sure I could learn to live with clipless pedals.

You either have a need to adapt to something different or you don't. Since I have no binding needs to use anything specific, I can try and choose what I like best (and/or what I believe to be safest). Our choices don't match, hey - that's OK. I can respect your down tube levers even though we don't agree.
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Old 12-17-05, 03:48 PM   #9
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27 years of riding road bikes and I have two comments. First, "brifters" IMHO are safer. The fewer times you have to take your hands off the bars the better. I don't care what you level of skill is. You are safer with your hands on the bar than off. Second, the upper level (and maybe mid and lower level) models of Shimano and Campy are both very durable. Between my last two bikes, I have ridden them for over 21,000 miiles and never had any sort of problem with them. Even crashed a couple of times and left scratches on the Dura Ace ones and they shrugged it right off (as did I).
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Old 12-17-05, 04:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by RockyMtnMerlin
...The fewer times you have to take your hands off the bars the better...
+1 on that! Note that bar-end shifters also keep your hands on the bars. I think you're right about brifter durability too - everyone I've talked to that uses them extensively has had no problems.
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Old 12-17-05, 05:00 PM   #11
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There is no question that brifters are safer in that you don't need to take your hands off to shift. In practise though, few accidents have been caused at the moment of shifting. However it is more convenient and saves microseconds during a full out race, a microsecond could easily translate to many feet over even a short race. You can not deny that racers increasingly use dt shifters for the chainring side only, and as far as I know, in recent years Mr. Armstrong has never varied from his use of dt shifting in this regard. We do need to take a poll on the durability issue of brifters, but I have heard of these occasionally failing, but I have never heard of a broken indexed dt shifter. Friction shifters do occasionally slip, but this is usually preventable with good maintanance. It has however happened to me during a friendly race, and I did have to complete a hill climb in 42/13 as a result.

One big reason for prefering dt shifting is that that is what was standard on the super bikes when I was a kid. I want to own what was hot and new and desirable when I was 17, 25 or even 30 when I was at my peak and roaming the town but without the funds to own and collect several of these killer bikes. Guys younger than me sometimes think of me as an old timer, even though I am often mistaken for being in my 30's. No one misses that I am riding on old technology bikes, and I want to prove what can be done with an older body, an older bike and older sensibilities.
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Old 12-17-05, 05:19 PM   #12
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Just a minute point. I don't know about all racers but I'm sure that Armstrong only uses that DT shifter for moutain stages. According to Lennard Zinn, "In all of Armstrong's Tours since 1999, he has used a standard (non-integrated) left brake lever and a downtube shift lever for the front derailleur on mountain stages. Given that a standard Dura-Ace, non-integrated brake lever weighs 130 grams and a Dura-Ace 10-speed STI lever weighs 210 grams, you are looking at a simple weight savings. The downtube shift lever can add as little as 30 grams, plus you save a bunch of grams in extra cable and housing you don't need looping around the front of the bike. You don't shift the front derailleur often on a mountain - once at the bottom and once at the top - so there is not much efficiency lost. So you can give up looking for a hidden light on his bike, Ian."
Next time I do one of those mountain stages I will aslo throw away one of my Campy Record "brifters" and go with a DT shifter.
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Old 12-17-05, 05:30 PM   #13
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Used D/A brifters on our new carbon fiber ariZona tandem for 3,000 miles, was glad to get rid of them for the following reason:
On the tandem, the front shift on our triple chainrings was never 'spot on'; usually a tiny rub that needed to be readjusted for. My stoker even got annoyed and suggested to go back to barends. . . did: D/A 9 speed barends. Much cheaper, just as quick/effective and no rub with front derailleur! 6,000+ miles later, we're happier with the barends. Fewer moving parts makes for less complexity . . . ever take you brifters apart?
Shifting is a matter of technique, with whatever system you prefer.
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Old 12-18-05, 12:37 AM   #14
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Perfectly happy with both systems, though I prefer the brifters. I use brifters on my roadie, and DT on my commuters. It doesn't matter how fast I shift while commuting, and I don't shift often. The main advantage they give me is the ability to ignore small damages (bent wheel, bent frame, etc) with easy trimming. A bent frame isn't a concern on the bike I baby, but usual after a few months with any of my commuters. I've never broken the brifters I have (DA), and the guy who owned the bike before me hasn't either. Between us, the bike has almost 10k miles.
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Old 12-18-05, 08:40 AM   #15
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I was riding a DT shifter bike just a little over a year ago and in my mind there is no comparison between the two, brifters are much nicer and I do not think the realiblity of them is an issue for the most part, some mechanical things break no matter how well made. Armstrong's DT shifter is used just for weight savings on mountain stages as mentioned above.
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Old 12-18-05, 11:38 AM   #16
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I really enjoy barcons. I find that after converting from 105 brifters to barcons, I don't shift nearly as much. I used to "run 'er through the gears", up and down when I had the brifters. With the barcons, I almost never shift the left (front derailleur) one but I love the ability to trim it precisely in friction mode, and on the right one (front, 9SP, indexed) I tend to be really casual with the shifting... ie: approaching a stop I just bump it down a couple, not really caring what gear it is, and then as I accellerate I just bump it up a couple.

It seems to promote a more relaxed mental state with regard to shifting.
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Old 12-19-05, 01:43 PM   #17
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I don't care one way or the other about indexing--got it on two bikes, don't have it on the other two, and if have a preference, it's very slightly in favor of friction. But I DO love those bar-end shifters, which I have on my Atlantis and Rambouillet.
A preference for downtube shifters, though, just seems weird. Maybe it's because I ride a 64cm frame--that's a long way down to reach, even for a tall guy.
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Old 12-19-05, 04:42 PM   #18
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I like DT shifters because they are simple and reduce cable complexity over brifters and barcons. I have nver had a problem using DT shifters since as others have said, it becomes second nature. OTH , I would nver turn my back on a nice bike with brifters and no one can deny the argument that it is safer to keep your hands on the bar while shifting. I guess I would not spend money to change from DT shifters, but, if going for a new bike, bring em on.
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Old 12-19-05, 09:05 PM   #19
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In 1967 I got a bike with bar-end shifters. (We called them "goodie-levers" back then) and I never looked back. I've never used downtube shifters since then. Just didn't like the safety factor of removing my hands from the bars. Repositioning on the bars is just fine. Friction shifting was just fine too.

Now fast forward to 2005 when after a 15 year break from cycling, I come back and first thing is to figure out the new equipment. I was tempted to go with bar end, but just for a moment, the combination of index shifting and brifters just seemed overwhelmingly superior.

That being said, I quickly switched from Shimano to Campy solely to better fine tune the index shifting on the front and to jump more than 1 cog on the rear downshifts. (Also I liked the little paddles.) I don't think I would have cared about those issues so much if I didn't have years of experience with friction shifting.
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Old 01-21-06, 09:31 PM   #20
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This is my el-cheapo version of STI / brifters ,it doesnt look that flash but it works for me as my natural h/bar position is on the bar tops or on the hoods, I only seem to use the drops on down hills ! I,ve kept the front shifter on the downtube though , the whole conversion cost me about NZ$10 .
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Old 01-21-06, 09:39 PM   #21
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This is my el-cheapo version of STI / brifters ,.
'Scuse me greywolf, but my monitor's resolution isn't so good.....is that a thumb shifter on your bar top?
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Old 01-21-06, 09:41 PM   #22
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sure is , an old 7 speed MTB rapid fire shifter !
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Old 01-21-06, 09:49 PM   #23
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All right! I like home-made solutions that fit a person's style & need! We could probably all put together some very functional and fun bikes from stuff under the workbench.
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Old 01-21-06, 10:19 PM   #24
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I'm a friction bar-end man. My favorite bicycle part of all time is the old Suntour ratcheting bar end shifter. I have them on the drop bars on my road bike and the moustache bars on my all-rounder. I use indexed Shimano bar-ends on my tandem. Making clean shifts is no problem at all on the single bikes. I learned how to shift on my first 10 speed bike about 35 years ago and haven't forgotten. I also have an old Motobecane tandem with the Suntour shifters and I do occasionally miss a shift with that more remote setup, but when I ride it a lot I get a lot better at it. I also like top mounted thumb shifters on mountain bikes. My MTB has Suntour thumb shifters. I do use the index mode when I'm doing fast or technical riding on singletrack.
I like the clean look and easy setup of downtube shifters, but with my back problems, it hurts to reach down low enough to shift them, so I no longer use them. One thing I did really like about downtube shifting was the ability to work both levers with one hand if I needed to.
I really like the simplicity of lever shifters. I find brifters and trigger shifters just too complicated and lacking in feedback. The shifting action is just too indirect for my tastes. You can see how simple levers work. Triggers and brifters have too much mystery about them. I can see how they would be an advantage to racers or fast riders who need to shift quickly and often, but for just riding, they seem too expensive, complicated and remote.
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Old 01-21-06, 10:26 PM   #25
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All right! I like home-made solutions that fit a person's style & need! We could probably all put together some very functional and fun bikes from stuff under the workbench.
The only thing I had to buy was the inner cable
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