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  1. #1
    frogman
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    upgrade to brake shifters ?

    My road bike currently is set up with Shimano 9 speed stuff, 53/39 front, 12-27 rear, and downtube index shifters. I have been using downtube shifting for years, friction before they had index. (yes I am that old, he,he)(61) Anyway, I am thinking about trying brake shifters either the Shimano Ultegra 9 speed double or the Dura Ace. Pretty good sales going on now for the Ultegra especially.
    I hate to ask this but does the Dura Ace last longer than the Ultegra ? Shift any better ? I have been probably making a mistake and reading threads about
    brake shifters having problems and being sent back to Shimano for warranty
    repairs in less than a year. That is another consideration, the Dura Ace has a three year warranty and the Ultegra has two. One guy says they are more sensitive to worn chains and cassettes and if you change those once a year and flush/clean out the shifters with lube regularly, no problemo. I am curious how they are working for you and which shifters you are using. I did a search and
    didn't come up with any comparative info.
    thanks,

    Bob Harmon
    Napa Valley, CA

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Cannot tell you the differences between the Ultegra and Dure ace- but I can tell you of some other shimano gear.

    I ride a mountain bike and to me- the working range at a sensible price is XT. If you go down a grade and compare to LX- then the XT is far better made- And that includes the shifters- deraillers, and brakes. Rear Cassettes I do not have a problem withg on the solo, but a little bit of strength has been lost on the XT cassette that means that I still use the LX- but with a weight penalty. So for me XT rules in the Mountain bike range.
    XT is not the top of the range though but the overral quality increase for a small increase in price over LX does make it my favourite. Or used to. I have a problem in that I have an offroad tandem and this thing eats parts as you look at them. In particular I find that the rear derailler does not stand up to my punishment. I change it every year on my annual service as the pivots have a little bit of play in them and gear changing is just getting a bit sloppy. In 2005 I replaced the Derailler but with an XTR version. XTR is almost double the price but I managed to get one very cheap so upgraded to what is supposed to be the ultimate. When I did the rebuild this year I could not get a cheap XTR one so got an XT. Started rebuilding the drive chain and I sent the new XT derailler back. The XTR had absolutely no wear in the pivots whatsoever. 6 Months later and still no wear. From now on I will be repalcing with XTR- even if it does cost more- mainly for the increase in life that the higher quality gear gives- but there is also the better feel to it aswell.

    I know that if I were to look at the Road bike equipment- I would Look at the Dure ace as it is better manufactured-. This will give a better life on the parts- but also a better, smoother feel to the components. Only parts I would baulk at though are chains and Cassettes, as the only chains I have broken in the last 3 years- were the 2 Dure-ace chains that I was recommended to buy as being better quality- Quality may be there- but They are not man enough for my use.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  3. #3
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    Have you considered Campy for your switch to brifters? I know this may sound off the wall, but here's my experience. I'm 59 and, like you, shifted friction for years as well as index on dt's and bar-end. I rode some serious miles on a friend's Ultegra...nice shifting, but, because I have small hands, the hood and brake levers weren't as comfortable or reachable as aero levers. I picked up a pair of NOS Veloce Ergo 9spd brifters.........and I love them. They fit my hand most comfortably, I much prefer the thumb trigger to the double lever action of the STI. I still smile when I shift while out of the saddle-- not attainable with dt's.

    Mating Campy levers to Shimano drivetrain is a no-brainer when using a J-Tek Shiftmate ($40)-- a small, almost unnoticable gizmo that renders compatibility to the shift throws. If you are looking for upper end there is always Chorus or ($gulp$) Record.

    Anyway, off the wall a bit from your question, but works very satisfyingly for me.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    I too would suggest trying campy. However...
    I have three bikes that I ride regularly, two of which use campy brifters (One Chorus, one Mirage) - I find the campy much more comfortable on my hands, and they are generally reliable. The bike that I put the most miles on is a a commuter, which uses an ultegra bar end for the r-der, and a downtube shifter (RX100) for the fder. I had issues with the campy brifters when riding in icy conditions once, and I feel that the DT and Bar-end are more durable for the bike which I rely on.

  5. #5
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    To answer your question...... You may get a bit longer life out of the DA 9 speed vs. the Ultegra, but if you take proper care of your bike you'll get tens of thousands of miles out of Ultegra. The Da does have a crisper shift than the Ultegra that requires a bit firmer touch than Ultegra. I've got the Ultegra on 2 of my bikes and love it. More of a silky feel than DA. I have not heard about Ultegra being more sensitive to worn chains..... this may be more with the rear dérailleur than the shifters.
    Carpe who?

  6. #6
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    My 105 brifters on my Lemond have lasted since 1999 with absolutely no problems. Shift smoothly and accurately. Probably about 14,000 miles on them at this time. My Sora brifters on my utility roadie have worked just fine the past 2.5 years.

    I have had to replace the grip shifters on my mtn bike a couple of times, as the rubber simply wears out and cracks.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  7. #7
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Since I detest front shifter indexing, I would vote for barcons or Campag. over any Shimano brifter. I still prefer friction shifting, because it is so reliable and flexible. For those of us with smallish hands, there is nothing like old style Weinmann or Diacompe brake handles with either downtube shifters or barcons.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  8. #8
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Still trying to understand the concept of brifters as an "upgrade" from anything. I have no idea which of them work better, but I do know that I'd rather keep my friction bar ends than have any of them.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  9. #9
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    Some fellow Rivendellians consider brifters over-engineered claptrap whose complexity will stomp your wallet and eventually leave you stranded somewhere out in dogpatch, not to mention ruin the flexibility of your riding style. [BTW not trolling here].

    But, damn, they are convenient. Having said that, must admit I have a pair of Mavic retro-friction dt's on another bike I ride as frequently and I won't give them up. They work like silk on my 9spd, and except for the 1 second reach down, they are a quick shifting....especially across several cogs. Matched to an old Shimano 600 short cage rd, there is none of that "overshifting" that John E. may remember from elder days. Also, they are classy and simple and bullet proof as well as age proof. And, if my own age kicks in and I forget what gear I'm in, I can tell by glance or touch. Frankly, I enjoy both and having both lends variety to my riding. On a third "do-anything" bike I have friction SunTour ratcheted barcons and they are also keepers.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  10. #10
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Over engineered and too complex - definitely. Too expensive - undoubtably. Unreliable - no, not from my limited personal experience or the overwhelming majority of reports I have heard or read. Damaging to your riding style - a qualified no.
    I do think that it would be harder to have a real feel for the way a bicycle gear system works if all of your experience has been with indexing and especially if only with brifters. It's kind of like driving cars. If you have never driven a manual transmission, do you really know how to drive?

    My point is not that brifters are terrible and people shouldn't buy or use them. It is that downtube and bar end shifters work great. They are simpler to set up, easier to work on and much less expensive to buy. The drawback, having to move your hands from the hoods to shift, is just not a problem for me. The reach to downtube shifters does bother me a bit because my back is not as flexible as it once was. But I don't see it as a safety issue as some people do.

    I suppose I will someday buy a new bike with brifters and love them. I can't imagine that I would ever add them to a bike as an upgrade. So far I have only owned one bike that came with them. My tandem had 105 brifters which I used for about a month before replacing them with Shimano bar ends. The main problem was with front shifting on the triple crank. I doubt it would have been as much of an issue with a double. A lesser problem was the lack of feel or feedback in the shifting process. With downtube or bar end shifters, even indexed, the shift lever feels directly connected to the derailleurs. Brifters seemed very remote, like calling in the shift. The levers that I removed are now on the bike I built for my son and he thinks they are great.
    I didn't mean to hijack the thread. Surely someone can post on the differences between Ultegra and Dura Ace brifters.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  11. #11
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    To answer the question you thought you wanted to ask -

    For most component groups, the one not at the top does provide better value. Ultegra will provide the level of service you need, and you're mature enough to not need the status factor of having your equipment marked "Dura Ace." You probably don't want to go down to 105, as my experience has been that pieces of 105 components tend to fall off.

    To answer the question you needed to ask -

    Although Shimano's system shifts more smoothly (you don't need to push as hard to initiate the shift), here is why I think Campagnolo's system is better:

    1. It's more intuitive. You want the chain to move inward, you move the lever inward. You want the chain to move outward/downward, you move the lever outward/downward. (With Shimano (except Sora, which is restricted to 8-spd), you have to remember "big ring/cog, big lever; small ring/cog, small lever." This can get very confusing and overly intellectual and slows your shift.)

    2. With Campagnolo, when you move the lever, the chain moves. Then you return the lever. With Shimano, when you move the lever, the chain moves, as long as it's moving to a bigger cog or ring. If it's moving to a smaller cog or ring, nothing happens until you return the lever. This slows the shifting, and it just amazes me that bike racers never complain about this.

    3. What #2 also means is that with Shimano, you can only upshift the rear derailleur one step at a time (they might have fixed this, I'm not sure). Campagnolo lets you move the chain from the biggest rear cog all the way down to the smallest cog with one shifting motion. With Shimano, you would have to make eight shifting motions (with a 9-speed). This REALLY slows your shifting. Moving the chain the other way, both Shimano and Campagnolo allow up to a 3-cog shift with one lever movement.

    4. Some bike racers like to use a normal lever on the left, and control the front derailleur with a downtube shifter. This is a popular configuration in Tour de France climbing stages, because it saves a bit of weight. This is simple to do with Campagnolo, since you can easily remove the shifting mechanism from either lever and convert it to a standard, non-Ergo brake lever. This lets you have matching left and right levers, one Ergo, the other standard. If you don't want to mess with modifying an Ergo lever, you can buy a Tektro lever that looks identical to Campag's and is much cheaper. Unfortunately, Shimano's mechanism is too complicated to allow removal of the shift components (I know, I've tried). Instead, you have to buy a new left brake lever, and Shimano does not make a non-STI lever that looks like an STI lever. Thus, you see pictures of Tour riders using Shimano equipment, and their levers are mismatched: STI on the right, standard Shimano brake lever (which looks nothing like a somewhat ergonomic STI lever) on the left.

    5. You can brake hard with Campag Ergo levers, and the levers feel solid, with no play. If you brake hard with Shimano STI levers, you find the levers wanting to move inward. Not very secure.

    6. If you like the way the Record levers look but can't afford them, just wait a year or two. For the past few years, Campagnolo has been moving their components down the line. Three or four years ago, Record levers were carbon, Chorus and Centaur were aluminum. A year later, Chorus was carbon. Two years later, Centaur was carbon. In other words, this year's Chorus is last year's Record. In fact, you can upgrade any Campag lever unit by getting the carbon levers and replacing the aluminum levers in the aluminum units. The parts are interchangeable. I once carefully studied the exploded drawings and parts numbers of Record and Athena hubs in an old Campag catalog. The parts numbers were absolutely identical except for the hub shells...

    7. When your Campag levers wear out, you can replace the worn parts. When your Shimano levers wear out, you have to buy new ones.

    Although it doesn't sound like it, I have tried to be as objective as possible. My current racing bike (originally a Trek 5200) still uses SPD pedals and Ultegra cranks, although the rest of the drivetrain is Campag (and it used Ultegra brake calipers until replaced with Tektro carbon fiber units). I've got SPD pedals on all my bikes (the orignal SPD road andd SPD mountain so I can use the same shoes with both). Shimano does make good products, but I really think their shifters have some real deficiencies. I also dislike the way they orphan most of their products after they've locked you in (e.g., the original SPD road pedals).

    - L.

  12. #12
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    love my Brifters! Yeah, I still have a bunch of bikes with DT shifters (friction and index), a couple with bar-cons - nice, but the bikes I ride the most these days have Rightside brifters and either a DT or barcon left(front) shifter (and compact cranks... :-)
    The right side Brifter (Ultegra and 105) is just a pleasure to use. Never think about shifting anymore, just do it when I need another gear. And both my 105 and Ultegra shifters can jump up to 3 cogs while going up the gear block. And shifting while on any climb is soooo much nicer with a brifter.
    I do have one bike with both sides using Brifters, and even though I like the bike a lot, the left side brifter is really a step backwards when compared either to a DT or Bar-con shifter. The 'trim' feature on the brifter is especially a 'kludge' and ineffectual.
    So, I would highly recommend going brifter, but only for the rear. Keep either a barcon or DT shifter for the front/left side.

  13. #13
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    The questions you pose are interesting. Here's my take on it with the experience of having three road bikes currently running: one with 105 DT shifters; one with Ultergra 9 speed brifters; and, finally one with Dura Ace 10 speed brifters.

    The 105's are the easiest to maintain and very unlikely to need repairs or replacements, baring a major accident. They function quite well, but are annoying when needing to shift while climbing. Currently no difficulty in reaching them or using the same hand to accomplish front and rear shifts. I actually like using these once in a while.... much as I like driving a manual transmission once in a while, but not as a daily experience.

    The Ultegra's work fine. They, as noted by another, are smooth. They have been reliable, and require a bit of extra work to keep that way, but nothing I find too taxing. I did have to replace the right side one after a spill. The downside of the Shimano gear is that you have to replace the entire unit given you can't buy replacement parts. AND, the replacements are expensive.

    The Dura Ace is the setup I like best. To be fair this is a function of the shift feel and the fact that it is a 10 speed. The extra gearing step really does make a difference for me. I also like the DA feel better in terms of riding on the hoods.

    Finally, I've ridden the Campy Chorus and Record during extended rides (50+) miles and found them to be quite satisfactory. If I were simply swapping out old shifters for new ones, I'd probably go with either Shimano or Campy but try to stay at the Ultegra or above and the Chorus or above in the respective lines, keeping in mind that all of these will require a bit more to keep running flawlessly. All should, with care, last for many years and many miles. So, I'd look for the lowest purchase price on any of them.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  14. #14
    frogman
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    reliability of shiftmate ?

    The capability of the Campy ergo brifters to be rebuilt appeals to me and I wasn't aware there was a way to use them on Shimano drivetrains. Is the Shiftmate device reliable ? It looks pretty straightforward.
    Bob

  15. #15
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Harmon
    The capability of the Campy ergo brifters to be rebuilt appeals to me and I wasn't aware there was a way to use them on Shimano drivetrains. Is the Shiftmate device reliable ? It looks pretty straightforward.
    Bob
    My experience with the Shiftmate has been very good. I installed it maybe 6 months ago. Shifts are accurate, consistent, etc...there's no sense that there anything "down there" between shifter and rd, no sense of anything being "make-do". Peter White, you might visit his site (http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/shiftmate.asp), recommends and sells them....although it imay be easier to get them directly from JTek.

    There are 4 models for 4 different match-ups....I used Model 3 for Campy post 2002 brifter to Shimano drivetrain.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  16. #16
    Senior Member RockyMtnMerlin's Avatar
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    I used downtube shifters from 1978 to 1995. I have used "brifters" since (both Dura Ace and Record). I will never go back to downtube shifters. Reason, I don't have to take my hands off the bars to shift and I think that is safer. I have used the brifters for about 30,000 miles and had one spring break on the Record (after 20,000 miiles). But I could still ride home and I got it repaired for $59. But if you do not live close to a qualified Campy mech, you will also have to be able to remove the part, pay for shipping and reinstall it. From everything I have read you will be just as happy with Ultegra or Chorus as you would be with the "top of the line."

  17. #17
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockyMtnMerlin
    I used downtube shifters from 1978 to 1995. I have used "brifters" since (both Dura Ace and Record). I will never go back to downtube shifters. Reason, I don't have to take my hands off the bars to shift and I think that is safer.
    I must say I feel the same way. In my experience, there are a couple of situations where brake lever shifters are absolutely critical:

    1. In road sprints. Having to reach down to shift as you're accelerating to the line at the head of a storming pack is one big disadvantage. I remember when brifters first came out; the guys who consistently won road sprints (like a young Cipollini) were using them.

    2. On a tandem. Mine started off with bar end shifters, but after switching to brifters, I couldn't go back. The control is just insanely better.

    The only bikes I own that don't use brake lever shifters are the ones that don't have derailleurs.

    - L.

  18. #18
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockyMtnMerlin
    I will never go back to downtube shifters. Reason, I don't have to take my hands off the bars to shift and I think that is safer. I
    +1. It wasn't techno-perfection or style that pushed me towards brifters-- I enjoy too much my lugged steel, etc. No, it was a particular road we often ride... lots of rollers and a very poor road surface. Other people were happily shifting up and down while dodging holes, grooves, loose gravel, etc. while I was simply too cautious to take my hands off the bars and reach for the dt shifter while the bike was bouncing downhill. Brifters are simply safer and, in certain conditions, more convenient. And I like the option of shifting out of the saddle. I do agree front shifting, even with the easier, micro jumps of Ergo, is not as positive or quick or easily adjustable as friction.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  19. #19
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Harmon
    The capability of the Campy ergo brifters to be rebuilt appeals to me and I wasn't aware there was a way to use them on Shimano drivetrains. Is the Shiftmate device reliable ? It looks pretty straightforward.
    Bob
    I use Campy with a Shimano drivetrain without any device. Just turn the connector piece (on the rear derailur) backwards. http://www.hubbub.com/articles_ergopower.html

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