Advertise on Bikeforums.net



User Tag List

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 38
  1. #1
    Newbie
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    4
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Downtube or stem shifters?

    I'm just getting started and have been looking at EBay and CL for a bike. I would like to find a decent road or hybrid bike for less than $500. It seems that most of the bikes I see in this price range are older bikes with downtube shifters or stem shifters and my question is, do any of you ride a bike regularly with downtube or stem shifters and how do you like it? I'm concerned about moving my hands off the bars to shift.

  2. #2
    VoodooChile zoste's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    AZ
    My Bikes
    Salsa Casseroll
    Posts
    1,048
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I don't have downtube or stem shifters, but I can't imagine that the learning curve is too, too steep...I managed to figure out how to grab my water bottle while pedaling.
    Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand

  3. #3
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Detroit 'burbs, east side.
    My Bikes
    '04 Giant OCR2, '87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion, '85 Schwinn Super Le Tour, '92 Trek 820
    Posts
    1,195
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Downtube and stem shifters are less convenient to be sure, but the safety aspect is negligible, IMO. Just something to get used to. Us 50+ers who rode bikes back then all used them and we're still here!

    Stem shifters were mainly found on lower-end bikes, so that might be a consideration. But don't rule out all bikes with stem shifters. The Schwinn World Sport in my signature had stem shifters and was in the "lower middle" of the product line then. But the 4130 cro-mo frame,while not "high end" is a nice ride. And although it is now a fixed gear the low-to middle of the road components worked well. And it was a steal too -- about $12 at a thrift shop!

    If you think you will be buying an older bike you might want to hang out on the Classic and Vintage forum as well. A good quality steel frame will be a nice ride. Look for chrome moly a.k.a 'cro-mo' steel at a minimum - butted tubing preferred. Look for alloy rims, not steel.

    Also, it will help if you can do your own mechanical work if you're going the "vintage" route.

    However, you might also be able to find a deal at your LBS on last year's models if they have any in your size in stock. I haven't been new bike shopping lately but with the recession there might be bargains to be had with some looking.

    Happy hunting and riding!
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  4. #4
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Nabob, WI
    My Bikes
    '03 Trek 7500, '08 Madone 4.5
    Posts
    1,176
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I see plenty of hybrids available in that price range that have some form of handlebar-mounted shifter.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    My Bikes
    1976 Apollo Mk IV, mid-'80s Miyata touring bike, mid-'80s Miyata mtn bike, 2007 Trek 6500 mtn bike, 2008 Trek Madone 5.2
    Posts
    730
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Either way you're going to have to take your hands off the bars to shift. My preference would be for downtube shifters if you are getting a road bike. They are certainly easier to work when you are in the drops. And I feel that reaching down for the shifter keeps the rider in a more stable position. If you get a hybrid, you will want the shifters on the handle bars or the stem.
    However, if you're just getting started, there's no way to tell what your preference might be a year from now. Think of this first bike as a learning experience, ride a lot and you will discover what you really want for your second bike. Don't overthink this first purchase. Get something that fits and ride the dickens out of it.
    Of course, much depends on your previous cycling experience, age, fitness level and financial siuation.

  6. #6
    Pat
    Pat is offline
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    My Bikes
    litespeed, cannondale
    Posts
    2,795
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Downtube shifters were what you did back in the old days. I rode a number of bikes with downtube shifters. They have a small disadvantage in the you have to reach down to shift. Of course, they have an advantage in being very simple and lasting virtually forever. The more modern shifters up in the hoods wear out after about 20000 miles.

  7. #7
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas Church of Hopeful Uncertainty
    My Bikes
    1966 Raleigh DL-1 Tourist, 1973 Schwinn Varsity, 1983 Raleigh Marathon, 1994 Nishiki Sport XRS
    Posts
    13,936
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by bcoppola View Post
    Downtube and stem shifters are less convenient to be sure, but the safety aspect is negligible, IMO. Just something to get used to.
    I had a bike with downtube shifters for 20+ years. It never felt normal or natural, and when I was shifting at high speeds my handlebars always felt unstable. I loved the bike, it felt great otherwise, but I never really got used to them, and they did feel less safe to me. Also, since I ride out in traffic, it was difficult to shift downtubes when I was up on the bars. Downshifting while approaching a light and braking at the same time was always a dicey proposition.

    Last December I picked up (literally, out of a dumpster) a similar bike, except this one has stem shifters. They are perfect for me- they are easy to shift whether I am up or in the drops. The only downside has been that I've knocked my knee against them once or twice during hard climbs and inadvertently shifted the bike (and ended up walking it the rest of the way up the hill!) Now that I'm conscious of that I've adjusted my riding style while climbing and it's not a problem.

    Downtube shifters are sexier, and probably better if you're actually doing road racing, but if you're riding around on the streets I think stem shifters are more versatile.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  8. #8
    Recreational/Utility bjjoondo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO.
    My Bikes
    2011 Jamis Allegro 1
    Posts
    1,849
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Welcome, Although the bike I have now has the "dreaded click shifters, (arrrrrrugh), I've had both the downtube and the stem shifters, personally I liked the "downtube" shifter better, just seemed easier to get to in a hurry and seemed to shift better too, jmho. Now the one's I like best are the "bar-end" shifters but these usually only come on serious touring road bicycles. Any way, none are hard to master so don't let that be a "Con" in your decision on a bikes choice!
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
    B.J. Ondo
    2011 Jamis Allegro 1

  9. #9
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    6 miles inland from the coast of Sussex, in the South East of England
    My Bikes
    Dale MT2000. Bianchi FS920 Kona Explosif. Giant TCR C. Boreas Ignis. Pinarello Fp Uno.
    Posts
    19,915
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    First ride I did on a Road bike- In about 95 I think- Had downtube shifters. Changing gear was not a problem- it just seemed to be natural. What did stop me though was the 10% hill for a mile with a lowest gear of 42/23.

    Took me another 11 years before I did another Road Bike ride though and by that time it was brifters.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    No Va but ride also in So Md
    My Bikes
    Cervelo SLC-SL, Guru Photon, Waterford, Specialized CX
    Posts
    8,405
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    Downtube shifters were what you did back in the old days. I rode a number of bikes with downtube shifters. They have a small disadvantage in the you have to reach down to shift. Of course, they have an advantage in being very simple and lasting virtually forever. The more modern shifters up in the hoods wear out after about 20000 miles.
    I've probably got double that, or 40,000 miles, out of DA shifters and there's no sign of their wearing out.

    I wouldn't doubt some of the lower wear that quickly but I think someone can easily get 50,000, 60,000 or more out of Ultegra or DA
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  11. #11
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Detroit 'burbs, east side.
    My Bikes
    '04 Giant OCR2, '87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion, '85 Schwinn Super Le Tour, '92 Trek 820
    Posts
    1,195
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    C&V habitue Doohickie's post brings up, indirectly as with the rest of ours, that there's a big subjective aspect to this. Only your experience will tell for sure. But another point to consider is: with a bare minimum of work it's easy and cheap to switch from one to the other. Or, less cheaply, to bar-end shifters if you want to try those. (Or, expensively, to modern brifters) You can get clamp-on downtube shifters to replace stem shifters, and vice-versa, on eBay. Requires only a little work and maybe new cables (if you go from downtube to stem or barends).

    I only ask that, if you get a bike with downtube shifters on braze-on frame bosses, please oh please don't hack off the braze-ons if you switch to other shifters!
    '04 Giant OCR2|'87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion (6,129)|'92 Trek 820 MTB|'85 Schwinn Super LeTour
    "People who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles." - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  12. #12
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Eugene, OR
    My Bikes
    Mecian
    Posts
    2,805
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I ride DT shifter and like them, But I have ridden with them for 35 years so I am kind of used to them. Never liked stem shifters, fear of crashing and getting skewered by them. A also ride a bike with Brifters, and I like them just fine. THe reason for the DT is I like to use a handlebar bag and am too lazy to rig up cable rerouting.
    Recycle, Reclaim, Reuse and Repair
    The 4 Rs to save the planet

    "Toes"

  13. #13
    Muscle bike design spec robtown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Sterling VA
    My Bikes
    98 Giant CFR-TEAM, 00 Lemond, 08 Kestrel Evoke, 96 Colnago Master Olympic, 01 Colnago Ovalmaster, Raleigh Gran Sport, 03 Fuji World, 86 Paramount, 90 Miyata CF, 09 Ritchey Breakaway CX, Bianchi Trofeo, 12 HyperLite
    Posts
    3,651
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I prefer down tube; stem shifters are more common on lower end bikes. I've also hit stem shifters with my knee when standing for a hill climb. I have one bike with downtube shifters, but I've converted most to bar end shifters. Stem shifters are slightly easier to convert because the cable routing is already in place.
    I found bar end shifters much more convenient than either down tube or stem shifters.
    Korval is Ships
    See my Hyperlite 411 it's the photo model on OutRiderUSA web page

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Seattle, Washington, USA
    My Bikes
    2009 Chris Boedeker custom, 1988 Tommasini Prestige, 2007 Bill Davidson custom, 1985 Univega Gran Turismo; 1988 Specialized Stumpjumper
    Posts
    6,920
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I have down-tube shifters on two of my bikes, including the Univega commuter I ride every day. I grew up on down-tube shifters.

    I associate stem shifters with low-end bikes and envision getting skewered on them.

    I love bar end shifters - it's about a $100 worth of parts to change from drop bar shifters ($60 or $70 for the shifters; additional money for new cables, bar wrap, and little cable stop thingys that go in the downtube where the shifter braze-ons were).

    As much as I like bar end shifters -- and even though I said I would change over my commuter immediately -- I can't quite bring myself to spend the $ to do it. The downtube shifters are working fine. Mine are some old Suntour shifters from the 80's and they have a beautiful, smooth machine finish that always feels *just right* when I use them - I hate to discard something that works so well.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 02-13-09 at 02:40 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member George's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Katy Texas
    My Bikes
    Specialized Roubaix - Look 566 - Jamis Coda Elite
    Posts
    5,257
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I've only had barend shifters for a few days and I've had no problems shifting them or reaching for them so far.
    George

  16. #16
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The NC Mountains
    My Bikes
    Too many to list, all vintage
    Posts
    19,416
    Mentioned
    52 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)
    +1 Stem mounted shifters were almost always mounted on lower end bikes. Look at the vintage Schwinn catalogs. Work your way up to about the half way mark, and you will see the stem shifters go away and DT shifters start.

    Its kind of a dead giveaway that you are looking at a lower end (but still maybe decent) bike. But no way should it be in the $500 range. The most I have sold a stem shifter bike for was $175.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    6,901
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    If it is good enough for Lance it ought to be ok for you. Had a downtube shifter for the front on a bike he used in the TDF.

    Used down tube shifters on my Centurion for years. If doing it again I would look for a bike with indexed shifting. Only issue I ever had was getting in the right gear prior to a big hill cilmb. Still see guys riding with them, so they must work.

    Not a fan of stem mounted down tube style shifters. Kind of like 2 daggers pointed at you when you crash.

  18. #18
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Milledgeville, Georgia
    My Bikes
    2014 Specialized Crave Pro 29, 2014 Specialized Crux EVO Carbon Disc, 2012 Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross, 2011 Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert Compact, 2009 Salsa Casseroll, 2003 KHS Milano Tandem, 1986 Nishiki Cadence rigid MTB
    Posts
    12,725
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I learned to use stem shifters when I was 12 y/o and downtube shifters a couple of years later. Of course, we were less addicted to convenience back then. My three most ridden road bikes now have bar end shifters, two of them are friction only. It is much easier than most people think.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  19. #19
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Goleta CA
    My Bikes
    a bunch
    Posts
    3,011
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by dveenhuis View Post
    I'm just getting started and have been looking at EBay and CL for a bike. I would like to find a decent road or hybrid bike for less than $500. It seems that most of the bikes I see in this price range are older bikes with downtube shifters or stem shifters and my question is, do any of you ride a bike regularly with downtube or stem shifters and how do you like it? I'm concerned about moving my hands off the bars to shift.
    just getting started?
    then
    neither

    bikes with either of those will likely have numerous 'issues' if they're not higher end 'iron'.
    There seem to be plenty of newer hybrid and regular road machines on CL, in my locale. At least half or more are unreasonably high priced.
    Buying on CL or ebay means you have some considerable knowledge of what you want, and have an eye to determining that the bike is worth the price.
    If you aren't confident that you can discern a good deal from salvage, then it might be best to avoid CL or ebay, and go to a LBS and haggle a decent deal.
    If you don;t mind 'surprises' and learning the craft of bike repair quickly, then, by all means, dive right in.
    But, I;d still say, stay away from Downtube or Stem shifters until you have a real understanding of what that vintage entails in having a running, worthwhile machine and keeping it that way.

  20. #20
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    www.ci.encinitas.ca.us
    My Bikes
    1959 Capo; 1980 Peugeot PKN-10; 1981 Bianchi; 1988 Schwinn KOM-10;
    Posts
    14,778
    Mentioned
    4 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Stem shifters would be a distant last choice in my book. Good old nonindexed downtube levers are light, responsive, adaptable, durable, and easy to master, even for a total klutz such as myself. If you do not like taking a hand off the bars to change gears, I strongly recommend friction or ratchet-friction barcons -- I put a set of old SunTours on my Peugeot commuter and like them so well that I am tempted to do the same on one of the downtube shift bikes. With straight or upright handlebars, I strongly favor old school mountain bike thumb levers, which are easy to operate from the grips.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

  21. #21
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Central Coast, CA
    My Bikes
    Surly LHT, Specialized Rockhopper, Nashbar Touring (old), Specialized Stumpjumper (older), Nishiki Tourer (model unknown)
    Posts
    3,388
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I had downtube shifters on my first "serous" bike - a 10-speed I got in the 70s. They were fine. Taking a hand off the bars to shift never really was a problem. If you don't want to take a hand off while negotiating something like a pothole, just wait a few seconds.

    My next road bike, bought 20 years later, was a tourer with bar-end shifters. They felt weird at first, but I gradually grew to like them. You can shift with your palm while keeping your fingers on the bar. I think that's why tourers favor them - because the front wheel is often loaded and requires more leverage on the bars at slower speeds. However, you can't shift both levers at once like you can with downtube shifters.

    My most recent purchase has brifters. They're nice too, although I sometimes forget where the shifters are, since I still have a tourer with barends.

    My opinion is that all three setups work fine, and you'll get used to any of them. There are reasons to choose one over another on a new bike, but none of the reasons are overwhelming, in my opinion. If I bought a bike that had one of the three setups, I might not feel it was worth it to switch.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Newark, CA. San Francisco Bay Area
    Posts
    6,191
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by bcoppola View Post
    C&V habitue Doohickie's post brings up, indirectly as with the rest of ours, that there's a big subjective aspect to this. Only your experience will tell for sure. But another point to consider is: with a bare minimum of work it's easy and cheap to switch from one to the other. Or, less cheaply, to bar-end shifters if you want to try those. (Or, expensively, to modern brifters) You can get clamp-on downtube shifters to replace stem shifters, and vice-versa, on eBay. Requires only a little work and maybe new cables (if you go from downtube to stem or barends).

    I only ask that, if you get a bike with downtube shifters on braze-on frame bosses, please oh please don't hack off the braze-ons if you switch to other shifters!
    I had some kind of threaded mount for the downtube shifters on my Trek 420. When I switched to brifters they had a part they mounted there that has a barrel adjuster for the cable.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  23. #23
    ********
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    My Bikes
    Bianchi, Trek, Another Trek, Raleigh, Fuji and Santana and another Santana
    Posts
    155
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I have never seen stem shifters on a decent bike.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    No Va but ride also in So Md
    My Bikes
    Cervelo SLC-SL, Guru Photon, Waterford, Specialized CX
    Posts
    8,405
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Pista Largo View Post
    I have never seen stem shifters on a decent bike.
    I'm wondering if some people don't understand what stem shifters are. They are levers attached with a ring/strip that goes around the stem. I haven't seen these are any bikes sold over the last ten years.

    I also haven't seen downtube shifters sold in the last 30 years.

    Most decent bikes have brifters (combination shifters and barkes) mounted on the top of the bars or hybrid/mountain bike "twist" type shifters at the end of straight bars.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    St Peters, Missouri
    My Bikes
    Rans Enduro Sport, Hase Kettweisel Tandem, Merin Bear Valley beater bike
    Posts
    23,718
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by dveenhuis View Post
    I'm just getting started and have been looking at EBay and CL for a bike. I would like to find a decent road or hybrid bike for less than $500. It seems that most of the bikes I see in this price range are older bikes with downtube shifters or stem shifters and my question is, do any of you ride a bike regularly with downtube or stem shifters and how do you like it? I'm concerned about moving my hands off the bars to shift.
    The short answer to your question is that I havn't ridden a bike with either for a very long time.

    Having said that, my decision would be based upon my riding position on the bike. I think that the more upright you picture yourself riding your new bicycle the more you will like stem shifters. The more you lean your body forward, the less you'll like having to raise your torso upright so you can use stem shifters and the more you'll appreciate having the shifters on the downtube. I like to ride with my torso about 45 degrees from horizontal so I'd definitely want down tube shifters.

    Back when I rode a downtube shifter bike I learned to operate either shifter with my right hand so I never had to remove my left hand from the handlebar.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •