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  1. #1
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    Brifters and why are they desired

    I was talking to a bike shop owner that was in his 50's. I asked him about brifters and I was surprised at what he said. It was his opinion that the main advantage of the brifter was for racing while in team events. He said that some of the teams had riders that were out to take down other teams top riders by intentionally breaking and causing crashes. The brifter allows the rider to be in a position to shift and break without having to move their hands so that they can ride more defensively.

    He went on to say that he preferred down tube shifters because he does not race and no matter what hand position he is using while riding he can just drop his hand to the shifter easily. He also said that most riders when shifting brifters want both hands at the same location on their bars while shifting. Maybe this is because there is a chance that the brake might be accidentally applied.

    I have only used down tube shifters and have never had my hands on a brifter so I am wondering if any of the above information is even close to being correct. It sure seems like most want brifters on their bikes.

  2. #2
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    Well, most new bikes come with brifters, and most advertising features brifters, so it's hard for an uninformed consumer to want anything else.

    I wouldn't say they're quite as bad as your shop owner makes out. They do have some advantages, like being easy to shift down on a hard stop for an unexpected red light or left/right cross motorist for urban riders, or easy to shift down while heading uphill while loaded touring. One of the disadvantages nobody seems to talk about is that you're pretty much locked into one hand position (on the hoods) to get those advantages -- sort of takes the benefit of "multiple hand positions" out of dropped bars.

    I think it really comes down to personal preference. If someone's buying their first road bike, let them ride it with brifters -- compared to the body position change from a MTB or cruiser, that's small change. Then it becomes a case of what you're used to.

  3. #3
    自転車整備士 oldskoolwrench's Avatar
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    Brifters were designed in order to give the rider better control while shifting, not having to take your hand and physically move it from the handlebar to reach the shift lever. Brifters allow you to shift on rougher road surfaces while maintaining control of the handlebars.

    There's no 'break-in' period learning to operate brifters; you'll pick it up very quickly. Also, since the shift mechanism moves sideways, there's no way to unintentionally apply the brakes while shifting.

    FWIW... brifters weren't designed so that riders could "intentionally brake and cause crashes". A pro racer or team with that sort of philosophy better think about competing in another sport entirely, like roller derby.

    Brifters are so popular on bikes because it's what the guys in the TdF are using. It's not 'better'... just another way to shift.

    Bottom Line? Use whatever you prefer to use, whether it be down tube, bar-end, brifter, stem, thumb, Grip Shift, RapidFire Plus, Positron, Centeron... you get the picture!

    Alan

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    Only one of those two shifter types requires you to take a hand off the bar to use. Would you like your first OMG Panic! moment to occur when you've only one hand on the bar? Don't forget, Lady Luck has a sense of humor.

  5. #5
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    I was talking to a bike shop owner that was in his 50's. I asked him about brifters and I was surprised at what he said. It was his opinion that the main advantage of the brifter was for racing while in team events. He said that some of the teams had riders that were out to take down other teams top riders by intentionally breaking and causing crashes.
    a) He's wrong about the racing "advantage", it makes no sense because last I checked, "brifters" and down tube shift bikes have their brake levers in virtually the same spot. He's wrong about hand position, you can stick the non shift hand anywhere on the bar with "brifters", same as on a downtube bike. He's a wrong about taking a hand off the bar to have to shift being "better", ride around all day one handed and you'll understand this.

    b) Advantages: being able to leave both hands on the bars, being able to shift and brake simultaneously, quicker shifts, not having pointy objects on your downtube, not having cables flying out there on most systems.

    c) Disadvantages: None. Well maybe weight if you take lightest vs. lightest but we're talking about a really small amount.

    d) I can shift from both the hoods and the drops on any of the current systems. Thanks to spring loaded levers, I can also use multiple hand positions in the drops. With SRAM I go up or down from the same lever.

    e) Of all the current major systems, only on certain mechanical Shimano groups might you accidentally brake. Every other group has the shifting separated from the brake lever.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 04-15-12 at 11:02 AM.

  6. #6
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    I find I shift far more regularly and easily with brifters. I do like the simplicity of friction shifting, though.
    2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, '92 Trek T100, 2000 Rans Tailwind

  7. #7
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    why are they desired?

    desired , they are hard to get away from,
    As all new bikes with very rare exceptions, are indexed,
    as you all have the engines of consumerism making them
    standard on the bikes in the shops .
    they help people who do not want to think about math, of ratios and proportions ,
    just an easy to harder 1,2,3.. so increase sales.

    I'm a bar end shifter, myself, even the old race style bike has them..
    but Yea, OEM builds it is where the component market went..

    Touring bike builders often fit the index bar end, non index front ,left,
    lets you run either road or mountain cranksets, and FD.
    and trim the cage after rear shifts, so it won't drag against the chain...

    I did not have to follow.. my last bike purchase didn't even use derailleurs.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-17-12 at 02:17 PM.

  8. #8
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo Spiff View Post
    I find I shift far more regularly and easily with brifters. I do like the simplicity of friction shifting, though.
    I ran friction shifters on my TT bike for years...the long cable runs and tight bends created a fair bit of slack and cable stretch and it was nice to always find center.

    With Di2 it's a perfect shift, every time. Stuff's amazing. Front derailleur trims itself. At one point I was lugging up a hill and an electronic voice asked me if I would like to downshift.

    OK, not quite, but it's really nice stuff.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Another conspiracy theory. That's one of the goofiest things that I've ever heard.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    I have to think that having a look at the Di2 or Campy electronic groupsets would put all those types of questions to rest.

  11. #11
    Senior Member mulveyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldskoolwrench View Post
    Also, since the shift mechanism moves sideways, there's no way to unintentionally apply the brakes while shifting.

    Well, except it's quite easy to do that on some of the Shimano brifters. I *constantly* was accidentally braking while shifting with the ones that came stock on my Secteur. That, and the thumb button for upshifts annoyed the hell out of me.

    When I swapped it over to Apex, I don't think I ever accidentally braked even once.
    Knows the weight of my bike to the nearest 10 pounds.

  12. #12
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    I would probably still be riding a hybrid if down tube shifting was the only option for a road bicycle.

  13. #13
    Still spinnin'..... Stealthammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    I was talking to a bike shop owner that was in his 50's. I asked him about brifters and I was surprised at what he said. It was his opinion that (1.) the main advantage of the brifter was for racing while in team events. He said that (2.) some of the teams had riders that were out to take down other teams top riders by intentionally breaking and causing crashes. (3.) The brifter allows the rider to be in a position to shift and break without having to move their hands so that they can ride more defensively.

    He went on to say that (4.) he preferred down tube shifters because he does not race and no matter what hand position he is using while riding he can just drop his hand to the shifter easily. (5.) He also said that most riders when shifting brifters want both hands at the same location on their bars while shifting. (6.) Maybe this is because there is a chance that the brake might be accidentally applied. I have only used down tube shifters and have never had my hands on a brifter so I am wondering if any of the above information is even close to being correct. It sure seems like most want brifters on their bikes.
    (1.) Find another LBS!
    (2.) Find another LBS quick!!
    (3.) Find another LBS now!!!
    (4.) Find another LBS with a younger owner!
    (5.) Find another LBS with a younger owner that knows how to ride a bike!!!
    (6.) Find another LBS with a younger owner that knows how to ride a bike and who's not a complete friggin' klutz!!!!!

    Seriously.

    Brifters are the simplest, easiest to use method of shifting gears ever used on bicycles, and if anything they should have come on all entry-level bikes first.


    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    .....One of the disadvantages nobody seems to talk about is that you're pretty much locked into one hand position (on the hoods) to get those advantages -- sort of takes the benefit of "multiple hand positions" out of dropped bars.....
    Sorry, FAIL! You are not required to keep your hands on the hoods to keep the bike in gear, so once you have shifted, you are free to move your hand however you please, just like with downtubes shifters!!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    b) Advantages: being able to leave both hands on the bars, being able to shift and brake simultaneously, quicker shifts, not having pointy objects on your downtube, not having cables flying out there on most systems.

    c) Disadvantages: None. Well maybe weight if you take lightest vs. lightest but we're talking about a really small amount......
    + 1 ... ...Twice!


    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    .....With Di2 it's a perfect shift, every time. Stuff's amazing. Front derailleur trims itself......
    + 1 ... ...Cool stuff there, huh???


    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Another conspiracy theory. That's one of the goofiest things that I've ever heard.
    + 1 ... ...Doodoodoodoo, doodoodoodoo..... ...
    Last edited by Stealthammer; 04-15-12 at 02:15 PM.
    Just your average 'high-functioning' lunatic, capable of passing as 'normal' for short periods of time.....

    “The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.” - Albert Einstein

    “We all know that light travels faster than sound. That's why certain people appear bright until you hear them speak.” - Albert Einstein

  14. #14
    Slowpoke
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    I always thought it was part of the manufacturers' effort to lock you in to their stuff and nobody else's.
    ----------
    mike rosenlof
    louisville colorado usa

  15. #15
    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    What's a brifter?
    Quote Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
    How are you ever going to live in the real world if you can't get along with people who don't believe what your do?

  16. #16
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    BTW, wooden rims are better than Al or carbon. Why would you use anything else?
    FS: Shimano DA 7900 brake calipers, DA 7900 Crankset 50/34 175mm and BB

  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    The guy was stating an Opinion, everyone has at least one..

    No choice, now, buy a new drop bar race style Road Bike
    it will have Indexed Brifters. br[ake-sh]ifter

    unless you think a fixie will make you feel young and Hip again.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-15-12 at 03:58 PM.

  18. #18
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    It seems that most like brifters.

    Don't be knocking wood. Some aerobatic planes still use wooden spars because it does not fatigue due to flexing.

  19. #19
    Senior Member GFish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulveyr View Post
    Well, except it's quite easy to do that on some of the Shimano brifters. I *constantly* was accidentally braking while shifting with the ones that came stock on my Secteur. That, and the thumb button for upshifts annoyed the hell out of me.

    When I swapped it over to Apex, I don't think I ever accidentally braked even once.
    Really, which shifters, was this Sora?

    I've been riding for less then a year, using Shimano 105 and have never had a problem with accidental braking. I actually prefer Shimano over Sram.

    At least people have choices.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulveyr View Post
    Well, except it's quite easy to do that on some of the Shimano brifters. I *constantly* was accidentally braking while shifting with the ones that came stock on my Secteur. That, and the thumb button for upshifts annoyed the hell out of me.

    When I swapped it over to Apex, I don't think I ever accidentally braked even once.
    Interesting, just got on a roadie a few weeks ago after not riding roadie for over 30 years. When I tested and riding the Defy 1(shimano 105) now, I don't ever recall "accidentally" braking while shifting or shifting accidentally while braking...maybe it's just me. I will say, I wish there were brakes for the flats like on my early '80s Ross roadie. But, I do ride multiple hand positions, mainly hoods though, but even on the hoods there is more than one hand position, IMHO.


    Quote Originally Posted by jdon View Post
    What's a brifter?
    If your kidding,

    If you're not
    Brifter
    A combination brake/shift lever, such as a
    Campagnolo Ergo or Shimano S.T.I. unit. This term was coined by Bruce Frech.


    Image of a Brifter


  21. #21
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    Interesting thread. As has been previously stated, folk who use brifters tend to shift more. Because they are maintaining their cadence, they tend to be a little faster/stronger during long rides. I've seen this with the club I ride with.
    As for a conspiracy, Suntour, Shimano and Campy index are not compatible, and that predates brifters. As for some sort of conspiracy to force new bike riders to buy only brifter equipped bikes, Specialized tried a downtube shifter bike last year. The biggest complaint about it, it didn't have brifters.
    The reason brifters are found on most new bikes is due to providing the public with what they want. If brifters weren't in demand, there would be lots of bikes being sold by all the big manufacturers without them.
    The bike and equipment manufacturers want to sell product, they only manufacture and sell what the public wants.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    I love the brifters. So nice to have two hands on the bars and still be able to shift.
    It's a big plus on rough roads, climbing, or in winds where I don't want to ride one-handed.

    The only downside to brifters I've noted:
    * I need a little more manual dexterity to shift gears. I could use the downtube shifters on my old 10-speed wearing leather ski mittens.
    * I don't move my hands around so much and I get some hand numbness. When they get numb the brifters are hard to work too.

    My LBS has put extra padding on the handlebar wrap under the hoods and I'm visiting a neurologist to see if something is going on besides road buzz.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    nkfrench, I do agree about brifters being tougher to use when I use winter gloves. I've yet to use the mittens I used on the comfort on the roadie--this will come next winter--fingers crossed.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stealthammer;14100512

    [B
    Brifters are the simplest, easiest to use method of shifting gears ever used on bicycles, and if anything they should have come on all entry-level bikes first.[/B]
    In truth, they're not so hot on my hybrid.

    My only brifter experience was with an Ultegra set. I was struck by the huge displacement of the lever required to get a shift; my fingers were almost not large enough to move that much. I'm accustomed to index shifters which don't even require all the joints on a single finger to operate. With that said, brifters are the obvious "correct" solution for any drop-bar bike.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    I was talking to a bike shop owner that was in his 50's. I asked him about brifters and I was surprised at what he said. It was his opinion that the main advantage of the brifter was for racing while in team events. He said that some of the teams had riders that were out to take down other teams top riders by intentionally breaking and causing crashes. The brifter allows the rider to be in a position to shift and break without having to move their hands so that they can ride more defensively.

    He went on to say that he preferred down tube shifters because he does not race and no matter what hand position he is using while riding he can just drop his hand to the shifter easily. He also said that most riders when shifting brifters want both hands at the same location on their bars while shifting. Maybe this is because there is a chance that the brake might be accidentally applied.

    I have only used down tube shifters and have never had my hands on a brifter so I am wondering if any of the above information is even close to being correct. It sure seems like most want brifters on their bikes.
    None of the information the LBS worker gave you is true. Some people do prefer downtube shifters but between the two systems I prefer Brifters. Because they are easier to use maybe people do shift more and so try to stay in the proper RPM spin for a speed and gear. Given the choice between two bikes that were the same except one had downtube shifters and the other had Brifters I would take the brifters every time. Positive shifts every time just when you need them make it worth it to most of us. They do cost more and they can break. But there is no learning curve to use them and you can keep both hands on the bar when shifting.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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