Albatross bars are cool!!
Join Date: Mar 2010
Bikes: Raleigh Alyeska; mystery Nashbar MTB tandem
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Here's a good article that mentions (I think) most if not all of the shifter systems that have been used. Note the importance of distinguishing marketing copy from what actually works for you on your bike.
I'd also suggest Rivendell's article on friction shifting.
Personally, I really prefer a lever of some sort, though it could be in part because SIS thumbshifters were the first shifters I ever used, and I got used to them in a big hurry. I seem to dislike the shovey-shovey motion with Rapidfires, never certain what gear position I'm in anyway, plus it's between difficult and impossible to yank them smoothly over multiple positions if desired. My wife, on the other hand, loves the Rapidfires on her Globe Carmel and has no desire to use anything else. And unfortunately (IMO), hardly any new stuff these days comes with levers, which is probably why some people wouldn't know about them!
BTW, I'm currently trying a set of el-cheapo Pyramid friction thumb shifters I got from Niagara Cycle for a whole $5, so you could probably try out lever shifting for less than $10 total if you like. Rivbike sells SunRace thumb shifters for $14, or you might hunt eBay for a set of old SIS models if you strongly prefer index-ability.