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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 08-12-09, 02:17 PM   #1
embankmentlb
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Randonneur & Down Tube Shifters

I have been doing some looking around the net about randonneuring & randonneur bikes. It seems quite a few have down tube shifters along with otherwise modern equipment. Can anyone give me the lowdown as to what makes DT shifters a good choice for long distance riding? Thanks!
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Old 08-12-09, 02:46 PM   #2
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I have been doing some looking around the net about randonneuring & randonneur bikes. It seems quite a few have down tube shifters along with otherwise modern equipment. Can anyone give me the lowdown as to what makes DT shifters a good choice for long distance riding? Thanks!
Simple, reliable, cheap.
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Old 08-12-09, 03:09 PM   #3
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Simple, reliable, cheap.
Also they have a more traditional classic look that some cyclist like.
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Old 08-12-09, 03:14 PM   #4
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I don't know if they are a "good" choice. They are a choice. My first Rando bike had them and by the end of 600k I would be doing my best to avoid having to reach down and shift. I really do not like them. Some people do though. Some people will put the friction shifters on the bar ends. That makes more sense to me but I still prefer the brifters. I find myself shifting more often and that allows me to stay in a more comfy gear. They are just a tool, you choose the one that works best for your application.
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Old 08-12-09, 04:06 PM   #5
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I have been doing some looking around the net about randonneuring & randonneur bikes. It seems quite a few have down tube shifters along with otherwise modern equipment. Can anyone give me the lowdown as to what makes DT shifters a good choice for long distance riding? Thanks!
like barend shifters, they're simple and reliable and easy to maintain. an additional benefit with DT's if you like the form factors, is that the levers are much larger than with barends, and it's easier to manipulate them in foul weather, when you might be riding with mittens or full gloves.
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Old 08-12-09, 05:05 PM   #6
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I use downtube shifters for the reasons mentioned above (simple, reliable, cheap). I also like being able to glance down at my shifters and know roughly where I am in the gears without having to look back at the cassette (you get that with bar-ends too). And for the weight weenies (I'm not one), downtube shifters and levers are generally lighter than brifters.
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Old 08-12-09, 05:17 PM   #7
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Simple, reliable, cheap, robust. You can also switch to friction mode if you have any derailleur adjustment issues during the ride. Cable routing is a little cleaner too.

That said, I prefer bar-end shifters, they're more convenient.
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Old 08-12-09, 10:30 PM   #8
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I don't know if I would recommend that someone adopt DT shifters at this point. Certainly for those of us used to them, they present no problem. I have had moments where I was sore enough that shifting wasn't too pleasant. Strangely, the end of the 600k I did was not one of those times.
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Old 08-13-09, 10:51 AM   #9
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I have a friction DT shifter for my FD and an index bar-end for my RD.
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Old 08-13-09, 11:07 AM   #10
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Keep in mind that downtube shifters are a lot easier to reach on small frames than on large ones.
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Old 08-13-09, 11:44 AM   #11
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i would think the reliability issue is the main advantage. if the dt shifters have issues, they will still likely work in friction mode. if a brifter breaks in the middle of a brevet, you may be stuck in one cog for the remainder. note that the latest bar-ends from shimano (sl-bs79) do *not* have a friction setting.

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Old 08-13-09, 02:56 PM   #12
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Second question. Has anyone actually had a brifter fail? I never have.
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Old 08-13-09, 02:58 PM   #13
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Second question. Has anyone actually had a brifter fail? I never have.
Yes
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Old 08-13-09, 04:06 PM   #14
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[quote=lonesomesteve;9473692]I also like being able to glance down at my shifters and know roughly where I am in the gears without having to look back at the cassette (you get that with bar-ends too).[QUOTE]

My Tiagra brifters have little red arrows that indicate the gears. You can get a indicator tube that is in-line with the shifter cable that shows what gear you are in (for certain Shimano deraillers).
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Old 08-13-09, 04:24 PM   #15
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Second question. Has anyone actually had a brifter fail? I never have.
I had one wear out after 40k miles. Many years ago I had a DT shifter fail on me. They are all mechanical so failures will happen. The question should be are the failures statistically relevant? I would say probably not on either one though the Brifters are more complex so their failure rate is probably somewhat higher.
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Old 08-13-09, 05:15 PM   #16
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With regard to failure, seems like brifters are a little more vulnerable if you crash or your bike tips over. The brifters are one of the first points of contact with the ground. Downtube shifters are much less likely to get crunched when your bike goes down.
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Old 08-13-09, 07:00 PM   #17
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Oh yeah, almost forgot: brifters are fussier with triples than friction shifters (bar-ends, downtube).

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Second question. Has anyone actually had a brifter fail? I never have.
I have, a friend of mine trashed a brifter in a mild crash. Probably only had a few thousand km's on it.

Still, I wouldn't worry about it if you prefer brifters. I use the same bike for long rides as for touring, so I went with bar-end shifters; if I was going to use a bike mainly for long rides and fast rides, I'd lean towards brifters. If I find a decent old steel road bike with DT's that's comfortable enough for a century, it usually isn't worth it to swap them out.
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Old 08-17-09, 06:57 AM   #18
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I have a friction DT shifter for my FD and an index bar-end for my RD.
I use the same setup, down-tube for the FD and brifter for the RD. Part of the reason for the DT shifter is that I hate using a brifter for the FD with a triple crankset. Another reason is that the DT is lighter than using a brifter. Another reason is that if my brifter for my RD ever failed then I could use the DT shifter to shift the RD (and keep the FD in the same place all the time, or shift it by getting off the bike in extreme circumstances). The ease of using a brifter for the RD is worth the trade-off in extra weight. I also like to know which rear cog I'm in without having to look back at the cassette, so I use a small gear indicator that the cable goes through just after leaving the brifter - they only weigh a few grams and your LBS can order one in for you (I only know of these for Shimano shifters, I'm not aware of a Campy or SRAM version).

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Old 08-17-09, 02:38 PM   #19
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I just like DT shifters a lot better. I had brifters on a bike but they didn't last very long before failing (Shimano Sora). When they failed, I switched to bar-end shifters. But by the end of a 1200K, the bar-end shifters make your hands pretty sore. When I crashed a bike and a friend gave me his '84 Trek with down-tube shifters, I fell back in love with DT shifters. They are simple and direct. They are right where my hand falls as it swings in an arc from the handlebars. Only downside with either DT or bar-end: You can't shift while standing up on a hill. In some respects, that is an advantage, as I find myself powering over a hill that friends with STI are clicking their way to lower gears on.

I've seen about half a dozen brifter failures on brevets (where I count as a failure the fact that a cable breaks but the user cannot replace it during the ride).

Nick
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Old 08-17-09, 04:44 PM   #20
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Oh yeah, almost forgot: brifters are fussier with triples than friction shifters (bar-ends, downtube).
The trim feature of the Tiagra brifters works well (with 30/42/52 and 34-11, at least).

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Only downside with either DT or bar-end: You can't shift while standing up on a hill. In some respects, that is an advantage, as I find myself powering over a hill that friends with STI are clicking their way to lower gears on.
Bad planning on your friends' part!

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Old 08-17-09, 07:39 PM   #21
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...I've seen about half a dozen brifter failures on brevets (where I count as a failure the fact that a cable breaks but the user cannot replace it during the ride).

Nick
Sorry, that's not a failed shifter, that's poor maintenance.
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Old 08-18-09, 02:06 PM   #22
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Homeyba,

I'm not sure what is your point?

Perfect maintenance would eliminate nearly all bike-related failures. Randonneurs experience bike-related failures. Therefore, randonneurs do not perfectly maintain their bicycles. Until human nature is perfected, this is likely to continue to be the case.

As noted in my post, it may not a mechanical failure of the shifter, but it is a failure to be able to shift, regardless of cause. A similar failure to maintain a DT shifter cable would result in a 5-minute delay while threading a replacement cable, rather than a ride-ending failure of a key transmission system. If the cable disintegrates inside an STI shifter, it may not shift correctly even if you can get a new cable threaded through. I'm not sure whether it is possible in principle to field-strip an STI housing to get all the little bits of metal out. That's what happened to my crappy Sora STI shifter. It's also what I've seen happen to friends with better-quality STI shifters.

That's a small reason why I like DT shifters. Mainly I like them because I like how they feel and how they shift and their simplicity. Sort of like why some people like fixies!

Nick
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Old 08-18-09, 06:12 PM   #23
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Maybe you should have upgraded from the crappy Sora to Ultegra or DA. If you replace your cables before they wear out and brake you won't have that problem. If you leave on a brevet, especially a long one with worn out equipment and it fails that is poor maintainance not an equipment failure. It's the same thing as leaving with a thread bare tire, worn chain or brake pads. I know many people who've been riding for years without a cable failure because they replace them before they brake. The same goes for DT shifters. You shouldn't leave a cable on that long. If a handlebar breaks, or a spoke breaks I consider those things equipment failures. They are not things that wear out on a regular basis or are subject to regular replacement. That was my point.
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Old 08-19-09, 08:27 AM   #24
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Homeyba,

Yeah, I'm with you on doing routine maintenance before brevets, not during :-) (My STI shifter cable failure occurred long before I started randonneuring.) Here are the equipment failures I've had in 18,000+ miles of randonneuring: loose cassette (oops, maybe I forgot to tighten it all the way? --fixed by hand-tightening), squeaky chain that started skipping (some motorcycle dudes gave me some oil), broken spokes (3 so far, fixed with Fiberfix spoke), damaged rim (2 so far, both OpenPro's that had the rim crack at the ferrule, made rideable by field-truing), or flat tires (possibly as many as a dozen so far?). An average of about one mechanical issue per 1000 miles, none of which were ride threatening.

Our fleche this year got a bad start when someone's STI cable broke and we chewed up half an hour getting it into semi-rideable condition (and were lucky enough to persuade a bike store that wasn't yet open but whose owners we could see inside to replace the cable). Argh!

Nick
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Old 08-19-09, 10:11 AM   #25
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Yeah it sucks when those things happen. When I first started doing brevets back in the mid 90's I had a lot of problems with things breaking. I was riding a 1970's Peugeot and had all sorts of things break. I learned a lot in those early days about preventative maintenance! Now days I ride new, high end equipment and keep it well maintained. I rarely have failures of any kind anymore. The only 1200k That I've had any problems on was PBP in 03 where I had a brand new 36 spoke Mavic OP blow up heading into Brest (I had to have the wheel completely relaced in Brest) then my BB came loose. Some things you can prevent and others you can't!

At least you were on your fleche when that guys cable broke. I'm usually trying to find ways to waste time on those rides. I usually do it finding good places to eat though.
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