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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 02-02-09, 05:48 PM   #1
moleman76
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Gear Indicator Options

From no-tech to low-tech and beyond, here is what I have come across:

1. Captain has super memory and recalls exactly which chainring and which cassette or freewheel sprocket is in use at any time, thus knowing how many cogs are left to shift to if down-shifting or up-shifting is in order.

2. Captain is humble enough to ask stoker what combinations are in use, and stoker can at least see and say "there are two bigger sprockets left to use".

3. In-line indicators on the shift cables -- either the model aircraft collars with their mini-set screws, and stripes or other alignment devices on the downtube; or, the Shimano in-line tubes with the little red donuts on the cable that go back and forth as the cables move.

4. Tiagra ST-4500 brifters with visual indicators on the tops.

5. Campagnolo Ergo-brain, or Shimano Flight Deck, electronics.

Leaving aside any issues of brifter shifting systems (ShimaNO versus Campy versus SRAM etc.), has anyone used the Tiagras (for single or tandem bikes), and what was your impression?

And, other techniques (in addition to the "my legs tell me when to shift" answer) would be appreciated.
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Old 02-02-09, 07:23 PM   #2
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Captain tilts head down and looks under shoulder.
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Old 02-02-09, 07:29 PM   #3
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The considerable advantage of the Flight Deck system is that it offers virtual cadence calculated from the gear and the speed. This means that while you are coasting downhill, you can select a gear that provides a reasonable cadence, before beginning to pedal in earnest.
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Old 02-02-09, 07:32 PM   #4
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Keep shifting 'til it doesn't go any further, adjust shifting strategy as necessary.
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Old 02-02-09, 08:05 PM   #5
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I added the Shimano in-line tube for the rear gears only, I can usally remember the chain ring.
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Old 02-02-09, 08:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDS View Post
The considerable advantage of the Flight Deck system is that it offers virtual cadence calculated from the gear and the speed. This means that while you are coasting downhill, you can select a gear that provides a reasonable cadence, before beginning to pedal in earnest.
A flight Deck actually makes sense on a tandem both for indicating what gear combination you are in and the virtual cadence benefit indicated by SDS.

I have one on my Klein too but on a single bike the greatest benefit may be that demonstrating the gear indicator "wows" people who don't bicycle.

Another gear indicator technique that you failed to list is simply using barcons or down tube shifters. After an orientation period just the position of the shifter will clue you into the gear selection.

Last edited by Retro Grouch; 02-02-09 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 02-03-09, 08:38 AM   #7
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I tried the Dura Ace inline indicators on our bike but the little bead within the clear tube wouldn't stay put (the cable moved and the bead didn't). The idea is good but it didn't work for us.
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Old 02-03-09, 08:47 AM   #8
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Keep shifting 'til it doesn't go any further, adjust shifting strategy as necessary.
My answer as well. Who cares what gear you're in? If I run out of gears, the hill is much steeper than I thought and we have to pedal harder.
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Old 02-03-09, 08:54 AM   #9
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I use the DuraAce or XT shift indicators (10 vs 9) and highly recommend them. Don't grease the cable before you slide them on, though. I like them so much, I put a rear one on my single bike. Much cheaper than a Flight Deck, and just as much information. Looking back doesn't work with the stoker's leg in the way, for our geometry at least.
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Old 02-03-09, 09:57 AM   #10
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How about barcon shifters? The position of the shifter visually indicates what gear you're in. That and they are a LOT cheaper than brifters of any kind.
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Old 02-03-09, 10:57 AM   #11
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4. Tiagra ST-4500 brifters with visual indicators on the tops.
...
has anyone used the Tiagras (for single or tandem bikes), and what was your impression?
I take it that those with experience with the Tiagra indicators haven't commented yet ...

I do appreciate the other comments, and will share that I've got two single bikes with venerable Suntour barends and one with traditional (well, they are indexed) downtube shifters. The tandem is the only bike with brifters, and since I ride it with others (whose single bikes are all brifter-equipped), swapping off captain/stoker roles, I don't want to change it from brifters. I'm interested in the visual indication just to make it a bit easier. Presently I've got the "collar" setup to show the front position and one of the XTRs on the rear cable. Ok, but the heads-up feature of seeing the chainring/cog at the brifter seems interesting.
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Old 02-03-09, 03:49 PM   #12
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As I home in on 70, I find that I can't always remember where I am anymore. I can't remember what gear I'm in either, so the flight deck on the tandem, while not perfect, gives me a heads up. Mostly I use it to verify that I'm in an "illegal" gear combo. to stoker-"Whats that noise?" looking at the flight deck "oh, I'm in THAT gear again"

Frank
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Old 02-03-09, 06:32 PM   #13
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Single is simple, but on tandem I really appreciate the Flight Deck. Screwing up the gear selection is a much bigger deal on the tandem. I find it helpful for it to seem like I know what I'm doing. I also don't like peering back on the tandem. Precious Cargo and all that. Even better would be a HUD in my glasses, but I guess we aren't quite there yet.
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Old 02-03-09, 07:28 PM   #14
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The Tiagras with gear indication work fine on our tandem. Compared to Ultegras, more throw is required on the outer lever to shift. Haven't had them long enough to comment on their durability.
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Old 02-03-09, 09:12 PM   #15
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I have a set of last year's Tiagras on my Marin road bike. They work perfectly well. As Abram mentioned, the throw is a little longer than Ultegra/DA, but they're also less expensive. I haven't had any durability issues yet, but they only have about 1500-2000 miles on them. Still, I haven't seen many come in the shop broken, either. Unlike the 105s.
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Old 02-05-09, 07:14 AM   #16
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My wife and I have Shimano in-line gear indicators for the rear shifter on every one of our single bikes and the tandem. Once installed (it can be tricky threading the cable through it initially) they have always worked perfectly. I'm now thinking of using one for the front shifter on the tandem, also. This is a lot nicer than using a flight-deck computer because it allows you to choose which computer has the right functions for you (I prefer ones with an altimeter and gradient meter).

If the Tiagra's have a built-in indicator, then that also sounds like a great option - I find it amazing that no company is including this kind of functionality as standard on better-quality equipment (we are not all racer wannabe's, some of us just like riding and using high-performance, but functional equipment).
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Old 02-05-09, 10:48 AM   #17
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Re. non working gear indicators:
Tip #1 is to pull the end off the gear indicator to get the cable threaded. I had a merry 1/2h until I realised the end came off. Doh.
Tip #2 if the red indicator is loose then you could replace it with a rubber O-ring or similar. Wouldn't be as visible but may grip whatever cable you're using.
Tip #3 Don't buy the gear indicator. Most of your clubmates will have taken one off a bike at some stage and have one lying in the shed somewhere.

I use a rear gear indicator on the tandem - it helps us to select the right chainring at the bottom of a climb rather than having to change under load half way up. On the single bike it's unnecessary both because I can see and to an extent feel what gear I'm in, and also jump out of the saddle and push a bit if needed. On the tandem the jumping bit doesn't work for us yet - moving around needs to be a bit more considered.
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