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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 01-01-10, 05:16 PM   #1
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BAr end vs. STI shifting

As we wait for delivery on our frame my hubby and the guys at the LBS have been spending tons of times discussing the components. I suspect they are having a great time and don't want the discussions to end.

One thread of conversation has been bar end versus STI shifters. It is not a topic that I know anything about. What are your thoughts? I'd love to have something to add on Saturday afternoon.

I tried using the search engine on the forums for background information but failed. I'm not sure if it is me or the search feature.

Thanks in advance for the interesting discussion.
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Old 01-01-10, 05:56 PM   #2
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I have always used bar ends because that is what originally came on the bike.
I never bothered to upgrade to STI, but the new tandem will have Campy ergo shifters.
The bar ends work well , but the slight reach down is an inconvenience and I would prefer STI.
Also the cable routing for bar ends looks a bit strange and makes wrapping the bar tape a little more challenging.
I have tolerated this fine for years so bar ends certainly are not that bad.
The type of brakes you use are a factor as well, if you use V-brakes then you need a "travel agent" to make them work with STI levers.
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Old 01-01-10, 06:29 PM   #3
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I have STI on my single and it works just fine, but I prefer the Campy ergo shifters on the tandem: the shifting just seems to be faster and in a more natural hand position. Our daVinci uses a modified SRAM rear derailleur with SRAM or Shimano casettes and works just fine (it's 9-spd). The FD shifting isn't indexed, but is fast.

I've never used bar ends, but unless your captain normally rides in the drops I would think bar ends would be awkward in certain situations. I find a shift the tandem a great deal on rollers and would find the drops uncomfortable.
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Old 01-01-10, 06:37 PM   #4
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I used bar ends for years on our C'dale and they did the job fine...then I switched to STI in '06. My only reget was that it took me so many years to make the change....I prefer the STI by far.

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Old 01-01-10, 06:51 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ChristineS View Post
I'd love to have something to add on Saturday afternoon.
STI (integrated shifting) was less than ideal for tandems when it was first offered by builders back in the 90's. Shimano's STI in particular was awful when it came to front derailleur shifting. In fact, STI was late to the party on tandems because it was not offered in a triple front derailleur configuration until several years after STI first arrived. There are a lot of folks out there who still cling to the early problems that recommend bar-ends, rightly or wrongly.

Anyway, as I said, the front derailleur shifting was awful because there was no trimming (the ability to make small adjustments to the front derailleur position), just the fixed stops for the big / middle / small chainrings based on single bike / 130mm rear spacing. For tandems with their 140mm, 145mm and in particular Santana's 160mm rear spacing it created all kinds of problems with mis-shifts, overshifting and the like which truly needed something like the non-indexed trimming afforded by the bar-end shifters that had become standard fare on stock non-racing tandems. Racing tandems used downtube shifters which, again, afforded riders non-indexed front derailleur shifting.

Enter Campagnolo's Ergo shifting marketed by Sachs with it's 8-stop (vs 3 stop STI) front derailleur shifting, and problem solved. Sachs was even compatible with Shimano. However, because Shimano had gained such a huge market share as the OEM component offering by the big S (Santana) and others, most tandem buyers didn't get to enjoy relatively problem-free shifting for several years. It took a reworking of STI to add intermediate trim positions in later models of their triple front derailleur shifters to solve the basic problem in later years to 'fix' the STI issue for builders and buyers who were locked into Shimano components (rightly or wrongly), while folks who stuck with bar-ends or who adopted Sachs / Campagnolo Ergo systems enjoyed trouble-free front derailleur shifting, noting that there is no distinction between a "double" and "triple" integrated shifter in the Campy group: all shifters are triple compatible because of the multiple index positions.

Anyway, in the mean time, old-school tandem enthusiasts cooked up all kinds of 'reasons' to justify their preference for sticking with bar-end shifters, some with merit and others with less than solid reasoning. They included:
1. Loss of a visual cues for gear positioning, noting that like down tube shifters... bar-ends would give a captain a fairly accurate idea of which chain ring or rear cog the chain was in based on the position of the shift lever. The solution to this valid issue was to, (a) ask your stoker for input, (b) crane your neck and look down and back to see where your chain was, (c) buy or make your own mechanical gear position indicator, or (d) buy Shimano's FlightDeck cyclocomputer with it's electronic gear position graphics.

2. Loss of reliability given the added complexity and cable-wear that came with STI. The latter was somewhat valid in that, Shimano did have some early problems with STI reliability. Moreover, if tandem owners did not replace derailleur cables and housing on a regular basis (like every other year or so), a cable could fray inside the STI lever and create a real mess of a problem.

3. Cost of STi was also an issue because a pair of STI levers was more expensive than a pair of bar-ends + a pair of Dia-Compe 287 brake levers... standard fare for tandems.

4. Finally, there was an issue with brake compatibility. STI levers were developed for road-racing bikes that used compact caliper brakes, not the linear-pull (aka, V-brakes) that had just become popular on tandems about the same time that STI was offered. V-brakes required a different brake lever / cable-pull ratio which necessitated the use of a brake cable pull adapter called a "travel agent". No such device was needed for folks who were using bar-end shifters and Dia-Compe 287 brake levers.
Now, on the other side of the coin were various arguments for STI....
1. For anyone who was riding a relatively contemporary road bike, STI was the state of the art for shifting and it made a lot of sense to have the same type of shifters on your road bike and road tandem: one less thing to think about.

2. For fast recreational, sport or competitive tandem teams, STI allowed the captain to shift while standing on climbs or otherwise while out of the saddle... again, something they likely did on their personal road bikes.

3. For folks buying racing or sport tandems fitted with compact caliper brakes, there was no brake lever / cable-pull compatibility problem.

4. As STI (and Campy Ergo) systems evolved, integrated cycling computers were offered that provided a wealth of features that integrated normal computer functions with gear position indication to create things like 'virtual cadence' that many tandem enthusiasts quickly embraced as an important feature.
Anyway, you get the idea... there were and still are all kinds of arguments to made for and against integrated shifting. They key to me is familiarity. It's weird enough going from a road bike shifting like Ergo to an off-road bike with thumb shifters or grip shifting, why make life even more of a challenge by having more than one type of shifting function on your road bikes. For me, I was an early adopter of the Campagnolo-based Sachs Ergo system and liked it so much that all of our road bikes and tandems (6 at last count) are fitted with Campy Ergo shifting.

Bottom Line: No one else can tell a tandem captain what they "should" prefer; each captain will need to figure out based on their own biases and how they'll be riding their tandem. Short of unsupported world touring, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a compelling reason for someone who presently uses STI, Ergo or SRAM integrated shifting to not use that same system on their road tandem.

Have a great time tomorrow afternoon.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 01-01-10 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 01-01-10, 08:41 PM   #6
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Our entrance into hi-tech Dura Ace STI shifting was in 2003 on our custom Zona tandem.
After 3,000 miles of front derailleur issues stoker Kay said: "Why don't we switch back to bar-end shifters?"
Followed stoker's advice. Happy shifing! Those bar end shifters now have over 22,000 miles on them on our tandem.
Transferred the Dura-Ace STI shifters to my single. Shifted fine (shorter cable run). But they quit working after a total of 5,000 miles. Parts are not replaceable as in CampiErgo. Junked them.
For less than 1/5th the price of new D/A STIs put on bar end shifters and appropriate levers on my single. Works great!
As for the "hassle" of going into the drop position to shift bar ends . . . at age 77 I have no issues moving my hands into the drops. Do you? Maybe will when I get older?!
In my opinion bar ends are trouble free, less complex, last much longer and cost way le$$ than STI.
Have used bar ends on 4 of our custom tandems. Have never worn out a set of bar end shifters in our 225,000+ miles of tandeming TWOgether.
Just our experience.
Pedal on into 2010!
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Old 01-02-10, 08:31 AM   #7
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I'm running bar ends. My '03 Sovereign came with STI but I removed them after a 1,000 miles and installed the bar end shifters. Shifting is crisp and we have infinite trim on the front derailleur. Also, they can go to friction mode in the rear in case of a problem which happened to us a few years ago while still 35 miles from home.
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Old 01-02-10, 08:50 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Trsnrtr View Post
I'm running bar ends. My '03 Sovereign came with STI but I removed them after a 1,000 miles and installed the bar end shifters. Shifting is crisp and we have infinite trim on the front derailleur. Also, they can go to friction mode in the rear in case of a problem which happened to us a few years ago while still 35 miles from home.
I use bar end shifters on our co-motion due to arthritis in both my hands. The leverage required is too painful for STI shifters but experience no pain on my single bike with campy ergos. I came into the tandem years ago when STI still had FD shifting challenges so opted for bar ends. The bail out of bar ends is that it worked in the friction mode.

Today’s bar ends, STIs and ergos all work well so what work for you and you are happy with is the right choice without the other options, in my case STI and ergo, being wrong.
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Old 01-02-10, 07:45 PM   #9
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I test rode a tandem with bar-ends, and the bars were too low for me. As it was the first tandem I'd ridden in a long time, it was down-right scary trying to shift so far away. As I'm tall, I'd shy away from down-tube for the same reason (long head tube means the shifters are even further away). On the other hand I've used down tubes on my single for years.

If I were not so tall, I might well be biased in favour of bar-ends, for the simple reason that they are so simple - and therefore unlikely to need any significant maintenance, but easily maintained if they do. Practically nothing can go wrong, and we're into touring, so that's a priority. Maintainability is the primary reason I go with Campy Ergos rather than Shimano STI, although I also like the cable routing, and trim ability as well.

I'd echo the previous response about frequency of shifting. I'd guess that I shift three to four times as frequently on the tandem as on my single. I have a fairly wide range of acceptable cadence. I'd guess that my wife does too. But on the tandem we try to stay in the intersection of those two ranges, which results in a relatively narrow range, and the need to shift much more frequently. This is a common phenomenon.

To sum up: between STIs and bar-ends, I'd go with bar-ends. Between bar-ends and Ergos, I went with Ergos, but might have chosen otherwise had I not been so tall. And this decision matters, since shifts happen so frequently.
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Old 01-02-10, 11:25 PM   #10
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I've got STI on the tandem and after doing some minor adjusting of my front der, it works fine. It takes more effort to shift, but the shifts are accurate. On the other hand, I've got Barcons on my "touring" bike. They are completely trouble free. The difference is that like one of the previous posters, I shift more on the tandem than the touring bike. I've also got a road bike with STI, which I shift more often than I do with the tourer. So that leads me to believe that the STI is easier, so I use it more often. However, if I crashed and broke the STI's, I wouldn't be able to afford to replace them.
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Old 01-02-10, 11:57 PM   #11
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I use Campi ergo shifters on my single bike, love them. When we got our tandem (used), this past Summer, it came with 7 speed bar end shifters. I was worried about them because I had no experience with tandems and handling can be a bit tricky at first so moving my hands down to them made me a bit nervous. My worries quickly disappeared. May be it's because I have installed some compact handlebars (less drop) or because I can instantly figure out how the derailleurs are set just by looking at the shifters but I do like them a lot.

When came time to switch to a 9 speed system I again debated if I wanted to also switch to STI. That would have meant more money and installing 'travel agents' but I would have been able to set our new drag brake in the front with a bar end. I, instead, opted to keep the bar ends with the drag break control on the stoker bar. I am very happy with my choice. First we use the tandem for touring or short local rides at an easy pace, second I still have the convenience of knowing how the derailleurs are set without looking way back or asking my wife, third I prefer how I can better control the front triple derailleur with the bar end, and lastly I can still use v-brakes with the CaneCreek special v-brake levers.

Aesthetically the cable housing can be set Campy style with bar ends. Typically they are routed from the shifter straight out to the front of the drop and looping back to the down tube which looks weird (in my opinion) and as ugly as the old Shimano STIs. Nothing prevents you from running the cables along the handlebars and out before the stem as the Campy ergos. It takes longer housings and cables but it works the same.

If we were racing or doing very fast, competitive rides I would have gone STI because it is obviously extremely convenient and fast but in our leisurely rides I am in no hurry to switch speed, half a second slower won't make much of a difference.

Last edited by gpelpel; 01-03-10 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 01-03-10, 04:18 AM   #12
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I go with the best of both worlds: STI shifter for the rear derailleur, with the Dura-Ace mechanical gear indicator (a little piece of plastic that replaces part of the cable housing), but I really don't like using the STI lever for the front derailleur (for the lack of control and lack of visual feedback reasons mentioned above) and so use a bar-end shifter for the front derailluer. I run a version of this on all 4 of my bikes, with the only variation being that the bikes that have mounts for down-tube shifters get a down-tube for the front derailluer, and those that don't have a bar-end; all 4 have STI shifters for the rear (which makes rear shifts convenient, fast, and precise). If I was running Campagnolo components, then I would probably consider using an Ergo lever for the front shifter, but even then, I think I might still prefer to stick with a bar-end or down-tube.

Shifters rarely get sold individually, they normally only come in pairs, so this type of set-up can cost you a bit more money. However, single shifters are occasionally offered on auction websites - used STI's often aren't a good idea because they can be heavily worn, but bar-end shifters for the front derailleur really can't wear out, and so need to be replaced far less frequently than rear derailleurs, so you can sometimes find used individual ones for a good price and don't have to worry too much about the amount of use they've already had.
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Old 01-04-10, 09:27 PM   #13
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I'd like some Ergos on our next tandem, as for now the bar-ends are fine, but it would be nice to keep the hands in place while shifting, hence Ergos. I grew up with shifters on the stem 70's, then on the down tube, then bar-ends mid-90s, so STI/Ergos are still fancy to me... but I like the idea a LOT. I wonder where they will be next??? Saddle shifting? Ooh la-la.
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Old 01-15-10, 11:26 AM   #14
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Excuse my intrusion here, I have been considering moving to a tandem, so I have been lurking here, but have no experience with them now. I do however have a fair amount of experience on single bikes with both SDI and bar-end shifters and can speak (or type) to those.

I have two bikes with bar end shifters - they are my two workhorse bikes which I use for commuting and errands (I don't own a car). In both cases I have the barcons set for friction shifting with 8 speed rear clusters. One bike has a single chainring, the other a triple. The things that I like about the bar end shifters are that they are easy to shift and maintain, they are very reliable. It also makes it easier to select brake levers which have the appropriate amount of pull based on the brakes that you have. Most STI brifters seem to work best with sidepull brakes, which don't need to pull a lot of cable. Both of my bikes with bar-end shifters have fat tires and fenders.

I have a fun bike which I use on weekends which has campy ergo shifters - shifting is crisp and fast, they definitely need more adjustment and maintenance. The bike has sidepull brakes which work great with no fenders and skinny tires.

Christine - if it were me, it would depend on what use you were planning on for the bike. If I were looking at touring, I would probably lean towards the bar-end shifters. If the bike were going to be used more for fast club rides, I would lean towards STI.
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Old 01-15-10, 11:35 AM   #15
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I have bar ends on one bike and STI on the other. By FAR prefer STI, I don't have to move my hands to shift and the shift is easier
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Old 01-15-10, 01:51 PM   #16
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One advantage to bar ends and Campy Ergo, or any front friction shifter, is that you are not as limited to your choice of gearing. STI is pretty fusy when it comes to differences in chainring size and most of us like a wider range than that for which STI is designed. At least that seemed to be the case many years ago; I have not kept up with STI technology as I prefer bar con or Campy!
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Old 01-15-10, 03:12 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
visual feedback reasons
newer Shimano Tiagra STI shifters (ST-4500) have a visual indicator built in to the top of the hood, at front; work for 3-speed chainrings and 9 speed rear. 2 clicks between chainrings, so a bit of trimming is possible.

2 of my 3 single bikes have Suntour bar-ends, the other has indexed down-tube, 7-speed.
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Old 01-15-10, 04:29 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by moleman76 View Post
newer Shimano Tiagra STI shifters (ST-4500) have a visual indicator built in to the top of the hood, at front;
I went with this Tiagra as opposed to the bar-ends that I had originally considered for the commuter bike I just had built up. For my purposes, it's just fine, but I don't think I would want it on our tandem. It just doesn't feel as crisp as the 5-year old 105's on the big bike.
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Old 01-15-10, 05:51 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by specbill View Post
I used bar ends for years on our C'dale and they did the job fine...then I switched to STI in '06. My only reget was that it took me so many years to make the change....I prefer the STI by far.

Bill J.
What Bill said. I also had a C'Dale with BES's. Got my daVinci with Campy Ergo's and am happier than pie!
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Old 01-18-10, 02:18 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by moleman76 View Post
newer Shimano Tiagra STI shifters (ST-4500) have a visual indicator built in to the top of the hood, at front; work for 3-speed chainrings and 9 speed rear. 2 clicks between chainrings, so a bit of trimming is possible.
If you want to use 10-speed Shimano equipment and still have a visual gear indicator, then a Flight Deck computer or an inline gear indicator can be used. I have the latter on all of my bikes. Note that using them with the new 6700 or 7900 levers, which have hidden cable routing, is not so convenient. There are also 8-speed and 9-speed versions of this available if you look hard enough.
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Old 01-18-10, 03:46 PM   #21
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STI for us. Shifting while standing is a piece of cake. No problems at all with reliability.
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