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  1. #1
    cyclist gruau's Avatar
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    Downtube or bar-end shifters? What's your preference?

    I'm building up a new touring bike and am still wondering what kind of shifters to use (2-9 speed), downtube or bar-end. I've never used either one of these as my other touring bike has a straight handlebar. I've seen a lot of praise for bar-ends, simple to use and everything. But downtube shifters means two less cables coming out of the handlebar and, seems to me, are even simpler...
    I just wanted to know your opinion on the matter, why you chose one over the other.
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I like bar end shifters and with that set up you can always switch to a down tube shifter in a pinch if you need to on the road. The DT are simpler, but I think just that bit more difficult to use.

    If you were intrigued by DT shifter I'd throw some on and try them out. It isn't a huge investment.

    BTW - you can use bar end shifters on a stright bar with some Pauls's Thumbies adapters.
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  3. #3
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Have both. Use both. Like both.

    I had bar end shifters in the '80s that were very imprecise, but today's bar end shifters are pretty sweet in comparison.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  4. #4
    cyclist gruau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vik
    BTW - you can use bar end shifters on a stright bar with some Pauls's Thumbies adapters.
    Yes, I think I've seen these. Interesting.

  5. #5
    Senior Member brianmcg123's Avatar
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    I like Down Tube the best. I went to DT because I wanted to clean up the bar area. I was tired of all the cords everywhere.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Personal preference on a tour bike is bar ends, you never have to take you hands off the bars to shift. This can be an important feature on a heavily loaded tour bike.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member Sebach's Avatar
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    I like my bar ends mounted on Paul Thumbies. When riding on the hoods, I can just pivot around my wrist to shift. Not only do I not have to take my hands off the bars, I don't have to slide them or shift my weight in the slightest. My wrist/palm is still resting in the same place on the bar, I just rotate my fingers inward to flick the lever.

  8. #8
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    barcons, no question, for loaded touring. like wahoonc states above, you never have to leave the bars to shift, which can be quite important while riding a loaded touring bike.

    downtubes are classic nice, but the advantages to barends and always maintaining a grip on the bars clinches the deal for a loaded touring bike, IMO.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  9. #9
    Senior Member digger's Avatar
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    I have been riding for over 20 years and have used DTs, bar ends and STI. My preference is STI.

    BUT

    I'd be hesitant to use them for touring, as they can be finicky and have more moving parts and are more prone to breaking.

    However, you didn't ask about STI, now did you?

    On MY touring bike I use bar ends, which is my second preference as you don't have to reach down as far, nor is there any of that...'hunting' for the levers as with DTs. Sometimes you have to look down to find the DTs (at least I did).

    Having said that, with DTs you can shift BOTH levers using one hand, this CAN be an advantage if you want to keep your left hand on the front brake and shift either lever with your right hand.
    Whereas bar ends you have to use your left AND right hand to shift each lever.

    Some people complain of bashing their knee against bar ends. I never had.

    Also, the cables for bar ends can interfer with a handlebar mounted bag...maybe. Depends on the size of the bag.

    IMHO, I'd go with bar ends for touring, especially if your loaded (the bike I mean) as there is less hunting for the lever to shift.
    Originally posted by Bones_McBones: Wow Digger, wow! You've earned my respect.... I know ashoposo got werked up. You are the gutter pig of Trollheim.

  10. #10
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg123
    I like Down Tube the best. I went to DT because I wanted to clean up the bar area. I was tired of all the cords everywhere.

    PC220372.jpg
    I can't argue with the clean look. Nice job.
    safe riding - Vik
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  11. #11
    George Krpan
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    Haven't use DT shfters in forever. Would like to try them again on a kicked back bike. There's almost no cable housing and the shifts are quick.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg123
    I like Down Tube the best. I went to DT because I wanted to clean up the bar area. I was tired of all the cords everywhere.
    I like the clean looks of DT shifters also. But I routed my barcon cables on my LHT ergo style so it looks almost as clean....
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  13. #13
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by digger
    I have been riding for over 20 years and have used DTs, bar ends and STI. My preference is STI.

    BUT

    I'd be hesitant to use them for touring, as they can be finicky and have more moving parts and are more prone to breaking.

    If, as some others have stated in this thread, you don't want to take you hands off the bars to shift, STI beats barends hands down You never have to take your hands off the brake hoods! STI isn't nearly as finicky nor as delicate as you might think, digger. I've used them for several years now and never had any kind of problem...but having any kind of problem with shifters breaking is extremely rare. Heck, I've even crashed STI (hit the pavement on the end of the shifter and ground off the noses) and they are still running stong. They work quite well and deserve a second look.
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  14. #14
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    If, as some others have stated in this thread, you don't want to take you hands off the bars to shift, STI beats barends hands down You never have to take your hands off the brake hoods! STI isn't nearly as finicky nor as delicate as you might think, digger. I've used them for several years now and never had any kind of problem...but having any kind of problem with shifters breaking is extremely rare. Heck, I've even crashed STI (hit the pavement on the end of the shifter and ground off the noses) and they are still running stong. They work quite well and deserve a second look.
    I shift much less with my bar end shifters than I do on my STI equipped bike. This doesn't bother me as I like varying my cadence all the time, but if you like to maintain a constant RPM reaching for the bar end shifters or DT shifters will discourage you from shifting as much as you might like.
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  15. #15
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    Bar end shifters are really nice for a touring or commuting bike, just slide your hand back on the drops and shift with the side of your hand or your pinkie. No need to take your hand off the bars at a critical moment, and modern cables and cable housings work so well that bar end shifters shift very nearly as precisely as DT shifters, unlike 20-25 years ago. I've got Campagnolo C-Record friction only downtube shifters on my 1988 Marinoni, they work so smoothly that I don't ever want to change them in any way. Reaching for them does interrupt my pedal stroke, though, and there are moments when I would like to shift gears but I don't like the idea of taking a hand off the bars. That's why my tourer has bar-end shifters.

    I have Ergo-Power shifters on my newer (2001) Marinoni and it is really nice. Very dependable, I can rebuild them if they ever wear out, and it's fun to do all the shifting and braking from the brake lever hoods. As dependable as they are, they are still one more unneeded complexity that I don't want to worry about when I'm touring far from a bike shop, which is why the tourer has friction-only bar end shifters.

  16. #16
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    Are there specific instances where you would want one shifter over another, or is it purely a case of preference?

    I have used the same STI levers for countless miles and tours, and have never had a problem. On the next tour I will bring a set of DT friction shifters with me, just in case.

    On my commuter I use friction DT shifters, and I would not have it any other way.
    Last edited by !!Comatoa$ted; 01-16-07 at 02:30 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Lolly Pop's Avatar
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    I adapted my bar-end shifters with thumbies on my butterfly bar. Love this set-up.

  18. #18
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    I'm currently really happy with my barend. You can buy the DTs and convert them to BE witht he body element. So it's not necesarilly a final decision, just start with the DTS and swwitch if you are unhappy. If I was using my touring bike in a cycle cross situation with lots of offroad were two hands on the bars was decisive, I would choose BEs over DTs. Road touring is really not like that, and anyway, moving your hand towards the DT centers you, waving it around out there at the BE throws your ballance. Where it gets to be an advantage for BEs on the touring bike is on those wild shifts where one shifts down into the lowest gear, it can be difficult to keep ballanced and it pays to have both hands on the bars.

    What I don't get is that racers clearly prefered the DT position until brifters came along, and they have all kinds of crazy control issues.

    DTs are safer and a lot easier to work on.

  19. #19
    cyclist gruau's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input!
    I'll probably try both. Sure, the idea of not having both hands on the bars on some mangled roads out there makes me question the downtube shifters, but in a sense, I have to use them to get used to them... and good ones aren't that expensive.
    Mounting bar-ends on top of the dropbars with those Paul's Thumbies could be a nice way to keep the shifters centered and keep both hands on.
    I may take a closer look at STIs, but maybe not for this bike.

  20. #20
    Senior Member digger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    If, as some others have stated in this thread, you don't want to take you hands off the bars to shift, STI beats barends hands down You never have to take your hands off the brake hoods! STI isn't nearly as finicky nor as delicate as you might think, digger. I've used them for several years now and never had any kind of problem...but having any kind of problem with shifters breaking is extremely rare. Heck, I've even crashed STI (hit the pavement on the end of the shifter and ground off the noses) and they are still running stong. They work quite well and deserve a second look.
    Well, yes, you're right and I do love STIs. I'm even on my second set of 105 STIs because the previous set I had (6 years old at the time) was not shifting in the cold. Strange as it may sound, when the temp went below 6-7 celcius I couldn't get the right shifter to downshift. I cleaned it out and everything, but no go. I put them up on Ebay for $5 or something and sold 'em to a guy over in Europe. I told him what was happening with the shifter, but he wanted them anyway. Three months after I sold them, he sent me an email showing me the bike he built and said the shifters are fine......except in the cold.

    Anyway, as I said they ARE dependable but I think MARKF summed it up quite good:
    Quote Originally Posted by markf
    As dependable as they are, they are still one more unneeded complexity that I don't want to worry about when I'm touring far from a bike shop, which is why the tourer has friction-only bar end shifters."
    That was my point, they CAN be finicky, have more moving parts and not something you want to go wrong on a tour. BEs are just so simple and they last forever. Besides, STIs, IMHO, are for performance bikes and racing or fast rec rides. For touring the extra convienence of shifting and braking at the same time is not that huge for the possiblity of a breakdown. But people use 'em all the time, and I see them all the time, without trouble on their touring bikes.

    Depends on your situation and where you're touring I guess.
    Originally posted by Bones_McBones: Wow Digger, wow! You've earned my respect.... I know ashoposo got werked up. You are the gutter pig of Trollheim.

  21. #21
    Senior Member digger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by !!Comatoa$ted
    Are there specific instances where you would want one shifter over another, or is it purely a case of preference?

    I have used the same STI levers for countless miles and tours, and have never had a problem. On the next tour I will bring a set of DT friction shifters with me, just in case.

    On my commuter I use friction DT shifters, and I would not have it any other way.

    Preference mostly I guess.
    Except, I think, for 2 areas:
    1) racing or fast rec rides STIs can be an advantage.
    2) I also believe that riding in traffic (stop n go) is easier with STIs, as you can upshift and brake at the same time.

    Interesting tho.....you'd rather DTs for commutting, I'd rather STIs. Actualy I use a MTB bike with thumbshifters for commutting. Don't like road bikes for commutting so much.......thin tires and the road type handlebar.
    Originally posted by Bones_McBones: Wow Digger, wow! You've earned my respect.... I know ashoposo got werked up. You are the gutter pig of Trollheim.

  22. #22
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by !!Comatoa$ted
    Are there specific instances where you would want one shifter over another, or is it purely a case of preference?
    YES, speed off the stops when you want to put the hammer down!

    I recently set up my 'fast' road bike with barcons set to friction.

    I can shift the ENTIRE Cassette in one shift. pretty darn fast, way faster than, click, click, clicking thru the gears.

    This fast movement across the cogset lets me put the hammer down off the stoplights like a drag racer. get up to spin in 23, then drop her into 11 works for me. sometimes theres an intermediate stop in there, 14 or whatever.

    thats' a reason I prefer barcons set to friction. When I blow by kitted up roadies and leave them in the dust off the stops, wondering what the heck just smoked 'em, it's very satisfying.
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  24. #24
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    I had BE shifters on my 2002 Trek 520. They were easy to reach, but I'd also hit them with my leg if I was walking around with the bike. I also had a lot of ghost-shifting problems with them (9 speed). My bf worked at a LBS at the time I had it and he fiddled around with them a lot, lubed the housings, even sent them back for warranty and put new ones on. Finally he just put DT shifters on the bike. They work perfectly. I had a few balance issues as I reached down to shift, but I feel it will make me a better rider to get used to this.

    Have since traded the 520 frame for an LHT and still have the DT shifters now working an XT drive train (22-34 low gear). It all works perfectly.

    The Pauls Thumbies is also an excellent idea. I'd love to have them, but I already have cross levers on my small road bars, not much room left.

    I have Ultegra 9sp STI on my Pacer sport touring bike. I haven't had any problems with them in 4 yrs. If I was going to do a very long supported tour on this bike I'd probably throw a set of DT shifters in with my gear in case the STIs had a problem en route.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by digger
    Interesting tho.....you'd rather DTs for commutting, I'd rather STIs. Actualy I use a MTB bike with thumbshifters for commutting. Don't like road bikes for commutting so much.......thin tires and the road type handlebar.

    I use friction shifters on my commuter because I like to keep the bike as cheap and simple as possible. STI are better for commuting IMO, but friction shifters also make the bike less desirable for a thief, and in most cases most of the parts on the bike, including the frame are very old and ragged looking, this I find gives me many more options for locking strategies. I always make sure my commuters run perfectly, but keep it looking like garbage.

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