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Old 09-04-08, 05:49 AM   #1
kuan
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Why barend shifters vs. downtube on touring bikes?

Seems like downtube shifters would be much easier to maintain should the need arise. Any thoughts on this?
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Old 09-04-08, 06:12 AM   #2
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Probably been beaten to death. I use bar ends because you don't have to take you hands off of the bar to shift. Also (not in my case) bar ends can be easily converted to friction. I am still running a set of Suntour Barcons that only do friction.

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Old 09-04-08, 06:14 AM   #3
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I like STI and think they are reliable enough, but... Given the choice between bar ends and downtube shifters I'll take downtube everytime. This is personal preference but my reasons are:
  1. I bump my knees on down barends and have unplanned shifts.
  2. Downtube shifters have cleaner simpler cable routing and shorter cables with less housing.
  3. I think downtube shifters are less prone to damage.
  4. Barends tend to get bumped when the bike is parked resulting in unexpected shifts as soon as you start riding.
  5. I have to take my hands from their normal position to use either.
  6. For my frame size and preferred bar height they are both at the same height, so no real difference in accessibility for either. Others who sit more upright, have higher bars, or have larger frames may find they have to bend less to use bar ends.

BTW: I would think any advantages for bar ends would also apply to the old stem mounted shifters that went out of fashion long ago. In fact it seems like they would have more advantages.

STI is just so much nicer to use that I don't see a reason to use anything else and am willing to accept the extra complexity and messier cable runs. I figure that if I break one on tour I will be able to use the other shifter for it's full range and pick one gear to use for the broken one (It can easily be jerry rigged to use any one in the ranges for either front or back). If a replacement isn't available I would pick up a downtube shifter at the next bike shop to use until I could replace the STI shifter. If on an extended tour in some third world country I would maybe carry a set of downtube shifters as spares.
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Old 09-04-08, 06:16 AM   #4
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Probably been beaten to death.
Yes you're right. Just had to use the search function

What the heck! Just put a loop at the end of the cable and attach that to your pinky!
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Old 09-04-08, 09:42 AM   #5
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Seems like downtube shifters would be much easier to maintain should the need arise. Any thoughts on this?
Because it is "the way". Anyone going against "the way" is a radical revolutionist, a Darwinian outcast, a no-good think-for-self heathen. You will bow down to "the way". You WILL use bar-end-shifters, a leather Brooks seat, cantilever brakes, steel frame, drop bars, and if touring outside the immediately familiar areas, 26'' wheels with at least 36 spokes!
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Old 09-04-08, 11:03 AM   #6
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I initially had problems with bumping my knees on my bar ends when I first got my LHT, however I would say with in two to three weeks I became accustomed to them and no longer have that problem. I generally leave my bike in a specific gear and remember the position I left them in and check to make sure there are no surprise shifts coming up when I start pedaling. I still haven't figured out how to put the right shifter into friction mode, though.

I have nothing against downtubes however.
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Old 09-04-08, 11:07 AM   #7
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I don't like either; both seem to be awkward to get to from my natural "in the drops" riding position. I got round this by using Kelly Take Offs with downtube shifters, and now the shifters are in a nice close to hand position. I think I have the best of both worlds with this solution -nice hand position plus the simplicity of downtube shifters!

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Seems like downtube shifters would be much easier to maintain should the need arise. Any thoughts on this?
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Old 09-04-08, 11:09 AM   #8
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mesaone - To get the rear derailler-shifter to go friction, you need to keep turning the little metal "tag" all the way until it clicks. There is a small arrow that will align with something or other (bike is not nearby right now). I too had that problem at first, but I'm friction all the way now!
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Old 09-04-08, 11:15 AM   #9
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Because it is "the way". Anyone going against "the way" is a radical revolutionist, a Darwinian outcast, a no-good think-for-self heathen. You will bow down to "the way". You WILL use bar-end-shifters, a leather Brooks seat, cantilever brakes, steel frame, drop bars, and if touring outside the immediately familiar areas, 26'' wheels with at least 36 spokes!
You describe my bike very well. Thanks for to good laugh this morning.
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Old 09-04-08, 11:36 AM   #10
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The obvious advantage to barends is that you can control the bike and shift at the same time. There are other systems that allow this like twist shifters, but bar end is off the rack for drop bars. There can be the odd occasion , say a hill, when the traffic is wizzing by on the left, and there is a soft shoulder on the right just waiting to grab your wheels, and you are teetering along, and you need to grad a gear, it just feels better to do it from the drop than to reach for the downtube. Unlike STI, barends never really caught on with the racing crowd. They did fine with the downtube shifters until something better came along, but the racing enviro is different than the one we have. So I would choose barends.

The downside to STI is when it blows. My local shop which is touring oriented moreso than race, none the less says STI is pretty bombproof it's just if it goes it is more of a pain. Racers shift a lot between racing and training. Of course STI is also cheaper and since it may not be the perfect touring system and dropping it will get you something you may need, it's a budget issue that will affect some people and not others.

All that stuff about knees and so forth - that's either clumsy or the bike doesn't fit. When I got back on a bike with barends after 20 years, I speared myself in the leg once, demounting, never did it again after that. Parking and the rest of it is just silly, how anyone with those problems can ride a vehicle with two wheels is a teaser.
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Old 09-04-08, 12:07 PM   #11
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Seems like downtube shifters would be much easier to maintain should the need arise. Any thoughts on this?
The only "maintenance" I can think of for those shifters is an a removal/installation. For a bar-end shifter I need to tighten two screws per shifter instead of one for the DT. That's pretty much it. Otherwise the shifting mechanism is the same, and they are both bomb-proof.
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Old 09-04-08, 12:40 PM   #12
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All that stuff about knees and so forth - that's either clumsy or the bike doesn't fit. When I got back on a bike with barends after 20 years, I speared myself in the leg once, demounting, never did it again after that. Parking and the rest of it is just silly, how anyone with those problems can ride a vehicle with two wheels is a teaser.
I take some offense at that, but I am sure it was intended. I would imagine that having some road racing experience, some MTB racing experience, and many years of riding under my belt that my skills are better than average.

So basically I am clumsy because I find bar ends to be in the way, but you like barends so "that you can control the bike and shift at the same time" and that doesn't indicate any lack of skill.

Whether bar ends are near the knee is dependent on the frame size and what height the rider prefers their bars at. Since I use a smallish frame and prefer my bars maybe 4" below the saddle they are right at knee height and easily bumped. Could I avoid bumping them with practice... Sure. Could I carefully watch that they don't get bumped when leaning the bike against whatever... Sure. But why bother when they are at almost exactly the same height as the down tube shifters (in my case) and therefore no easier to use IMO than good old D/T shifters. I always thought bar end shifters were a fix looking for a problem that didn't exist and one with problems of its own.

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Old 09-04-08, 04:52 PM   #13
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Knees bumping bar-ends are a well-documented problem. I've never had a bump cause a shift, though.

For touring applications, my preferences are currently, in descending order: bar-end, downtube, STI, trigger, twist/grip.

Bar-ends are very rugged, can be put into friction mode, work a little better with triple chainrings, are easier to repair, and easier to use than downtube shifters.

I prefer STI with doubles or compacts on road bikes. However, I will agree that we're talking about a somewhat trivial component choice. Wheel size and clearance, gearing and geometry are much more important when it comes to making an optimal touring bike.
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Old 09-04-08, 06:14 PM   #14
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OK, I'll be serious this time. :-)

Downtube shifters give you freedom - the freedom to swap handlebars from drop to flat to moustache, and in friction mode, common with bar-ends, allow you to run any stinkin' drivetrain combo you want.
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Old 09-04-08, 06:32 PM   #15
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Because it is "the way". Anyone going against "the way" is a radical revolutionist, a Darwinian outcast, a no-good think-for-self heathen. You will bow down to "the way". You WILL use bar-end-shifters, a leather Brooks seat, cantilever brakes, steel frame, drop bars, and if touring outside the immediately familiar areas, 26'' wheels with at least 36 spokes!
Crud. That's exactly what I have! Consider me assimilated.
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Old 09-05-08, 01:36 AM   #16
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I've found that bar-end shifters mounted on Paul's Thumbies to be an excellent format for shifters. This configuration is much like the old thumb shifters from the late 1980's and 1990's, a format I found to be convenient and easy to use. I'd like to see thumb shifters re-introduced.
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