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Old 09-30-09, 07:11 AM   #1
gregw
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An observation on shifters and shifting.

Just an observation on shifting.

I recently did a 4 day tour with a buddy that I tour with a couple times a year. We also ride together on regular road bikes with the local club. Now on our road bikes I'm always the one behind and chasing, but on our touring bikes, I'm always out front, even though I have a more upright riding position. Well on this last trip I noticed something that I think solves the mystery.

This guy has a very traditional touring bike with bar-end shifters and I've got STI mountain bike style shifters. As we were riding side by side I noticed that I was shifting at a minimum twice as often as him. On the hills, rough road areas, and tight curves he rarely shifted, while I continued to shift constantly into the optimum gear. The reason is because I don't have move my hands and no adjustment is necessary to get the gear just right, just click and done.

Now touring is not a race, but being efficient with a loaded touring bike is a big deal. It's easy to just speed up into a gear that is a little too big on an 18lbs road bike, but it wears you out on a 75lbs touring bike. The overall tour will require less energy and you'll enjoy it more if your less tired at the end of each day.

Anyway, just thought I would share. If someone is choosing or building a new bike, I highly recommend a handlebar / shifter set-up that allows shifting from your preferred hand position. It's safer and more efficient, especially on a loaded touring bike.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:25 AM   #2
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I dunno. I shift all the time with my bar ends, myself. Objectively, I'd say I shift just about as often with my STI roadie as I do with my bar end equipped tourer, while riding alone. Riding in a group, where I'm obliged to hold whatever speed the group is holding, I probably shift a bit more often - and that's generallyon the sti bike - but for reasons other than efficiency.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:36 AM   #3
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Are you the same size and were you carrying the same amount (weight) of gear? I just did a tour with a small group. This one guy was on a bike with STI, and I was on a bike with bar ends. We rode together on our tour bikes before the tour, and I was WAY faster. Then when we loaded our bikes and went for the tour, he was somewhat faster. I think it was because he's a medium-size guy and I'm a small gal - he's much bigger than me. So the bike was relatively much heavier for me compared to my size.

Anyway, just a thought, and another data point.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:38 AM   #4
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I dunno. I shift all the time with my bar ends, myself. Objectively, I'd say I shift just about as often with my STI roadie as I do with my bar end equipped tourer, while riding alone. Riding in a group, where I'm obliged to hold whatever speed the group is holding, I probably shift a bit more often - and that's generallyon the sti bike - but for reasons other than efficiency.
I toured years ago with bar-end shifters and for me it was not physically possible (if not just unsafe) to shift while standing on the pedals on hills or on very rough roads, but both are places where shifting is important. If you can do it, more power to you. Also, unless your preferred, go to handlebar hand position is on your bar ends, I highly doubt your shifting as often as you might if they were.

Anyway it seems important to me, may not to anyone else. Just something to think about.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:46 AM   #5
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Are you the same size and were you carrying the same amount (weight) of gear? I just did a tour with a small group. This one guy was on a bike with STI, and I was on a bike with bar ends. We rode together on our tour bikes before the tour, and I was WAY faster. Then when we loaded our bikes and went for the tour, he was somewhat faster. I think it was because he's a medium-size guy and I'm a small gal - he's much bigger than me. So the bike was relatively much heavier for me compared to my size.

Anyway, just a thought, and another data point.
Yeah, both of us use almost the exact same set-up, BOB trailers with about the same weight. The biggest difference is I'm bigger, and ride in a more upright position. It seemed to me that being in just the right gear has to make you more efficient, how much, I don't know, 10-20% maybe. But if I'm pedaling a 75lbs bike for thousands of miles, I'll take that advantage every time.
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Old 09-30-09, 08:00 AM   #6
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I guess I should also say that if you primarily tour in big, wide open, relatively flat areas, it probably doesn't matter very much. Even in the Rockies where the hills (mountains) are long but not steep and are pretty consistant in slope, you don't need to shift often and only need to stand on the pedals to stretch your legs.

But here in Kentucky and our surrounding states, we have very little flat ground, lots of short steep, twisty, no shoulder hills. Makes a big difference here.
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Old 09-30-09, 08:05 AM   #7
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Yeah, both of us use almost the exact same set-up, BOB trailers with about the same weight. The biggest difference is I'm bigger, and ride in a more upright position. It seemed to me that being in just the right gear has to make you more efficient, how much, I don't know, 10-20% maybe. But if I'm pedaling a 75lbs bike for thousands of miles, I'll take that advantage every time.
STI wins out for fast gear changes and sprinting, but for anything other than racing I'm not convinced it's any better than barends and it has the disadvantage of being more complex and without the friction option. I ride singlespeed a lot so that when I get back on my geared tourer I just find that I don't need to continually shift. I've set up by gears to be centered around 69" and I find that's good for all but the hilliest of rides.
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Old 09-30-09, 08:15 AM   #8
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It wouldn't surprise me that in upsy-downsy terrain shifting technique could make a difference. I wouldn't be quite so quick to blame it on the type of equipment though. I have a bike with STI and a bike with bar-ends. I ride the bike with bar-ends much more often than I ride the bike with STI. Consequently, I make more shifting mistakes (e.g. shifting up instead of down) with the STI than I do with the bar ends. The only situation where STI seems to be a clear winner is in shifts where I need to simultaneously (or quickly) shift both the front and rear derailleur. I have no way of measuring, but I don't think that I make better use of the gears with one over the other.

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Old 09-30-09, 08:27 AM   #9
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If you are bigger I would imagine that the added touring weight is killing your partner's weight advantage. He is used to tapping up hills and now had to drag an anchor behind him. As a heavier rider, you have been carrying that anchor the whole time. Even if you guys carry the same load, his power to weight ratio is hurting more.
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Old 09-30-09, 09:34 AM   #10
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If you are bigger I would imagine that the added touring weight is killing your partner's weight advantage. He is used to tapping up hills and now had to drag an anchor behind him. As a heavier rider, you have been carrying that anchor the whole time. Even if you guys carry the same load, his power to weight ratio is hurting more.
That's what I was trying to say, but you made it much clearer.
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Old 09-30-09, 10:55 AM   #11
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I was going to respond but realized that the time I'd spend drafting an answer would exceed the total time I'd spend over the next 40,000+ miles stretching my hand down 3" to reach my bar ends
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Old 09-30-09, 11:13 AM   #12
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Having gone from DT's -> Barends -> STI's, I'm in *somewhat* of an agreement with the OP.

DT's: I didn't shift that much, but my Touring bike was all original at the time, and I wasn't necessarily paying attention to efficiency.

Barends: Shifted a lot more in the rear, not often in the front, but it corresponded to me getting a corncob 9 speed cassette, and I could adjust my cadence perfectly on the flats. One of my riding partners with STI did shift about twice as often.

STI: Shift all the time rear, when needed in the front, sometimes simultaneously. However, I'm generally doing more challenging routes, with hills that I don't have around Chicago.

I won't be going back, but as Speedo mentioned, after long(ish) rides, I do tend to make occasional shifting mistakes with the STI that wouldn't have been possible with barends or DT's. I do enjoy having the shifting right there, and at stoplights it's handy to be able to downshift and brake without sacrificing either.
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Old 09-30-09, 11:16 AM   #13
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I think the OP has a point, but it would depend on the terrain. some terrain (lots of changes) responds better to lots of shifts. Other terrain is more steady state. The main reason for bar end is that it is more reliable, no way it is as efficient as sti. The only place you pick up time is if the STI becomes unrepairable, and you can get out a few days on the sti guy due to greater reliability. I use barend, but STI has most of the advantages. I do find that when I get out on the road, my fitness level is at a point after a few days where I just push through a lot of situations where I would otherwise shift. I find city riding begs for lots of shifts due to the stop and go nature of the riding.

I think more likely reason for a difference in speed are gearing, or whether he realized he was racing you.
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Old 10-01-09, 04:25 AM   #14
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I have porteur style bars with bar end shifters, and find them wonderful. My hands fall with the shifter at my little finger and ball of the hand, and I can shift effortlessly. On dropped bars, I could see how it would be more difficult.
Of course, on various other bikes I've had to change STI's because the ratchets inside wore down after constant use. Never had to do that with my Bifters. They just keep on going.
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Old 10-01-09, 07:45 AM   #15
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I've also used pretty much all varieties of shifters on my various bikes, except I've never had a grip shifter. I shift the same amount on all bikes. I shift depending on riding conditions and don't hesitate just because I have to move my hands.

I like bar-ends just fine and have them on my tourer. However, I put brifters on my "fast" bike, and I have to say I've grown to love them. If I were building a tourer today I think I'd lean towards brifters. I'd have to deal with clearance for my handlebar bag, but noodles seem to work fine. They say brifters aren't as sturdy and are useless if they malfunction. How likely are they to malfunction in the first place? If it's a miniscule chance, I'm willing to live with it. I don't carry a spare tire, because the chances of my pretty-new tires tearing are so low.

To sum up, all of the shifting configurations I've used have been fine and I'd be willing to head off on tour with any of them.
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Old 10-01-09, 07:59 AM   #16
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I don't think rapid shifting improves your efficiency.

The evidence indicates that there is no significant difference in cycling efficiency at cadences ranging from 80-100 rpm, and possibly even 60-100 rpm.

It is possible that if he is mashing all day long and you are spinning rapidly, you will perform better. (A cyclist is actually more efficient at ~60 rpm, but other biomechanical factors may favor higher cadences.) However he would have to be routinely spinning at less than 60-80 rpm, which he would naturally avoid (at least on the flats) and, as experienced cyclists, you'd likely notice if he was consistently mashing. You may be optimizing your cadence better than him, but it's unlikely his cadence is off by 20-40 rpm solely because he doesn't shift as often.

I might add that if rapid shifting did result in a 10-20% efficiency gain, you'd be riding around 1mph faster than him, and you'd leave him in the dust. On a side note, I have never heard anyone cite slower shifting (e.g. using downtube shifters) as costing them so much wattage, even among the racing set.

There could be numerous other factors at work, including differences in tires, tire pressure, rider's power-to-weight ratio, rider position, aerodynamics, dirty drive train, and possibly even rider's attitude. I.e. correlation ("I'm faster than him when I use STI's and he uses bar-ends") is insufficient to prove causation.

STI's are more convenient (and there's plenty of value in that), but that's about it.
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Old 10-01-09, 09:07 AM   #17
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With DTs, I won't shift under bumpy terrain, when pedaling standing or on a short descent followed by an ascend, all of which I can do with Ergos. With bar ends it's only the occasional standing shift that I miss.

I can't say if it is more efficient. For one thing my bike with DTs (a "randonneur") is 8lbs lighter than the 33lbs, Ergo-equipped touring bike! So I definitely am faster on the DT-equipped bike

But you're probably on to something. The pro's can't be all wrong (although there is that not-too-recent picture of Lance with a front DT and rear STI). Possibly the occasional overgeared mashing can tire one out faster in the long term. On the other hand DT forces you to move your hands around and saves a bit of weight.
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Old 10-01-09, 09:12 AM   #18
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If you ride a touring bike like you would ride a racing road or mtb bike, with out of the saddle climbs, things like that, STI or Brifter shifting would be an advantage as you don't need to move your hands from the points of control. I have had several instances where I almost crashed because I was downshifting on bar end shifters while climbing really steep grades (15% or so) where I was doing all I could just to keep the cranks turning over.
However, for an application like actual bike touring, especially in remote areas, I opt for bar end or even downtube non indexed shifters simply for the reliability factor and the fact that things like cable stretch can be accounted for without having to rely on barrel adjusters.
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Old 10-01-09, 09:30 AM   #19
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The next time I put together a geared touring bike, I`m going with a Cambio Corsa setup so people won`t be concerned about me riding around with my hands on the bar ends. A additional advantages, I won`t feel wierd for being able to shift while out of the saddle (I know that won`t happen with C.C.) and I still won`t have pesky cables in the way of my bar bag.
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Old 10-01-09, 10:00 AM   #20
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Just an observation on shifting.

I recently did a 4 day tour with a buddy that I tour with a couple times a year. We also ride together on regular road bikes with the local club. Now on our road bikes I'm always the one behind and chasing, but on our touring bikes, I'm always out front, even though I have a more upright riding position. Well on this last trip I noticed something that I think solves the mystery.

This guy has a very traditional touring bike with bar-end shifters and I've got STI mountain bike style shifters. As we were riding side by side I noticed that I was shifting at a minimum twice as often as him. On the hills, rough road areas, and tight curves he rarely shifted, while I continued to shift constantly into the optimum gear. The reason is because I don't have move my hands and no adjustment is necessary to get the gear just right, just click and done.

Now touring is not a race, but being efficient with a loaded touring bike is a big deal. It's easy to just speed up into a gear that is a little too big on an 18lbs road bike, but it wears you out on a 75lbs touring bike. The overall tour will require less energy and you'll enjoy it more if your less tired at the end of each day.

Anyway, just thought I would share. If someone is choosing or building a new bike, I highly recommend a handlebar / shifter set-up that allows shifting from your preferred hand position. It's safer and more efficient, especially on a loaded touring bike.
I could agree with that if one was inclined to shift while out of the saddle or sprinting through traffic while riding with gear. I'm guessing that you and your friend have different power/weight ratio riding unloaded and loaded as well as different preferences for power output solo riding and pack riding.
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Old 10-01-09, 10:14 AM   #21
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The next time I put together a geared touring bike, I`m going with a Cambio Corsa setup so people won`t be concerned about me riding around with my hands on the bar ends. A additional advantages, I won`t feel wierd for being able to shift while out of the saddle (I know that won`t happen with C.C.) and I still won`t have pesky cables in the way of my bar bag.
Hehe I have a rod front shifter on my light-touring bike No cables-no problem
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Old 10-01-09, 10:24 AM   #22
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I too have an STI bike and a DT bike. I ride the DT bike far more often and like it more, but the STI's are definitely more convenient to use...no question.

On the other hand, I love how simple the DT shifters are and don't care to upgrade to thumbies, or bar-ends, etc. I don't mind reaching down to shift... I think it has made my balance better .
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Old 10-01-09, 10:45 AM   #23
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I remember a road race when the pack slowed down up a tight incline one rider was in too high a gear and he fell over as he didn't feel safe enough to reach down and shift. Oh well. Stuff happens.
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Old 10-01-09, 10:59 AM   #24
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The next time I put together a geared touring bike, I`m going with a Cambio Corsa setup so people won`t be concerned about me riding around with my hands on the bar ends. A additional advantages, I won`t feel wierd for being able to shift while out of the saddle (I know that won`t happen with C.C.) and I still won`t have pesky cables in the way of my bar bag.
Maybe you could unhook tour pump from underneath the top tube and use it to reach back to the shifters when you're out of the saddle.
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Old 10-01-09, 12:37 PM   #25
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Haha! I love the smart-ass responses to this thread! No disrespect to the OP, I just think it's funny.

I have bar-ends and love them. But I like what gregw pointed out; in the big hills, you get into optimum gear and pretty much stay there, shifting maybe a couple times to optimize things. However, being from Colorado, riding the hills of Iowa was a totally new experience for me. Shifting the front once and the back four or five times every couple minutes! Whew!

For touring, I still love my bar-ends. Their durability, simplicity and fallback of being able to switch to friction all add up to exactly what I want in a touring shifter. If I lived in an area that was like Iowa or Kentucky, I can definitly see the advantage of shifters always being at your fingertips.

Next, I'd like to try the mounts that convert bar-ends to thumbies!
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