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Brifters: Do they all suck this badly?

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Brifters: Do they all suck this badly?

Old 04-08-19, 02:58 AM
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Stealth simplistic super wide range before the days of brifters. Precise and fast shift from tall gear sailing, everything in between to climbing walls.

Ingredients: quiet 6 sp. freewheel '120mm' spaced rear, friction barends, camouflaged tiny ring triple, and 'standard' cage.

No plastic.

Ps. Threw away the plastic floating pulleys. No sense having for this setup. Floaters make slop.

Happy trails~


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Old 04-08-19, 05:22 AM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
Stealth simplistic super wide range before the days of brifters. Precise and fast shift from tall gear sailing, everything in between to climbing walls.

Ingredients: quiet freewheel, '120mm' spaced rear, friction barends, camouflaged tiny ring triple, and 'standard' cage.

No plastic.
Forgive me for being pedantic, but I'd still argue there's some modernish tech there, brifters or no brifters. Your FD setup would be a lot less tolerable with anything but that modern MTB triple FD.

That's a Shimano Light Action RD too, right, or a variant of such? If so, it has a bit of plastic (not much, but it does) and it also uses a spring to smooth out overshifts. Can work both in favor or against friction shifting.

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Old 04-08-19, 06:31 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post

bikes of old were limiting with regards to gears. A 42-26 bailout gearing isnt enough

hopefully ive just misunderstood you.
My first derailleur bike, purchased 1965, had a low gear of 39x28. That bike was not purchased from a specialist shop, it came from the Schwinn dealer. Mr. Schwinn had a 36 chainring sitting in normal inventory he could have popped onto my crank if I'd asked. Riding around on that bike it was soon discovered that 2 miles away another Schwinn dealer, operated by a tinkerer, could supply me with infinite gears, a Schwinn shop 4 miles away operated for racers could sell me low gears, a Raleigh store 8 miles away operated by a collector had super low gears on bikes sitting on the showroom floor. That dealer let me take a test ride on a Gitane fitted with a low of 28x30. In 1966. Soon after that I met Oscar Wastyn.......

This notion that "bikes of old" were limited is nonsense. It gets repeated here endlessly and is simply factually wrong. Endless repetition of false information will not make it so.
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Old 04-08-19, 06:44 AM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
My first derailleur bike, purchased 1965, had a low gear of 39x28. That bike was not purchased from a specialist shop, it came from the Schwinn dealer. Mr. Schwinn had a 36 chainring sitting in normal inventory he could have popped onto my crank if I'd asked. Riding around on that bike it was soon discovered that 2 miles away another Schwinn dealer, operated by a tinkerer, could supply me with infinite gears, a Schwinn shop 4 miles away operated for racers could sell me low gears, a Raleigh store 8 miles away operated by a collector had super low gears on bikes sitting on the showroom floor. That dealer let me take a test ride on a Gitane fitted with a low of 28x30. In 1966. Soon after that I met Oscar Wastyn.......

This notion that "bikes of old" were limited is nonsense. It gets repeated here endlessly and is simply factually wrong. Endless repetition of false information will not make it so.
Yes you could do a lot of different gearing if you wanted to. Experienced riders could have anything they wanted. Show up to a real race on that gearing and you would be laughed out of the race though. I have a triple on my px 10 and the purists scoff.

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Old 04-08-19, 07:13 AM
  #55  
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
My first derailleur bike, purchased 1965, had a low gear of 39x28. That bike was not purchased from a specialist shop, it came from the Schwinn dealer. Mr. Schwinn had a 36 chainring sitting in normal inventory he could have popped onto my crank if I'd asked. Riding around on that bike it was soon discovered that 2 miles away another Schwinn dealer, operated by a tinkerer, could supply me with infinite gears, a Schwinn shop 4 miles away operated for racers could sell me low gears, a Raleigh store 8 miles away operated by a collector had super low gears on bikes sitting on the showroom floor. That dealer let me take a test ride on a Gitane fitted with a low of 28x30. In 1966. Soon after that I met Oscar Wastyn.......

This notion that "bikes of old" were limited is nonsense. It gets repeated here endlessly and is simply factually wrong. Endless repetition of false information will not make it so.
Yes, some bikes came with a 39t front ring. And yes, there were some bikes that came with a 'wide' range freewheel that had a 28t cog. At the same time, there were a ton of bikes that were 53/42 or 52/42 up front mated to a freewheel where the larges cog was 25t or so.

A Voyageur 11.8 came set up as 52-40 with a 13-28 cassette(that first gen cassette that disappeared). Thats a touring frame with a bailout of 39 gear inches. Absurd.
A 1987 Schwinn Tempo, which was a solidly mid-level 105 equipped road bike and nothing pro level about it, came with a bailout of 42-26 which is 43.75 gear inches. Thats better than the '88 model that had a 42-25 bailout!
An '87 Trek 560, also a 105 equipped mid-level road bike came with a 42-24t cassette.

I could go on and on and reference mid-level Miyata, Nishiki, Univega, Bridgestone, and Panasonic bikes with similar setups, but there is no need.


Reality is that in the 70s and very early 80s, mid-level road bikes came with easier gearing than similar level road bikes in the late 80s. Ultimately though, none of it is close to what comes stock on many mid-level road bikes now.


70s and early 80s- 39 or 42t small ring mated to a 28t freewheel.
mid80s into early 90s- 42t small ring mated to a 25 or 26t cassette.
current- 34t small ring mated to a 28 or 32t cassette.

There is a clear move to wider range gearing since the mid 80s. I dont know why gearing seemed to get more difficult in the 80s from what it used to be, but I have my guesses. I wasnt riding road bikes back then so I cant say for sure.

Point is- while your example is absolutely valid, so are all the examples of bikes I have refurbished and changed the freewheel/cassette on to make riding easier for the typically beginners who buy the bikes.
mid-level road bikes are consistently spec'd with 28t or 32t bailouts now with a 34t small ring. That is what I(and another poster) was referring to earlier. That is a huge difference from a 42-26 stock bailout from decades ago that was common on similar level bikes.
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Old 04-08-19, 07:46 AM
  #56  
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Everything nowadays at LBS's are Brifters. I've joked with the people at my LBS (they're really cool and love my '85 Fuji) about staying "old school" as long as I can. I just can't bring myself to get used to Brifters. They're just a weird concept to me. Honest - I did try out a newer road bike that was my size, and it was a demo model with simple platform pedals. The geometry was all crazy and I felt like I was going to go over the handlebars, and fiddling with the brake levers & Brifters really threw me for a loop. I made a few laps in the parking lot and out onto a short side street, and just couldn't get into it. Call me a "retrogrouch". Call me a "technophobe". Whatever...

I will stick with my '85 Fuji's Suntour 6 speed 14-30 freewheel, 42-52 chainring, and downtube shifters. Easy peasy setup that will (hopefully) last forever!
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Old 04-08-19, 09:13 AM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Yes, some bikes came with a 39t front ring. And yes, there were some bikes that came with a 'wide' range freewheel that had a 28t cog. At the same time, there were a ton of bikes that were 53/42 or 52/42 up front mated to a freewheel where the larges cog was 25t or so.

A Voyageur 11.8 came set up as 52-40 with a 13-28 cassette(that first gen cassette that disappeared). Thats a touring frame with a bailout of 39 gear inches. Absurd.
A 1987 Schwinn Tempo, which was a solidly mid-level 105 equipped road bike and nothing pro level about it, came with a bailout of 42-26 which is 43.75 gear inches. Thats better than the '88 model that had a 42-25 bailout!
An '87 Trek 560, also a 105 equipped mid-level road bike came with a 42-24t cassette.

I could go on and on and reference mid-level Miyata, Nishiki, Univega, Bridgestone, and Panasonic bikes with similar setups, but there is no need.


Reality is that in the 70s and very early 80s, mid-level road bikes came with easier gearing than similar level road bikes in the late 80s. Ultimately though, none of it is close to what comes stock on many mid-level road bikes now.


70s and early 80s- 39 or 42t small ring mated to a 28t freewheel.
mid80s into early 90s- 42t small ring mated to a 25 or 26t cassette.
current- 34t small ring mated to a 28 or 32t cassette.

There is a clear move to wider range gearing since the mid 80s. I dont know why gearing seemed to get more difficult in the 80s from what it used to be, but I have my guesses. I wasnt riding road bikes back then so I cant say for sure.

Point is- while your example is absolutely valid, so are all the examples of bikes I have refurbished and changed the freewheel/cassette on to make riding easier for the typically beginners who buy the bikes.
mid-level road bikes are consistently spec'd with 28t or 32t bailouts now with a 34t small ring. That is what I(and another poster) was referring to earlier. That is a huge difference from a 42-26 stock bailout from decades ago that was common on similar level bikes.
OK, 1987 is your baseline. My baseline is 1892.

In 1987 I was riding on the best clincher tires I could find, Specialized Turbo/S 700x32. Stiff and slippery. They measured 26mm wide. Every ride the group scoffed at my truck tires. Tandems went touring on tires narrower than that. I remember 1987 as an absolute nadir. There were a lot of bikes sold in 1987 that made no sense at all.

Schwinn Tempo and Trek 560 were unambiguously low price race bikes. Schwinn Voyageur introduced 1975 with low gear of 39x32. Later years the touring version was called Voyageur SP and featured gears as low as 33x38.

Schwinn always had real bikes for real riders. Cherry picking the worst of Craigslist is not an indicator of much. I would agree that much of current production is better than worst of the 80s. Current products do seem to me designed to solve problems that occurred in the late 70s and 80s that never needed to exist in the first place.
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Old 04-08-19, 09:21 AM
  #58  
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I really love the ‘new’ 1X ‘technology’. No shifting with my left hand, saves energy - might make me faster.

edit: and that 10-48 cassette - looks so svelte.
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Old 04-08-19, 09:22 AM
  #59  
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Yep, they all suck that badly. The pros using them have just been riding single speed all these decades because they don't shift but they still want to look cool with their "gears."
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Old 04-08-19, 09:55 AM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Forgive me for being pedantic, but I'd still argue there's some modernish tech there, brifters or no brifters. Your FD setup would be a lot less tolerable with anything but that modern MTB triple FD.

That's a Shimano Light Action RD too, right, or a variant of such? If so, it has a bit of plastic (not much, but it does) and it also uses a spring to smooth out overshifts. Can work both in favor or against friction shifting.

-Kurt
Over thirty years ago, circa 1987 and I suppose some would call it modern. The Xt730 with a few tweaks. That's two or three years before Shimano was selling 'brifters' for road.

Can't nearly escape a tiny bit of plast but I'm mostly referring to the bar end shifters and the robust derailleur main body, cage and pulley parts. Campagnolo used plastic way back when as a lower pivot bushing in their Nuovo Record.

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Old 04-08-19, 10:32 AM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
OK, 1987 is your baseline. My baseline is 1892.

In 1987 I was riding on the best clincher tires I could find, Specialized Turbo/S 700x32. Stiff and slippery. They measured 26mm wide. Every ride the group scoffed at my truck tires. Tandems went touring on tires narrower than that. I remember 1987 as an absolute nadir. There were a lot of bikes sold in 1987 that made no sense at all.

Schwinn Tempo and Trek 560 were unambiguously low price race bikes. Schwinn Voyageur introduced 1975 with low gear of 39x32. Later years the touring version was called Voyageur SP and featured gears as low as 33x38.

Schwinn always had real bikes for real riders. Cherry picking the worst of Craigslist is not an indicator of much. I would agree that much of current production is better than worst of the 80s. Current products do seem to me designed to solve problems that occurred in the late 70s and 80s that never needed to exist in the first place.
My baseline isnt '87, its simply a year where 2 of my 3 examples were referenced. The 11.8 I referenced was from 1980(the first year of the 11.8). I referenced mid-level road bikes because these are the bikes that people who wanted(and still want) to get into cycling often buy without having experience based knowledge on what will and wont work for them. The entry level options are often passed by in favor of something nicer, but not quite elite. 105 was that sweetspot 30 years ago and pretty much still is. The road bikes I mentioned are excellent examples and are hardly cherry picked like you claim. It seems like as soon as the Tri craze hit in '85 on, even mid-level bikes went to some absurd combinations for the bailout gearing.

As for Schwinn always having real bikes for real riders...i am not sure what that means. Their offerings were pretty much in like with the competition year by year.

Agreed that there were a lot of bikes in the mid-late 80s that didnt make sense from a usability perspective.
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Old 04-08-19, 10:35 AM
  #62  
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So any word from the OP about her/his actual shifters?......

If there were an Onion for bicycling, this week's edition would have an article about a cassette with so many cogs, the drive side spokes go straight down to the hub flange. Two years later, Shimano will introduce the real thing..
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Old 04-08-19, 10:48 AM
  #63  
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Lets not forget that Campgnolo was the king of racing in the 70's and anyone who was cool had to have it on their race bike. That would bring us to a 52 42 up front with a 14 to 26 or lower as the standard race bike combo of the era. If you wanted a Paramount P13 9 decked out in full Campagnolo, this was your option.
My PX 10 came standard with a 52 45 up front?

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Old 04-08-19, 11:10 AM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by johnnyace View Post
I have test-ridden new bikes with brifters, but they felt just so... cheesy, fragile, weird. It just seems like a fundamentally flawed design concept to me. From the perspective of someone who believes in the UNIX philosophy (to borrow a computer-related metaphor) of "simple tools that do one thing, and do it well," brifters are complex, and do neither shifting nor braking particularly well.
plus one.

Keep it simple. Luv'ing my simple friction stem shifter. Will never own a bike with Briftors.

Another down side to complex mechanism is they tend to be "disposable", i.e. wasteful. When things are so complex, they become unrepairable due to cost of dianosis. They get tossed into trash bin due to minor damage or just gunk, that is too expensive time comsuming to fix.

The beauty n practically of simple degisn is they durable and last forever. Pull it all apart easily, clean it good, put it back together easily...now you have a perfectly smooth mechanism that will work perfect for another 10 years.

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Old 04-08-19, 11:20 AM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by johnnyace View Post
I have a confession to make: I have never owned a bike that I ride regularly, that uses brifters. Perhaps that's no surprise to C&V folks, but most cyclists who ride road bikes made from the 90s until now might consider me a Luddite or retrogrouch for not having done so.

And now, having purchased two bikes recently that both have the same brifters (90s Shimano Ultegra), I don't know if I ever will have brifters.

On the Giordana, I was told by my mechanic friends that I should buy a new pair ($200) or source-out a 9-speed Sora set for cheaper on ebay or such. Neither the front or rear derailleur shifted, and new cables didn't fix the issue. I was told that this generation of Ultegra brifters had issues, and "it's like a clock-works in there."

On the Della Santa I just picked up yesterday, it's the same 90s Shimano Ultegra brifters (haven't checked the numbers yet, though) with the same issue: no shifts whatsoever, front or back.

I have test-ridden new bikes with brifters, but they felt just so... cheesy, fragile, weird. It just seems like a fundamentally flawed design concept to me. From the perspective of someone who believes in the UNIX philosophy (to borrow a computer-related metaphor) of "simple tools that do one thing, and do it well," brifters are complex, and do neither shifting nor braking particularly well.

I'm sure there must be better ones out there; maybe the high-end stuff is great. But in my admittedly limited experience with brifters so far, I just can't see myself owning and using these on any future bikes that I ride regularly.
You’re with understanding friends here on the C&V forum. Had you posted this on “general cycling discussion” the outcome might have been much worse. There was a winter thread about down tube shifting where the fans of downtube shifting were endlessly bombarded with silly arguments about why down tube shifting made no sense to them. Thoughtful responses about the usefulness of down tube shifters were shot down again and again. I opted out of the thread after it had gone on too long.

With that said, and the fact that I respect your pragmatism - I will say this about brifters (in my experience) - they are most definitely a game changer! I purchased a set of Dura Ace 7700/7703 (3x9) triple shifters new for $299 about 15 years ago. I set them up myself. They weren’t perfect when I first set them up. They seemed odd to me. The sideways wiggle of the brake lever was odd. He ease with which you could click through the cassette took some getting used to. The front derailleur shifting with the triple was odd and I lacked the insight at the time to understand the finer points of trim clicks and how to verify correct cable tesnsion and cable set up. But I do now. Shimano produces fantastic products as far as I’m concerned. The other STI bike I have ridden is a Dura Ace 7800 2x10 drivetrain that is also very nice - this I got used. The clicks on the front are a bit hard but the rear is like butter.

Your initial reaction about how “cheesy, fragile and weird” they felt is understandable I guess - cheesy because the shifters were used and not working properly, fragile since they were failing, and weird because you weren’t used to them. The memory of what shifting type you came up with is hard to break. It took me several years for brifter to start to feel natural. Consider yourself lucky that you learned road bike shifting the old way and have so many options. I would advise you to give brifters a second chance though. The Dura Ace 7700 series that I have are like little Swiss watches - very high quality. Unfortunately new old stock 7700 nine speed shifters and derailleurs have become scarce. It might be a better bet to go all in on one of your used frames so long as it has 130mm (modern road bike standard) and build it up with a modern gruppo of your choice. You could go Campy or Shimano at whatever price point you chose. Shimano 105 7000 series 11 speed or Ultegra 8000 series 11 speed parts are a bit of a bargain for how good they are from what I have heard. Pick either the Della Santa or the Giordana for the brifter bike and build the other with the old school shifting. Alternate both for a year, then report back in one year how you like brifters (just a suggestion). No reason to dig your heels in and disrespect a perfectly valid format -cheers!





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Old 04-08-19, 11:25 AM
  #66  
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Neither Campagnolo nor SRAM mechanisms are particularly complex and even in the case of Shimano, about a third of the parts you might see in a disassembled pic are brake lever parts. The Campagnolo design was essentially based around an index DT shifter barrel. It just adds the one way finger/thumb levers to move it instead of having a lever directly attached to it. SRAM has something like 4 moving parts not counting springs. I wouldn't be surprised if the ratcheting Campagnolo shifters were similarly simple inside.
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Old 04-08-19, 12:44 PM
  #67  
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One thing I think that really contributes to such wide-ranging opinion as to "proper" gearing and perhaps shifting methods is the huge variety of riding terrain that different regions offer up.
Here in the foothills for instance, one usually always uses their top gear periodically, on every ride, even if it's a 52x11.

And the best spacing of ratios, whether narrow or wide, corresponds not only to overall range, but to what rate that one must change their gear ratio as the road grade changes, perhaps abruptly. Too many shifts can quickly equate to too little fun when one needs a bigger change of ratio.

On yesterday's Fondo for instance, I was happy to have chosen to ride my recent Fuji cyclocross build with it's new compact double and 12-34t 9s cassette, since any 1-tooth gear changes would have been more annoying than useful. The quicker access to lower ratios spared my early-season legs, so one quick stop for a small ham sandwich and a Coke was all I needed to complete this tough 60+-mile ride comfortably.

Straying further from C&V topics, I used 2006-ish 9s Tiagra brifters (My Fuji Cross Comp is that old), a model of shifter which I have used for years of mostly winter-training miles, never had a problem with these.

As a side-note, I rolled on 33mm Mavic tubeless AllRoad tires and bothered not to carry any tube or even pump, knowing that a flat tire that the sealant couldn't handle would likely be exceedingly rare with 55psi in a high-volume gravel tire.
The roads were rough out toward the lake, and the soft tires seemed only to make my ride easier.


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Old 04-08-19, 12:46 PM
  #68  
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Campy 10sp brifters don't suck - they are on most of my bikes. The shifting is good, the braking is good,and the ergonomics are good, at least for my hands. For me, the sweet spot for riding is old lugged steel with Campy 10sp triple, and that describes most of my rides..

Downtube shifting of any kind is not a good look for me any more. Being tall means a long reach and being fat means a not-easy long reach.

I have used Shimano 8 and 9 speed barcons - I like 'em, but I like Campy Ergo more.

After a few years of friction riding at Eroica, I can say (1) downtube shifters are not for me (see above), (2) Suntour power ratchet barcons work quite well, and (3) Rivendell barcons are excellent, with smooth, flawless shifting.
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Old 04-08-19, 01:59 PM
  #69  
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I have a mix of bikes with down tube indexed and brifters. I like the brifters when setup correctly and working. My early 2000's Waterford came with Dura Ace 3x9 brifters which were excellent until one decided to give up shifting. Have taken it some what apart, did the lube fix, and had the local bike shop do the lube fix and no luck. Ended up taking the Ultegra 3x9 from my wifes bike after converting his to flat bar.

One day I'll dig into the Dura Ace brifter and fully take it apart.
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Old 04-08-19, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
So any word from the OP about her/his actual shifters?...
On my current bikes (70s Italvega road bike and 80s Univega MTB) I have Suntour bar-ends and Suntour Powershift ratcheting thumbies, respectively. When I do my rando build this next fall/winter, I'll probably go with either downtube or bar-end shifters. I've spent most of my biking life using downtube shifters; that's what I'm most comfortable with, that's what comes second-nature for me.

Thanks everybody for all of the good replies/feedback thus far. Lots of good food for thought!
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Old 04-08-19, 06:40 PM
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I didn't like them but then I did like them but then the rear shifter got stuck and I can't upshift out of my lowest rear gear and now I am not sure how I feel about them. Currently no amount of WD40 and tugging on the cable and trying to push the lever is making a difference. I decided to let my frustration level go back down before I try again.
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Old 04-08-19, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by beicster View Post
I didn't like them but then I did like them but then the rear shifter got stuck and I can't upshift out of my lowest rear gear and now I am not sure how I feel about them. Currently no amount of WD40 and tugging on the cable and trying to push the lever is making a difference. I decided to let my frustration level go back down before I try again.
That just means put in more WD and repeat this about 150 more times. Ask me how I know.

-Kurt
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Old 04-08-19, 07:43 PM
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Very happy with my 2009, 2010 Campy Centaur shifters. Climbing out of the saddle , shifting with barely a click. Downtube shifters only on my rain bike.
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Old 04-08-19, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
That just means put in more WD and repeat this about 150 more times. Ask me how I know.

-Kurt
I had a hard set to get working once. Tried flushing for hours, then gave up and walked away. Came back a few days later and the darn things clicked like new.
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Old 04-08-19, 08:53 PM
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For 8 speed brifters, I have had excellent luck with the $60 Microshift ones. The brake lever itself doesn't move at all, and the button for upshifting is located up high near the hood, which works well for upshifting both in the drops and when standing. The springs have plenty of tension, and they just seem a lot more solid than many of the Shimano 8 speed brifters I've used. Plus they're cheap, and the hoods are extremely oversized and comfortable.

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