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Brifters: Do they all suck this badly?

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Brifters: Do they all suck this badly?

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Old 04-07-19, 10:44 AM
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johnnyace 
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Brifters: Do they all suck this badly?

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.
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Old 04-07-19, 10:48 AM
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They probably have sat for a while. Spray some WD 40 into the shifter . After the flush, squeeze some oil into them. I just did that to my set that have sat for a few years and did not shift. They work perfectly now.

I enjoy using them for serious riding for speed. I enjoy friction shifting as well.
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Old 04-07-19, 10:56 AM
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I have limited exp with them on my bikes but i worked in a shop where we built tons of bikes with them. Generally they work pretty well but for me, the brake levers always feel funny. Shifting is usually quite good but i owned a set of tiagra 10 speed that you could accidently miss shift. My best ever exp with brifters was campagnolo 8 speed. It was just about perfect. On my builds i use suntour barcons and 6-8 friction.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:10 AM
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This is like me asking if DT shifters all work badly when they ghost shift and have a broken wingnut and the limit screws are not adjusted and the chain is too long and broken friction washers and frayed rusty cables. Obviously the answer is yes, all DT shifters suck this badly. Decades old DT shifters need maintenance and tune ups, decades old STIs need WD-40 and tune ups. STIs are not especially fragile unless you enjoy crashing often and throwing your bike into sandpits, and just like any other shifting mechanism, requires a little practice before it becomes second nature. They are certainly more durable than indexed Shimano bar end shifters. Most brifter designs work better as a hood hand position and useful brake from the hood than any non-aero brake lever, and better than many aero ones.Obviously the more speeds you have, the more likely it is to misshift if everything isn't perfect.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:14 AM
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As before, probably inactivity. 9sp Ultegra were/are excellent, generally, and while not as nimble as the 7700, definitely more solid.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:25 AM
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I am not a fan of Shimano brifters. But I do like Shimano’s indexed bar-end shifters. They are precise, have a nice tactile feel, and look good on just about any era of bikes. They would be an easy way to fix the shifting on your two bikes.

Or if if you were like me you would replace everything with Campagnolo. But then I am a bit nuts.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:38 AM
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Shimano brifters are especially likely to gum up if not used for awhile. I run across this all the time.

The usual solution is to use a solvent like WD-40 to flush them out, and follow with a lubricant like Tri-Flow.

My method is to use one product only: CRC PowerLube in the red can. About $3 at auto parts stores. PowerLube has PTFE (Teflon), so it has lubricant as well as solvent properties.

Patience pays off here, because some shifters get really gummed up. Spray, let drain, work shifter in both directions, repeat. It can take me a good half hour just to get a shifter moving in one direction, and another half hour to get it fully functional. Don't give up, just keep at it.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:40 AM
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For you, apparently yes STIs are bad.
For the super majority, no STIs are not bad.

it's an opinion...there is no right or wrong answer. And with bar end, down tube, and Gevenalle shifters all being alternatives to STIs, everyone has plenty of choices.


I love STIs. They are on 3 of my drop bar bikes, with the others having Gevenalle or bar ends. Basically- none have downtube shifters because i dont like them for a host of reasons- less convenient, less comfortable good shape, etc.
again though- that's all simply preference. Nothing right or wrong.

For STIs within my family, we have 9sp Ultegra, 9sp Sora, 9sp Microshift, 9sp Tiagra, 10sp Tiagra, and 11sp Ultegra. These span 2 decades. All work flawlessly. Shifts happen when you want and braking happens as it should.
They are the least interesting thing on all our bikes because they work as expected and I never think about them.
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Old 04-07-19, 11:49 AM
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They probably have sat for a while. Spray some WD 40 into the shifter .
I have had 100% success with getting poorly or non functioning Brifters working again, using the simple flush/work/flush method. I find it works best with the levers removed and with a short piece of cable installed to help with returning shifts. Using the red tube supplied with the WD40, liberally spray into every crevice and/or opening. Try to avoid getting the WD40 on the hoods and clean immediately (soap and water) if you do...
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Old 04-07-19, 11:49 AM
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Brifters represently vastly superior technology in almost all ways, other than maybe ultimate durability, compared to conventional old style shifters. They are not unreliable per say, but they are more complex and thus less reliable compared to axe reliable down tube shifters. What brifters do allow is faster shifting while keeping both hands on the handlebars, and keeping your mitts on the bars is safer than removing one to shift. Better living through technology. If you can't afford to replace a shifter that's decades old and has covered countless miles one would have to wonder what you are doing with a Della Santa?
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Old 04-07-19, 12:00 PM
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I'm with the others. Not usual to find old Shimano shifters all gummed up and not working. Really
simple job to flush well with WD40 and then relubricate with something like Triflow. I've rescued several sets like this that weren't working at all. Once fixed they've stayed good for years.
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Old 04-07-19, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
I have had 100% success with getting poorly or non functioning Brifters working again, using the simple flush/work/flush method. I find it works best with the levers removed and with a short piece of cable installed to help with returning shifts. Using the red tube supplied with the WD40, liberally spray into every crevice and/or opening. Try to avoid getting the WD40 on the hoods and clean immediately (soap and water) if you do...
Completely agree. This also applies to flat bar shifters that stop engaging. I flood the shifters with WD-40 or Release All until it is dripping our the bottom of the shifter. I keep a spray bottle of Isopropyl alcohol in my shop and I spray/clean off the shifters with it after the are freed up and working.
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Old 04-07-19, 12:31 PM
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Boy, I sure have a different understanding of the word 'technology' than most people on this forum.
It could be seen as semantics.
I think of 'new technology' as adding something that didn't exist before - not an improvement or upgrade

our new washing machine has a built-in drainboard over the tub, that allows us to spot wash better and put garments straight in without the mess of dripping water from the laundry sink (inches away). This new technology obsoletes all other 'old school' washers, everybody knows you should have both hands over the tub for pre-spotting and when inserting clothes. You retrogrouch washing machine owners better upgrade, or your washing won't be as good or efficient, maybe less safe.

oh well, a different thread some time.

to stay on thread for @johnnyace - the repeated WD40 flush has worked for me as well. Sure is messy done on-bike.
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Old 04-07-19, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Boy, I sure have a different understanding of the word 'technology' than most people on this forum.
It could be seen as semantics.
I think of 'new technology' as adding something that didn't exist before - not an improvement or upgrade
ctrl+f technology

Huh?
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Old 04-07-19, 01:08 PM
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I have had down tube, stem mounted, Barcons, independent bar mounted, and combined bar mounted with brakes - and have never had a problem that could not be remedied. Never had brifters, so there is no dog in this fight.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:12 PM
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Completely agree with OP. My bikes had 8 and 9 speed Ergopower for about 15 years. They did work. I never had a problem. They were at least theoretically serviceable and I had a Campy guy who did that for friends who did have problems. Spraying lubricant out of a can is not the sort of service that makes you feel like you now know how it works . Does not impart confidence. Current production, so far as I know, is less serviceable and parts non-existent. Shimano parts? Good luck. Any time I ever touched Shimano brifters, either riding a bike or on the stand, the experience was not anything to do with bikes or mechanics, it was pure Shimano.

It always did seem like giving input to a black box. When I picked up the eponymous '63 Rickert with crusty NR shifting in need of total service it was like falling in love again. No going back. Made me wonder why I'd ever submitted to peer pressure or blandishments of marketers.

First attribute of brifters, the one that makes people say "vastly superior technology", is that you will shift far more frequently. Why is that a good thing? Is it good for your legs to find a narrow band of 5 rpm or less and make that the only spot where you want to ride? Is it good to never have to think about what you are doing as you run through the gears? Now that there are insta-shifting systems that sound like a .22 when resonating through CF it is very easy to know how others on the ride are shifting. There are times I am doing the lions share of the pulls and not shifting at all for miles, while the others are shifting every 100 meters, or even more frequently. What is the purpose? Why do we need this "vastly superior technology"?

If you play C&V you get to know about lots of stuff that has been done in the history of the bicycle. Most everything that is "new" has been done before. If you have some perspective hopefully it is possible to figure out which of the "new" is old and which is worth doing and which is merely a curiousity.

The other thing that has occurred as shifting is too easy and no one ever thinks before shifting is that gears keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger again. Used to be that anyone riding in top gear was considered a complete neophyte who didn't know how to ride. Now everyone uses the top gear and then gets a topper gear. Ten tooth cogs are in use and nines have arrived. Translating and paraphrasing Velocio "The longer the ride, the longer the season, the longer your life in the saddle, the greater the temptation to use bigger gears. Do not give in. The big gears will tire you, they will end your long ride." Brifters vastly accelerated the drift towards high gears. It looks like weightlifting on wheels.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For you, apparently yes STIs are bad.
For the super majority, no STIs are not bad.

it's an opinion...there is no right or wrong answer.
I rode with a friend that has Shimano 105's on his Gunnar X this morning.

We traded bikes for a few miles and I have to say, the new 105's are great values.

It felt like higher end DA from just a few years ago.

Slick, easy shifts and the rain we got caught in didn't seem to faze them one iota.

The discs were nice as well, especially in the wet, goopey muck we were riding in.

They do look like something out of an "Alien" movie, but I could easily learn to love them for their function.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:46 PM
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I had a 9 speed (I think, might have been 10) Duraace bike with STI shifters that shifted like butter. I have some Tiagra 9 speed shifters and 10 speed SRAM, and they are nothing like that. I need to do something about the SRAM on my road bike, but I think that's mostly cable related. I don't think 9 Speed Shimano shifters are particularly reliable though, I knew someone who went through 2 sets on his bike.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Completely agree with OP. My bikes had 8 and 9 speed Ergopower for about 15 years. They did work. I never had a problem. They were at least theoretically serviceable and I had a Campy guy who did that for friends who did have problems. Spraying lubricant out of a can is not the sort of service that makes you feel like you now know how it works . Does not impart confidence. Current production, so far as I know, is less serviceable and parts non-existent. Shimano parts? Good luck. Any time I ever touched Shimano brifters, either riding a bike or on the stand, the experience was not anything to do with bikes or mechanics, it was pure Shimano.

It always did seem like giving input to a black box. When I picked up the eponymous '63 Rickert with crusty NR shifting in need of total service it was like falling in love again. No going back. Made me wonder why I'd ever submitted to peer pressure or blandishments of marketers.

First attribute of brifters, the one that makes people say "vastly superior technology", is that you will shift far more frequently. Why is that a good thing? Is it good for your legs to find a narrow band of 5 rpm or less and make that the only spot where you want to ride? Is it good to never have to think about what you are doing as you run through the gears? Now that there are insta-shifting systems that sound like a .22 when resonating through CF it is very easy to know how others on the ride are shifting. There are times I am doing the lions share of the pulls and not shifting at all for miles, while the others are shifting every 100 meters, or even more frequently. What is the purpose? Why do we need this "vastly superior technology"?

If you play C&V you get to know about lots of stuff that has been done in the history of the bicycle. Most everything that is "new" has been done before. If you have some perspective hopefully it is possible to figure out which of the "new" is old and which is worth doing and which is merely a curiousity.

The other thing that has occurred as shifting is too easy and no one ever thinks before shifting is that gears keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger again. Used to be that anyone riding in top gear was considered a complete neophyte who didn't know how to ride. Now everyone uses the top gear and then gets a topper gear. Ten tooth cogs are in use and nines have arrived. Translating and paraphrasing Velocio "The longer the ride, the longer the season, the longer your life in the saddle, the greater the temptation to use bigger gears. Do not give in. The big gears will tire you, they will end your long ride." Brifters vastly accelerated the drift towards high gears. It looks like weightlifting on wheels.
Interesting. I always wonder if it was the old gearing that caused so many people to not ride the great bikes they purchased in the 70`s and 80`s? I find so many that look like they only have a couple of hundred miles on them. My LBS no longer stocks very many road bikes. They mostly sell comfort bikes cross bikes and mountain bikes. Seems the masses today prefer easy gearing? I see so many older people out riding now. Whatever keeps them healthy.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Is it good for your legs to find a narrow band of 5 rpm or less and make that the only spot where you want to ride? Is it good to never have to think about what you are doing as you run through the gears?
...
The other thing that has occurred as shifting is too easy and no one ever thinks before shifting is that gears keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger again. Used to be that anyone riding in top gear was considered a complete neophyte who didn't know how to ride. Now everyone uses the top gear and then gets a topper gear. Ten tooth cogs are in use and nines have arrived. Translating and paraphrasing Velocio "The longer the ride, the longer the season, the longer your life in the saddle, the greater the temptation to use bigger gears. Do not give in. The big gears will tire you, they will end your long ride." Brifters vastly accelerated the drift towards high gears. It looks like weightlifting on wheels.
Straight blocks were invented before brifters and brifters do not necessarily have to run straight blocks. What is basically being implied is that having options is bad, something like an ad braklus fixae argument.

Regarding 9t/10t cogs, this is largely misinformed. 9t are predominantly used for 20" wheel bikes and sometimes mountain bikes with small single chainrings where the goal is to maximize gear range in the cassette. If you start off with a 10-50t cassette and you want to increase range by 10% you can either make it 9-50 or 10-55. The same goes for 10t, except with SRAM 2x12, which also comes with smaller chainrings.

Regarding 11t cogs, this has almost nothing to do with brifters and time trialists were already using larger than standard chainrings to get higher gears. It has to do with hyperglide freehubs and mountain bike chainring clearance. 11t cogs were rare on road bikes during the 9 speed era, with 12t small being standard. They weren't even common when 10 speed was first introduced and only became common on road bikes when compact doubles became common.

Regarding 12t cogs, these were already finding their way onto 6/7sp downtube systems and even freewheels.

Last edited by Kuromori; 04-07-19 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 04-07-19, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
...

... Now that there are insta-shifting systems that sound like a .22 when resonating through CF it is very easy to know how others on the ride are shifting. There are times I am doing the lions share of the pulls and not shifting at all for miles, while the others are shifting every 100 meters, or even more frequently. What is the purpose? Why do we need this "vastly superior technology"?

.
No dog in this fight but a comment from my experience. I raced in the late '70s. Loved a silent running and shifting drivetrain. Best move I pulled at a finish was quietly shifting to my 54-15 when I was 2/3s back in a small field of maybe 25 riders. No one noticed the shift or saw me go. I was even with the leader with a full head of steam before anyone said "he's going!" Wouldn't have worked if my shift had been loud. Oh, ultra-quiet DT friction shifter (like every other shifter in the field. This was 1978,)

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Old 04-07-19, 02:08 PM
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Almost always just needs lots of flushing. I like to do it with the hoods totally removed in order to keep the solvents off of 'em.
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Old 04-07-19, 02:56 PM
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When I got back into cycling in the very late 90s I had a Cannondale R800 with Shimano 105 about 3 years in they wore out and I replaced them with Ultegras - which might have been used and then 3 years after that....you guessed it needed new shifters and I started to wonder -is there a better way? Which brought me to build a steel framed bike with bar end shifters and then that opened the door to C&V for me, other than my last two clunker challenge bikes I am totally friction these days.
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Old 04-07-19, 03:27 PM
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My old 10sp 105 brifters were amazing. I still have them even though all my bikes are with friction shifters right now. I always found the shape of the body and the brake lever to be very very comfortable and I wish that I could have dedicated brake levers in that shape without the weight of the shifting mechanism. I have used broken brifters before in that manner on a fixed gear bike, I'd probably do it again if I could find the same generation ones to install.
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Old 04-07-19, 03:32 PM
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wgscott
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My first "brifters" (or should it be "shrakes"?) were Shimano Di2. My previous road bike had friction shifting.

The non-electronic ones are not nearly as nice. I hate the way they move laterally to shift. My Crampy ones are a bit nicer in that respect, but the thumb button on those things is a bit unpleasant.
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