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Shifters on the downpost

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Shifters on the downpost

Old 12-16-20, 01:19 PM
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WaveyGravey
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Shifters on the downpost

Recently acquired a vintage Klein with shifter mounted on down post. Never ridden one. Seems like it will be awkward.
Any advice on getting accustomed to this vintage layout? Thanks
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Old 12-16-20, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey View Post
Recently acquired a vintage Klein with shifter mounted on down post. Never ridden one. Seems like it will be awkward.
Any advice on getting accustomed to this vintage layout? Thanks
Practice, practice, and maybe start in an area that doesn't have any additional hazards for the first couple of rides. Like any other new thing, you'll get used to it, and it will become second nature.
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Old 12-16-20, 02:03 PM
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@WaveyGravey - Well I think you implied a down tube. I don't know of any bikes other than maybe a wooden one, that would (or is that wood) have a down post! I like it!
My advice is to find a gear that you feel comfortable riding around in including starting and just ride it in that gear. Focus on technique of riding to get to a stable place where you feel you are in good control of the bike. Then you can practice riding with one hand on the bar. When you are comfortable with being flexible with moving around with one hand on the bar, you can reach down and start learning to shift. I assume it is friction shifting? If it is index, it will be easier. Friction shifting forces you to listen to the drive train for rattles and adjust the lever until it goes away. That process can be distracting and why you should feel comfortable moving around with one hand on the bar.
You may find the single hand position to be easier to control the bike if it is closer to the stem. BTW, over about 10 mph, you don't steer with the bar, you use your body to lean in the direction you want to go and bike will take you there.

If you are already an experienced biker, my apologies for being so academic! With practice, shifting is nearly automatic, including friction shifting as you learn how far to move the lever for rattle free after a shift. Quick shifts to the right position will yield very quite shifts. Ahhh there I go again!

I have learned to shift with either hand and either lever or both together in opposite directions. It is achievable and comes with sense of pride and accomplishment!
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Old 12-16-20, 06:46 PM
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I love my vintage road bikes but two things bother me. The first is the pedals - I ride with SPDs even though they are not period correct.

Second, I use down tube shifters, but do not like doing so. I feel that they are unsafe. That said, I do not mind eliminating the down tube shifters for something that is period and, even in this case, model correct. This old German bike sports a set of Campagnolo Barcons which I find much easier and safer to use than their down tube siblings. Others may disagree...


However, in either case be it down tube or bar end, the user will have to learn to feel the shift, seeking that sweet spot each time until doing so becomes automatic...
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Old 12-16-20, 07:11 PM
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In the 70s it was all we had and I don't recall that anyone had any difficulty learning to it. When we got our first ten speeds, we just hopped on and started riding. Didn't seem awkward, it was just what you did.

I didn't ride at all for 30+ years and when I started riding again I thought modern shifting felt odd. So I got a vintage bike and it instantly felt perfectly natural.

I'm sure it does feel odd when you're used to something else, but I don't think it will take very many rides to get used to it.
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Old 12-16-20, 10:23 PM
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As everyone said-- it's just practice and learning to be comfortable with it.

I have a friend with a Schwinn Twinn Deluxe tandem... shifters also on downtubes. Now THAT is a learning curve... it's already much harder to handle a larger, heavier bike in the first place (and my friend is heavier than I am), and it still makes me nervous to take one hand off the handlebars. Add in the downtube shifters, and it was a loooong time before a shift didn't scare the crap out of me (now it only scares the piss out of me).

Go slowly when shifting, make sure you're in a smooth bit of road where you're not in danger the front wheel will hit something and jerk while you've got a hand off/are slightly distracted by shifting, try to shift as smoothly as possible, etc.
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Old 12-17-20, 05:38 AM
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It is just how I learned in the 70s on my first ten speed, so now is second nature. I'm lefty, and operate both the left and right shift levers with my right hand only, so my dominant hand is always on the handlebars. I usually shift when my hands are already in the drops--but not always. I NEVER look at the shifters when shifting--I learned to reach by bumping the knife edge of my hand against the top surface of the downtube so I wouldn't run fingers into the spinning front wheel, and keep my eyes on the road ahead. I sometimes glance at the crankset or freewheel to see where I am gear-wise, but NOT while shifting--I only do a quick look down when BOTH hands are on the bars. I don't have a problem keeping a straight track when shifting this way, even the couple times I tried it on a 70s tandem. And I very much appreciate the mechanical simplicity and serviceability of the downtube shifter layout. And FWIW I am a guy who is VERY nervous about taking both hands off the bars. I don't use my "classic" bikes when I am in a group ride in a pace-line, but otherwise like them very much!
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Old 12-17-20, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
I love my vintage road bikes but two things bother me. The first is the pedals - I ride with SPDs even though they are not period correct.

Second, I use down tube shifters, but do not like doing so. I feel that they are unsafe...
This is exactly the case for me, pedals (and I even have some with Crank Brothers) and brake/shifters for my C&Vs now do to traffic from urban sprawl and loss of flexibility in my 70s.
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Old 12-17-20, 07:53 AM
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yeah, I'm assuming OP meant down tube shifters but maybe a picture will tell us. Maybe it's an age thing because that's what I grew up riding so it's a pretty natural movement for me to to lean down and shift, though I will admit using brifters is way easier. During the summer when I'm riding a lot using both my vintage and my newer bikes I often will reach down while on my new bike by mistake or try and shift with my brake lever on my C&V bike. Odd.

I did notice when trying to get one of my sons to get into C&V bikes he really struggled trying to use down tube shifters and what made it worse, is he kept trying it with his left hand. Made it all the more awkward reaching across the bar and down to shift.
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Old 12-17-20, 07:56 AM
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If you were at Woodstock and don't know how to ride a friction shifter, something was lacking in your life.
But not the music.
Gravy On!
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Old 12-17-20, 08:39 AM
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47 years of riding bikes with down tube shifters, it becomes muscle Memory.
my first road bike had bar end controls, easy to access, vague in feel. With modern shift cable housing most of that would go away. I modified my bike after a year back then to be a bit lighter and have more precise shifting

it took less than a month way back to adapt.
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Old 12-17-20, 09:32 AM
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It's no worse than reaching down for a water bottle. Probably easier, in fact.
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Old 12-17-20, 12:43 PM
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I stand corrected. Down Tube Shifter. Not Post.
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Old 12-17-20, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by KenNC View Post
It is just how I learned in the 70s on my first ten speed, so now is second nature. I'm lefty, and operate both the left and right shift levers with my right hand only, so my dominant hand is always on the handlebars. I usually shift when my hands are already in the drops--but not always. I NEVER look at the shifters when shifting--I learned to reach by bumping the knife edge of my hand against the top surface of the downtube so I wouldn't run fingers into the spinning front wheel, and keep my eyes on the road ahead. I sometimes glance at the crankset or freewheel to see where I am gear-wise, but NOT while shifting--I only do a quick look down when BOTH hands are on the bars. I don't have a problem keeping a straight track when shifting this way, even the couple times I tried it on a 70s tandem. And I very much appreciate the mechanical simplicity and serviceability of the downtube shifter layout. And FWIW I am a guy who is VERY nervous about taking both hands off the bars. I don't use my "classic" bikes when I am in a group ride in a pace-line, but otherwise like them very much!
Funny, I'm right-handed but I do the exact same thing —I shift only with my right and keep the bike steady with my left. I feel I can keep the bike more stable by only reaching down with my dominant hand, which keeps my movements more controlled and precise. I'm much clumsier with my left hand, and fumbling around for the shifters with my left while the bike is in motion makes me feel less stable...
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Old 12-17-20, 01:06 PM
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I am in my 30s. Unlike a lot of folks here, I grew up in the age of STI and had never even used downtube shifters until 7 years ago.

But I learned to appreciate them and my favorite bike now sports Campy Doppler retrofrictions.

I also drive a manual transmission car.
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Old 12-17-20, 01:24 PM
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All my bikes, except the one with barcons, and another with an IG Hub, have downtube shifters. It’s not hard, becomes intuitive after a couple of rides, and they kind of last like, forever.
Yeah there are more modern, and convenient options, that by the way won’t last forever, but this is the CV forum.
Tim
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Old 12-17-20, 01:42 PM
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It comes quickly. Was in France, summer 2014. Wife wanted to ride her Peugeot. Only thing available for me was her dad's "ancient" 5 speed(?) (didn't look at make and could've been pre 60's for all I know....) Asked my wife where the shifters were and she pointed to the downtube. "Ah, cool!" Shifted with my dominant right hand and it was never an issue.
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Old 12-17-20, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
If you were at Woodstock and don't know how to ride a friction shifter, something was lacking in your life. But not the music. Gravy On!
"Good morning. What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000..."
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Old 12-17-20, 08:19 PM
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On my way to get an afternoon coffee today, I paid attention to shifting, kind of automatic.
shift, while hand is in the vicinity, trim the front.

Less work than bar end controls.

now, I have watched but never used shifting with any of the variants of the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gear change.
I placed a flag of tape on one of my bikes some time ago along the seat stay where the levers would be- not flexible enough, maybe for the “sport” longer arm version, but even then, I doubt it. Impressive those racers of the day could manage them so deftly.
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Old 12-18-20, 08:57 AM
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I was kinda hoping he was asking about this! Not mine sadly...


3speedslow shifter under the saddle.
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Old 12-18-20, 09:19 AM
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Practice, practice, practice. And don’t overthink it much.

On a related note, has anyone ever had to replace a down tube shift cable? My Stella has some 20-30k miles and still has its original cables.
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Old 12-18-20, 01:53 PM
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If a new rider is nervous, one could try something like this: find an empty parking lot, playground, etc. preferably with a long painted line. Practice riding on the line. Then take a hand off the bars and try to hold the line. Then take a hand off and reach down and tap the shifter and hold the line. After these steps feel comfortable, practice shifting. But, as others said, it's probably unnecessary for someone who is fairly comfortable on a bike already. Maybe something to do with a very young rider. Btw a very good habit to be in is to shift without looking down at the shifters, or worse, the freewheel.
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Old 12-18-20, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey View Post
Recently acquired a vintage Klein with shifter mounted on down post. Never ridden one. Seems like it will be awkward.
Any advice on getting accustomed to this vintage layout? Thanks
You'll get there.

And once you learn that, there are earlier incarnations, such as front derailleurs with no cable actuated by a lever sticking directly out of them.

And once you learn that, even earlier rear derailleurs actuated by levers on the seat stays.
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Old 12-18-20, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by 73StellaSX76 View Post
Practice, practice, practice. And don’t overthink it much.

On a related note, has anyone ever had to replace a down tube shift cable? My Stella has some 20-30k miles and still has its original cables.
Over the years, I have broken a number of shift cables, both front and rear. I break them much less frequently now, but I still carry a spare cable on long rides.
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Old 12-18-20, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey View Post
Recently acquired a vintage Klein with shifter mounted on down post. Never ridden one. Seems like it will be awkward. Any advice on getting accustomed to this vintage layout? Thanks
Really? Is it April already? Just kidding. As the owner of a Klein, it comes as part of the package, and worth it.
This is kind of a milestone, in a way. I knew the day would come, and here it is!

To the original poster: It's a great way to learn to ride a bike, beyond hanging onto the handlebars and pedaling, shifting when needed in a convenient manner. Same way you get to Carnegie Hall....practice.

You will learn to reach down without even looking, select the shifter, select the gear, and then get the satisfying "clunk," then dead quiet when the chain settles upon your chosen effort, and legs telegraphing the success or failure of your choice.

You will learn to look ahead, anticipate the changes a good 30 yards before your compadres, then grab a handful of bigger cogs in one throw, while your compadres chicken-wing their way up the rear cassette, one flapping motion at a time.

You will be one of the cool kids, calmly selecting your preferred gear while seemingly unaware of the feat, whilst youth and elder alike marvel or reminisce, respectively.

You may eventually prefer it, especially on solo rides when Zen kicks in and the world goes away; leaving just you and your bike.





Or not.

Last edited by RobbieTunes; 12-18-20 at 03:26 PM.
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