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Help me update the drive train on a steelie

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Help me update the drive train on a steelie

Old 11-20-21, 07:26 AM
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Help me update the drive train on a steelie

I found an entry level empty frame that I'm building up this winter - a 63cm Centurion Sport DLX - with downtube braze on points.

I want to use downtube shifters, indexed preferably, and a rear sprocket with more gears than the original 6 gears.

I've found reasonably priced pre-built wheelsets with 11 gear freehubs...but no braze on index shifters for 11 gears, only 8 or 9 gear indexed braze on shifters.

Should I build my own wheelset with an 8 gear freehub? Give up on indexed and get the VO 11 speed friction shifters?
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Old 11-20-21, 09:31 AM
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@BTinNYC - "empty frame" meaning just the frame set?
Max DT shifting is 10v with friction. I haven't done it but other here have.
If you go more than 7v you will need to spread the frame as it is likely 126 OAL. Anything more will need 130, which you can just spring the DO out for the wheel but then the RD hanger needs to be checked for orientation.

You can use the DT braze-ons as cable stops for "brifters" of your choice and then configure the rest of the drive system accordingly, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Stick with either Campagnolo or Shimano (and its compatible competition).
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Old 11-20-21, 09:55 AM
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The frame is 130mm across the DO, and it's the frame & fork. I agree, my best path with indexed shifting is sticking to 1 company, most probably Shimano.

I have most of the needed parts (how many times have I started a project with that plan and budget!) except the wheelset, rear sprocket and braze on shift levers.
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Old 11-20-21, 10:21 AM
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If your goal is to keep down tube shifters for originality, but gain access to index shifting , or saving money , I would stick to 8 speed, as new or used down tube shifters are readily available.

If having a more modern drive train is the goal, go for brifters, it is far superior setup IMHO. Some of newer, stuff is currently seeing supply chain issues.... Go carefully if you get in 11spd hubs, as 10 speed cassettes, and even 11spd cassettes of differing manufacturers, despite claiming compatibility ( I talking shimano and sram) don't always play well. Keep some freehub spacers about. I have had numerous issues of lock rings not fully compressing the cassette, or not having a enough threads to engage the lock ring... Resulting in me buying another cassette. Although I enjoy mix and matching stuff, I guess that's what I get. Your concept of staying with one manufacturer is far safer route ( all the way down to the hub!).

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Old 11-20-21, 10:36 AM
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I searched "11 speed indexed towntube shifter."

The drawing has a note about detents & orientation. This suggests indexing. If you can live with friction mode, any ol' Suntour dt shifter will do it as they turn beyond 270 degrees or more & can be found at any co-op for way less than the new Dia Compe Ene Ciclo linked above.

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Old 11-20-21, 10:38 AM
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Bar end shifters index up to 12 speed for TT bikes and whatnot. I'm not sure about the most modern Shimano bar end shifters, but earlier ones that I've had were pretty much just a pod with a DT shifter mount that lots of different DT shift levers could fit in to. It could be possible to get a 12 speed bar end shifter and use it just for the lever, which should mount on any DT shifter mount. The newest Shimano bar-ends look like this would work, but I've never tried it.
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Old 11-20-21, 10:53 AM
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FWIW 7700 Dura Ace downtube shifters are quite nice if you can snag a set. I believe you should be able to use an 8, 9, 10, or 11 speed cassette on a newer 11 speed freehub with the appropriate spacer. That's what I did.
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Old 11-20-21, 11:30 AM
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You can do 10s downtube indexed, Campy (converted barend shifter with a lever stop) or Shimano (I have some SL-7900's), If you find some levers to pull the cable you can probably do friction up to 11s. There are indexed bar ends that do 11 & 12s but I don't think they can be converted to downtube because they changed the shape to that of a paddle, so I suspect they will have interference on the DT, but I haven't been willing to spend the money to find out so I may be wrong there.
Using a J-Tek shiftmate, you can mix and match what you can find also, between brands and speeds.

Campy 10s Indexed

Shimano 10s indexed with some friction in the front.

JTek Shiftmate, Campagnolo 10s Rear, Dura Ace 10s index
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Old 11-20-21, 12:37 PM
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I'd be asking myself "How many gears do I need for the riding I want to do?". The situation you're in reminds me of the old Keith Bontrager quote - "Strong. Light. Cheap. Choose any two." but in your case it's more like "11 speeds. Indexed. DT Shifters. Choose any two."

Essentially, you should be able to do 8 speeds with indexed DT shifters really easily. Last Spring I rebuilt a 1994 Cannondale that I'd added Sachs Ergos and RD, and a Campy Racing T triple to years before. I rebuilt it as a full Shimano RX100 8 speed double, with indexed DT shifters. It works fine for most of the riding I do. Not for hilly days, but I have other bikes for that. It's got a 12-25 cassette and 53/39 crankset, which gives me gears close enough for how I like to ride. I could go for a wider range cassette, but doing so would make the gaps between the gears bigger than I like. So I ride it the way it is. It's fun, especially because the indexing in those early indexed DT shifters is so LOUD, and that big aluminum downtube really resonates when I shift!.
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Old 11-20-21, 01:54 PM
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There are readily available Shimano indexed downtube shifters for 6-7-8-9-10 speeds. Some of them can switch between index and friction; those will friction shift across a cassette with any number of speeds on any 130mm OLD rear hub. Price goes up accordingly, in that there are cheap 6 speed shifters but no cheap 10 speed indexed shifters. Iíve been told that the indexing pod on an 11 speed Shimano bar end is removable and will fit with some minor modifications into any pod-style Shimano downtube shift lever (note that not all Shimano indexed downtube shift levers are pod style, some are sealed). All of those shifters will work happily with any Shimano indexing rear derailleur to shift the number of speeds in the indexing pod, and mixing and matching is bery common, including between road and MTB RDís up to and including 9 speed. The only real caveat here is Dura Ace 740X, where the shifters and RDís should only be used with each other and not mixed with other Shimano products. Some folks claim that they have successfully done so, I have not.

As others have said, ask yourself how many gears you really need. I have several 10 speed downtube shifted bikes but donít feel they have any real advantage over my similar 8 or 9 speed downtube shifted bikes, while I would say that they are easier to ride fast than my 6 and 7 speed bikes because you can more easily zero in the best gear for a given situation.

Forst thing I would, ask, however, is what the downtube braze on looks like. Centurions in the mid 80ís used a proprietary Shimano braze on that doesnít play well with standard downtube shift levers. They can be modified to work, but you should know that before jumping into this project.
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Old 11-20-21, 05:08 PM
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Thank you all for sharing your experience. It's very helpful and much appreciated.
I think an 8 gear rear sprocket is plenty.
I'll dig in on the braze on configuration.

I really like the idea of committing 2 sets of shifters to an experiment, but I'm defaulting to building a wheel based on a Shimano 8 gear freehub and their indexed braze ons.

Lots of work getting the ugly and 1988 off the frame, so I have time to get parts. Or change my mind.
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