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What Makes a Good Friction Shifter?

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What Makes a Good Friction Shifter?

Old 05-23-07, 02:48 PM
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Bklyn
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What Makes a Good Friction Shifter?

My Lotus touring bike from the 80s came stock with downtube friction shifters. They were Shimano 600, and they shifted very smoothly, but because this was my commuter, I was worried about fishing around below my knees in traffic, so I switched them out for bar-end shifters. I found a set of Suntour NOS on eBay. And I'm wondering if that was the best plan. The chain-ring shifter makes me really hoist with the left hand, and the rear derailleur sometimes hops in the middle of the cluster. My question: How can I make these shift better? I see people praising Simplex shifters, but could they really be that much better? Would the Shimanos I have (with the Rivendell bar-end adapter) be better?
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Old 05-23-07, 05:21 PM
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Your paragraph leaves a bit dangling.

You are now using Suntour bar end shifters, Yes? What are your mechanisms?

What cables, housing, routing if using already?

With friction shifting if downtubes work well and bar ends do not, then its pilot error in the intermediate gears, possibly compounded by cable/housing/routing choice.

The Riv' solution is in part an attempt to adapt stuff to work, it does change things a bit which can effect "feel", which might help.
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Old 05-23-07, 05:25 PM
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I would venture to guess that the diameter of the part of the shifter that the cable wraps around combined with the design of the front derailleur determines how far you have to move the lever to shift the front chainrings. The same would basically be true for the rear but with much smaller spaces between the cogs it would be the overall range that would be affected. Neither sounds like it would cause the issue you describe of the rear derailleur hopping in the middle of the cluster. Unless the shifter's friction screw is just loose allowing the lever to slip then I would think there is an issue with the derailleur/freewheel and/or chain or some alignment problem. I have basic low-end Simplex on one bike and Campy Nuovo Record and another and they both shift just fine. On occasion I've had to tighten the screws. In fact if you look in some old Campy catalogs from the late '60's/early '70's you see that the top of the line Nuovo Record shifter parts were the same part numbers as the low end Valentino model with the exception of the Record shifters having little D-rings on the screws so there really isn't much to them. I've never used bar-ends so I can't comment on them specifically although I have a set of Suntours sitting in my parts box.
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Old 05-23-07, 06:07 PM
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I apologize for being obtuse. I've been a cyclist for only two years now, and the drive train still intimidates me. Thanks for trying to help; I'll try to be a bit clearer.

You are now using Suntour bar end shifters, Yes? What are your mechanisms?
Not sure what you mean by mechanisms. As for the cables, housing, routing: The cables were the Suntour NOS, and the housing is this articulated metal housing, also the original Suntour. The routing is the usual gentle arc out in front of the stem as with most bar-ends.

Here's something I didn't mention before. The rear wheel has a new hub and sprocket. The original 6-speed cassette cracked, and I replaced it with a Shimano 7-speed built on a Shimano 105 hub. This required spreading the spacing by a few mm. Also, the range on this cassette is a lot tighter (12-22) than
the original.

Thanks again.
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Old 05-23-07, 06:33 PM
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The Suntour barcons are pretty damn good as far as friction is concearned. Sounds like you just need to adjust them. It's hopping because the shifter is too loose. Back off the retainer nut on the inside of the right shifter and tighten the screw just a hair. Then tighten the retainer nut while holding the screw with a screwdriver.

If you are running a 7 speed freewheel make sure you have an appropriate chain, an 8 speed Sachs will work well. Wider chains have a hard time dropping onto the center cogs on those closely spaced freewheels.

As for the throw for the front derailleur, make sure your stops are set as close as possible and that the cable is tight.

If you routed the cables well and used good housings, those should work as well as any friction set-up. Of course downtubes will always have a lighter action just because of the lack of cable housing and a little better leverage.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:19 PM
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mechanisms = derailleurs
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Old 05-23-07, 11:41 PM
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Old 05-24-07, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by BlankCrows
mechanisms = derailleurs
Of course.
Shimano 600, which were nonindexed.
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Old 05-24-07, 06:00 AM
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You need a pair of these:

I've never been happy with my Suntour barcons.

Last edited by Grand Bois; 05-24-07 at 07:27 AM.
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Old 05-24-07, 08:55 AM
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Those look great, Dirtdrop, but I have to disagree regarding SunTours; I am delighted with mine.
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Old 05-24-07, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by John E
Those look great, Dirtdrop, but I have to disagree regarding SunTours; I am delighted with mine.
Sure, they look good, but I haven't gotten around to trying them on a bike.

Everybody seems to like the Suntours, but I've never gotten comfortable with them. Maybe it's my setup.
Maybe I just need to spend more time with them.
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Old 05-24-07, 10:10 AM
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So, part of what's happening here is that you've introduced more cable housing into the mix. Downtube shifters run the cable naked almost all the way to the derailleur, but bar ends introduce an extra length of housing between the bar ends and the downtube cable stops. This provides a natty opportunity for the cable to stick, and for the housing to compress. Shimano compressionless housing, greasing the cable, and making sure you have the least tortuous routing possible should help, and at least get things as good as they can be.
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Old 05-24-07, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Sammyboy
Shimano compressionless housing, greasing the cable...
Yeah, I was thinking that the nifty metal housing, as vinatgey as it is, might actually not be as good as what's available in the 21st century.
Originally Posted by Sammyboy
mak[e] sure you have the least tortuous routing possible....
Someone who knows the difference between tortuous and torturous! Wow. Off to the LBS right now.
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Old 05-25-07, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Sammyboy
So, part of what's happening here is that you've introduced more cable housing into the mix. Downtube shifters run the cable naked almost all the way to the derailleur, but bar ends introduce an extra length of housing between the bar ends and the downtube cable stops. This provides a natty opportunity for the cable to stick, and for the housing to compress. Shimano compressionless housing, greasing the cable, and making sure you have the least tortuous routing possible should help, and at least get things as good as they can be.
+1. I picked up an '83 Trek 720 a while ago with the stock Suntour bar end shifters (friction) which felt too stiff when I attempted to shift. I put more loop into the sheathed part of the cable ('tween the bar ends and the cable stops on the downtube) and that improved the shifting a lot.
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Old 05-25-07, 11:31 AM
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Here is apic of my commuter which has barcons. I used modern housing and have not had any problems. It is a different feel from down tube shifters littleless "immediate" if you will. Do the cable runs on yours look like the ones here? I have found that if the cable arc is smaller the shifters don't work as well. YMMV.

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