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Downtube shifters that pull a lot of cable...

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Downtube shifters that pull a lot of cable...

Old 06-29-09, 08:31 AM
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Downtube shifters that pull a lot of cable...

I embarked on an upgrade project for my 1984 Trek 520. I spent a small fortune getting it exactly the way I want it... got a little over $2200 in parts.

But here's the last thing that I need to finish off the bike... downtube shifters that will pull the rear derailleur through all 9 cogs of the cassette.

Here's the setup:
  • Shimano XTR Rapid Rise long cage rear derailleur
  • SRAM 990 11-34 cassette
  • Shimano 105 rear hub

I installed a set of beautiful NOS Shimano 600 clamp-on shifters, but they don't have enough travel to pull all 9 cogs. I absolutely love these shifters, but they'll only allow me to use 7 cogs. I've been searching for a set of clamp-on shifters that'll pull all nine, but no joy. All I've found are for brazed on downtube bosses. As a matter of fact, I bought a set of Silver Shifters from Rivendell... but they don't fit my clamp on bosses. The big problem is that I need clamp on shifters... and I like the downtube shifters because they don't interfere with my huge handlebar bag.

Ideally I'd like to keep the classy 600 shifters... does anyone have some ideas on how to make these old shifters work with a new 9 speed XTR rear?

Without a workaround, it looks like I have a couple of choices:
  1. Adjust the rear derailleur to use the 7 cogs that I choose to use for a given situation.
  2. Convert to bar end shifters that'll do the job.

Anybody got ideas or other options?
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Old 06-29-09, 08:40 AM
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I have no idea about which levers pull farther than others, but you could try something like a Travel Agent on your shifter cable to increase the cable length that your levers can pull.
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Old 06-29-09, 09:15 AM
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travel agent, there is a bent and an inline -- that might work no?
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Old 06-29-09, 09:23 AM
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Campagnolo in the late eighties made a retro friction down tube shifter with a large diameter cable path. I think it was designed for this very situation (8 speed). Someone more educated in old Campy parts my be able to shed some light.
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Old 06-29-09, 10:20 AM
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Dura Ace 7700 series (9 speed) made a downtube shifter - but I think they might be hard to find. They would probably index correctly, and they can be changed to friction mode, just like 7700 series bar-ends can (and are plentiful).
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Old 06-29-09, 10:42 AM
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DA 7800 10-speed shifters are still being made. Otherwise the aforementioned 80s/90s Campy 8-speed shifters pull a lot of cable - they worked fine with my 9-speed cassette.
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Old 06-29-09, 01:08 PM
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'Preciate all the replies...

I think that I'm going to try using an inline Travel Agent to increase the cable pull to the rear derailleur. I have a question, though.

The Travel Agent doubles the distance that the cable pulls, but it reduces the force with which it pulls by 50%. Conversely, that means that the force at which my derailleur will pull back on the shift lever will double. Will this lead to shifter slippage? The Travel Agent was originally meant for use in braking systems. Anyone have experience using a Travel Agent for derailleurs instead of for brakes? Does it work well?
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Old 06-29-09, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Hydrated
I installed a set of beautiful NOS Shimano 600 clamp-on shifters, but they don't have enough travel to pull all 9 cogs.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought a nine speed cassette was more or less the same outside dimensions as a 7 speed, with the cogs just a bit more narrowly spaced.

Could it be cable placement issue? Did you install the derailleur cable with the chain on the biggest cog and the shift lever as far back as you could get it to go?

Also, bar end shifters work on a similar principle but seem to have the range to pull through nine cogs on my Bike Friday. - could one of them somehow be modified to fit on the downtube?

Last edited by cooker; 06-29-09 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 06-29-09, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought a nine speed cassette was more or less the same outside dimensions as a 7 speed, with the cogs just a bit more narrowly spaced.

Could it be cable placement issue? Did you install the derailleur cable with the chain on the biggest cog and the shift lever as far back as you could get it to go?
Hmmmm.... you could be right...

I installed the cable the opposite way. I let the derailleur come to rest all the way on the big cog with no cable on it (remember it's a Rapid Rise unit) and then installed and pulled the cable taut with the lever pushed up in the resting position.

Maybe I need to try that one again...
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Old 06-29-09, 02:22 PM
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My 23 yr old Shimano DT light actions would pull through 8 or 9 (originally for a 5 sp freewheel). In fact I could have gotten more pull out of them, but I set the limiter on my RD. However, I'm don't have any experience with the RR, so just my 2 cents.
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Old 06-29-09, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by johnknappcc
My 23 yr old Shimano DT light actions would pull through 8 or 9 (originally for a 5 sp freewheel). In fact I could have gotten more pull out of them, but I set the limiter on my RD. However, I'm don't have any experience with the RR, so just my 2 cents.
I have a growing suspicion that this whole problem may be due to having a numbskull on one end of the wrench!

I'm going to go back and recheck all of my adjustments and cable travel issues... If I find that I made a rookie mistake, I'll make up something that deflects the blame off of me and pins it on someone else!
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Old 06-29-09, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by cpsqlrwn
Your post made me curious. I have a set of those Campy 8 speed friction shifters. Do you thing they would work with a compact crank (34-50) doing 8 speed or 9 speed?
I would not think a Compact crank in itself is a problem. Campy had compact cranks in 1985 running 7 speed freewheels.
I can see one potential problem with the use of a travel agent for derailleurs. The doubling of the cable pull may make fine adjustments between cogs even more finicky by over exaggerating the movements made at the lever. It would probably take a real world setup to determine if it will work.
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Old 06-29-09, 04:25 PM
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I'm using '70s vintage Campy NR downtube shifters with my Shimano 9 speed. Rear derailleur is a 105. The angle for 1st gear is a little ridiculous, but it does work.
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Old 06-29-09, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
I'm using '70s vintage Campy NR downtube shifters with my Shimano 9 speed. Rear derailleur is a 105. The angle for 1st gear is a little ridiculous, but it does work.
Pre-index Campagnolo shift levers have very small diameter cable capstans, so if they every enough pull, almost anything does. The early SunTour shifters pulled a bit more cable than the Campagnolos.
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Old 06-29-09, 08:06 PM
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By the way, I have the same bike.
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Old 06-29-09, 09:05 PM
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How about the Dura Ace 9-sp bar ends?
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Old 06-29-09, 10:17 PM
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Note to self:

Before you diagnose your shifters as incompatible with your rear derailleur... before you spend hours searching the interwebz for new shifters that will do the job... before you send Rivendell Bikes money for a new set of shifters that prove to be incompatible... before you go to your online bicycle community and beg for the help of the collective wisdom that is C&V... before you run to the LBS and order a $30 Travel Agent on the hunch that it'll solve your problem...

Adjust your rear derailleur's high limit stop.



Now my restoration is officially complete... I'll post before and after pics soon.

Thanks for all the help, folks... you're all great!
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Old 06-30-09, 01:20 PM
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I am SOOOOOO glad that I'm not the only one that does stuff like that.
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Old 06-30-09, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by johnlyons53
I am SOOOOOO glad that I'm not the only one that does stuff like that.
+1 about every other week. I need a mirror labeled "FOOL"
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