Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Classic & Vintage
Reload this Page >

Advice on proper use of the Suntour Symmetric downtube friction shifters

Notices
Classic & Vintage This forum is to discuss the many aspects of classic and vintage bicycles, including musclebikes, lightweights, middleweights, hi-wheelers, bone-shakers, safety bikes and much more.

Advice on proper use of the Suntour Symmetric downtube friction shifters

Old 01-02-14, 06:56 PM
  #1  
Newbie
Thread Starter
 
briandoll's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: San Anselmo, CA
Posts: 4

Bikes: 80s Univega Sportour

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Advice on proper use of the Suntour Symmetric downtube friction shifters

Total n00b here. I posted my quick hello yesterday introducing my newly purchased early-80s Univega Sportour https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...now-I-m-hooked

I adore this bike already. Loving it. This is my first time using friction shifters, though, so I'm looking for some pointers. Keep in mind I have basically _no_ idea what I'm doing, so the most basic of advice would be super helpful.

After putting some miles in this week, I'm figuring out a bit about what auto-trimming means and how that's helpful. Awesome. I have been mostly successful in changing gears, and when I'm off a bit, it's not long before I find the right gear.

The problem is that I tend to only shift using the right shifter. I basically have no idea how to use the left shifter. I know that it moves the chain from the high to low gear in front, but I have no practical understanding of how often that should be changed. Also, I've found it nearly impossible to actually shift using that lever. Do I go all the way up on the right, and then go up on the left? Opposite on the way down? Both sets (w/ the front on the large vs. the small front sproket) seem to have relatively low-end (small) gears for hills and such, but I can feel the higher gears when I'm using the large sprocket on the front gear.

I have crazy basic questions like:
* How often would one shift the front sprocket on a relatively flat ride?
* In general, do you usually ride around on the big sprocket up front?
* Do you need to "go through the gears" in order to shift the front sprocket, or should you be able to do it at any time regardless of what your back gear is set to?
* Some gears are nosier than others. I can look down and see that the front auto-trimming feature has worked and that it's not rubbing in the front. If some gears are noisier (ie. the derailer making noises as the chain goes around) than others, is that normal or do I maybe have a crappy derailer?
* Is there a video somewhere that shows how to use friction shifters on a ride? I've searched around YouTube and haven't come across anything instructional.

Attaching a pic here too:


Many many thanks in advance for your advice and patience. It's been awesome the last few days falling in love with this new hobby. I had no idea bikes were this fun!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
bike.jpg (98.8 KB, 181 views)
briandoll is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 07:11 PM
  #2  
Senior Member
 
3alarmer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 22,998

Bikes: old ones

Liked 10,449 Times in 7,248 Posts
Originally Posted by briandoll

The problem is that I tend to only shift using the right shifter. I basically have no idea how to use the left shifter. I know that it moves the chain from the high to low gear in front, but I have no practical understanding of how often that should be changed. Also, I've found it nearly impossible to actually shift using that lever. Do I go all the way up on the right, and then go up on the left? Opposite on the way down? Both sets (w/ the front on the large vs. the small front sproket) seem to have relatively low-end (small) gears for hills and such, but I can feel the higher gears when I'm using the large sprocket on the front gear.

I have crazy basic questions like:
* How often would one shift the front sprocket on a relatively flat ride? On a relatively flat ride, probably not at all.
* In general, do you usually ride around on the big sprocket up front? Yes, generally I do. It is very flat here where I live.
* Do you need to "go through the gears" in order to shift the front sprocket, or should you be able to do it at any time regardless of what your back gear is set to? Any time at all,
and in fact, depennding on how your gearing is set up, you may need to shift the front to get ratios between the small sprockets on the rear (Google half step gearing).

* Some gears are nosier than others. I can look down and see that the front auto-trimming feature has worked and that it's not rubbing in the front. If some gears are noisier (ie. the derailer making noises as the chain goes around) than others, is that normal or do I maybe have a crappy derailer? Might be worn cogs, might be a trim issue. Try trimming manually to eliminate the noise or reduce it.
* Is there a video somewhere that shows how to use friction shifters on a ride? I've searched around YouTube and haven't come across anything instructional. No idea.
...additionally, you want to avoid cross chaining, which simply put is riding in either the small/small combination or the large/large combination.

From your description, your front derailleur may be either misadjusted or frozen/stuck. It should throw and shift easily as you rotate the pedals.
3alarmer is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 07:11 PM
  #3  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 165
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Here's a quickie version of shifting 101:

Dont' try to put numbers on the gearing sequence. What you're trying to do when you ride a geared bike is keep an even "cadence", i.e. the rate your foot movement rotates as it proscribes the pedaling motion. Most new riders turn their feet relatively slowly compared to more experienced riders. Try to turn your feet at least 75 rpm's and shift the gears to allow you to do that. Here's the key to remember . . . anytime you shift, either the front or the back, if you move the chain towards the centerline of the bike, it gets easier to pedal. Conversely, anytime you shift the chain away from the center line of the bike it gets harder. You can shift either the front, or the back at virtually anytime. There is not a specified sequence you need to adhere to. There are however, a few chain positions you would want to avoid. They are called "cross chain" combinations and they are the diagonal extremes through the chainline. Specifically, you should avoid using the large chainring in front with the large sprocket in back, and you should also avoid the small chainring in front with the small outside sprocket in back. Anything else is fair game.

So . . . as you're riding along, if it's getting harder to pedal and your cadence is dropping, shift either the front or the back towards the center line of the bike to make it easier to pedal. Whether you shift the front or the back, it doesn't matter as long as you end up in an appropriate gear to sustain your target cadence. Conversely, if you're starting down a hill and your cadence is speeding up, shift to a harder to pedal gear and try to return to your target cadence. As you ride and gain experience, you will probably increase your target cadence number, but starting out, 75 to 80 is a good goal.

To summarize:
1. know how to make it harder and easier to pedal
2. strive for a consistent cadence
3. shift either the front or the back to meet your cadence goal
4. avoid the angular cross chain positions

Hope this helps.
thunderworks is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 09:11 PM
  #4  
Senior Member
 
Shp4man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: San Diego
Posts: 1,046

Bikes: 1989 Schwinn World Sport. 1994 Diamond Back Response Elite MTB. 1964 Schwinn Typhoon. 1974 Bridgestone Sprinter, 2015 Scott Sub 10 Citybike.

Liked 84 Times in 37 Posts
I have a bike that's like your's in that it's equipped with Suntour Symmetric shifters. They are debateably the best friction shifters ever designed, IMHO. With regards to the left shifter, pulling back that lever engages the front "big ring" and pushing the shifter forward should get the smaller front ring. I tend to think of these as high and low range.
The shifters themselves are sensitive to how tight the allen screws are that hold the levers on. Too loose, and the bike will slip out of the bigger gears on the rear and the front. Too tight, and it's hard to move the levers.
If you ever ride a bike with standard friction shifters, you'll see how much work it is to trim them all the time. The Symmetrics are easy, though. Just don't ever take them apart unless your the type of person that can rebuild fishing reels or maybe carburetors.
Shp4man is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 10:56 PM
  #5  
Member
 
clevername's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Oregon
Posts: 30

Bikes: Old ones, plus a 2014 roam.

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thunderworks' post is very good, but seems to be a bit intimidating. (No disrespect intended, but I think a little simplification is due for a "Total n00b"! )
To summarize:
1. Try to keep your legs spinning at the same speed consistently, and
2. Keep the chain going as straight (not diagonal) as is reasonably possible. So, on a bike with 6 gears on the rear wheel, you'll try to use the 3-4 left-most rear gears with the left gear in the front, and you'll use the three right gears in the back with the right gear in the front.

Also, when I first started using this type of shifter, it was helpful to look at the right lever as a sort of cartoony speed control lever; farther forward to go faster, pull back when slowing down.

All this will become second nature after a while
clevername is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 11:00 PM
  #6  
Member
 
clevername's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Oregon
Posts: 30

Bikes: Old ones, plus a 2014 roam.

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Oh, a quick tip about cadence (how fast your pedals spin): If you have a spedometer on your bike (or if you wear a watch), you can simply count how many times you complete a pedal revolution in 8 seconds. If you spin it 12 times in 8 seconds, that's 90 rpm, and what most road riders tend to hover around.
clevername is offline  
Old 01-02-14, 11:19 PM
  #7  
Senior Member
 
zandoval's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Bastrop Texas
Posts: 4,610

Bikes: Univega, Peu P6, Peu PR-10, Ted Williams, Peu UO-8, Peu UO-18 Mixte, Peu Dolomites

Liked 1,719 Times in 1,106 Posts
What I like about friction shifters is that when you move the lever you almost always get a response...

Not necessarily so with brifters...
zandoval is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 11:22 AM
  #8  
Newbie
Thread Starter
 
briandoll's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: San Anselmo, CA
Posts: 4

Bikes: 80s Univega Sportour

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanks a million, you guys have been insanely helpful. I'm going to check the left shifter to see if I can loosen it up a bit. Since I wasn't adjusting that shifter at all, I'm sure the noise I was hearing was during the "cross-chain" scenario you described. Great visual to look for when I'm shifting. Super helpful info on cadence as well... I had no idea people tended to spin that fast.

I live near a lot of bike routes (San Anselmo / Fairfax in Marin County, CA) where I regularly see lots of good riders around, so I'll try to follow their lead a bit and see if I can achieve a similar cadence.

Thanks again, this is really helpful!
briandoll is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 01:54 PM
  #9  
WNG
Spin Forest! Spin!
 
WNG's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Arrid Zone-a
Posts: 5,956

Bikes: I used to have many. And I Will again.

Likes: 0
Liked 11 Times in 10 Posts
The Suntour Symmetric shifter was a unique and clever piece of engineering from Suntour. IMO, one of the coolest and best friction DT shifters.
To get the most out of the trim feature, the shifter cables need to be properly adjusted.
1. First, have the right shifter positioned for the smallest cog of the rear wheel.
2. Tension the shifter cable to remove any slack that would cause slow response.
3. Put the right shifter to engage the largest cog of the rear wheel.
4. Place the left shifter for the small chainring, pushed all the way forward.
5. Loosen the FD cable stop bolt, adjust the low trim screw to have no chain/cage contact noise from this low gear position.
6. Now tension the FD cable, remove all slack and tighten the FD cable stop bolt.

Now the auto trim function will provide maximum movement when the right shifter steps to higher gears.
WNG is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 04:03 PM
  #10  
All Campy All The Time
 
CroMo Mike's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Posts: 1,420

Bikes: Listed in my signature.

Liked 116 Times in 64 Posts
I haven't computed and charted gears in ages because I don't worry about it anymore, but if you compute the actual gear ratios and plot them in a chart, you might find something like this for a ten-speed setup (two on the front and 5 on the rear):

using Small front: 1,2,4,6,8

using Large front: 3,5,7,9,10

If the gear sizes are not selected carefully, you might even end up with several duplicates in the mid range!

Nowdays my bikes have 42 & 52 on the front and 13 thru 21 (five or narrow-six) on the rear, and generally stay on the small front chainwheel. The 42-13 combo is usually high enough for the local terrain and my riding style, and that way I never have to clean the 52 chainring :-)
CroMo Mike is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 05:01 PM
  #11  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 165
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Originally Posted by CroMo Mike
I haven't computed and charted gears in ages because I don't worry about it anymore, but if you compute the actual gear ratios and plot them in a chart, you might find something like this for a ten-speed setup (two on the front and 5 on the rear):

using Small front: 1,2,4,6,8

using Large front: 3,5,7,9,10

If the gear sizes are not selected carefully, you might even end up with several duplicates in the mid range!

Nowdays my bikes have 42 & 52 on the front and 13 thru 21 (five or narrow-six) on the rear, and generally stay on the small front chainwheel. The 42-13 combo is usually high enough for the local terrain and my riding style, and that way I never have to clean the 52 chainring :-)

No offense CroMo, but we're dealing with a new rider here. Gear charts and gear numbers are probably minimally useful. IMO, knowing how to make the bike easier or harder to pedal while striving for an even cadence is the goal.
thunderworks is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 10:06 PM
  #12  
Newbie
Thread Starter
 
briandoll's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: San Anselmo, CA
Posts: 4

Bikes: 80s Univega Sportour

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
[MENTION=101025]WNG[/MENTION] thanks! I'm sure my setup needs some adjusting and this is a great walk-through. There's a community bike shop nearby that has tools and stands, so hopefully I'll find my way around the bike soon.
[MENTION=192981]cromo[/MENTION], that's really helpful too and exactly one of the things I was wondering. It makes sense that the typical setup has significant overlap in the mid-range with one having slightly more available on the low and high-end, respectively.
briandoll is offline  
Old 01-03-14, 11:56 PM
  #13  
Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race
 
dddd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Northern California
Posts: 9,236

Bikes: Cheltenham-Pedersen racer, Boulder F/S Paris-Roubaix, Varsity racer, '52 Christophe, '62 Continental, '92 Merckx, '75 Limongi, '76 Presto, '72 Gitane SC, '71 Schwinn SS, etc.

Liked 1,328 Times in 883 Posts
Briandoll, I can tell by your observations and your questions that you're gonna have this stuff all figured out very soon.

Your curiosity and initiative is proof of that.

Great setup tips by Shp4man about the bolt tension, and I always begin by removing the shifter and applying oil to the moving mechanism from behind/inside the shifter housing, followed by a dab of grease for lasting effect acting as an oil reservoir of sorts.

A modern chain btw will more easily clear the front derailer cage, as newer chains are narrower. This can make both the setup and gear selection easier and with less rubbing noises.

You might want to sight-down your front and rear sprockets to see which angles of cross-chaining to avoid with your gear selection, since often there is less than perfect centering between the front sprocket centerline and the freewheel stack centerline. I myself use mostly the big ring and sometimes make changes to the chainline, by using a shorter crank spindle or spacing the freewheel closer to the frame for instance.
These changes are just to your preference, so feel free to fit in any changes when parts replacement time comes around.
It's all fun stuff, tinkering with bikes.

Last edited by dddd; 01-04-14 at 12:00 AM.
dddd is offline  
Old 01-04-14, 08:57 AM
  #14  
What??? Only 2 wheels?
 
jimmuller's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Boston-ish, MA
Posts: 13,438

Bikes: 72 Peugeot UO-8, 82 Peugeot TH8, 87 Bianchi Brava, 76? Masi Grand Criterium, 74 Motobecane Champion Team, 86 & 77 Gazelle champion mondial, 81? Grandis, 82? Tommasini, 83 Peugeot PF10

Liked 658 Times in 235 Posts
B-doll, welcome to the wonderful wacky world of derailleur shifting. BF members could write a book about the various ways to arrange gears and shift. Some cyclist don't want to know how it all works, they just want to ride and shift. Others of us like getting into it more deeply.

One point - be aware that the FD shifts differently from the RD. The RD shifts the part of the chain returning from chainring to cog. The only tension it is under is the tension from the RD's take-up arm. In contrast, the FD shifts the section of chain running from cogs to chainring. This section experiences the tension of your driving force. This means it doesn't want to shift when you are pedaling with much pressure. Of course the chain must be moving for it to shift at all, so to shift the front you need to keep pedaling but back off the pressure. One consequence of this is that if you see an uphill coming which might require a front shift you have to do it before you get there. Once you are on the uphill it is too late if you want to keep up any momentum.

Shift patterns have varied over the years because of both equipment and intended use. It's no big deal nowadays because you can get rear hubs with, at last count, 1429 available cogs all at once , I think, though I think Shimano will soon come out with a system that has 18,000 gears controlled by a small quantum computer. In the old days it was just 5 cogs, and double cranks. To get a large enough range from low to high the 10 (or 12 or 14) possible ratios needed to be far apart. A complication is that they are distributed between the two chainrings. If you were racing you wanted as many options as close together as possible, and none redundant across the chainrings. If you were a recreational rider you didn't care so much about having exactly the right gear, but convenient shifting was important. Given how many of us still ride far and fast (a relative term!) on 2x5 bikes, it would seem 18,000 gears isn't really necessary.
__________________
Real cyclists use toe clips.
With great bikes comes great responsibility.
jimmuller
jimmuller is offline  
Old 01-04-14, 10:43 AM
  #15  
Extraordinary Magnitude
 
The Golden Boy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Waukesha WI
Posts: 13,673

Bikes: 1978 Trek TX700; 1978/79 Trek 736; 1984 Specialized Stumpjumper Sport; 1984 Schwinn Voyageur SP; 1985 Trek 620; 1985 Trek 720; 1986 Trek 400 Elance; 1987 Schwinn High Sierra; 1990 Miyata 1000LT

Liked 1,735 Times in 949 Posts
I pretty much shift when it's too easy or too hard to pedal.

For the most part I kind of use the big sprocket as an "overdrive" type thing.

Probably wrong- but it's suited me fine.
__________________
*Recipient of the 2006 Time Magazine "Person Of The Year" Award*

Commence to jigglin’ huh?!?!

"But hey, always love to hear from opinionated amateurs." -says some guy to Mr. Marshall.
The Golden Boy is offline  
Old 01-04-14, 10:47 AM
  #16  
SE Wis
 
dedhed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Posts: 10,569

Bikes: '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400, 2013 Novara Randonee, 1990 Trek 970

Liked 3,428 Times in 2,076 Posts
https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ge!-With-pics!
dedhed is offline  
Old 01-04-14, 10:55 AM
  #17  
What??? Only 2 wheels?
 
jimmuller's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Boston-ish, MA
Posts: 13,438

Bikes: 72 Peugeot UO-8, 82 Peugeot TH8, 87 Bianchi Brava, 76? Masi Grand Criterium, 74 Motobecane Champion Team, 86 & 77 Gazelle champion mondial, 81? Grandis, 82? Tommasini, 83 Peugeot PF10

Liked 658 Times in 235 Posts
Originally Posted by The Golden Boy
Probably wrong- but it's suited me fine.
Ain't no such thing as wrong!

For the OP's benefit, and elaborating on my previous post -

How you use the front depends on gearing and your riding style and purpose. A racer's setup would have the gears like this
1----3----5----7----9
---2----4----6----8----10
and you'd avoid the 2 and 9 combinations because it put a sharper angle on the chain w.r.t. the rings and cogs. With this you shift the front a lot just to get those intermediate gears.

With a more recreational setup they might be
1----2----4----6----8
--------3----5----7----9----10
The cogs might be closer together or they might not but you don't shift the front for quite the same reasons.

A more extreme case might be
1----2----3----5----7
-------------4----6----8----9----10
The less overlap between the two chainrings the more you use them for overall range-selection. This setup encourages shifting on the rear only, and the front shift being larger an upshift is harder to do smoothly.

Now back to your regularly-scheduled riding.
__________________
Real cyclists use toe clips.
With great bikes comes great responsibility.
jimmuller

Last edited by jimmuller; 01-04-14 at 10:59 AM.
jimmuller is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
YogaKat
General Cycling Discussion
16
10-12-15 05:33 AM
lisalu910
Classic & Vintage
35
05-31-15 07:03 PM
solo79
Hybrid Bicycles
11
03-24-15 04:51 PM
shawmutt
General Cycling Discussion
31
09-19-11 06:57 PM
snarkypup
Classic & Vintage
38
10-28-10 10:45 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Your Privacy Choices -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.