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Is listening an important skill for friction shifting?

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Is listening an important skill for friction shifting?

Old 04-14-16, 02:15 PM
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corrado33
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Is listening an important skill for friction shifting?

I road my first true friction shifting bike the other day. It was an old early 80s trek with DT friction shifters. Mid range bike, nice to this day. Anyway, I found the shifting was pretty easy most of the time (and the front derailleur was sublime!), however whenever we were traveling at high speed, when the wind is preventing you from hearing absolutely anything, I found it very difficult to shift. Not physically difficult, I just found myself being apprehensive so I didn't overshift. Sure, this skill would probably come with time and many miles on DT friction shifters, but have any of you ever felt the same way?

I personally loved the DT friction shifters. Great feel, the rear needed the cable tension upped a bit, as you had to move the shifter quite a bit to get it off of the smallest cog, but other than that shifting between the gears was easy as anything. I found that you tended to deal with much more "noise" with friction shifters. Sure, you CAN adjust them so they're noiseless, but you may just be shifting in a few seconds anyway, so what's the point? Again, this still probably comes with time, but even the old guy I was riding with put up with a bit of noise from the derailleurs.
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Old 04-14-16, 02:46 PM
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Back in the day, some systems shifted much cleaner than others. I recall Bicycling magazine doing a test of many different rear derailleurs. They built a rig to measure shifting precision, docking those that required under or over shifting. Shimano Dura Ace came out on top. Shimano shifting was really great if you used their Uniglide freewheel and chain. The european stuff was generally not so good in the precision department, but Campy was durable and rebuildable with abundant spare parts.
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Old 04-14-16, 03:07 PM
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Being able to hear the chain on the cogs helps, but I find the most valuable feedback is through my hands and feet. There seems to be a little extra resistance and rattle when between gears. Plus, there's the feedback of the pedal resistance suddenly becoming easier or harder. When it's windy out and I can't hear the bike, I'll just take a slightly longer time and stop moving the lever as soon as I feel the shift complete.

Don't worry -- with practice, the muscle memory will allow you to get pretty quick with the whole thing. And you may find yourself in situations where your bike is the one that's silent, while someone else's index-shift bike is the one rattling away, just slightly out of adjustment.
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Old 04-14-16, 03:23 PM
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Second the feel. You learn to feel when you have the chain centered. Most friction systems operate fine when the chain isn't centered well, just with a lot of noise. This may not be true if you have hyperglide or other modern ramped etc, cogs. Those may cause a miss-aligned chain to alternate back and forth between cogs. If your limit screws are set correctly, overshifting rarely causes more than noise and legs complaining from too high a gear. But, don't shift like many do on the new stuff. Back off on pedal pressure while you shift until you know you are solidly in a gear. No one dreamed that shifting of the old chains running over the old cogs would be done at full pedal pressure.

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Old 04-14-16, 05:44 PM
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You listen to see if you're trimmed out, but after a while you just get to know how much you need to go to get a good shift. There is a bit of leeway before you're out of trim.

Now days I find I go out of trim more often than not because my shifters need to be tightened.
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Old 04-15-16, 08:18 AM
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I'd say it is an important skill overall while on a bike.

That said, after having gone to friction shifting, driving anything that isn't drives me crazy. My MTB is ever so slightly out of tune on the back (the front actually has a friction grip shifter), and it is all I can think about riding down the trail.
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Old 04-15-16, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
And you may find yourself in situations where your bike is the one that's silent, while someone else's index-shift bike is the one rattling away, just slightly out of adjustment.
When my then-11-year-old daughter first started riding her road bike, which has a friction drivetrain, she'd shift without trimming anything and would be content to leave it clattering away or grinding on the front derailleur cage. My first attempts to coach her out of that were met by, "But it's working just fine!"
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Old 04-15-16, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by SkyDog75 View Post
When my then-11-year-old daughter first started riding her road bike, which has a friction drivetrain, she'd shift without trimming anything and would be content to leave it clattering away or grinding on the front derailleur cage. My first attempts to coach her out of that were met by, "But it's working just fine!"
Haha! There will always be those people, too. I've ridden RAGBRAI next to plenty of people on 70's 10-speeds with the chain sawing or clattering away on something else.
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Old 04-15-16, 01:36 PM
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I've seen a few front derailleur cages where the chain has worn almost all the way through the cage from constant rubbing.

At least you can look down to check the front. The rears a bit tougher to check.
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Old 04-15-16, 01:54 PM
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Shimano's index-compatible rear derailleurs have a floating jockey wheel---put one of those on your derailleur, if compatible, or simply install a Shimano index-compatible derailleur, and you'll find that it's suddenly much easier to avoid between-gear noise.

Last edited by Trakhak; 04-15-16 at 02:04 PM.
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Old 04-15-16, 05:23 PM
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After moving into "today" last year, I'm never going back to friction shifters. Took my old, much loved 35 y/o Fuji Tourer with bar ends out for a spin a couple days ago. First time in almost a year. I was so, so many thousand miles happy with it back in the day. Not no more, tho...found it a real chore to ride. Gonna be donating it within the next day or two to in keeping with my N+0 philosophy to make stable room for for my next, Di2 equipped, bike.
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Old 04-15-16, 07:46 PM
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Except for IGHs, I have Suntour friction shifters on all my bikes. Trimming is unconscious for me--- I don't even think about it, unless noise starts up for no reason. Indexed shifters answer a question I never asked...
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Old 04-15-16, 09:27 PM
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My daughter, who is a Music Teacher, says that friction shifting is like learning how to play the trombone: if you practice enough, your hand learns the proper place to stop.
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