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Index Shifting Vs. Friction

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Index Shifting Vs. Friction

Old 06-01-20, 10:43 AM
  #1  
kenshireen
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Index Shifting Vs. Friction

I have an old 7 speed shimano DT bike.
I have for over 25 years set the lever at index so I could "hear" the change in gearing.
Yesterday I have my bike on the rack and I switched it to friction just to see how it worked.
IMO the shifting was smooth using the friction option.
Just curious if anyone has tried this or if they have any preference.
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Old 06-01-20, 11:30 AM
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I use friction mode on my 105 6 speed DT's and original 105 rear derailleur. The rear wheel is a modern 10/11 speed with Tiagra 4600 10 speed cassette in the back and the shifting works great with the levers in friction. If I was still running an original 6 speed wheel and freewheel in the back, I would definitely be using indexing.
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Old 06-01-20, 12:16 PM
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I prefer indexing on my 10 speed, but friction isn't hard to use on 8 and lower.
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Old 06-01-20, 01:19 PM
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I ride my vintage bike occasionally and this winter often in training for an Eroica event. I like its friction shifting on the downtube though it's not crisp in critical moments when you want the immediacy and accuracy of index. On the other hand, its cool on the right bike and I don't seem to recall anyone yelling for indexing. Now, shifting from the brake levers....no doubt a game changer.
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Old 06-01-20, 01:31 PM
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There were a lot of little things done to make indexed shifting work well, like ramped cogs and beveled/ flared chain plates, that really improve friction shifting, too.

Possibly one of the best dollar-for-dollar upgrades on a vintage bike is a modern Shimano (hyperglide) freewheel, and a modern 8-speed chain.

Makes my 70s Suntour V-GT shift almost as nicely as my 7-8 speed STI bikes.
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Old 06-01-20, 01:49 PM
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The smoothest shifting I've ever experienced on a road bike was with Camp Athena friction shifting.
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Old 06-01-20, 02:01 PM
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I toured internationally on a bike with friction bar end shifters (over a decade)

Now my Indexing is IGH.. a 3 & a 9 speed ..

And the Rohloff takes care of the gear shift sequence to go on internally, not at the shift lever..
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Old 06-01-20, 02:07 PM
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I installed my first set of index (downtube) shifters in 2015. For decades I used Simplex Retrofriction shifters. Absolutely fabulous. So much fun.

Now I admit I had jumped into mountain biking and was off my road bike for a number of years. After getting back I just started missing my shifts a little here and there. When I downshifted and missed and got out of the saddle it was especially troublesome. Tried index shifting and haven't gone back... but every now and then I am tempted.

John
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Old 06-01-20, 02:24 PM
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When I was with Trek, I got some of the very first Dura-Ace SIS indexed drivetrain components imported into North America in 1985 and used them for several years until a crash destroyed the index mechanism in the shift lever. By that time, I had left Trek and no longer had access to components at OEM prices, and I couldn't bring myself to replace the parts at retail cost. So, I went back to friction shifting. That was the last time I had indexed shifters on any of my bikes.
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Old 06-01-20, 02:34 PM
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I ran with SunTour Command index shifters on the Mooney for years. Less than great when my SunTOur FW supply ran out and I went to SRAM. Reverted to Power ratchets. ON 7/8-speed spacing, wow!

My 9-speed bike has SunTour Superbe DT shifters, Campy cassette and Campy Mirage RD. For an old friction guy for whom "index" means the finger adjacent the thumb, sweet, sweet, sweet shifting!

Ben
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Old 06-01-20, 03:38 PM
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My 1984 Nishiki International downtube shifting 2x6 is indexed in the rear and friction on the front, and now so is my 1997 Nishiki Blazer (3x8) after converting it to drop bars and bar-end adjacent thumbies. The friction shifting is fine for the front three which were always tough to shift smoothly with the original indexed cross-fire straight-bar shifters since I gave the bike a crazy wide ratio spread up front. The shimano indexed 7-speed thumb-shifter worked perfectly as soon as I connected the cable (lucky I guess).

My main commuter has 2x8 indexed brifters and also works fine.

I have turned off the indexing on both the 2x6 and 3x8 and I prefer the indexed shifting.
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Old 06-01-20, 05:03 PM
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If I could have both I would have it where the front would be friction & rear indexed. Being that shimano ST-RS505's only come "indexed", I am staying indexed. Would be nice to have a FD brifter that could be set to sweep using friction or index with a quick switch action...
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Old 06-01-20, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Troul View Post
If I could have both I would have it where the front would be friction & rear indexed. Being that shimano ST-RS505's only come "indexed", I am staying indexed. Would be nice to have a FD brifter that could be set to sweep using friction or index with a quick switch action...
That's why I love my 9-Speed Campagnolo Mirage Ergo shifters. The front shifter is a ratcheting mechanism with infinite trimming ability.

Cheers
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Old 06-01-20, 06:37 PM
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I prefer friction shifting. My LHT was the first bike I have owned with indexed shifting, though I have ridden plenty with indexed shifting. I ran the LHT with indexed shifting until the indexing failed. I switched the bar end lever over to friction, and was happy again. I since replaced those shifters with the Silvers from Rivendell, and love them. It is all matter of taste, and of course what you are used to though, I'm sure. I grew up with friction shifting, and love how easy it is to jump multiple cogs, and how easy it is to trim. I jump on my wife's bike, and am annoyed by the indexed shifters, especially the front.
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Old 06-01-20, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man View Post
That's why I love my 9-Speed Campagnolo Mirage Ergo shifters. The front shifter is a ratcheting mechanism with infinite trimming ability.

Cheers
I'll have a hard time matching what I have for a FD friction brifter with integrated hyd. brakes.
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Old 06-01-20, 08:54 PM
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Zombie topic. This was answered 30 years ago, and there remains no objective measure by which friction shifting is better. Oh, but they tried— they whined and they cried— to find some excuse to thumb progress in the eye; too heavy! Too complicated! Too unreliable! All that garbage went straight to rubbish like their thumbies and DT levers; you should have heard the complaints about the move to STI! Guys actually tried to claim physical harm was imminent from “being in the same position all the time.” It was crazy talk, and still is. Friction shift for novelty, or to relive you glory days, but don’t even try to cop that friction is better in any way, because it is not.

Now, was it someone here who was asking about the benefits of using a vintage ice box instead of a refrigerator?
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Old 06-01-20, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Zombie topic. This was answered 30 years ago, and there remains no objective measure by which friction shifting is better. Oh, but they tried— they whined and they cried— to find some excuse to thumb progress in the eye; too heavy! Too complicated! Too unreliable! All that garbage went straight to rubbish like their thumbies and DT levers; you should have heard the complaints about the move to STI! Guys actually tried to claim physical harm was imminent from “being in the same position all the time.” It was crazy talk, and still is. Friction shift for novelty, or to relive you glory days, but don’t even try to cop that friction is better in any way, because it is not.

Now, was it someone here who was asking about the benefits of using a vintage ice box instead of a refrigerator?
Like Eddy Merckx when someone was extolling the wonderful benefits of index shifting over friction shifting = "You'll never miss a shift again" to which Eddy replied, "I have not missed a shift since I was eight years old!"

Cheers
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Old 06-01-20, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man View Post
Like Eddy Merckx when someone was extolling the wonderful benefits of index shifting over friction shifting = "You'll never miss a shift again" to which Eddy replied, "I have not missed a shift since I was eight years old!"

Cheers
Merckx was retired before SIS was even introduced. What did he care about index shifting... having made himself a legend without it?
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Old 06-02-20, 12:07 AM
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Depends on the system, shifter down to the chain and freewheel/cassette.

The Suntour GPX system on my '89 Ironman works great in index mode once it's tuned and fitted with the right components. Which means, *not* the original Suntour chain and freewheel. It works best for me with SunRace MFR-30 and MFM-30 freewheels, and KMC Z-72 chains. Snick-snick, no chain sound, grinding or derailleur clunking and clattering.

But the right/rear shifter isn't so great in friction mode. The same plastic washers and light friction means it will slip and ghost shift in friction mode. Crank down the tension to compensate and it loses feel and touch. Not a good experience no matter how much I tuned it. I even tried other rear derailleurs, chains and freewheels. No-go. It's index or nothing.

But I do like good friction shifting and have some other Shimano components for a future bike project, including the Light Action shifters. For now I have a couple of older Shimano 600 RDs (Arabesque and Tricolor) but eventually I'll probably get the Light Action rear derailleur, after I find the right frame for the project.

New Shimano bar end shifters are good in friction or index mode, but the friction is held by a combination of ... well ... friction and micro-click detents to assist friction without excessive tension. The cheap SunRace SLM-10 thumb shifters work the same way and have a remarkably good feel for only $10 for the shifters, cables and housings. They just look cheap but work great.

I also have a late '80s or early '90s Dura Ace set of SIS downtube shifters (index and friction) and DA rear derailleur, but that bike is temporarily disassembled while I have the headset overhauled. The DA shifters are nice but not any better than the Suntour GPX when properly tuned. I still prefer the DA downtube shifters in index mode.

I used friction only in the 1970s and wouldn't go back to friction if I was racing or trying to beat the clock for a Strava PR or KOM. When I'm huffing and puffing up a climb, switching between seated and standing to stomp the pedals, it's much quicker to snick the shifter into place when I sit for a fraction of a second than mess with friction, no matter how good. There's a good reason why it caught on so quickly with pros once the bugs were worked out. Every split second counts. Same reason brifters are better for racing or trying to beat the clock solo. With brifters I can shift while standing, no need to sit for even a split second to reach down to shift. No loss of momentum.
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Old 06-02-20, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
The smoothest shifting I've ever experienced on a road bike was with Camp Athena friction shifting.
Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I installed my first set of index (downtube) shifters in 2015. For decades I used Simplex Retrofriction shifters. Absolutely fabulous. So much fun.

Now I admit I had jumped into mountain biking and was off my road bike for a number of years. After getting back I just started missing my shifts a little here and there. When I downshifted and missed and got out of the saddle it was especially troublesome. Tried index shifting and haven't gone back... but every now and then I am tempted.

John
IMO, the absolute best friction shifters ever made >>>

VeloBase.com - Component: Simplex SLJ (3rd type, S logo on band)
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Old 06-02-20, 12:59 AM
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I only use friction with derailleurs. If i
want indexing i go Sturmey Archer AW.
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Old 06-02-20, 04:43 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Merckx was retired before SIS was even introduced. What did he care about index shifting... having made himself a legend without it?
Maybe so but I bet he was still riding a bicycle. I think the index versus friction quote came about when either someone tried to sell him on indexed shifting or when someone was extolling their perceived advantages of indexed shifting.

Cheers
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Old 06-02-20, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man View Post
That's why I love my 9-Speed Campagnolo Mirage Ergo shifters. The front shifter is a ratcheting mechanism with infinite trimming ability.

Cheers
I have 8-speed Mirage and 11-speed Athena. It’s not “infinite” trim, though it does allow some fine tuning; It can require some back and forth with the finger and thumb. I would happily put a left d/t shifter on if I could find one for cheap enough.
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Old 06-02-20, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man View Post
Maybe so but I bet he was still riding a bicycle. I think the index versus friction quote came about when either someone tried to sell him on indexed shifting or when someone was extolling their perceived advantages of indexed shifting.

Cheers
my point is not that you can’t ride a bike without indexed shifting, only that index shifting is better than friction by every performance measure. I’m old enough to have been riding pre SIS, and I still ride two friction shifting bikes of ‘70s vintage, so I get it, but the notion that there is anything more than nostalgia to recommend friction shifting today is utter rubbish.
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Old 06-02-20, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
my point is not that you can’t ride a bike without indexed shifting, only that index shifting is better than friction by every performance measure. I’m old enough to have been riding pre SIS, and I still ride two friction shifting bikes of ‘70s vintage, so I get it, but the notion that there is anything more than nostalgia to recommend friction shifting today is utter rubbish.
Well I'm not arguing that one is better than the other. I wish I knew where I saw that statement by Eddy Merckx. I'm pretty sure it was in one of my bicycling books.

One BIG advantage with friction shifting is that you can use just about any replacement wheel, cassette or freewheel if you need to use a different wheel. I've had to do that a couple of times. Also, you can build up a custom cassette with different spacing between cogs. I did that when I built my first 9-speed 11 - 19 teeth corncob cassette. I used both 8 and 9 speed cogs to do that.

I really do like my Campagnolo Ergo levers that are 9-speed Mirage circa 2001. I also like my friction only shifting bikes.

Cheers
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