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Triple brifter woes

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Old 06-23-18, 06:47 PM
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Alcanbrad
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Triple brifter woes

Our recently acquired co-mo primera co-pilot is equipped with Shimano 105 (5700). I found the front triple very difficult to shift from larger to smaller chainrings. I replaced the cable and housing but that did not solve it so I bought a new brifter and the new one is just as hard to shift than the older one. Shifting from smaller to larger rings is like butter and flawless, shifting down is another story. From big to middle is hard and from middle to small requires me to get off the bike and use 2 hands. When I put all my strength into it and it finally shifts, it snaps very loudly. When I break the cable at the cable splitter the brifter mechanism shifts up and down just fine. If I pull on the cable and try to shift I get the same behavior - easy shifts to larger ring positions and hard to impossible shifts to smaller ring positions.

I have read online that some have experienced hard shifting with this family.

So so I am somewhat at a loss here. I see two options: replace the derailleur with one that has much less spring tension or find another brifter. I do have a new Ultegra 6703 front derailleur which claims to have a lighter spring, however,I believe it is the brifter design at fault. Changing to a different brifter is challenging as well. The market is moving away from triples. I have Ultegra 6700 series on my other co-mo and it shifts very well. Unfortunately I cannot find a new Ultegra triple brifter for less than a kings ransom. That basically leaves Shimano Tiagra and I am hesitant to shift down (pun intended) in grade, but if it is serviceable and reliable I could go there, but what is to say I won’t have a similar issue?

So any suggestions? Anyone have experience with the 105 triple and how did you solve it? Is the Tiagra a good solution? Is the 105 derailleur the problem. Are there any other triple brifter on the market or still available?

TIA.
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Old 06-24-18, 09:23 AM
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FWIW I have the exact same problem with a double! You have as much as said that when you take the brifter out of the equation by working past the cable splitter that the problem returns. Why, in that case could a possible solution be the purchase of a different family of brifter!? My bike is new,. Claris brifter. I've taken it back to the shop twice and they can't fix it. So its up to me. For now I deal with it by not shifting up to the big ring. That way I don't have to shift down :-). I've only had the bike a couple of months and just use it for errands, but summer is coming. So here is what I intend to try: using the cable adjuster and/or the pinch clamp at the derailleur body to change the amount of tension the cable is putting on the brifter when the derailleur cage is on the smallest chain ring. It's a fine balance. Too little and the cage may not make it all the way to the big ring. Too much and the tension is so high when it gets to the big ring that the mechanism binds. I'm trying that first before I throw another brifter into the mix. That's troubleshooting 101: change only one variable at a time. You already have changed brifters. It didn't solve the problem. So don't go that route again. I doubt it has anything to do with the derailleur itself. They are pretty simple mechanisms when all is said and done. If it shifts UP like butter then it can do the reverse. Good luck.

Edit: it could also be in the cable to the derailleur, I suppose that is possible, but it doesn't seem right (yet). In any case that is cheap enough to investigate. More likely to be the housing than the cable core itself. Change housing first or examine housing routing looking for sharp bends or kinks. Or better yet, change nothing (yet) but work the brifter mechanism with one hand as you hold the cable coming to the cable splitter. Check for smoothness of movement. I think you'll find that its fine. Remember those butter smooth upshifts ...
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Old 06-24-18, 10:16 AM
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Our older Ultegra brifters (triple) have a similar problem, maybe that problem is inherited by the 105 brifters of a later generation?
The solution for us is as follows:
Take the brifter off and remove the rubber. Inside the brifter, there's a screw holding the main ratchet mechanism in place (screw head points towards handlebar). When this screw comes loose, shifting to a smaller ring under cable tension becomes basically impossible. Tighten up that screw. This fixed the issue for us.
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Old 06-24-18, 12:56 PM
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I had this exact problem on my triple road bike. When putting new housing and cable on this spring my front shifting wound up the way you described. So the shifting became much worse than it was even with the old housing/inner wire. This led me to really examine the Shimano front derailleur set up procedure. Normally I would say to follow the directions exactly and in the correct sequence. In the case of the triple brifter (Mine is a Dura Ace 7703) combined with a compatible front derailleur (in my case an Ultegra 6603 with an Ultegra 6603 Triple crank) following the set up brochure for the 6603 FD leads to a cable that is TOO TIGHT! That early step after setting the low and high stops, where you shift into the “granny ring” then pull the slop out of the cable is where I believe the set up gets messed up. Why this is the case I cannot tell you.

I honestly thought I irreparably broke my 7703 triple front shifter. The super hard shifts and having to settle for not using the big ring was the same symptom I was experiencing. Very lousy to be on a group ride where you have as much fitness as any other rider out there yet get dropped multiple times during terrain changes while you fuss around and pray that the gear you are seeking to be in will cooperate.

Another downside to this “too tight” cable setup: trim clicks are not there any more or just barely there.

Here’s how I got them back: the whole procedure took like 5 seconds to do (if I recall correctly) - shift your brifter into the middle ring. While in the middle ring loosen the FD cable pinch bolt slightly. Let the FD cage start to slip toward the granny side but not completely, then tighten the cable again. Now check your shifting. You should now have EASY clicks going middle to big and back down to middle. Same with middle to granny and back up again. When you get it right, you’ll know. Why Shimano doesn’t explain this better is a mystery to me.

You will still need to play around with adjuster barrel while in the middle ring to eliminate rub in your biggest rear cog (or in my case I settled for 2nd biggest - not rubbing).

When in the granny ring you may now have a cable that is ever so slightly slack. My advice here is to resist the temptation to loosen the cable in order to remove the slack. In this case it is needed for some reason. My theory is that my “loosening the cable” on the fly dynamic adjustment is that it may somehow relax the built in trim mechanisms to make them functional. Also, resist the temptation to take up slack in the cable using your adjuster barrel - this will only mess up the setting for any “trim” ability built into your front shifter.

i hope you find this helpful. I suspect that your front shifter is not broken at all - I will return-visit this thread to see if my little tweak works for you.

One final observation that occurred with me which made shifting effort higher - the bottom bracket nylon cable guide was worn out. Putting a new one on helped reduce the shifting effort even further.

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Old 06-24-18, 04:02 PM
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I like my Campy Centaur triple shifter and front derailleur that has been on the bike since I built it 2011.
I am using SRAM Red 10 speed for the rear which the best rear shifting I have used.
My single also has SRAM so I don't get confused when switching bikes.
Doesn't bother me at all that the shifters do not match.

https://planetcyclery.com/campagnolo...lever-shifters
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Old 06-24-18, 08:37 PM
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Make sure the cable is properly routed on the front der. I should be on the non-drive side of the pinch bolt and on the outside of the "nub". When improperly routed, the downshift if extremely difficult.
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Old 06-24-18, 11:19 PM
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Maybe too tight. Loosen the high limit screw quite a bit, then adjust to get the cable tension correct, then set the limit screw, but not so tight that it moves the FD.
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Old 06-26-18, 07:15 AM
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Let me see if I understand this correctly: On the front brifter - if any tension is placed on the cable, the small lever won't release the cable. This is not a problem with the derailleur - it is a problem with the brifter - correct?

I believe the internals of the brifter are that it is a ratchet wheel with a pawl. Moving the derailleur to a larger cog winds the ratchet wheel. Moving the derailleur to a smaller cog lifts the pawl away from the ratchet wheel and allows the ratchet wheel to pay out a small amount of cable.

If tension on the cable puts too much force on the ratchet wheel it prevents the pawl from being lifted away from the wheel.

We've never used brifters on our tandem but my single bikes have had them for years. I'm not sure why a tandem would be any more difficult than a single or why a triple would be any more difficult than a double.

I think the suggestions of moving to Sram or Campagnolo are good ones. Another suggestion would be to try bar-end shifters. Our old Co-Motion uses these and we never had any shifting problems (no ratchet wheels, no pawls).
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Old 06-26-18, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
Let me see if I understand this correctly: On the front brifter - if any tension is placed on the cable, the small lever won't release the cable. This is not a problem with the derailleur - it is a problem with the brifter - correct?
No, not correct. It is neither the brifter nor the derailleur that has a problem. It is a problem of incorrect initial tension of the shift cable*. Modern front derailleurs require a fairly high amount of initial tension to work properly, but there is a limit as to how much is enough and how much is too much. Finding the sweet spot clearly requires more patience (and talent) than many shop mechanics possess. The cyclist working on his/her own bike should be prepared to spend as long as it takes.

At least that is a fair assumption when the bicycle is brand new like mine. I personally don't believe the shop mechanic has tried very hard to adjust things properly because s/he thinks I should just live with it as it is.
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Old 06-26-18, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
I think the suggestions of moving to Sram or Campagnolo are good ones.
SRAM doesn't offer a triple-compatible brifter.

The tolerance issues inherent in mechanical shifting systems (which are only worse on tandems) made the decision to go electronic on our new tandem a easy call.
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Old 06-26-18, 03:00 PM
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When we ordered our new Calfee, we went for Di2 based on recommendations from this forum. Our old Co-Motion had bar-end shifters and we never had problems with them. Based on problems forum members had with brifters, we chose to go electronic.

Our Di2 has always shifted flawlessly but we are limited to a 2x drivetrain (instead of the 3x on our old bike).
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Old 06-26-18, 03:51 PM
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Your derailleur wire is way too tight, it needs to be looser. Take it to a store where they adjust stuff like that all day. You do not know what you are doing.
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Old 06-27-18, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian25 View Post
Your derailleur wire is way too tight, it needs to be looser. Take it to a store where they adjust stuff like that all day. You do not know what you are doing.
Thanks for the vote of confidence Brian, however, I do know what I am dong, as I have been wrenching and building up my own bikes for over 35 years. I haven't taken a bike to shop over 20 years as I usually end up fixing whatever they did. Most of my riding com-padre's brings their bikes to me for service. With over 135,000 miles in the saddle, I must be doing something right.

And thanks to everyone else for the good suggestions.

All that said, there is something unique about the 5703 105 brifter and this bike geometry. So far I have replaced the brifter, cables and housings, bottom bracket guides and derailleur. The only things not replaced are the bike (that's not going to happen), and the rider (Brian's vote :-)) My hope in my query was that someone had similar experience with the 105 brifter and had found a resolution.

Replacing the derailleur with the Ultegra 6703 helped a little as did tightening the ratchet assembly screw mentioned earlier. I hadn't thought about that one since the new brifter exhibited identical behavior, but it did help, however, it was not enough. I know about the importance of cable tension and big ring limit settings, however, the problem was worse when shifting out of the middle chainring. As Brian obviously knows, you can't adjust cable tension there as the cable is under tension by the derailleur spring, losing the cable bolt and letting little tension out of the cable will only just move the derailleur in again.

So I decided to go the Campy route and ordered the Centaur brifter as recommended. I haven't run any campy drive train hardware since the mid '80's (might be fun to pull that bike down and take it for a spin) so I will have to get use to the all the compatibility issues again. I fear I may need to go with a campy derailleur if the shift throw is different than Shimano. Anyone have experince mixing campy brifter with shimano front derailleur?

Another approach I am thinking about, but haven't investigated, is moving the Ultegra brifter from my Carrera and updating the Carrera to Di3 from Ric at the house of tandems. Anyone done or looked into this as well?
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Old 06-27-18, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
Anyone have experience mixing campy brifter with shimano front derailleur?
The older Campagnolo left brifters were not indexed, and instead used micro shifts that allowed for trimming. I have not used them with Shimano front derailleurs, but I have used them with non-indexed FDs of various sorts. The combinations work well, and would work fine for Shimano stuff as well, I would expect.
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Old 06-27-18, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Aubergine View Post


The older Campagnolo left brifters were not indexed, and instead used micro shifts that allowed for trimming. I have not used them with Shimano front derailleurs, but I have used them with non-indexed FDs of various sorts. The combinations work well, and would work fine for Shimano stuff as well, I would expect.
Why did manufacturers not follow this lead? This is as it should be, and next time I have a problem with a front shifter, I will switch to a down-tube or handlebar mounted friction or ratchet shifter for the front derailleur.
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Old 06-28-18, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
Thanks for the vote of confidence Brian, however, I do know what I am dong, as I have been wrenching and building up my own bikes for over 35 years. I haven't taken a bike to shop over 20 years as I usually end up fixing whatever they did. Most of my riding com-padre's brings their bikes to me for service. With over 135,000 miles in the saddle, I must be doing something right.

And thanks to everyone else for the good suggestions.

All that said, there is something unique about the 5703 105 brifter and this bike geometry. So far I have replaced the brifter, cables and housings, bottom bracket guides and derailleur. The only things not replaced are the bike (that's not going to happen), and the rider (Brian's vote :-)) My hope in my query was that someone had similar experience with the 105 brifter and had found a resolution.

Replacing the derailleur with the Ultegra 6703 helped a little as did tightening the ratchet assembly screw mentioned earlier. I hadn't thought about that one since the new brifter exhibited identical behavior, but it did help, however, it was not enough. I know about the importance of cable tension and big ring limit settings, however, the problem was worse when shifting out of the middle chainring. As Brian obviously knows, you can't adjust cable tension there as the cable is under tension by the derailleur spring, losing the cable bolt and letting little tension out of the cable will only just move the derailleur in again.

So I decided to go the Campy route and ordered the Centaur brifter as recommended. I haven't run any campy drive train hardware since the mid '80's (might be fun to pull that bike down and take it for a spin) so I will have to get use to the all the compatibility issues again. I fear I may need to go with a campy derailleur if the shift throw is different than Shimano. Anyone have experince mixing campy brifter with shimano front derailleur?

Another approach I am thinking about, but haven't investigated, is moving the Ultegra brifter from my Carrera and updating the Carrera to Di3 from Ric at the house of tandems. Anyone done or looked into this as well?
I don't have any direct experience mixing Campy and Shimano front shifting.
But I have tried mixing Campy / Shimano, Campy / SRAM on the rear. Bottom line is it doesn't work well and I think the same will probably be true on the front.
I would get a Centaur front derailleur to go with the shifter. Make sure you have an inline adjuster to get the proper cable tension. I like the Campy adjuster, the Jagwire and Shimano ones I tried were not reliable.
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Old 06-29-18, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
... I do know what I am dong, as I have been wrenching and building up my own bikes for over 35 years. I haven't taken a bike to shop over 20 years as I usually end up fixing whatever they did. Most of my riding com-padre's brings their bikes to me for service. With over 135,000 miles in the saddle, I must be doing something right....
The probability you purchased two defective Shimano shifters with exactly the same defective is right at zero. No matter your experience level, it's clear you're doing something wrong. There's excellent documentation on the Shimano website. Do a little research and get things right.

Manuals & Technical Documents
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Old 06-29-18, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
The probability you purchased two defective Shimano shifters with exactly the same defective is right at zero. No matter your experience level, it's clear you're doing something wrong. There's excellent documentation on the Shimano website. Do a little research and get things right.

Manuals & Technical Documents
I would agree with your probability assessment if we were talking about a defect in the brifter. I am fairly confident that what we have here a design limitation in this brifter and if that is the case, the probability of a design limitation being in both brifters is right near 1.

I have done my research, both with Shimano's tech website, forums, and the plethora of YouTube hacks before I came to my posting. I do have a lot of experience here. If you have experience and are fairly competent you will see in the research that everything is around the cable plant and the high low limit screws and derailleur positioning relative to the chain big chain ring. Performance is bad everywhere but worse (if not impossible) shifting out of the middle chainring to the small. There is no adjustment for that. Having addressed all the cable, casing, and routing conditions as well as replacing the derailleur, I can only conclude that the brifter is at fault. (I should know for sure very soon as the replacement campy brifter is due at my doorstep today.)

I don't get why, it doesn't make sense to me, or probably most of us here, but that is what is happening.

One other useless factoid to make a point: Kevin, at Tandem Cycleworks, who serviced the bike for the seller, said that he noticed the difficult shifting and could not adjust it away.
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Old 06-29-18, 09:19 AM
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Assuming the problem hasn't been resolved... It sounds to me like the front derailleur is simply too low. Try raising it 2mm. My theory is that the front derailleur cage is too close to the chainring to allow the chain to derail.
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Old 06-29-18, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
The probability you purchased two defective Shimano shifters with exactly the same defective is right at zero. No matter your experience level, it's clear you're doing something wrong. There's excellent documentation on the Shimano website. Do a little research and get things right.
I am getting some insight from some of the posts here as to why even though I've taken my brand new bike back to the shop twice they cannot fix it, nor do they even acknowledge that there is a problem. IME, derailleurs should not downshift with a TWANG! But this is the same shop that sent us home on a bike with the brakes adjusted suicidally weak, when after our test ride I mentioned it and asked them to fix it. I do not have this issue with single bikes because there is FAR more choice (especially in a town like Portland) and competition for the bike buyers hard earned dollar. Entities that sell and service tandems have much less incentive to go the extra mile.
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Old 06-29-18, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
I would agree with your probability assessment if we were talking about a defect in the brifter. I am fairly confident that what we have here a design limitation in this brifter and if that is the case, the probability of a design limitation being in both brifters is right near 1....
I'm running 4603's brifters with a 4603 front derailleur on my Santana they shift just like my two road bikes. The extra cable may add a little extra stretch on the upshift but with modern cables/housing the downshift is just fine. There's no "design limitation" that magically comes out on a tandem. I'd figure out what I was doing wrong before I made a kludge fix with a Campy brifter matched to Shimano SIS....
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Old 06-29-18, 10:43 AM
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You might look at my fix in #4 answer about how to restore normal (not tight) cable tension.

Also, +1 to responses #6 and #9 . It is important that the cable be on the outside of the anchor bolt, as stated.

Also, I’m curious if the LBS is struggling to get the adjustment right because they are out of practice on the proper ways to set up a triple front brifter. It is possible that they are following the SOP for Shimano doubles and are skipping the tiny extra steps for the triple that makes their setup so tricky.

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Old 06-29-18, 07:35 PM
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Yeah, totally weird. Try another shop. I bought my first Shimano triple in '99. 4 bikes, 4 triples later, some 9 sp. some 10, never a problem with shifting or adjusting that I couldn't fix in less than 5 minutes or in zero time by turning the adjuster. as we rode. Not rocket science.
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Old 06-29-18, 08:15 PM
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Alcanbrad
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@Carbonfiberboy I haven't had issues with triples either over several decades using them until this one. Pretty much all the suggestions given here have been around the classic "adjustment at the limits" issues. Per my original post, the issue I am having is shifting from the middle to small. A suggestion was given to loosen the cable a bit when in this state, which I did try, however, it did not solve the problem - It behaved as I would have expected - the derailleur moved in a bit and the problem didn't go away. When in the middle chainring the derailleur is safely in the area between the limit stops. All that is involved here is the spring tension of the derailleur and the ratchet mechanism of the brifter. There are no index stops in the derailleur.

No-one has been able to explain why both brifters would require 2 hands to actuate the ratchet when shifting from the middle to small, nor why when it would break free, the derailleur would snap to the low end. Nor do I recall anyone saying they have the 5703 on their tandem with no problems. I have tried everything suggested and a lot more. It's the brifter. It is not unheard of for a company to evolve a design and release a product that has a defect. Shimano is certainly not immune to this.

I am happy to report that I installed the campy brifter, using the same derailleur, cable, cable housing, (and mechanic), and in about 2 minutes, it was shifting flawlessly.

I am just going to chalk this one up to one of those counter intuitive shifting problems (like the odd behavior caused a worn cable casing that runs between the rear derailleur and the chainstay - it just defies explanation).

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, both technical and critical. I ultimately found a solution and can get back to taking about riding, rather than wrenching.
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Old 06-29-18, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
@Carbonfiberboy I haven't had issues with triples either over several decades using them until this one. Pretty much all the suggestions given here have been around the classic "adjustment at the limits" issues. Per my original post, the issue I am having is shifting from the middle to small. A suggestion was given to loosen the cable a bit when in this state, which I did try, however, it did not solve the problem - It behaved as I would have expected - the derailleur moved in a bit and the problem didn't go away. When in the middle chainring the derailleur is safely in the area between the limit stops. All that is involved here is the spring tension of the derailleur and the ratchet mechanism of the brifter. There are no index stops in the derailleur.

No-one has been able to explain why both brifters would require 2 hands to actuate the ratchet when shifting from the middle to small, nor why when it would break free, the derailleur would snap to the low end. Nor do I recall anyone saying they have the 5703 on their tandem with no problems. I have tried everything suggested and a lot more. It's the brifter. It is not unheard of for a company to evolve a design and release a product that has a defect. Shimano is certainly not immune to this.

I am happy to report that I installed the campy brifter, using the same derailleur, cable, cable housing, (and mechanic), and in about 2 minutes, it was shifting flawlessly.

I am just going to chalk this one up to one of those counter intuitive shifting problems (like the odd behavior caused a worn cable casing that runs between the rear derailleur and the chainstay - it just defies explanation).

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, both technical and critical. I ultimately found a solution and can get back to taking about riding, rather than wrenching.
Yeah, my 9 sp. triples were all 6503 Ultegra. Our left tandem brifter finally wore out - lots of use. I replaced it with the 10 sp. Ultegra 6603, works perfectly with the 6503 FD.
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