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What do you think about STI levers on a loaded touring bike?

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What do you think about STI levers on a loaded touring bike?

Old 12-12-10, 10:08 AM
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mobilemail
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What do you think about STI levers on a loaded touring bike?

I just found a Cannondale T500 for a rather handsome price on Craigslist...I have a picture below, taken after I installed my racks, saddle, etc. The price was low because the Shimano RSX brifters weren't working. I learned from a little online research that these were actually considered to be well-built shifters, but were known to get gummed up from the factory grease and occasionally needed degreased and relubed. But that started me wondering how this kind of issue would affect the self-contained tourer...so the question is:
If you have experience with using STI levers on a loaded, self-supported tour, especially those lasting more than a few days, could you please relate your positive or negative experiences, and your recommendations?
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Old 12-12-10, 10:43 AM
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I had an issue with the left shifter getting gummed up. I just removed the grey plastic piece that covers the guts, lubed the ratcheting thing, and wiggled it back and forth a few times untill it was snappy. Just take some lube with you. Unless something breaks it should at least get you to the next shop, although mines been fine ever since.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:45 AM
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My touring bike has bar-end shifters, but I do have some experience with STI levers on my road bikes. I have had a couple of bikes with first-generation STI (RSX and 8-speed Dura-Ace, respectively). I would certainly not take 1st-generation STI with me on a tour; they do get gummed up occasionally and stop shifting to the smaller cogs in the rear. My new road bike, on the other hand, has 10-speed 105, and I have had no problems with that in four years and 10,000+ miles.

STI itself does not present a problem, but the _old_ STI levers are not good touring components. I would replace them with bar ends or downtube shifters before any long tours.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:56 AM
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Looks like it is using V brakes with the brifters. Can't see from the pic but do the brakes have travel agents? If not how is the braking?
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Old 12-12-10, 10:57 AM
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I fitted new Tiagra 9spd to my tourer this summer for an 8 week tour.
The shifters worked as advertised with no faults.
There are some issues when using low gears. They will operate any rear mech, eg Deore but 9 speed is quite fussy about adjustment and I could never get this right.
They will only operate road front mechs, not MTB ones so you are stuck with using a Tiagra triple shfter on an MTB chainset. It works but requires careful trimming. Unfortunately the trim function is poorly thought out and you can easily overshift esp from middle to small ring. You then need to shift back up and retrim, by which time you have lost momentum and actually need the small ring so you have to shift back down again.

I left the cable outers un-trimmed to route around the bar bag. It is an ugly solution, you can use v-brake style noodles but that limits the thumb position.

All in all, Shimano Tiagra is unsatisfactory for touring due to poor design. My previous shifter, Campy Mirage 8spd had better cable routing, better trim function, more robust innards and a built-in brake cable remove position. Unfortunately I cant use it with any current rear mech.
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Old 12-12-10, 11:00 AM
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Probably going to be personal choice. My current "touring" bike has brifters on it as an experiment. So far they are okay, but I think I really prefer bar end shifters.

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Old 12-12-10, 11:16 AM
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The T500 uses Travel Agents

I started this thread because I am considering an exchange - put the brifters on my road bike, and put my road bike's 8-speed downtube shifters with Tektro RL520 brake levers on the 'Dale. I think that would also allow me to get rid of the travel agents on the V brakes. I would just have to buy the Tektro levers. I'm just deciding if I'm trying to fix an issue that isn't really broken.
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Old 12-12-10, 11:58 AM
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If you are using a road FD, brifters should be OK, as long as you lube them to avoid the 'gummy' problems stated above. In my case, I have an XT MTB FD, and brifters did NOT work well. I got some DA bar ends, and now have no problems.
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Old 12-12-10, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
They will only operate road front mechs, not MTB ones so you are stuck with using a Tiagra triple shfter on an MTB chainset. It works but requires careful trimming. Unfortunately the trim function is poorly thought out and you can easily overshift esp from middle to small ring. You then need to shift back up and retrim, by which time you have lost momentum and actually need the small ring so you have to shift back down again.
I have Tiagra brifters with a Tiagra triple FD using a road triple and I don't have this problem with the trimming mechanism.

Last edited by njkayaker; 12-12-10 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 12-12-10, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mobilemail View Post
I just found a Cannondale T500 for a rather handsome price on Craigslist...I have a picture below, taken after I installed my racks, saddle, etc. The price was low because the Shimano RSX brifters weren't working. I learned from a little online research that these were actually considered to be well-built shifters, but were known to get gummed up from the factory grease and occasionally needed degreased and relubed. But that started me wondering how this kind of issue would affect the self-contained tourer...so the question is:
If you have experience with using STI levers on a loaded, self-supported tour, especially those lasting more than a few days, could you please relate your positive or negative experiences, and your recommendations?
As a general philosophy, regardless of the length of my tour, if I'm touring in 90% of the U.S., I wouldn't worry at all about the additional complexity/smaller reliability of brifters over barcons. It would be extremely unlikely that you'd have to wait more than a couple of business days to get back on the road.

Touring inner Mongolia? I'd definitely ditch the brifters. :-)
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Old 12-12-10, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
...
There are some issues when using low gears. ...9 speed is quite fussy about adjustment and I could never get this right.
They will only operate road front mechs, not MTB ones so you are stuck with using a Tiagra triple shfter on an MTB chainset. It works but requires careful trimming. Unfortunately the trim function is poorly thought out and you can easily overshift esp from middle to small ring. You then need to shift back up and retrim, by which time you have lost momentum and actually need the small ring so you have to shift back down again.
I have not had any of these problems with the same set ups that you describe. It's worth noting though that there are 2 versions of tiagra fd. One for 50-39-30 and one for 52-42-30. Oddly, the 4400 for 52-42-30 worked well on a deore 48-36-28 (biopace) while the other did not.
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Old 12-12-10, 02:15 PM
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I used brifters for 4 years with little trouble. Switched to bar ends about a year ago. Certainly would not return to STI. I use mine in friction mode. Like their simplicity, reliability, and the positive control I have over derailleur placement.
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Old 12-13-10, 01:23 PM
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No problems with brifters on road bikes for many years, and on LHT and Marin touring bikes for 3 years. My touring bikes both use Tiagra 9. 25-36-50, 12-34. XD RD and 105 triple FD. Shift great, never had any of them "gum up," but I realize some of the above posters speak of earlier gen STIs doing this. I stayed friction on the downtube till the 2000s, so I never had any problems with the 9- and 10-speed unit's I've used.

I love brifters and everytime I ride one of my older bikes with DT frictions I'm reminded of why. I'll stick with them, and if I ever tour somewhere that I'm certain I couldn't get a replacement, I'll carry a spare DuraAce downtube STI shifter to plug in in case of emergency. Weight: negligible.
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Old 12-13-10, 01:41 PM
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I prefer STI shifters. Never considered using bar ends. After about 15K trouble free miles I'm happy. I worry much more about wheels than shifters.
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Old 12-13-10, 01:47 PM
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I haven't had a problem with my brifters yet, mine are pretty cheap Microshift 8spd but they shift as new, ive only got about 3k miles on them but other than how little brake cable they pull i love them i do the same a stated above i have a DT shifter i keep in my seat bag friction that i can use for either shifter in case of a problem.
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Old 12-13-10, 01:54 PM
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I'm far from the uber-experienced rider some posters here are. But compared to the down-tube shifters of the old days and the couple times I tried someone else's bike with bar cons, I much prefer brifters. No problems on my Natchez Trace/Mississippi River Trail tour this past Fall. I was pulling a single-wheeled trailer with about 45 pounds. The bike also had a pair of front panniers/handlebar bag weighing about 15 pounds total.
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Old 12-13-10, 05:01 PM
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I really like STI brifters. If I were to tour Mongolia I'd still use them, but would probably take a pair of down tube friction shifters as spares just in case. In the US I don't bother with spares. I figure only one is going to go bad at a time and I can rig one dérailleur to the middle of the range if one fails. That leaves me enough range to limp along until the next bike shop where it could either be replaced with a new one or a D/T shifter.

I never liked bar ends. Way back in the 80's I had a pair of Dura Ace bar ends. I hated them and switched to D/T shifters. It seems like I constantly either banged them with my knees and bumped them out of gear when parked. That and I didn't find them any more convenient to use than D/T shifters.
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Old 12-13-10, 05:06 PM
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Old 12-13-10, 06:34 PM
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Down tube shifters on my touring bicycles: late-1970s - 2003.
Brifters on my touring bike: 2003 - forever!

(... or until something better is invented.)

No problems after seven seasons of touring with the same Shimano brifters.
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Old 12-14-10, 04:59 AM
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Thanks for all the great feedback! The best part was the suggestion of carrying DT shifters as spares - an option I will reserve for trips extensive enough to deserve it. I own an old pair of Shimano DT friction shifters that would fill this need perfectly, I will set them aside for the purpose. See you on the road! (After the road thaws out.)
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Old 12-14-10, 06:33 AM
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Thanks for all the great feedback! The best part was the suggestion of carrying DT shifters as spares - an option I will reserve for trips extensive enough to deserve it. I own an old pair of Shimano DT friction shifters that would fill this need perfectly, I will set them aside for the purpose. See you on the road! (After the road thaws out.)
+1. They're light and easy to install and use if you need them.

My old 9 speed STI were really reliable, and I'd tour on them without wory.
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Old 12-14-10, 02:38 PM
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I ride big frames and bar down tube shifters have always been very inconvenient. I started using friction Campy barcon shifters back in the ‘70s. I finally went with Shimano indexed barcons when I started upgrading my bikes in the ‘90s. I have raced with barcons. I have toured with barcons. I see no reason to change.
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Old 12-14-10, 03:06 PM
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STI. Luxury, once tasted, becomes necessity. 6000+ miles and no worries.
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Old 12-14-10, 06:22 PM
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I wouldn't ride a road/touring bike that didn't have STI or DoubleTap shifting... I've yet to have a problem with either system.
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Old 12-14-10, 08:56 PM
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I'm a volunteer bike mechanic for about 10 local rides each year that draw about 1000 riders each. Each year I get 3 to 5 riders with index shifters that stop working. I fix the RD to a middle cog on the rear cluster and the grateful rider finishes the century on a 2 or 3 speed or jumps in a sag wagon.

The OP asked about a self-supported tour. Finishing a ride on a 2 or 3 speed is the price to be paid for a broken brifter.

I've never encountered a broken friction shifter. If reliability is paramount and riding a 2 or 3 speed is not an option, then I'd use friction shifters.
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