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Why bar end shifters?

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Why bar end shifters?

Old 06-05-13, 01:55 PM
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LuckySailor
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Why bar end shifters?

So while I contemplate The Surly LHT and Trek 520 like it seems everyone else has when considering a cross country or otherwise tour, (I am considering others as well), I have to ask why are touring bikes generally equipped with bar end shifters? My mountain bike rides like a dream, has the proper gearing to handle the mountain roads for sure-but it has shifters on the bar operated by thumb and fore finger: rapid fire I think they're called. I am going on a supported tour to start with, and will have a bike shop most likely in the next town or the one after that. Bar ends just to me seem to be out of the way to use. How is the Durability of STI shifters (on the brake handle)? Should I be looking for a bike with discs if possible to handle the Rockys?
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Old 06-05-13, 02:01 PM
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I think it's more to do with on the road serviceability/repairibility more than durability anymore. You can just take along an extra set of old down tube shifters and make repairs or swap easily if needed.
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Old 06-05-13, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by LuckySailor View Post
why are touring bikes generally equipped with bar end shifters?

It is part tradition part ergonomics.
Before indexed shifting there were faultless shifts but frequently a bit of adjustment w/ the lever was necessary to quiet the chain on the cogs or trim the front across a triple.
Doing that all day long on a fully loaded tour rig was easier and more comfortable for many riders w/ bar-cons vs. downtube controls so bar-con became the "standard".
The 1st generation STI had cables that could interfere w/ a handlebar bag, full on touring bikes needed a handlebar bag so STI wasn't in the mix.

Dead stone drop it, pick it up and it works reliability is more important to LD riders far from bike shops than day riders. Brifters may make folk question if that requirement is met. Can't say one way or the other.

"shifters on the bar operated by thumb and fore finger" Road bike ergonomics are different. Most time is spent on the brake hoods, riding the drops down hill or into a headwind. Easy to shift barcon from either position.

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Old 06-05-13, 02:40 PM
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Brifters are uber expensive and relatively easy to trash if you drop the bike; bar end shifters are cheaper and can more readily survive a fall. Indexing over a triple can be problematic; a friction option is a plus with a triple.
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Old 06-05-13, 02:41 PM
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Maybe I'm just old school but down tube shifters seem to be way more convenient than bar end. Will look closer at STI-unless I can find a down tube tourer. - maybe convert one!
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Old 06-05-13, 02:45 PM
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Longevity of STI vs barend shifters:
Used DuraAce STi: less than 10,000 miles and they 'died' and not fixable.
Barend shifters: never wore out any barend shfters (Suntour and Shimano) on our tandems. One tandem logged 64,000 miles, another 57,000 and another 56,000 miles.
Yes, been riding that much since early 1970s.
A no-brainer for us.
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Old 06-05-13, 02:47 PM
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It is a personal choice, but I don't like bar end shifters. I much prefer either STI or down tube shifters.

I do not find bar ends to be any more convenient than down tube shifters. Bar ends and down tube shifters are at very close to the same amount of reach away for me. This is in part because I like my bars low and ride a fairly small frame, so it may be different for you.

I do find bar ends to be easy to accidentally bump with a knee and also find they are often bumped out of gear when parked leaning against a wall or pole.
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Old 06-05-13, 03:51 PM
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It's really just personal preference. Quality grip, STI, rapid fire, or bar ends all perform well, STI being most problematic, friction bar ends most reliable. I prefer the friction bar ends that are on my DF, but the grip shifters on my bent work flawlessly.

As for brake type, the controversy is never ending. Pros and cons. Again, personal preference. I'd split the difference and put an Avid 7 disc on the rear and rim brakes on the front, or vice versa. I practice modulation on long, steep downhill runs, and stop occasionally to let the rims cool. I understand that you should do the same with discs.

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Old 06-05-13, 03:57 PM
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Modern indexed bar end shifters are great... indexed rear and friction front.

They are all pretty much bombproof and can take heaps of abuse unlike brifters and repairing them is really inexpensive.

Friction bar end shifters like Suntours are also incredibly good, I run these on both my touring bikes and they are without fault, and have indexed bar ends on my XC mountain bike that runs drops as faster shifting the the trail is a plus.
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Old 06-05-13, 04:18 PM
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I have 31,000 miles on the ultegra STI shifters on my touring bike. Have never had a problem, and have bought a replacement set for when/if they ever break. Love em and will not look for anything else.
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Old 06-05-13, 04:37 PM
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I rode downtube shifters for ages, gotta say that when one is constantly changing gears over a long day they can be a pain.
I love trigger straightbar shifters, and I also love brifters.
Last summer I rode with a friend who has a Trek 520 and being the same height, we were able to switch bikes for a while. I must say, with the handlebars he has (stock ones on a recent 520) the shape of them make it very natural to bring your hand down to shift. I suspect the bars are shallow and probably splay out a bit too, but in 2 mins I was comfortable shifting often and it was so much faster and easier than dt shifting, simply because the distance is closer from the hood area to the shifters. I think the 520 used Dura-Ace 9 speed bar ends, and boy did they feel sweet. Lovely feel to each indexed shift, smooth, not too hard nor too easy.
That experience made me realize Id probably get bar ends if I were to get a new touring bike. In the meantime, my STI briftered bike is it. I figure that brifters, if not ridden in a rough environment (dirt, dust, cyclocross stuff) and sprayed with Jig-a-Loo type stuff once in a while in the internals, will last a long time. I wouldnt take them on a far off trip, but I figure for all the stuff I do, they are perfectly fine. Dont know about you guys, but I dont toss it down the road very often (touch wood, touch wood, touch wood) so its balancing out risks vs how fun they are to ride.
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Old 06-05-13, 04:47 PM
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I put Suntour bar ends on my Motobecane winter of '76 and never looked down....so to speak. Simple, easy to use and never had to take a hand of the bars. Still working flawlessly after 37 years and thousands upon thousands of miles (well not that many, 15k-20K). The Centurion I recently acquired has Suntour bar ends..just like old home week when riding that bike.
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Old 06-05-13, 04:48 PM
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I like the friction front shifting and the ability to stay with 9 speed. Down tube shifters would give you both of those as well. I find bar ends easier to use, I can just drop a hand to the lever w/o having to change my body position. If I wanted brifters on a touring bike (assume a triple crank) I think I would try Campy 10 speed with a Shimano 8 speed cassette or Campy 11 with Shimano 9. You get the "almost friction" front and don't have to go to 10 or 11 speed.
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Old 06-05-13, 05:00 PM
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Oh the joy of memories of being in mid reach down for a shift, and hitting a fracking big pothole or something, upsetting the whole bike while you are going 40kph, one handed essentially, and there are cars whizzing right by you.

Once in a while my right hand reaches down for a ghost shift, guess cuz Im daydreaming and thinking of the past, but all in all, I sure dont miss dt shifting. I kinda miss the finger ballet of shifting the front derailleur up or down with one finger, and at nearly the same time using other fingers to go up or down 2 or 3 gears in the back. There was a certain satisfaction of getting it right time after time, but heeeh, I can leave it for day to day stuff. Kinda like darkroom work. I spent half my life in a darkroom, yes there is an artinisal aspect to it, but the reality of fumes, wet, chemical stains etc meant it was what it was, kinda like dt shifting.
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Old 06-05-13, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Embrey View Post
I think it's more to do with on the road serviceability/repairibility more than durability anymore. You can just take along an extra set of old down tube shifters and make repairs or swap easily if needed.
When I first started on this forum, one of the arguments for bar end shifters is that you could switch from indexing to friction with a twist of the tension knob. You may want to do this in the event of a malfunction of the indexing. Where with a brifter malfunction, there isn't a friction mode so you may be stuck in a single rear cog until the brighter is repaired or replaced. One solution to the brifter malfunction is to bring a pair of downtube shifters for emergencies but this requires that the bike frame has the proper braze-ons for the downtube shifters (the lth and 520 have the braze-ons), otherwise you will need an old style downtube shifter clamp.

The benefit of bar-end shifters over downtube shifters is that there are times when you need to shift but want to keep both hands on the handlebars.

I like brifters on my touring bike, I haven't had problems with my brifters and I don't plan on doing any remote touring where I am too far from getting help for a breakdown.

I have noticed that when I rode my older road bike that has downtube shifters, that I shifted much less than when I use my bike with brifters.

Last edited by cyclist2000; 06-05-13 at 07:46 PM. Reason: stupid spell checker keeps auto spelling grifter when I type brifter
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Old 06-05-13, 07:56 PM
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Why bar end shifters - simple - like their feel when shifting.
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Old 06-05-13, 08:45 PM
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After having the ultra convenience of STIs on my road bike I thought I was going to dislike bar ends but I've warmed up to to them and have found that dropping my hand down to that position to shift is really quite natural and easy to do. Another advantage to bar ends that I don't think was mentioned above is you have a better sense of what gear you are in based on the position of the shifter.
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Old 06-05-13, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by martianone View Post
Why bar end shifters - simple - like their feel when shifting.
Exactly.
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Old 06-05-13, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Oh the joy of memories of being in mid reach down for a shift, and hitting a fracking big pothole or something, upsetting the whole bike while you are going 40kph, one handed essentially, and there are cars whizzing right by you.

Once in a while my right hand reaches down for a ghost shift, guess cuz Im daydreaming and thinking of the past, but all in all, I sure dont miss dt shifting. I kinda miss the finger ballet of shifting the front derailleur up or down with one finger, and at nearly the same time using other fingers to go up or down 2 or 3 gears in the back. There was a certain satisfaction of getting it right time after time, but heeeh, I can leave it for day to day stuff. Kinda like darkroom work. I spent half my life in a darkroom, yes there is an artinisal aspect to it, but the reality of fumes, wet, chemical stains etc meant it was what it was, kinda like dt shifting.
Me too. Middle of a ride last year and I'm reaching for the non-existent downtube shifters. Me too on the darkroom stuff as well. Worked in Photo labs from 1986-2007. Seems like ancient technolgy now.
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Old 06-05-13, 09:06 PM
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I have brifters on three bikes, and like them. But I also have bar ends on my Surly LHT and like them just fine, too. You do get used to them very quickly, and they shift great. The friction shifter for the triple is very smooth, and ramming the rear end up or down while clicking through multiple shifts on the cassette reminds me of my Campy shifts. Brifters are nice when you are on a road bike and do spend a lot of time moving quickly and shifting rapidly at times. But, the bar ends for some reason seem to go really well with the pace and style of touring. That's all probably not very helpful; but I do like both for different reasons. And both are fun in their different ways.
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Old 06-05-13, 09:49 PM
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For durability with brifter-like positioning, there are also the famous Kelley's Take-Offs. These are mounting hardware that bring the DT shifters to the brake lever bodies of road bars. Shift from the Hood with sturdy DT levers!
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Old 06-05-13, 10:47 PM
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I wonder if brifters with a Kelly Take-Off for the front derailer might be a good combination.
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Old 06-05-13, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by btbeth View Post
I have 31,000 miles on the ultegra STI shifters on my touring bike. Have never had a problem, and have bought a replacement set for when/if they ever break. Love em and will not look for anything else.
I don't have quite that many miles on my Ultegra 6600-series STI shifters and triple drive-train, but they've been been flawless. Setup was much less finicky than the indexed bar-end shifters they replaced. Bought the STI shifters as brand-new take-offs on eBay and paid about what good bar-ends and brake levers would cost. Handlebar bag works fine; just push the cables out of the way. Despite dropping the bike on numerous occasions and crashing a time or two, I've been unable to break the STI shifters.
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Old 06-05-13, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
Modern indexed bar end shifters are great... indexed rear and friction front.
Great idea. wish modern entry level groups (2300, sora) are designed this way.
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Old 06-06-13, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
I don't have quite that many miles on my Ultegra 6600-series STI shifters and triple drive-train, but they've been been flawless. Setup was much less finicky than the indexed bar-end shifters they replaced. Bought the STI shifters as brand-new take-offs on eBay and paid about what good bar-ends and brake levers would cost. Handlebar bag works fine; just push the cables out of the way. Despite dropping the bike on numerous occasions and crashing a time or two, I've been unable to break the STI shifters.
Shhhhhh, don't say that too loudly (from both hexing us brifter lovers, or amongst the naysayers
Seriously though, I figure in non extreme use (exposure to lots of dust, mud over a long time), with regular non gummy sprays of stuff like jig-a-loo, they work fine for years.
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