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Touring with drop bars and bar end shifters

Old 07-02-13, 06:38 PM
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ch3
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Touring with drop bars and bar end shifters

I am preparing for my US west coast tour. Last trip I did was on a hybrid with flat bars and just some extenders for a second option in handling. This time I chose drop bars. The bike I ended up buying (Raleigh Sojour) has the WTB Mtn Drop bars, with the shifters at the bar ends.

I was initially a bit skeptical for the nature of the bars and to how wide they are at the bottom. It's also my first time I am riding with drop bars... so I was worried that I may not like them and I was considering swapping them with some normal drop bars I have. I am now slowly getting used to them and I think they will show their advantage once I load the bike. I think wider bars means easier to hold the bike while pedaling standing.
Has any of you used those? Is it worth swapping them to something else?

Another question is about the shifters. Again it takes some get used to, as I constantly have to reach my arm down to change gear. The main selling point of these at the shops, was that it's a simpler design and easier to maintain and fix, which I can definitely understand and makes sense. What I realized though after I bought the bike, is that if my bike drops, especially with these bars, the first thing that will hit the ground is the shifter. So I wonder, will it take the hit?
Has anyone had a bad experience with these?


thank you
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Old 07-02-13, 07:00 PM
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I have drops and bar end shifters on my Surly Cross Check and almost 2,000 touring miles with this setup. The bar end shifters took me some getting used to, but I'm happy with them now. I haven't had any problems with the shifters being damaged and did take a minor fall at one point.

Eric
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Old 07-02-13, 07:02 PM
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ch3
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good to know
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Old 07-02-13, 07:07 PM
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When bar ends first became a popular alternative to downtube or turkey levers, I thought the idea was absurd. I was sure they'd break when the bike fell. That was over 30 years ago and my original impression turned out to be completely wrong. They've proven to be very durable and are widely used by tourers for that reason.
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Old 07-02-13, 07:30 PM
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ch3, Handle bars are like saddles, we often have to experiment to find the right one. Dirt drops look to be a design that allows for a little extra leverage which can be handy once loaded. I had some apprehension when I first tried bar end shifters. I didn't have any problem with them interfering with my knees and the shifting motion quickly became quite natural when I wanted to shift. Must be my preferred shifter design as I am using them for a roadie project.

Brad
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Old 07-02-13, 07:46 PM
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One of the very first modifications I made to my Fuji when I bought it new back in '76 was to change to bar-end shifters. I'm talking less than a month later. I could never see the reason why anyone would want to take a hand off the handlebars to shift downtube shifters! Anyway, that same set of bar end shifters have been there ever since -- 45,000+ miles and 37 years. Shifting is done with the heel of the hand pushing down on the shift lever, or pulled up with the pinkie finger curled underneath the lever. Once you get used to it is very automatic!

My 'new' primary road bike is getting converted to bar-end shifters as well. I still can't see any advantage for downtube shifters!

By the way, I don't always have my hands on the drop portion of the bars. Drop bars allow for may different hand positions - on the straight section near the stem, on the bend where they start to curve forward, forward on the drops, and rear of the drop near the shifters. If your hands get numb in any one position, or your back protests a bit, or your shoulders, or your butt... you have many options to choose from!
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Old 07-02-13, 07:47 PM
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I used a slightly wider drop bar on my touring bike versus a sport bike or fast road bike. I liked bar end shifters enough back in the day that I put them on all but my one race bike. I have one bike with brifters now that will probably get converted to bar ends one of these days. In many cases it will boil down to what you are comfortable with and prefer.

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Old 07-02-13, 09:01 PM
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Very good to know guys that you were all happy with the shifters.
I am not sure how these secure to the bars, but I was wondering if it possible to somehow loosen them up a bit, so if the bike does fall, they will pop off rather than break.

but one way or another, I'll take your word that they will last for a good about of time.
=]
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Old 07-02-13, 09:07 PM
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I've been very happy with mine on this tour https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/11264
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Old 07-02-13, 09:20 PM
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Many of us really do like them, but give it some time and the nay sayers will start giving their two or three cents like in all the other bar end threads.
Try google, type things like "bar ends bike forums" or "bar ends vrs sti bike forums"
It works a lot better than the bike forums search function, which does not actually do anything usefull at all as far as I know...

Those shifters should last a good long time, especially if you don't try to loosen them or anything. Seriously, keep things fairly tight and it will work better((IMHO)but actually not so humble cause I really believe that you should not try to loosen them)

As for all the "I got forty thousand miles out of my bar ends before I handed them down to my kids, still going strong" testimony, that's great, but YMMV. I myself have done exactly as you worry about, the bike was backed into a tree while on a rear rack and it bent the shifter(a thirty year old suntour friction shifter that had been NOS). The shifter still works, though the bar was bent.
Try not to drop your bike, though sometimes it happens. Over half of my bikes have bar ends, the rest are downtube or single speed/fixed. I have wrecked pretty good from time to time, and so far have not damaged any, and I have some on a bike with flipped north roads that really flare out.

You bought the bike, its a good bike by many accounts, so I would suggest not replacing things till they break. that could be tomorrow, or in forty years.
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Old 07-02-13, 09:35 PM
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ch3, The bar ends aren't very vulnerable in a crash or tip over. The brake levers are more likely to be damaged than the shifters, from my experiences.

Brad
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Old 07-02-13, 09:38 PM
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They don`t tend to get banged up much with standard drop bars. With your bars, I think they stick out a bit more to the sides, so might be the first point to contact and break the fall if the bike goes down. Just speculating.
Originally Posted by ch3 View Post
Very good to know guys that you were all happy with the shifters.
I am not sure how these secure to the bars, but I was wondering if it possible to somehow loosen them up a bit, so if the bike does fall, they will pop off rather than break.
I do that with brake levers and flat bar shifters. Not so sure it would help with bar end shifters, but I don`t see how it would hurt anything either. There`s a screw with a big flat head holding the lever to the mounting body- it`s important to keep that one tight. To remove or rotate the bodies (or to loosen so they hopefully get out of the way before snapping off), first shift into the small ring and sprocket to untension your cables, undo that flat headed mounting screw, then pull the lever off the mount (keep track of the silver or black spacer thingy between the lever and the body and either remove or hold in place the funny nut that goes in opposite the flat screw), and look into the opening in the shifter body. You`ll see the end of an Allen bolt. Turn it "backwards" to loosen and do whatever you want with the shifter body, then tighten it back up again (or not, if you want to try leaving it a bit loose) and put the shifter back together.

The little spacer thingy has to be in the correct orientation or your shifter won`t move the full amount. Shimano, Suntour, and Microshift are slightly different, but I`m pretty sure both of them will physically fit in any of four directions (square tab, square hole)- you need to look for the rectangular bit and point that down. If you put it together and don`t have full range from your lever, just take it back off to rotate the spacer to the next position and try it again.

Last edited by rodar y rodar; 07-02-13 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 07-02-13, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
They don`t tend to get banged up much with standard drop bars. With your bars, I think they stick out a bit more to the sides, so might be the first point to contact and break the fall if the bike goes down. Just speculating.
Well that's the main reason I worry. I've noticed that with normal drop bars, the end part of the tube is parallel to the bike. At mine it sticks out enough to be the first contact point even when I try to rest the bike against the wall.
Thanks a lot for your instructions of how to take them apart. Maybe I should have a go... just so at least I know how they work before the actual trip.


In general I am quite relieved to read all these positive comments. Thanks a lot !
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Old 07-03-13, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
You`ll see the end of an Allen bolt. Turn it "backwards" to loosen and do whatever you want with the shifter body, then tighten it back up again
By "backwards" Rodar here means turn it clockwise to loosen, counter clockwise to tighten. Shimano bar end expander bolts have a reverse thread.
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Old 07-03-13, 07:21 AM
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Over 11,000 miles of loaded touring and lots of commuting, etc., miles with bar ends. Never crashed, but the bike has fallen over on occasion. The shifters have never been damages. BTW...When a bike with panniers goes down, the first thing to hit the ground is often your panniers, which will absorb a lot of the shock.
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Old 07-03-13, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ch3 View Post
... ... I am not sure how these secure to the bars, but I was wondering if it possible to somehow loosen them up a bit, so if the bike does fall, they will pop off rather than break. ... ...
I think you want them to be tight. If they are loose, they may turn side to side while you are shifting them.

I was concerned about damage if my bike falls over, I have normal drop bars, not the ones you are talking about. I aimed the levers on mine slightly inwards, not straight down thinking that they would be better protected that way. But from the scuff marks on my levers, they still have hit the ground when the bike fell over or when I had a bad crash.

On my last tour, I put a piece of short pipe insulation around my top tube with a velcro strap to hold it in place. If my bars turn all the way to the side so that my bar end shifter hits the top tube, the insulation protects the top tube from getting dented. If I lean my bike against a pole or something like than, the pipe insulation also protects the top tube paint.

Bar end shifters were used by tourists before brifters were invented. It was a way to keep your hands on the bars while shifting which can be handy with a loaded slow moving bike, downtube levers (and later stem mounted shifters) were the only other option but you had to take a hand off the bars to shift with those. I started using bar end shifters in the mid 1970s.
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Old 07-03-13, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
They don`t tend to get banged up much with standard drop bars. With your bars, I think they stick out a bit more to the sides, so might be the first point to contact and break the fall if the bike goes down. Just speculating.
I don't think my handle bars have ever been pointed straight ahead in a crash, I think tighter is better. I generally worry the most about the RD condition following a tip over or crash.

Brad
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Old 07-03-13, 08:41 AM
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Alternatives would be something like Paul's thumbies to move parts of the bar end levers
to the top center of the bars, or Retroshift, where the same lever is relocated to he front of their brake lever ..


Couldn't stand those WTB dirt drops even the early ones
where Charlie Cunningham pried Cinelli 64's into that sort of shape..


my own bikes had Randonneur bend bars or now Nitto's wider Noodle 48's,
I Like the wider top, as I spend most of the time there , rarely, actually.. in the drops,

but the bar end shifter is still better IMO, my derailleur bikes all have them,

... none are indexed.

Last edited by fietsbob; 07-09-13 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 07-03-13, 08:50 AM
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My personal view is that any shifter configuration will be fine. I've toured with bar-ends, downtube shifters, and thumb levers on my mountain bike. They were all fine. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

I love my brifters on my road bike. I've heard that they aren't as reliable, and you're in trouble if they malfunction while on tour. I'm not sure I'm convinced. First of all, mine have been completely reliable for the past 3 years, as have the brifters on my wife's and son's bikes. My feeling is that the chance of them breaking while on tour is very small.

I long ago concluded that it was foolish to try and be prepared for every possible malfunction while on tour. I don't want to bring a suitcase full of tools! If something catastrophic happened I'd deal with it - probably by hitching rides to a town with a bike shop. I would do the same if I had a problem with an unfixable brifter.

My present tourer has bar-ends and I'll keep them. It isn't a big enough deal to go to the trouble or expense of switching. If I was building a new bike (or buying one) I'd strongly consider brifters. I like them a lot. If a bike came along with downtube shifters I'd probably keep them. It would be like the good old days! (I'm old.)
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Old 07-03-13, 04:48 PM
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Although i loved the way they function, i could never get my tiagra sti levers to jive well with my xt mountain group...it always needed adjustment and was finicky. I switched to dura ace bar ends on paul thumbies and everything has been perfect -no adjustments for about three months now. I still like sti shifters for sure...but I'm really happy with how dependable and solid my my setup has been, so I have no plans on "upgrading".
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Old 07-03-13, 05:50 PM
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Many people like bar ends because you have to move your hand to shift. Changing positions frequently during a long day can turn out to be a good thing.
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Old 07-05-13, 08:15 PM
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I rode my touring bike with bar end shifters for about two years, and even tough I really liked how the shifters worked, I didn't like reaching down to change gears. I also never rode in the drops when touring, so decided to change the bars to trekking bars and move the shifters using Paul's Thumbies. It was a very good decision, the bike feels very stable, bars are comfortable and shifting easy.
I suggest you ride the bike as is for a while and see if you get used to it, you may end up loving the set up. But if not, you can always change things around.
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Old 07-09-13, 09:56 AM
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Yeah I think I will definitely keep it as is for this trip. I did a long ride to the top of the local mountain and I got to appreciate the various handling positions.

But yeah, I agree with you Lucille, some times when I face a sudden hill and I want to change both shifters quickly, I tent to lose my balance a bit, as the left shifter is a little harder to move around.
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Old 07-09-13, 12:08 PM
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ch3,

Sounds like you'll do fine with bar ends; just anticipate a bit earlier at the bottom of the hill when you shift the front lever. I've dropped my bikes and nothing happened to the shifter itself, but the shifter housings get a little bit scratched up.
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Old 07-09-13, 12:12 PM
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don't take your bar end shifters apart, the chances of you getting them back together right are slim. there's more than one little spacer thingy in there.
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