Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on Bar-End Shifters

Rivendell, Surly, Shogun
When I was getting my first new roadbike in spring 2010, I had it built up with bar-end shifters. This decision was arrived at via a process of elimination. I had ridden a couple of vintage roadbikes before with very limited success and found the classic downtube shifters too challenging. I had also tried to test ride some modern roadbikes and found their combination brake/shifter levers ("brifters") to be so uncomfortable that I had trouble using the brakes. Other cyclists I knew recommended bar-ends - an older style that had grown popular again in recent years. Rivendell - the manufacturer of the road frame I was having built up - was also strongly recommending this setup. And so that is what I went with. 

Refurbished Shogun, Silver Bar-End Shifters
A bar-end shifter is exactly what it sounds like: a gear-changing lever installed at the end of the handlebar. There are different styles. Some are longer, others are shorter. Some are friction, others are indexed. I have tried a few now on different bikes, and my favourite remains what I went with originally: Silver friction shifters. The length and shape make them easier for me to operate than other models; I get more leverage. I find the friction mode easy and intuitive to use, and I like the control it gives me. If a gear is imperfectly adjusted, I can simply move it a tiny bit manually.  I can also shift multiple gears at a time quite easily. 

Motobecane Super Mirage, Shimano Bar-end Shifters
The shorter, indexable Shimano bar-ends are another popular choice for this style of shifters. The Co-Habitant uses them on his bikes and loves them. But personally I find them more effortful and less comfortable to use that the Silvers. 

Refurbished Shogun, Tektro Brake Levers
Over the time I rode with bar-end shifters, I was more or less fine with them. I was able to switch gears and I was able to install the brake levers I liked, since they were independent from the shifters. But I did find two things about the shifters less than ideal. One was that they required me to dramatically change my hand position(s) on the bars in order to switch gears. I got better and quicker at this over time, but nonetheless I was never "in love" with the process. The other issue was that when stopped or off the bike the shifters would often poke me and give me bruises. But both of these points seemed relatively minor at the time, and I was not considering a different lever setup.

Moser, 11cm Stem, Nitto Noodles, Campagnolo Levers
My switch to combination levers was a product of accidental discovery. I was discussing test riding a Seven roadbike with the staff of the Ride Studio Cafe, and all their demo models were set up with modern brifter-type levers. I told them about my inability to brake using brifters when I attempted to ride other modern roadbikes. Rob Vandermark asked which specific makes and models I'd tried. It had not occurred to me until then that this could make a real difference. I'd tried quite a few, all of them by Shimano and SRAM. Rob looked at the Tektro short reach brake levers on my own bike, and suggested I try Campagnolo; apparently the shape is very similar. And so it was. I test rode a demo bike with Campagnolo ergo shifters and it was as if my brain became integrated with them immediately. I resisted making a rash decision to make the switch on my own bike, but a couple of months later I finally did switch and have not looked back.

Sunset, Handlebar Bag
So what do I think of bar-end shifters in retrospect... Pretty much the same thing as before. I have no desire to "bash" them or to proclaim the superiority of brifters; it is really a matter of individual preference. I still like bar-ends and I am fine riding a roadbike set up with them. I especially love the friction mode. If given a choice of models, my favourites are the Silvers; they feel great in my hands. I imagine that bar-ends are well suited for those who prefer their shifters to be separate from their brake levers, who wish to have the option of friction shifting, and who have no problems moving their hands to the edges of the drops swiftly and efficiently when they need to change gears. I am sure there are other contexts in which bar-ends are the preferred choice, and those who have things to add on the subject are welcome to chime in. To me, bar-ends will always be associated with my first road cycling experiences, and I retain a fondness for them despite having switched to another system. 

60 comments:

  1. Neat, Rob & RSC get all the credit. Mm ok.

    Me, circa a long time ago, "You should try them. They're great." Of course I'm merely some guy on the internet.

    Note: it's ok to use terms like "bash" and "love" without quotation marks. Everyone knows what you mean.

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    1. Good point. I remember when you brought up the term brifter. Man did you take a lot of heat for that. Too bad you and I are the only ones who remember. Oh well, such is life.

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  2. When I bought my Hilsen, the good folks at Rivendell convinced me to give bar end shifters a try.

    They were not right for me. Never got used to the positioning. So I looked around and found some NOS Simplex DT Retrofriction shifters. Three bikes later, I am still using them.

    My nephew has brifters on his Madone. I appreciate the concept, but see no reason to move away from DT shifters.

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  3. My preference is solidly bar-end shifters. They were factory preset on my 2009 KHST101 and it was an absolute joy to rediscover these after decades of being away. My roadie from the 70s (not just the bike but me also), a metallic forest-green Centurion had bar-end shifters and though we didn't know the expression back then, they were the bomb. Unless I get a machine with a totally different design (as in not my beloved road/cross/touring/commuter I highly doubt I will have a reason to change. Intuitive, smooth, easy to adjust on the go. Preference. To each their own.

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  4. Bar end shifters were fitted on my Surly LHT when I test rode it. My experience with them on the test rides, both of that bike and other bikes that use bar end shifters, left me dissatisfied with them.

    As you note, it requires moving your hands well away from the brakes, and with a fair bit of my riding being in the city, I found that coming to a traffic light, doing anticipatory downshifting, and braking, was too separate. I also banged my knee on them, more than once, which was more annoying in that it would shift in ways I didn't want/expect, rather than being painful.

    I had them replaced with brifters as soon as I bought the bike.

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  5. Much of the positioning issue is as tied to handlebar choice as it is to shifter choice.

    Myself, in the city, I never ride the drops. A nice bullhorn bar like the Easton Delta Force + barcons makes for a superb urban dashboard IMO. Some cross levers on the horns allows for brakes + shifters to be at your fingertips at all times.

    -b

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  6. Jennifer in ScotlandJune 25, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    I love the look of my bar end silver shifters on my Rivendell Betty Foy but have found them tricky to use. The problem is that I have to really pull the left one upwards to try to get it into third gear, to the point where I have pain in my hand off the bike. It continually wants to slip back to second and first. Today the gear cable snapped off, probably because I was pulling so hard. My bike shop didn't understand when I tried to explain the problem. I may contact Rivendell for some help as I can't believe they are really this hard to use.

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    1. I think Silver shifters suck at holding position and tend to slip. I don't know why GP likes them so much. If I tighten them so that they don't slip, then they become stiff to move and you really do need full leverage they provide. If I adjust them just a little bit back, they start slipping. There is no happy medium. Can you tell I hate them?

      Try the Shimano shifters on some other bike. They can be run in friction mode (the front derailer shifter is always friction) or in indexed mode (the rear derailer shifter can switch from friction to indexed).

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    2. Ditto on the Silver shifter problems! The feel is wishy washy, they are either too light and don't hold gear, or too firm to the point that you can't feather a gear cleanly.

      However bar ends are definitely my preferred system now. The Shimano bar-ends just have a nicer feel whether it be indexed or friction.

      The fact that I discovered my Silvers black washers were cracked after just 3 weeks only helped to affirm my dissatisfaction.

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    3. Oh wow! I honestly thought I was the only one in the world who had this problem with the Silver Bar End Shifters! I have 3 other pairs of bar end shifters that are absolutely wonderful so I was excited to try these based upon Grant's love for them. Sooooo disappointed on how they under-performed. I'm constantly playing the dangerous game of "tighten-shifter-while-riding" because they slip loose and don't hold their cable. I always make it a point to mention how much I don't like them when people comment on their visual appeal or bring them up in conversation. Pretty looking shifters with horrible functionality.

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    4. Another issue with the Silvers is that for 9 and 10 speed rear clusters, there simply isn't sufficient lateral distance between gears to allow really decent shifts via friction. The indexed Dura Ace bar ends, in my experience, allow one to do absolutely perfect shifts every time.

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  7. Have you tried Barcons? What do you think of them?

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    1. they are the same thing as what she's talking about

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    2. No no no, Barcon was Suntour's name for their version of the bar-end shifter. They were not discussed in Velouria's post, but people have mentioned them in the comments. I have had three bikes outfitted with Suntour Barcons, and as far as friction-shifting bar-end shifters go, they're pretty much the bee's knees. They have a wonderful micro-ratcheting motion and are smooth as silk. They're also practically bomb-proof. Unless they break from crashing your bike, they will last forever.

      I also have a set of the Shimano bar-end shifters. They're not even in the same league as the Suntours, although it is nice that the Shimanos can at least index.

      It's funny to read the comments about Rivendell's Silver shifters. Grant went so far as to say that people who think Suntour Barcons are the best are deluding themselves... I guess the truth is exposed now.

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  8. I have the Shimano bar end shifters on my commuter, a Soma Double Cross, and Dura Ace brifters on my other bike, a Specialized Tarmac. While I generally prefer the brifters, it really comes down to cost. Brifters are much more appropriate for a racing bike, but the marginal benefit on a commuter bike is not worth the extra couple of hundred dollars they would cost over bar end shifters. In other words, I prefer the extra $200 in my pocket more than I prefer brifters over bar end shifters on a commuter.

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  9. Interesting, Ailish. The majority of my regular commuting is in the city and I've never had a problem getting between brakes and shifters or visa-vera in time.

    I usually do a simultaneous partial breaking with my left hand and shifting with my right hand as far as anticipating whatever.

    I've rarely banged my knee against the end shifters. I wonder if your frame geometry and personal geometry don't work at their max, Ailish?

    For the record, I mostly ride the Ramps; the Hooks for speed only where I know it's all good out there; never the tops, unless I am in the country being super casual with no possible danger in sight; almost never the Drops; only sometimes the Hoods. I find riding the Hooks puts me in a great place for breaks or shifters with head-up all the time.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with my personal geometry, thank you very much. I'm glad you've found something you like, and that they're available to you. I was explaining why I preferred brifters, as my personal choice. You say you've even banged your knee on bar-ends, though rarely, while I can say that I've never banged my knee on brifters. I'm sure if I'd stuck with the bar-ends, I would have gotten used to them, but I didn't feel the need to do so. I was already used to riding mostly on the hoods, with brifters, so stuck with what was known to work for me.

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  10. As a touring cyclist my preference has been to keep things mechanically simple which means friction shifters, either bar end or down tube. I can see the advantage of brifters for the racing crowd, however.

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  11. As you mentioned, the ergonomics on brifters has greatly improved with each new release from the big 3, and many higher-end versions include adjustability for different hand sizes, a big help for women with smaller hands. One of the rationales in the recent past for bar-ends was that the side-entry cables on shimano brifters could interfere with front racks/bags/lights on commuter or touring bikes. In most new brifters, the cables can be routed through the rear of the grip, eliminating most of this problem. Overall, I don't see any compelling advantage to bar-ends at this point versus new-generation brifters, but of course, to each his/her own.

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  12. One thing you didn't mention and an important reason for choosing bar-ends: for those on a budget bar-ends are MUCH cheaper than brifters, like $75 compared to $250+. Barends are cheap, while still being very functional, intuitive and durable. I go with the Shimanos on indexed mode. I also don't agree that it's a "dramatic" shift in hand position when shifting bar-ends, I find them conveniently placed. But then again those are the only shifters I've run for the last five years. To me, compared to DT friction shifters they are a piece of cake. The poking and bumping into the shifters you mentioned hasn't happened to me ever, but I'm sure that's due to the relative sizes, geometries of different bikes and handlebars.

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    1. Here is what I am getting:

      Option A
      Campagnolo Veloce Power-Shift 10spd ErgoPower Levers:
      $157

      Option B
      Rivendell Silver Bar End Shifters plus hardware:
      $105
      Tektro R-100A brake levers:
      $35

      That's less than a $20 difference.

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    2. You're comparing the lowest quality brifters from a particular manufacturer to the highest quality bar end shifters available from any manufacturer. That's hardly an apples-to-apples comparison.

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    3. Silver shifters are hardly "the highest quality bar end shifters available" despite what their seller might want us to believe.

      But putting that aside, who says it has to be apples to apples? If memory serves right, Velouria made the specific switch I described and she prefers the inexpensive brifter option. Whatever works, eh?

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    4. Nothing low-quality about Veloce. The bigggest difference is weight. For those looking to trim the budget all the way 8 and 9 speed brifters are cheap at the flea market. Campy sells the small parts to make them into 10 speed. The rebuild is only for confident mechanics

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    5. My Shimanos were $75 with cables, etc. So still half the price of the Veloce brifters (I got my barends 5 years ago)

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  13. My bike is set up with bar end shifters, and they are what I am comfortable using. At this point, shifting is intuitive, and I had to think for a moment about how I do it. I agree with Owen, shifting is easiest while riding the hooks. I use either the base of my hand or my fingers depending on the direction I am pushing the levers. I do a lot of city riding and haven't had problems.

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  14. What I like about Bar-Ends is that they work well with a touring gear set up [meaning rings of any size and cog sets of any size].

    While I ride and love my Brifters too, they are limited to the brands pre-prescribe gear range.

    I also agree about the low cost of bar ends [or DT shifters]

    antbikemike

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    1. Campagnolo works well outside the suggested range. Both the brifters and the derailleurs. They also work pretty well for totally unlikely setups like 7speed freewheels.

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  15. I use bar ends on my two tourers. They allow me to use 7 and 8 speed cassettes which are quite cheap, and in friction mode allow me to fine tune gear changes both at the chainset and rear wheel. Brifters work well when adjusted properly, but they do require constant attention to keep them working just right. As my tourers are my everyday bikes I can't be bothered with that.

    Brifters are not tolerant of wear in chains, chainsets and cassettes. Bar end shifters in friction mode are not so fussy, and for my high mileage tourers ridden on grimy city streets, country roads and even muddy tracks in all weathers they are ideal.

    9 speed Brifters are fitted to my two road bikes which are only used in summer and therefore mainly in good weather, and mainly on nice, unpotholed country roads. For fast rides they are superb.

    My first brifters were Shimano 7 speed ones bought with a 1995 Dawes audax bike. My nephew now rides that bike and the brifters still work superbly.

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    1. Another factor in using brifters is that they are simply higher maintenance than bar ends. I have had a handful of Campagnolo Record brifters--within maybe 3-5k miles, they have always needed to be re-built, which is a lot of trouble and costs more than $100. If one doesn't rebuild them, the precision suffers, and it's fussy to get perfect shifts. I haven't found this to be true with Dura Ace bar ends.

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  16. I hope you plan to review those Campagnolo thingies; I'm intrigued! Any idea whether they will work on Moustache handlebars?

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  17. For ergonomic reasons, I like the trigger shifters on my mountain bike more than the integrated shifters on my road bike, but, of course, they don't fit a drop bar. On a drop bar I like either integrated shifters or bar end shifters. I think integrated shifters are more desirable for racing with drop bars because of their location on the bars, but bar end shifters are more desirable for touring because of their durability.

    Aside from the technical considerations, such as ergonomics, matters related to aesthetics are important too. I associate the integrated shifters with racing bikes and associate the wide use of racing bikes and their customary accessories with corporate marketing efforts. To me, that makes them less appealing aesthetically. I don't want to ride what the big corporations want me to ride or the way they want me to ride. At the same time, I own a racing bike with integrated shifters, and enjoy riding it in spite of this aesthetic dissatisfaction. Similarly, I enjoy riding my mountain bike, even though it too is a product of big corporate marketing. But it is my touring bike, the eccentric one, that I enjoy the most. It has bar end shifters. Unfortunately, they are made by a large corporation that controls a large part of the bicycle component market.
    Silver shifters seem to offer better aesthetics in this respect.

    When I look at my bike, I don't want see corporate product development and marketing, but they are hard to avoid. I want to see the ingenuity of a small entrepreneur or craftsperson. I want to see the work and choices of an artistic lover of bicycles.

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  18. Personally, I use Down-Tube friction shifters on all my bikes that shift. Cable lengths are shorter, therefore less stretch and friction. From my riding position, my hand swing to DT shifters and bar-ends at the same point, and I got tired of banging my hand on the bar getting back on the hoods or ramps occasionally when I shifted. Went back to DT. Tried indexed, but when I kept having to have the deraileurs adjusted to manage trim that friction shifter give you access to without the hassle, I went back to friction. Sophisticated systems are great for racers, bike mechanics, or cyclists who like having a close relationship with their LBS. I prefer simplicity and the quiet that goes with it.

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  19. 1. You didn't mention the mystery of why people call them "barcons." No idea, here.

    2. While I haven't tried a large range of barcons, many cyclists have commented that the vintage '80s Suntours that came to me with my Peugeot are the best. I guess I'll believe them.

    3. Barcons do work particularly well with moustache bars -- no need to change hand positions. As such, I think they're the best shifters for city bikes with derailleurs.

    4. Practical concerns aside, brifters really do seem to be the most polarizing piece of equipment in all of cycling. For a lot of people they represent the point where everything went wrong, no?

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  20. I used bar-ends for years and years and years and liked them just fine. My wife still likes them. I'd like to try brifters, but since I don't shift any more, they'll have to wait a while.

    Never did care for down tube shifters, except for the way they look. I like the appearance of the Campy brifters--clean and slim. I do like the idea of a friction option with bar-ends--but I used mine in index mode, once that became available, though with a custom gear set (back when it was easier to mix 'n' match).

    One fixed gear makes it all moot for me right now. (Yes, I ride long distances; yes, I live in a hilly place; yes, I carry things on the bike; yes, I'm old. Doesn't matter; love that fixie!)

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  21. Ok, I'm going to throw and old wrench into this. I love your blog and have been reading it for some time now. I'm a little over 50 years old and my body isn't as limber as it used to be. There is only one style of shifter that really feels natural to me...the old fashioned stem shifter. I've got an old Raleigh Competition that came with down tube shifters. The riding position was so low that I almost felt like I was standing on my hands. I swapped out the stem for a Nitto Technomic and now have the top of the bars slightly higher than my saddle...much more comfortable. The drawback to this was that now the shifters were so far away from my hands, the bike became unstable when I bent down to shift. I looked into bar ends and didn't care for them for several reasons. I'm a friction shifter fan and refuse to use indexed shifters after several annoying problems with them...mainly the inability to fine tune. I thought back to my youth and the fun I had on my old Schwinn 10-speed. It had stem shifters of course. I know a lot of people look down on them, but it's simply a mechanical device...like any other style of shifter. I thought about all the horrific wrecks I had with that Schwinn, including one that bent that electro-forged steel tank frame so that I could never ride it without hands again. The wrecks were all my own fault of course. I was never impaled on the stem shifters, and I'd been thrown over the bars many times, (boys will be boys), and I never had one lick of trouble with them...ever. I decided I didn't give a damn about what anybody else thought. I searched and found a set of NOS Suntour stem shifters, appropriate in age for my Raleigh and it's Suntour drivetrain, switched them out with ease...and at a fraction of the cost of new shifters...and without all that extra cable. Now I can actually shift with my thumbs while riding with my hands on top of the bars. I'm usually on the hoods or the area just behind them. I'm almost never in the drops. If I want to switch out the bars for another set, the shifters and their cables are not involved...so one less pain in the rear to deal with there too.

    Like I said, I know many people will look down their noses at my choice, but after many years of experience using friction stem shifters, I find that they are intuitive and work best for me.

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    1. Stem shifters are as good as any. The only known problems are the big ugly mounting bracket most of them have and the knee-banging thing. My knees don't bang but I've seen it. And some mounts are visually fine.

      I wish I had a note for the flickr address but I don't. I have seen the photo of a guy who liked stem shifters so much he had a custom steel stem made with braze-on mounts. There are a few bikes out there with headtube braze-ons and the ancient toptube mount method can still be used if the knee thing is not too bad. My very first derailleur bike had the TT shifter (just one, for a 3spd freewheel) and I would love to have a good excuse to repeat that system.

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  22. I too started with the same road bike and have since switched to more modern componentry,i.e. campy 10 speed and i cannot say enough good things about the speed in which you can shift.

    they especially come in handy when you are riding swiftly through hilly areas where you must expect and shift quickly and through a bunch of gears to maintain speed, it makes it faster and more fun.

    now that i know, i can't go back. yikes!

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  23. I like bar-end shifters because they can work on many handlebar types, not just drop bars. I've had them on Nitto Albatross bars:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/4946747549/

    and when placed on swept back handlebars like in the above photo, they are always right where you want them.

    Long distance touring cyclists like them because they're reliable and simply don't brake (at least the old Suntour Barcons don't). It's well established that brifters can break catastrophically.

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  24. I have used my entry-level Campag brifters for more than a dozen years in every condition and have never once fiddled with, adjusted or maintained them. They still work perfectly. I would no sooner use bar-ends on a modern bike than i would start my car with a crank. As V discovered, they're no match for modern tech

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  25. As much as I wanted to like bar ends, I must admit I found them uncomfortable to use for the same reasons as mentioned in the blog (although to be fair I didn't try them for very long). Somebody told me about Suntour Command shifters and I found a set of NOS on Ebay for a great price. I love them - all the advantages of bar ends (simple, reliable, friction/index modes, ability to use brakes of choice) with the advantage of being able to shift from the hoods or flats without moving your hands and even some shifting ability from the drops. If you get a chance and you are looking for something between bar ends and brifters, they are worth trying.

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    1. I had those once and loved them. Wish I had kept them when I sold the bike.

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  26. I never cared for bar-ends. Interestingly enough, I found that I could keep myself more stable when reaching down for a downtube shifter than I could when using a bar-end. Also, the cable routing is more difficult on bar ends than it is for down tube shifters, or even "brifters."

    However, I knew plenty of cyclists who swore by bar-ends, especially the ones Sun Tour made. (They were, by far, the best friction bar-ends available.) I'll bet some of those riders still will ride nothing else. Chacun a son gout.

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  27. Interesting stuff, and obviously a matter of preference.

    What confuses me is how people start with bar ends on their first set of drop bars. When I first started on drop bars I don't think I could have managed moving my hands to shift without wobbling all over the place and running into a wall or something. :-/ Brifters are IMO easiest for beginners because you can brake from the same position - just sit on the hoods and no need to move if something has made you nervous and twitchy.

    Of course, my first brifters were 90s campagnolo and I haven't actually tried any of the other major brands, so maybe I wouldn't be able to use them at all. I already find it quite hard to brake from the hooks - I have short fingers and it's a real stretch.

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    1. In a way, brifters can prevent riders from learning to move their hands around on the bars, which probably isn't good from the standpoint of riding safely.

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  28. I have the Silver shifters on my LHT's downtube. As Justine said, I find it very easy to maintain stability when reaching down to shift. Another advantage to DT shifters is that you can operate both front and rear derailleurs with either hand.

    I understand the comments on the Silvers' need to be tightly adjusted -- I have mine fully tightened. But I think you get more leverage when they're on the downtube, making the friction resistance more manageable than it would be on the bar ends.

    Although I love my setup, my biggest problem comes not from the sfifters, but from the cogs -- from what I understand, modern cassettes (mine's a Shimano 9-speed) use cogs with ramps and pins designed to facilitate indexed shifting; these same features can cause the chain to slip a gear if you haven't positioned the shifter EXACTLY right. It's a feel thing -- some days I bat 1.000 with no slips; other days I'm a little off...

    Charlie

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  29. I love my bar end silver shifter. They're like butter. I've only used them with my upright Rivendell, though.

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  30. Stick with single speeds and you never have to worry about shifting! I've used silver bar end shifters and down tube shifters (all from Rivendell) and they rusted internally in short order. The Shimano products didn't do that regardless of rain intrusion. Go figure.

    Brifters are OK but my preference is for trigger shifters - alas, not usable on drop bars. I guess I'd better stick with my single speed!

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  31. Racing (back when) and sport/rec: downtube shift levers for their elegant appearance and ease of use. I say ease of use seriously because that's what I learned on when I was fifteen...they are wired into my brain and I'm perfectly comfortable with them, friction or indexed. I realize they are no longer competitive.

    Touring: from downtube to bar ends to Paul Components thumbies was the path I followed. I never like the cable clutter associated with bar ends. Very Satisfied with Paul Thumbies, which are not shifters but mounts for downtube shift levers that you can mount on the flats.

    Commmute/utility: see Touring.

    Regarding "brifters" -- I used them on a couple of bikes in the early years and middle years of brifters because everyone else racing was using them. I found they were fussy and troublesome and that I shifted compulsively and unnecessarily. Never really took to them and no longer feel the need for them.

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  32. I bought a pair of Suntour bar end shifters in late 1982 and they ended up being used on three consecutive bikes. It wasn't until I bought an early Shimano 105-equipped roadbike that I went back to DT shifters. It took a while to learn how to not incessantly bang my knees on them.

    KneeCap Overlap? ;)

    The ratchet action of the Suntour design filled the gap between pure friction and indexed shifting, at least for me.

    I am curious about the Rivendell/Dia-Compe Silvers. They look too long in the lever for my taste.

    I intend to try a few of the indexed bar ends and see if I like them more than the various Brifter models (Shimano Sora, Tiagra, 105, SRAM Red) I've tried.
    I still need to try the Campagnolo brifters and see if i like the throw of the shifters better.

    CK

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  33. It seems the main disadvantage of bar ends, or down tube shifters, is the swiftness. Both are practical in terms of placement and ease, both are mechanically simple, but neither allow for that quick shift after a hard corner when you're in an intense criterion race. For touring or more casual types of riding--six of one, half dozen of another.

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    1. Actually, to the contrary. No one uses bar ends in racing, but they are actually a convenient way to shift under full gas--your hands, after all, are likely to be on the drops. Have you ever tried to shift from the drops with brifters with your hands on the drops in chasing an attack or attacking? I find it much harder than with bar ends.

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  34. I can understand your problem with Shimano STI.

    Until very recently I had the same Tektro RL340 brake levers that you had (which are a Campagnolo Ergo clone and which I really loved). The ergonomics just worked very well and I could brake really strongly from the hoods.

    I just converted to Shimano Tiagra brifters and while they work, I certainly preferred the Tektros (price and availability prevented me from going Campagnolo). There are a few things to make them work better, though. Most of the ergonomic problems that STI have are caused by the pivot point of the lever being lower. Therefore I find the levers have to be positioned higher than the Campagnolos. Also, the reach seems to very long on them. Even I, a 6'1'' guy with long fingers, found I needed to use one of the provided shims to reduce the reach of the lever.

    The more recent STI shifters (2011 105 and up) however seem to use a new design that is closer to the Campagnolo stuff. They have moved the pivot point of the lever up and the new hoods are smaller and slimmer to reduce the reach. My levers are still the old design, but if you had problems with the older design you might fare better with the newer models.

    If you are already sold to Campagnolo that's fine, but I think the lower price, less purely racing specific product range, and better availability of Shimano stuff is an advantage.

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  35. I cannot stand brifters so I opt for barend shifters or even downtube, friction is the only way to go. (obviously not going electronic shifting anytime soon) I like both the same and can use either just as easy as the other. I would like to try a paul thumbie setup on a drop bar, stick the shifters right near the stem or even use stem shifters. Eventually.

    Trigger shifters (mountain bike kind) are pretty cool if I find I have to shift all the time, but I prefer to use friction and let my legs do the shifting. I will opt for trigger shifters before brifters in a heartbeat though, even though I use drop bars most of the time.

    One thing is true though, the more I use one type of system the more used to it I get and the better I am at hitting the right gear everytime. I find on my Sam Hillborne, I can flip the shifter (silver bar end) and get into the gear I need without really thinking about it. I also really appreciate being able to dump the entire cassette in one quick lever throw. It is an advantage to the setup.

    Many people complain about the cable routing of bar ends, and it is relatively unsightly, but with my setup I use a handlebar bag (sackville barsack) and that covers up most of the cabling which routes from about three inches from the shifter (under the bartape) and loops to the cable guide under the downtube. The cable goes underneath the bag, well out of sight. Not a bad look to the setup.

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  36. My preferences lay at either end of the technology spectrum. Rod brakes on the DL-1, and Ultegra STIs on my road bikes. Though years later I occasionally still find myself almost reaching for the downtube shifters that aren't there. I did like rather those. Bar end shifters never made sense to me. Certainly not for climbing.

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  37. I've gone from bar end to brifter to DT. Which is actually full circle back to my Raleigh Grand Prix from the '70s. The bar ends knocked into knees, trees and walls one too many times. The brifters strained the reach on my hands (I'm intrigued by the smaller lever option). And the DT shifters were like going back to college, with the added advantages of: (i) less shifting and more pedaling; and (ii) a little less time in the same position on the bars, which helps relieve my tendency to vibration finger numbness.

    I'm glad to hear about other people with Silver ghost shifting issues. I was beginning to assume it was "just me."

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  38. I have the Shimano bar end shifters on my Surly LHT and, like the rest of the bike, they have taken everything I've thrown at them with no complaints. I do think they are a little ugly and wish they were a totally metal finish. My only annoyance with bar ends is when I'm leaning the bike against a wall or rail for parking (I don't have a stand) as the levers sometimes get bumped. Just occasionally I've also knocked my thigh on the lever. It is very instinctive to shift my hands slightly to change gears.

    Years ago I had a Malvern Star with DT friction shifters. It was never a problem reaching for the levers and I really liked the feel of the shorter cables (sort of less flex, more control). I think, with my love for simplicity and pretty poor mechanical skills, the DT friction shifters are my preferred choice. I never found it an issue to drop my arm down and tweak.

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  39. I am developing a product that in testing phase, delivers the best of both worlds between the ergonomics of Brifters and the idiot proof simplicity of friction mode compatible bar end shifters. Thus far I am only offering a handmade version but I think there is a place for the Budd Bike Works Dummy Mount in this debate.
    http://www.buddbikes.com/2010/04/shifting-or-the-shimano-conspiracy/

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  40. I'm in the middle of trying to figure this out myself -- I'm working on buying a road bike that actually fits (as opposed to the one I have, which has been gathering dust for years and sapped my love of riding with every time I took it out and ended up in pain). I never warmed to the brifters on it, and the others I've tried demoing bikes weren't significantly better. Whereas I love the ratcheting Suntour thumbshifters on my '80's hybrid (which is now my bombproof winter city bike).

    I'm leaning towards bar-ends, and if I start kneeing them or hate not being able to brake hard and shift simultaneously (which I don't find I can do with brifters anyway), I'll put them on thumbies and put them next to 'cross brake levers on the tops.

    Oddly, I found your blog looking for stuff on Sevens, not shifters. :)

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  41. How about bar end shifters on upright bikes with North Road bars? I'm thinking of going that way with my Raleigh Sprite.

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