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(indexed) Downtube shifters should make comeback

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(indexed) Downtube shifters should make comeback

Old 11-08-18, 07:26 PM
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v8powerage
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(indexed) Downtube shifters should make comeback

So I think that downtube shifters should make a comeback, I'm talking about indexed (rear), because it seems most people associate them with friction ones that used to take some skill to use.
I've been only using downtube shifters in my life, I had rides on "brifters" but was not impressed (btw I'm not old at the time of writing, born 88 as to disperse notion that downtube shifters are only for old folks). I can only see upsides to them, can't possibly think of one thing that I don't like about them, they really make me want to ride my bike, if I had to ride sti I think I'd give it up long ago.

Here's what I think are the best things about them, there are probably more to be found:
  • Can shift as many gears as you want, go from first to last in one throw (very useful when at top of the hill or merging from uphill road to the main road)
  • Can shift front and rear with one hand
  • Ability to indefinitely trim front, no problem if you trim too much, don't have to change gear and go back again, and with rear if you overshoot you just click back
  • Can shift without holding handlebar, very useful when I hold water bottle (you can even shift with no hands holding handlebar at all too but ok that's showing off)
  • Change of cable takes one minute
  • Very simple mechanism and very cheap to fix or replace, don't have to tell how much sti cost to replace and they're almost impossible to fix. I fixed my front downtube shifter on the road once with help of a pebble because bit of it inside broke and wouldn't stay in position, now try that with sti.
  • Very light, they weight next to nothing, it's negligible really and they used to even make carbon fibre ones (mavic)
  • Gear changes are quicker than sti, they're instant because cable is shorter and there's no mechanism just your hand, they're almost like a bionic mechanism you're connected to the shifter no ratchets or computer between you and the derailleur
  • You always know what gear You're at just by touching the shifter
  • Very intuitive, your hand motion is direct cable action so no brainer which way is up and which is down
  • Brake levers are for braking only so they don't have to be bulky and the lever only goes one way (particulary bad thing about shimano sti is that the lever goes to the side when you press it, also sometimes in a corner you might press on the lever from the side and with shimano you'd accidentally change gear, campagnolo don't have that but they have downshift button which can be pressed by accident, sram don't have either of these things but their brifters are bulky )

Now someone can say electronic, but they don't solve all the drawbacks of regular sti and don't give as much freedom as downtube shifter do, you can't shift as many gears as you want, you can only program it to shift certain amount every time and if you want to shift more you have to shift twice or more times, I won't mention maintenance because it's ridiculous to me, all the cables, connectors, charging and programming.

I totally don't get argument of holding handlebar at all times, because well how do you ever drink then, you still have to take your hand off and frankly you can take both hands off and if the bicycle is in good shape nothing will happen. it will go straight. Besides, I actually like to take hand off the handlebar once in a while because hands gets numb, often I shift both front and rear with my left hand so it gets workout too, now with sti you will only shift with right hand most of the time and right hand will go to sleep, very dangerous for me.

Some say that you can't shift while standing on the pedals, well I never found that to be problem, I always just throw couple gears up and then stand on the pedals to accelerate, it's better this way anyway because this way you don't put so much stress on the chain and cassette, shifting under load is not such a good idea even with hyperglyde, best thing is to ease out for a while, just like you do in the car with clutch.

Now argument that pros use them, well not really because fastest bikes actually have downtube type shifters but they're installed at the front (lemond handlebar).
I do 10.000km + a year and routinely overtake everybody on my bike, and not just bikes, so they're not slowing me down at all.

I really don't get it how they completely dissapeared from the market on new bikes, simplicity is always better and especially if it has so many advantages, but they say everything old is new again so maybe someone will think of them and they will start offering downtube shifters on new bikes again.
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Old 11-08-18, 08:02 PM
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They still make barend shifters for modern drivetrains, which have pretty much all the benefits of indexed downtube without the drawbacks of being on the downtube.
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Old 11-08-18, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
They still make barend shifters for modern drivetrains, which have pretty much all the benefits of indexed downtube without the drawbacks of being on the downtube.
Right. The downtube was the worst spot for shifters. Can't shift while climbing, can't brake quickly if needed, can't shift while sprinting.
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Old 11-08-18, 08:50 PM
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Downtube shifters are lame. And thats coming from someone whose road bikes are all steel, actively owns and rides many vintage bikes, and refurbishes/sells vintage bikes.

- I ride 63-65cm frames and reaching down to shift is far. That's simply inconvenient.
- bar end shifters, as already mentioned, do everything you love about downtube, but are in a more convenient place. My touring bike has em and I can't see ever changing due to all your stated reasons AND because they are conveniently placed.
- Gevenalle shifters, what I use on my gravel bike, do everything you love about downtube shifters, but are on the brake levers for a more convenient location.

Downtube shifters arent making a comeback. They are less convenient than STI shifting and that alone will mean they stay a niche product.


I did chuckle at your solution to not being able to shift while standing because it doesnt solve the problem.

awesome that you ride faster than others. Go you. That has nothing to do with shifter style and everything to do with strength and endurance.

and I'm hesitant to believe downtube shifters shift faster than STIs. My hand going from the hoods down to the shifter and shifting does not seem faster than my hand staying where it is and my finger moving a lever.
but I haven't timed it because, you know, it isnt important.
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Old 11-08-18, 08:56 PM
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I have a bike with downtube shifters and while I love the bike I hate the shifting position. The shifters are of great quality Dura Ace 7400 but the position is crap. However Gevenalle makes a great solution so you can use your bar end or downtube shifters on the front of brake levers so in essence you create the ease of shifting with "brifters" with the shiftability of a downtube or barend where you can get that sweep you love.

However I am quite happy with electronic shifting, it is very rare I need to make such huge sweeps all at once on any of my bikes but especially not on my Di2 road bike. Maybe if I built up a cross bike but then I would stick with Gevenalle since I love them on my touring bike but I wouldn't want downtube shifters anymore!
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Old 11-08-18, 09:00 PM
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Although, if you can fit on a 50cm, here you go for $158: Save Up to 60% Off Road Bikes - Dawes Lightning DT
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Old 11-08-18, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by v8powerage View Post
Now someone can say electronic, but they don't solve all the drawbacks of regular sti and don't give as much freedom as downtube shifter do, you can't shift as many gears as you want, you can only program it to shift certain amount every time and if you want to shift more you have to shift twice or more times, I won't mention maintenance because it's ridiculous to me, all the cables, connectors, charging and programming.
With all due respect, you have simply made this up and are quite ignorant of Di2.

Di2 can shift 11 gears by pressing one button and never needs to be programmed if one doesn't want to.

I've had it 18 months and charged it for the third time last week. Nothing else needs to be done to the system ever. It is completely maintenance free.

Enjoy whatever you want but please stop talking about things you know nothing about.


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Last edited by TimothyH; 11-08-18 at 09:11 PM.
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Old 11-08-18, 10:02 PM
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Indexed DT is great - I fondly remember the 8 sp Athena drivetrain I used in the mid-90s - crisp positive shifting, never needed adjustment, looked great. However, would I revert from my current 10 sp Campag Ergo to DT? Never, except maybe as a nostalgia trip. Ergos address most/all of your perceived criticisms of brifters:
Ergos are identical in size and form, and only marginally heavier than standard brake levers (My Chorus brifters have CF levers and (AFAIK) bodies).
The levers themselves remain dedicated brake levers that don't rotate. Additionally, the idea that the Ergo downshift button is prone to accidental shifting simply isn't the case
Multiple up- and down-shifting
Trimmable front
Rebuildable/repairable
Front/rear shifting any time, in or out of the saddle - momentary unweighting the pedals by shifting weight onto the bars allows smooth crunch-free shifting, even when steep climbing out of the saddle
As I see it, the only possible advantages DTs have over Ergos are weight (although I suspect that DT shifters + standard levers weigh pretty much the same as Ergos) and mechanical simplicity/reliability (although, given that my Ergos have functioned flawlessly for ~20 years with one maintenance overhaul suggests that this is an academic advantage).
Indexed DTs are great, but making a case for their superiority over brifters is a tough sell.

Last edited by Litespud; 11-08-18 at 10:09 PM.
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Old 11-08-18, 10:33 PM
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Sorry, I've tried to keep a bike with DT shifters, I really have. I've got three bikes that we're going to be "the one" that I'd keep retro. Yes, two of them were indexed.
All of them have brifters now.
DT levers do have the advantage in cost and simplicity, but that's about it unfortunately.

Gear changes are faster with brifters. I can shift mid-turn without throwing off my line. I can shift while standing. There's no reaching, just shift-done. I do shift front and rear - at the same time. Needing two hands isn't a problem when it's on the bars.

Personally, I prefer SRAM, but if you want to have the cable move right with the lever and be able to shift multiple gears up and down, ride a bike with Campy equipment. As long as it's not their recent entry level stuff, the lever connects directly to a drum that moves the cable so it is very much like a downtube shifter inside the brake lever. Campy also gives you infinite front trimming, but to be honest I never have rub issues on my SRAM anyways.
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Old 11-09-18, 12:00 AM
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The only shifters that are worse than downtube shifters are stem mounts. Blah.
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Old 11-09-18, 12:07 AM
  #11  
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Old 11-09-18, 04:10 AM
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Sorry to disk brake it to you, but it's not going to happen.
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Old 11-09-18, 05:28 AM
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Doubt they'll make a comeback, but they're my preference. It just feels natural to me.
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Old 11-09-18, 05:36 AM
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If your frame has braze ons you can convert it yourself. They make DT shifters up to 11 speed. I have one bike ('92 PDG Paramount frame) with Ultegra/DA 9 speed, with DA 9 speed DT shifters. Very crisp shifting. I might convert it to 10 speed with Dura Ace 7900 shifters that cost less than 70 bucks.
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Old 11-09-18, 05:51 AM
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Anything that requires you to remove your hands from the handlebars will reduce safety. The big problem with dt shifters is that you have to balance your need to maintain control of the bike against your desire to shift, and that limits the situations under which you can shift. I use a pair of Shimano 600 brifters that are 24 years old, and the rear can shift up as fast as I can click it. I guarantee that I can click it 5 times faster than I could reach down and sweep shift up 5 gears.

DT shifters were an evolutionary dead end, and died because pretty much everyone hated them. You are free to enjoy not being able to shift standing, but you are an outlier. I don't want a system that makes me care more about the torque on my chain than the stress on my legs, thanks.
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Old 11-09-18, 07:50 AM
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Micro-shifters...The simplicity of indexed/friction DT shifters, the safety/ergonomics of brifters.
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Old 11-09-18, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Anything that requires you to remove your hands from the handlebars will reduce safety. The big problem with dt shifters is that you have to balance your need to maintain control of the bike against your desire to shift, and that limits the situations under which you can shift. I use a pair of Shimano 600 brifters that are 24 years old, and the rear can shift up as fast as I can click it. I guarantee that I can click it 5 times faster than I could reach down and sweep shift up 5 gears.

DT shifters were an evolutionary dead end, and died because pretty much everyone hated them. You are free to enjoy not being able to shift standing, but you are an outlier. I don't want a system that makes me care more about the torque on my chain than the stress on my legs, thanks.
My '97 Raleigh R700 has the original 600 tricolor group with 8 speed STI's. I guarantee you cannot click it 5 times faster than you could reach down and sweep shift up 5 gears. Reduce safety lol, I hope you never reach up to scratch an itch because that takes more time than shifting.
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Old 11-09-18, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
Micro-shifters...The simplicity of indexed/friction DT shifters, the safety/ergonomics of brifters.

Your picture raises the question--when you ride in the woods, is it hard to find your handlebars?

Sorry, couldn't resist the cheap joke--actually a very cool-looking setup.

I have no experience with micro-shifters. Is it difficult to shift just one gear?
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Old 11-09-18, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I have no experience with micro-shifters. Is it difficult to shift just one gear?
Gevenalle shifters are very easy to use. The right is indexed and each shift is a distinct click. Simply move the shifter until it clicks and the shift happens. Same as shifting an STI, bar end shifter, or downtube shifter.
The left is friction like a bar end or downtube shifter. It too is extremely easy to shift and also trim. Assuming the min/max of the derailleur is set properly, you can just push it until it stops and the chain will have shifted to the other ring. Easy as anything. And trimming the front derailleur is simple as the lever is easy to make small adjustments with.

Cant imagine using something else on my gravel bike.

Last edited by mstateglfr; 11-09-18 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 11-09-18, 08:32 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
My '97 Raleigh R700 has the original 600 tricolor group with 8 speed STI's. I guarantee you cannot click it 5 times faster than you could reach down and sweep shift up 5 gears. Reduce safety lol, I hope you never reach up to scratch an itch because that takes more time than shifting.
I trained as a violinist. My fingers are wayyyy faster than my arms, so I can click very fast, and my original tricolors shift flawlessly and quickly with each click. The reason you can't shift standing up with DT is because it's absolutely impossible to maintain control of the bike one handed under that condition. Safety is really a matter of probabilities, and all I'm asserting is that for every conceivable condition, you are at least slightly safer with two hands on the bars than with one, and in some situations, that difference will not be slight.

On straight and level, the difference is too slight to care about, I can pick my nose, scratch, wave at other riders, give you the finger, whatever. If I'm going fast on a bumpy or curvy road, I can suppress my need to scratch. I want to be able to shift in difficult handling conditions, not just ones where one hand on the bars is fine.

Last edited by livedarklions; 11-09-18 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 11-09-18, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I trained as a violinist. My fingers are wayyyy faster than my arms.
Oh my
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Old 11-09-18, 08:37 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Gevenalle shifters are very easy to use. The right is indexed and each shift is a distinct click. Simply move the shifter until it clicks and the shift happens. Same as shifting an STI, bar end shifter, or downtube shifter.
The left is friction like a bar end or downtube shifter. It too is extremely easy to shift and also trim. Assuming the min/max of the derailleur is set properly, you can just push it until it stops and the chain will have shifted to the other ring. Easy as anything. And trimming the front derailleur is simple as the lever is easy to make small adjustments with.

Cant imagine using something else on my gravel bike.

Thanks!
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Old 11-09-18, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Your picture raises the question--when you ride in the woods, is it hard to find your handlebars?

Sorry, couldn't resist the cheap joke--actually a very cool-looking setup.

I have no experience with micro-shifters. Is it difficult to shift just one gear?
That's not my bike, I just grabbed a photo off the internet. I have no experience with them, but if they are indexed, I assume they work just like indexed down tube shifters. And my old road bike I can enable index shifting or just use friction shifting. I prefer indexed. But I really like the brifters on my main commuter, and the Crossfire/trigger shifters on my straight bar bike. I like not having to remove my hands from the bars to shift.

that being said, what benefits I have found from downtube shifters is that they keep me from shifting gears every 12 seconds, which is due in part to the hilly conditions in Colorado Springs, and possibly mild obsessive compulsive disorder.
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Old 11-09-18, 08:39 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
Oh my

Slow day at the cheap shot factory?
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Old 11-09-18, 08:43 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
...without the drawbacks of being on the downtube.
Why is having shifters on the downtube considered a "drawback"? I still have downtube shifters on my triathlon bike and place in my age group (55-59) from time to time.

I agree with much of what the OP pointed out. I have five road bikes (mostly older) that I restored/maintain and ride. Only the new bike I purchased a couple years ago has brake lever integrated shifting. Three of the others are indexed braze-on downtube shifters, one is actually clamp-on index.

Dan
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