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Downtube Shifters

Old 01-13-21, 08:04 PM
  #1  
carloscedeno
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Downtube Shifters

Are downtube shifters hard to use, just bought a bike that has them.
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Old 01-13-21, 08:07 PM
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Not hard at all.

There was a time when all road bikes had them and no one gave it a second thought.
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Old 01-13-21, 08:24 PM
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No. There is a learning curve but it is not difficult. You will find you can feel as well as hear when the chain shifts and when it is in good alignment with a cog. (There is far less housing and no mechanism inside the lever so the connection between the derailleur and your fingertips is quite direct.)
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Old 01-13-21, 08:31 PM
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Not hard at all, just takes a little practice.
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Old 01-13-21, 08:57 PM
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Are they friction shifters or indexed? Indexed are easy to operate. Friction take a bit more practice and maybe a bit more planning ahead to avoid panic shifting.
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Old 01-13-21, 09:01 PM
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Maybe go ride it and then you'll know.
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Old 01-13-21, 09:57 PM
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carloscedeno
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Have not received the bike yet. But will do!
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Old 01-14-21, 12:10 AM
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I like Ďem! More direct control of the shift. I feel a better connection with the bike. Itís the same reason I like driving stick shift sports cars.
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Old 01-14-21, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by carloscedeno View Post
Are downtube shifters hard to use
Aside from not being able to shift while riding out of the saddle, they're not really at much of a disadvantage compared with other shifter types on road bikes. For double-shifting (shifting front and rear simultaneously), they can actually be pretty nice, since you can actuate both shifters with one arm movement. Overall I do prefer bar-end and integrated shifters, but it's not like I never ride my bike with downtube friction levers.
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Old 01-14-21, 01:16 AM
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When compared to my three bikes with modern Campy Record, downtube shifters seem like a royal pain but when I simply enjoy my vintage bikes for what they are, I actually enjoy downtubes a great deal.
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Old 01-14-21, 07:27 AM
  #11  
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Not hard to use. Finding them without looking down will take a few rides to get used to. I hook my thumb on the top tube so I'm not just stabbing at the air reaching for them.
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Old 01-14-21, 07:46 AM
  #12  
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How tall are you? Assuming the bike is sized appropriately, the taller you are the farther you have to reach down for down tube shifters.

What's your riding style? If you are a top of the bar rider, shifting will require a greater amount of body movement.
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Old 01-14-21, 07:47 AM
  #13  
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No complaints here. Easy to get the right gear; like was posted earlier, you can tell by feel and sound when you have it right. If not, just adjust.
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Old 01-14-21, 08:42 AM
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DT shifters are fine until the Italians get you.

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Old 01-14-21, 08:51 AM
  #15  
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Note to self: Stay away from anyone on a Colnago!
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Old 01-14-21, 09:02 AM
  #16  
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I have ridden using downtube shifters since the early 1970s. As others have said, there was a time when friction shifting on the downtube was the most common type on better bicycles. Bar end shifters were also in use, even by professionals. We all learned to use them because we didn't know anything else. There were subtle differences between brands in how much you had to "overshoot" the downshift (toward the larger cog), and then back off the lever. I'm looking at you, Campagnolo, and to a lesser extent SunTour. This had to be done by ear and by feel.

Fast forward to the mid-to-late 1980s when indexed shifting emerged, and that made a marginal improvement in how rapidly one could move across the rear cogset. Then the shaped teeth on the Hyperglide style freewheel changed everything. The chain jumped and settled onto the correct cog very quickly with less fiddling, even using friction shifters.

I have three friction shifting bikes now: two on the downtube and one with bar ends. They're fine for what they are, and are enjoyable to ride.

But after saying all of this, I prefer STIs for their ease of use. This is especially true in cold weather with cumbersome gloves or mittens. Plus, with added hats, and layers on the head, it's tougher hear the mis-adjustment of slight errors in friction shifting. With indexed shifting, you don't worry about that as much, if at all.
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Old 01-14-21, 09:56 AM
  #17  
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Not hard at all. And there are advantages, such as very little housing to wear, so shifting adjustment are few and far between. And it makes the bike much cleaner without all the cable housing flapping around.

They were around in the late 80s, and to my mind with down tube shifters, and lugged frames, it was a zenith in bikes.
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Old 01-14-21, 10:14 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
How tall are you? Assuming the bike is sized appropriately, the taller you are the farther you have to reach down for down tube shifters.
I am 6'4" and do not find it to be an issue. The taller you are, the longer your arms are to reach the shifters.

Last edited by bikeaddiction1; 01-28-21 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 01-14-21, 11:20 AM
  #19  
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I still use downtube shifters, but went to index from friction in 2015. I have used STIís and they are better, but downtube can be fun. They work well with a triple crank and massive gear changes can be down quickly.

I changed to index for those times when transitioning from downhill to a quick out of the saddle uphill and hitting the downshift perfectly. As Iíve gotten older I need more of a downshift and I wanted the shift to be there.

What I find interesting about downtube shifters is the right or left hand shift technique. I learned to use my right hand for the right shifter and left for the left. But there are those that use their right for both and reach across.

John
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Old 01-14-21, 11:27 AM
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Downtube shifters aren't difficult they just require some getting used to and a little riding skill but the shifters themselves are the best for usability. If you do find that you want to move your shifting up towards the bars which is not a bad thing these will help: https://www.gevenalle.com/product/audax/
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Old 01-14-21, 12:19 PM
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I grew up with downtube shifters, or worse, those friction shifters on the stem. Fast forward to the mid 90s, and I bought my first bike with indexed shifting. Then fast forward to the mid 2000s, and I kind of felt the desire to go back to downtube shifters, so I bought myself a mid 80s Schwinn LeTour Luxe. I tried to love it. Really. But after 2 seasons of riding that bike, I went back to my 90s era Bianchi hybrid, and eventually, a modern bike with brifters. I won't ever go back to downtube shifters.
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Old 01-14-21, 01:10 PM
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I really like modern indexed shifting at your fingertips where you don't have to let go of the bars in a technical situation in order to shift. That being said, downtube shifters work very well, cost a whole lot less, need almost no maintenance, and never leave you unable to shift because they just don't break down.
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Old 01-14-21, 02:11 PM
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Not hard at all. It's also nice to line up the RD perfectly with older DT shifters. You cannot fine tune a shift up/down with STI's like you can with DTs.
The only bad part is making sure you shift to the gear you need before a hill. Shifting gears with DTs on an uphill climb isn't the best.
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Old 01-14-21, 02:24 PM
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I found friction shifting kinda nice on long distance rides. If for some reason the derailleur is a slight bit out of adjustment or the cables stretched on you or what ever. You can still shift without annoying clicking/chain rub etc.
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Old 01-14-21, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by friday1970 View Post
The only bad part is making sure you shift to the gear you need before a hill. Shifting gears with DTs on an uphill climb isn't the best.
It is just as hard on your drive train when shifting under load with modern indexed shifters. The derailleur doesn't know what type of shifter you are using. You just don't feel it in your fingers as as much as you shift with modern indexed shifters.
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