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Downtube shifters in the 2020s

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Downtube shifters in the 2020s

Old 11-12-22, 06:23 PM
  #26  
Camilo
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
It's definitely possible to build a DT shifter bike with wider gearing. For me, though, my DT shifter bikes are C&V, and the cranksets are all 130mm BCD, so I can't do chainrings smaller than 39 without changing to a different crankset, which doesn't fit with what I want the bikes to be (as close to original as possible). Similarly, at the back end, I could use a wider cassette, but then I'd have to use different derailleurs, which also doesn't fit with what I want. AND they've all got C&V brakes, which are not as good as dual pivots, so the fact that I can't do extended climbs also means I don't do long descents, so it all works out. I do have one with a 6sp 13-32 cassette, but I find I'm not really fond of the big jumps between cogs - I'm spoiled by 10 and 11 speeds!
I get it. A true classic and vintage bike is a different goal than just wanting a bike to ride and race on with DT shifters. It certainly is possible to get the same gearing and braking with DT shifters and brake levers as with more modern controls. Everything on the bike I have is early/mid 90s Campagnolo stuff on a mid-80s frame. Except for the crankset - I had to go a bit modern to when "compact" cranks were offered by Campy.

For low gears though, a C&V bike could have a triple and a relatively tight rear cluster, no? So hills wouldn't be an issue unless braking would be.

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Old 11-12-22, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I get it. A true classic and vintage bike is a different goal than just wanting a bike to ride and race on with DT shifters. It certainly is possible to get the same gearing and braking with DT shifters and brake levers as with more modern controls. Everything on the bike I have is early/mid 90s Campagnolo stuff on a mid-80s frame. Except for the crankset - I had to go a bit modern to when "compact" cranks were offered by Campy.

For low gears though, a C&V bike could have a triple and a relatively tight rear cluster, no? So hills wouldn't be an issue unless braking would be.
Absolutely! Indeed, that's how my Cannondale was originally - RX100 triple with a fairly narrow 7 speed cassette. But when I rebuilt it, I built it with 8 speed RX100 53/39 double and a 12-25 cassette (because I had spares from when my Ritchey was 8sp Dura Ace. It's now 10sp)
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Old 11-12-22, 07:59 PM
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Salsa Vaya with 11-42 & 50-34 downtube shift hydro brake by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr

This Salsa Vaya made a previous BF appearance as an orange frame with a bubbling cauldron of doom percolating from the seatpost.

It is currently adorned with the same Ene Ciclo shifters displayed in the eBay listing up thread. Though I got mine from QBP. The shifters shift an XTR rd-M-9000 Shadow plus derailleur & an Ultegra 6800 with 11-42 & 50-34 gears respectively.

The pull ratio of the rear derailleur is different than lesser speed groups & consequently it works just fine with the close together cogs. Shifting is a breeze.

The older Suntour friction downtube shifters with the small barrels are what I would recommend if using 10 speed so that you can more finely tune the derailleurs position. Be forewarned though, you will need nearly a full 180 degrees of rotation to use the whole cassette.
20190316_090930 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
20190305_163259 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr

I wouldn't try bar end or friction thumbie shifters with SRAM derailleurs. IME the derailleur requires too much cable pull & the chances of success too small to be worth the effort.

OP: Have at it. There's massive street cred to "doing things the hard way" & even more when you're competent at it.

Last edited by base2; 11-12-22 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 11-12-22, 09:06 PM
  #29  
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It is not downtube or bar-end, but I have been running Gevenalle shifters (Microshift bolted onto the front of the brake lever) on my cross bike this year, and they have been great. Really smooth shifting from the hoods with an 11sp grx rear derailleur, and nice smooth braking with TRP hydros. I removed the front shifter since I am running 1x at the moment, so the look is a bit asymmetric up front, but it is an easy replacement if I go back to 2 chainrings on the crank. It does make shifting from the drops mostly impossible, but in cross that is rarely an issue. Also, the hydro brakes are a massive step up from cheap mechanical discs.



Gevenalle in action.
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Old 11-12-22, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by zastolj View Post
Would downtube shifters be something thatīs frowned upon today, i.e. would choosing them be considered as a safety risk to the group?
...I bought a bike from a Cat 3 guy here who said they wouldn't let him race with DT shifters. This was probably ten years ago. I use them on a lot of stuff, but I ride mostly by myself.
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Old 11-12-22, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
Am I the only one who would prefer downtube friction front shifting to index/brifter?
In the last 25 years? Yes.
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Old 11-13-22, 12:59 AM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...I bought a bike from a Cat 3 guy here who said they wouldn't let him race with DT shifters. This was probably ten years ago. I use them on a lot of stuff, but I ride mostly by myself.
Wow, first time I hear about actually not letting someone race because of dt shifters. Do you know if it was the race organizers or the riders team/club that said so? Itīs not against the rules anywhere that's for sure.

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Old 11-13-22, 01:08 AM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I don't know about 11 speed friction from any personal experience But I did try friction DT shifting with a 9 speed cassette a few years ago. I "grew up" and rode through the 70s, 80s and part of the 90s with 5-7 speed (rear) friction shifting. I feel I know how to shift friction shifters.

I could shift the 9 speed OK but it was a bit fussy to trim. The spaces between the sprockets is so small that it's much more difficult to get the shift just right and I had a few occasions where it would ghost shift without me hearing any sound that sounded like it needed trimming. So I just was too distracted getting the 9 speed right on. I got some 9 speed DA indexed DT shifters and they worked much better. My guess is that 11 speed friction might be way too fussy to get right.
This was exactly like my experience with 10 speed friction. Did not enjoy it at all since to me friction shifting is all about the lever position. It is easy to get the lever to the same position every time with 5 speeds - I can find the same middle cog each time I shift the lever to the middle position. Paradoxically it's really accurate because of all the tolerance in the system. With more than 7 speeds, let alone 10-11, there are just too many positions and with modern cassettes and chains the shift happens always very suddenly with sometimes no warning. This is where index shifting is really nice to have.
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Old 11-13-22, 03:23 AM
  #34  
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DT shifters work fine but brifters are just soo much faster where it matters.
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Old 11-13-22, 03:53 AM
  #35  
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My 1989 Centurion Ironman still has the original 7-speed indexed downtube shifters. I've ridden fast group rides, long casual group rides, solo centuries and snagged some of my personal best times on Strava segments, including a couple of top tens, on that bike.

Yeah, it takes a bit more care in balance to hold a line while shifting. But most riders get the hang of it with practice.

Usually I ride with 13-24 or 13-25 freewheels on solo or fast rides, 13-28 on casual group rides. With the 28 big cog I can usually sit and spin more often. But with only 7 cogs, choices are limited and the more we try to stretch from 13 to 28 or more, the bigger and more awkward the gaps are. Even a 13-25 freewheel can have some slightly awkward gaps between some cogs, compared with a 13-21.

However, if you watch enough films of older grand tour races, including the Greg LeMond era when downtube shifters were still used and the film/video quality was very good, you'll notice that riders shifted less often than they do with brifters, and tended to get out of the saddle more often, if only briefly, to regain or maintain momentum on climbs or breakaways, rather than shifting to maintain a cadence. It can be more tiring, which makes the strength and stamina of those riders more impressive. Not that contemporary riders are any less impressive, but their gains are more in terms of aerobic capacity and ability to maintain a fairly fast cadence, rather than brute strength to grind out 40-60 rpm on climbs in ridiculously steep gearing.

And when riding a bike with downtube shifters and old school gearing, on hilly terrain and mountains it'll often be necessary to stand at least sometimes to climb. When riding alongside folks who aren't using downtube shifters, it's best to leave plenty of room around you in all directions because, for riders who usually sit and spin, they won't be expecting the slight rocking and chugging motion that accompanies standing to climb or maintain momentum. Even when standing to climb with brifters, if you practice you can shift while standing and not miss a beat. That's practically impossible with downtube shifters and I'm not sure I'd trust anyone who tried to shift that way while standing to climb. So when I'm the lone oddball riding an old school bike in a group, I leave enough room to avoid annoying or alarming anyone around me. Often I'll drop to the back on climbs and catch up on the downhills.

But since getting carbon fiber bikes with brifters around 2018, I don't ride the Ironman with downtube shifters quite as often, other than solo or casual group rides. I'll always enjoy the experience of my first road bike, a mid-1970s Motobecane with downtube friction shifters. But it's easier to meld with a fast group and go with the flow using brifters, and in some cases trying to maintain a somewhat faster cadence rather than mashing. Especially on roller coaster terrain with lots of shifting.

Regarding criteriums, the last races I rode were in the 1970s, so everyone used downtube shifters. Most crit courses are pretty flat, so you don't need to shift often anyway. It really shouldn't be an issue unless it's an unusually challenging crit course. Our courses were on big industrial park parking lots, as flat as can be, and I don't recall ever shifting gears after the start. Maybe for a sprint finish, but I usually avoided those after a bad crash in one sprint finish. After that my goal was to finish in the middle of the pack, stay upright and safe and just have fun.

Last edited by canklecat; 11-13-22 at 03:58 AM.
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Old 11-13-22, 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
My 1989 Centurion Ironman still has the original 7-speed indexed downtube shifters. I've ridden fast group rides, long casual group rides, solo centuries and snagged some of my personal best times on Strava segments, including a couple of top tens, on that bike.

Yeah, it takes a bit more care in balance to hold a line while shifting. But most riders get the hang of it with practice.

Usually I ride with 13-24 or 13-25 freewheels on solo or fast rides, 13-28 on casual group rides. With the 28 big cog I can usually sit and spin more often. But with only 7 cogs, choices are limited and the more we try to stretch from 13 to 28 or more, the bigger and more awkward the gaps are. Even a 13-25 freewheel can have some slightly awkward gaps between some cogs, compared with a 13-21.

However, if you watch enough films of older grand tour races, including the Greg LeMond era when downtube shifters were still used and the film/video quality was very good, you'll notice that riders shifted less often than they do with brifters, and tended to get out of the saddle more often, if only briefly, to regain or maintain momentum on climbs or breakaways, rather than shifting to maintain a cadence. It can be more tiring, which makes the strength and stamina of those riders more impressive. Not that contemporary riders are any less impressive, but their gains are more in terms of aerobic capacity and ability to maintain a fairly fast cadence, rather than brute strength to grind out 40-60 rpm on climbs in ridiculously steep gearing.

And when riding a bike with downtube shifters and old school gearing, on hilly terrain and mountains it'll often be necessary to stand at least sometimes to climb. When riding alongside folks who aren't using downtube shifters, it's best to leave plenty of room around you in all directions because, for riders who usually sit and spin, they won't be expecting the slight rocking and chugging motion that accompanies standing to climb or maintain momentum. Even when standing to climb with brifters, if you practice you can shift while standing and not miss a beat. That's practically impossible with downtube shifters and I'm not sure I'd trust anyone who tried to shift that way while standing to climb. So when I'm the lone oddball riding an old school bike in a group, I leave enough room to avoid annoying or alarming anyone around me. Often I'll drop to the back on climbs and catch up on the downhills.

But since getting carbon fiber bikes with brifters around 2018, I don't ride the Ironman with downtube shifters quite as often, other than solo or casual group rides. I'll always enjoy the experience of my first road bike, a mid-1970s Motobecane with downtube friction shifters. But it's easier to meld with a fast group and go with the flow using brifters, and in some cases trying to maintain a somewhat faster cadence rather than mashing. Especially on roller coaster terrain with lots of shifting.

Regarding criteriums, the last races I rode were in the 1970s, so everyone used downtube shifters. Most crit courses are pretty flat, so you don't need to shift often anyway. It really shouldn't be an issue unless it's an unusually challenging crit course. Our courses were on big industrial park parking lots, as flat as can be, and I don't recall ever shifting gears after the start. Maybe for a sprint finish, but I usually avoided those after a bad crash in one sprint finish. After that my goal was to finish in the middle of the pack, stay upright and safe and just have fun.
Good points. Even though I started cycling and racing much much later, I agree we have changed our perspective on gearing completely. New riders today might have no experience on downtube shifting or even any mechanical shifting at all. Many are shifting at the slightest change on gradient and/or speed just because it's so fast and effortless. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, it's just an observation. I'm seriously considering getting a Sunrace CSR63 12-24 cassette instead of the 11-28 just to get the tighter gearing and just try to grunt all the small hills we have over here.

I actually have a crit in my plans next june. It has a slight hill before the finish line so the dt shifters will for sure be a compromise but I think I'll go with them anyway and see how it goes.
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Old 11-13-22, 11:19 AM
  #37  
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I'd only ridden with downtube shifters until I was in my 50s, when I got behind a guy with about my same power but using brifters, mildly hilly terrain. I was a convert in about 5 minutes of that.
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Old 11-13-22, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
You don't do much sprinting or fast hard climbs do you. During those times I much prefer to have both hands on the bars. So it makes sense for me to keep shifters on the bars where my hands need to be.
Back in the day we didn't dare shift in the middle of a sprint. You chose a gear for the wind-up and hoped it was the right one.
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Old 11-13-22, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
The other thing about DT shifter bikes is that since they tend to be from pre-1995, they also tend to have "Hero Gears". You know, 52/42 x 12-21, 13-23 - that kind of thing. I rooted around on Ebay so that I could put at least a 12-25 on all my DT shifter bikes. Even so, I tend to ride them only on routes that don't have extended climbs. I CAN do medium length climbs on them, but it's a chore.
There's nothing inherent in down tube shifters that prevents you from having a wide range of gears.
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Old 11-13-22, 08:01 PM
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I like my two Sram 10 speed mechanical shift bikes, my Campy 8 speed DT bike and my 12 speed Sram AXS Etap bike.They're all fun and all have identical ranges except the AXS bike which is different, but functionally very similar in range. Frankly, I could have easily built up the DT bike with brake/shift levers but I wanted to have a DT bike for the fun of it. It's nice just for that reason alone, variety is fun. And frankly, for my use as an "energetic enthusiast", the 8 speed drive train works as well as the 10 and 12 speeds. The gaps, which are "huge" by modern standards, are functionally irrelevant for me. Shifting is easy and spot on for all 4 of them.
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Old 11-13-22, 08:26 PM
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With so many cogs on the rear wheel, it isn't about the location, it's about the lack of indexing. With 9 or 10 cogs, you want an indexed downtube shifter. And remember, if you're going to spread your chainstays to 130 mm, you need to square up the dropouts and derailleur hanger.
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Old 11-17-22, 08:16 PM
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You're not alone. I've got STIs, bar ends and downtube shifters. Lately I've been enjoying the simplicity of DT shifters. Maybe next year I'll fall back in love with STIs, who knows. If you want 11 speed DT shifters you can certainly go that route.

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Old 11-18-22, 11:39 AM
  #43  
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I did a fast paced smash group ride and there was a young kid using a DT shifter road bike. He did just fine keeping up with us. In fact the shifting sounded pretty cool especially when we did the hard sprint segments. I think it's one of those things you just get used to and let muscle memory do it's job.
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Old 11-18-22, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by zastolj View Post
Iīm curious to know is there anyone doing or planning to do any semi-serious or competitive group rides, lots of mileage or even racing with downtube shifters in 2022-2023? Not talking about only some vintage group rides or special events for vintage bikes like Eroica.
I'd pass.

I don't think there is a big safety risk, though it will take time to get proficient with them. Rather, it's that you're hobbling yourself slightly by using such older gear. E.g. round tubes, a more flexible frame, less frequent shifting, fewer gears, needing to take your hands off the brakes to shift etc will all put you at a competitive disadvantage. That won't make you stronger, it will make you slower... which is the exact opposite of what you want in a competitive situation.

I'd save the vintage bike for solo and casual rides where speed isn't important.
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Old 11-18-22, 11:42 PM
  #45  
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Back in the early 90's, I was one of the first to have Dura-Ace STI when they first came out. My coach was a track sprinter, he didn't like me shifting during the sprint. We worked a lot on spinning out a gear like track sprinters do. Then I went into my retro phase running Simplex retro friction shifters with Mavic SSC derailleurs with 8 speed. Raced mid 90's through the late 90's with that setup

Racing with downtube shifters requires being more aware of your course. Since I was already sprinting like a track sprinter, not being able to shift didn't really matter.
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Old 11-19-22, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by zastolj View Post
Would downtube shifters be something thatīs frowned upon today, i.e. would choosing them be considered as a safety risk to the group?
Miguel Indurain? Safety risk. Eddy Merckx? Safety risk. Fausto Coppi? Definitely a safety risk.

So say weenies!
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Old 11-20-22, 10:59 AM
  #47  
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When I first started racing, I had a Cannondale with 6 speed DT shifters. 52/42 x 13/24. At the Los Gatos Criterium, there's a short steep hill. I blew the double shift to my lowest gear and never made one lap.
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Old 11-20-22, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Route selection is key. The other thing about DT shifter bikes is that since they tend to be from pre-1995, they also tend to have "Hero Gears". You know, 52/42 x 12-21, 13-23 - that kind of thing. I rooted around on Ebay so that I could put at least a 12-25 on all my DT shifter bikes. Even so, I tend to ride them only on routes that don't have extended climbs. I CAN do medium length climbs on them, but it's a chore.
You described my mid-80s Bianchi to a T. It is now a winter fendered bike and I used to keep it off the big hills because of the miserable gearing (in my 30s it was ‘normal’ gearing which I thought nothing of). But since my winter rides tend to be shorter, trying to balance what warmth I can get later in the day and daylight, I am finding that pushing that bike up the hills (about 11% max) is one helluva workout - kind of like doing leg presses.





On the days I do switch back to my brifter bike, I have to laugh at my inability to adapt, where I find myself reaching for the downtube to shift. What a moron.

Back to the OP: For racing, you might find that to keep up with your fellow racers, you will have to be SUPER adept at shifting, since people on brifter bikes can change gears so quickly, especially out of the saddle. When I bought my first set of Campy Ergo shifters, I was floored and never looked back.
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Old 11-20-22, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by DonkeyShow View Post
DT shifters work fine but brifters are just soo much faster where it matters.
agree

I couldn't get away from down tube shifters (and thumb shifters on MTB) fast enough

for the taller riders the down tube shifters could be even more of an issue because of the increased reach / movement
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Old 11-20-22, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by zastolj View Post
Wow, first time I hear about actually not letting someone race because of dt shifters. Do you know if it was the race organizers or the riders team/club that said so? Itīs not against the rules anywhere that's for sure.
...as I remember it, he said that a few of the regulars in the training rides took him aside and explained they thought he was dangerous, as configured. Interestingly, the bike I bought from him was this Battaglin with brifters, which he had purchased to continue training with them. In the time he had ridden it, he had pretty much worn out the cogs, chainwheels, and chain. I got the impression he was more of a fast rider than a mechanic. He was probably upgrading to carbon fiber plastic at that point in time. Steel was too slow for him.


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