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What is the point of the friction shifter?

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What is the point of the friction shifter?

Old 05-04-18, 12:37 PM
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Vegeta
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What is the point of the friction shifter?

On my bike I have the gear shifter (1-7) on the right hand and the friction shifter on the left hand without the number being displayed. It came with the friction on max and after tweaking with it that seemed like the proper position. When I go for speed I use the fifth gear, it's rather hard, my knees hurt later (I understand keeping my saddle low has something to do with it but I prefer it that way) but I'm getting accustomed to it. I tried the seventh gear, it was too hard but I suppose I'll get better eventually. So what exactly is the friction shifter for?

Last edited by Vegeta; 05-04-18 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:41 PM
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Short answer, to keep from shifting without human intervention.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by tagaproject6 View Post
To keep from shiftin without human intervention
What do you mean?
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Old 05-04-18, 12:47 PM
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The derrailleurs are spring loaded and has a tendency to return to its original state. If the shifters are not held in place by friction or indexing (modern shifters) they will keep going back to the smallest gear.

If your pedalling hurts your knees, shift your gears to whear you can spin the crank easliy and try to maintian a high cadence vs mashing on your pedals with so much effort that i hurts your knees.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:53 PM
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Alright, I'll do that. So about the friction shifter I just leave it like that at all times.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:55 PM
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Your left-hand shifter isn't adjusting the amount of drivetrain friction, it's adjusting your gear ratio, just like the hand-hand shifter. Look at your drivetrain; you probably have 2 or 3 gears in front in addition to the 7 gears in back.

Being in a bigger front sprocket gives you a higher gear ratio, being in a smaller rear sprocket gives you a lower gear ratio.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:57 PM
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Advantage of a friction shifter on the front is you can use any front derailleur on the planet with it.
trim the cage to not drag on the chain, after shifts front or rear,

if you had a fixed cable pull between increments of indexed shifters, your compatible choices are fewer.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:57 PM
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It shifts the front set of gears. They are often friction instead of with stops for 1-2-3 because it is cheaper and easier to setup and keep working.

Try moving it while watching the front gears, you will see it moving the chain from ring to ring.
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Old 05-04-18, 01:33 PM
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To confuse millennials who can't grasp the concept of analog things.
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Old 05-04-18, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Vegeta View Post
my knees hurt later (I understand keeping my saddle low has something to do with it but I prefer it that way)
As others have said, the left side shifter is for changing the gears in front, i.e. near where your pedals are. There's generally a much larger change in gear ratio for each switch in chain rings in front vs. changes between each cog of the cassette in back so most people use the front shifter to choose the general range of gears (the small chain ring when climbing hills, the middle or large one for flat ground or descents) and then select the rear cog for the particular grade at the moment. So there's much more shifting of the rear cassette (or freewheel) cogs vs. the front chain rings.

As to your comment above about saddle height - I'd strongly recommend that you start slowly raising it until your legs are almost straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Your knees will appreciate it later and you'll also generate more power and ride faster. But it does take a little getting used to so do it in small increments.
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Old 05-04-18, 02:02 PM
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Keep in mind:

Shifting Front: Big chainring, hard to pedal, Small chainring, easy to pedal.

On rear, it is just the opposite.
Shifting Rear: Small Sprocket, hard to pedal, Large sprocket, easy to pedal.

Of course, adjust it so that it is comfortable on the terrain you're riding.
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Old 05-04-18, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Vegeta View Post
Alright, I'll do that. So about the friction shifter I just leave it like that at all times.
You can adjust the friciton shifters to make it easier to pedal when climbing hills or when you want to practice spinning on easy gears.
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Old 05-04-18, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
To confuse millennials who can't grasp the concept of analog things.
Hah. Never thought of it that way, but that's exactly it. friction : analog :: indexed : digital
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Old 05-04-18, 02:24 PM
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The index shifter is quantized, and puts the derailleur in one of several (five to 12) unique positions, corresponding to the cassette.

You can also have front indexed shifting between 2 or 3 rings, and that would have 2 or 3 unique positions. However, when the angle of the chain changes, the chain will begin to scrape on the derailleur, which people like to avoid. The simplest way to avoid this is to have a continuously variable position shifting lever, so you can trim the derailleur for each unique gear. Essentially, you use your ears to fine-tune the position of the front derailleur. Until about 1987, most if not all shifters, front and back, were continuously variable or friction shifters. Some folks still regard these as superior. The problem is the more gears you have on your cassette (or freewheel), the harder it is to use friction shifting accurately. So quantized shifting in those cases is generally regarded as better or easier.
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Old 05-04-18, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Vegeta View Post
On my bike I have the gear shifter (1-7) on the right hand and the friction shifter on the left hand without the number being displayed. It came with the friction on max and after tweaking with it that seemed like the proper position. When I go for speed I use the fifth gear, it's rather hard, my knees hurt later (I understand keeping my saddle low has something to do with it but I prefer it that way) but I'm getting accustomed to it. I tried the seventh gear, it was too hard but I suppose I'll get better eventually. So what exactly is the friction shifter for?
The front shifter is "friction" (in other words not indexed, it doesn't have click stops) because sometimes you need to adjust it (AKA "trim") when you shift the rear derailleur. Sometimes shifting the rear derailleur will cause the chainline to be angled and the front derailleur will rub on the chain, in which case you trim the front derailleur to stop it from rubbing on the chain. If the front shifter had click-stops you wouldn't be able to do this.
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Old 05-04-18, 08:39 PM
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Is the OP aware of what the front derailleur even does? This might be the starting point. If someone really doesn't understand the workings of the bike, that might be the place to start. One exercise is to follow all of the cables from their levers to where they end, and see what actually happens when you move each lever.

Regardless of what you end up with for your preferred seat height, your knees are telling you that something is wrong.
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Old 05-04-18, 09:52 PM
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First off make sure your saddle is at the right height. Don't say you prefer it or you can get used to it, it can cause knee pain and is not worth the trouble. A poorly fitting bike is no good for anyone even if it shifts like a dream.

Secondly friction shifters allow you to make corrections in your gears so you don't make noise and allow you to run different combinations of gears and derailleurs at the front. Some of the cheap modern stuff like Shimano Tourney just doesn't shift well at all but a good retro-friction set up (like from Dia-Compe or old Campagnolo something with a nice ratchet ) should be quite nice and allow you that fine tuning. Indexed gears are fine and dandy but friction is sometimes a great way to go. You cannot make a bad shift in friction because you can easily correct it and at least up to probably 9 or maybe 10 speed you can do it so if you bugger a shifter you can replace it with a bar end, thumb or downtube shifter that is friction and keep going for pretty cheap.
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Old 05-04-18, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
its possible this is a 1x7 setup. and the left, friction shifter has no real purpose.
If true, it would seem odd to not remove the front shifter. On my 1x7, the triple crank is still there, because it's spot welded together, but the rest of the front shift train is gone.
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Old 05-06-18, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Is the OP aware of what the front derailleur even does? This might be the starting point. If someone really doesn't understand the workings of the bike, that might be the place to start. One exercise is to follow all of the cables from their levers to where they end, and see what actually happens when you move each lever.

Regardless of what you end up with for your preferred seat height, your knees are telling you that something is wrong.
I'm going to go with this ^^^
Bikes are deceptively simple machines. They also are still totally rideable when the gears, seat, and or bars are adjusted to completely nonsensical ways.
There's not much to them, but you have to know what the controls and adjustments acutally do in order to make them work well.

As far as @Vegeta 's 'I prefer it that way' There's an old saying that 'the best you know is the best you've tried,' meaning that, in this case, you've always had a poor setup, and you don't know it could be both faster and more comfortable, if someone showed you how to set it up and use it properly.
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Old 05-09-18, 06:43 PM
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Got pics? This thread isn't making much sense to me.
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Old 05-10-18, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
Got pics? This thread isn't making much sense to me.
Me too.

I THINK OP was saying that, just using his rear gears, he can make his bike as hard to pedal as he can manage. Consequently he doesn't see the need for changing gears in front to make it even harder.
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Old 05-10-18, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Vegeta View Post
On my bike I have the gear shifter (1-7) on the right hand and the friction shifter on the left hand without the number being displayed. It came with the friction on max and after tweaking with it that seemed like the proper position. When I go for speed I use the fifth gear, it's rather hard, my knees hurt later (I understand keeping my saddle low has something to do with it but I prefer it that way) but I'm getting accustomed to it. I tried the seventh gear, it was too hard but I suppose I'll get better eventually. So what exactly is the friction shifter for?
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Me too.

I THINK OP was saying that, just using his rear gears, he can make his bike as hard to pedal as he can manage. Consequently he doesn't see the need for changing gears in front to make it even harder.
A-ha, well if that's the case, then Vegeta, more gears mean more range. Usually for me, on a double chainring bike, I use the big ring for flat ground and downhills, and drop into the small chainring for climbing hills, or going into a stiff headwind.
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Old 05-10-18, 12:41 PM
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Mostly it keeps your power level over 9000.
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Old 05-10-18, 10:29 PM
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friction shifters

In case some of the replies to your question seem confusing , let me try to explain things more simply.

Bikes come in all different types.
In the old days there were only single speed bikes. Then about 100 years ago someone invented an internal geared hub for the rear wheel that had 3 speed gearing. Sort of like an automotive transmission. Sometime later an external set of gears or cogs was placed on the rear wheel hub and a gizmo called a derailleur was used to push the chain between the different cogs . for many years the derailleur was moved by a wire connected to a lever on the frame of the bike. In order for the spring loaded derailleur to stay where the lever pushed it the lever had friction built in to it so it would only move when pushed or pulled. This kept the chain from moving off the selected cog until the rider moved the lever.

As more and more gears were added at the rear it became more difficult to know just what gear you were in. Then someone came up with the idea of putting the equivalent of notches on the lever so it would only move enough between notches to move from one cog to the next. That in essence is what indexing is.

For many years the gearing was 5 or 6 cogs in the rear and 2 Chainrings (the front gears) in front.

With only 2 chainrings it wasn't really necessary to use indexing . Changing the front gears was an on/ off , high / low choice and the lever was either all one way or all the other way.

As even more cogs were added at back and then 3 chainrings in front, indexing became more important and was eventually considered standard equipment on both ends.

With 3 chainrings it is still easy to use friction shifting and many bikes still use it. As was explained above, it is often desirable to move the front derailleur slightly to keep the chain from rubbing against it.

Friction shifting, even at the rear, still has much to recommend it. It is simpler, does not go out of adjustment, and you can theoretically shift from any gear to any other without going through all the gears in between one by on like with indexed shifting.
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Old 04-20-21, 11:42 AM
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Whats do you suggest for the gear and friction to be on for flat land, uphill and down hill? Not sure which ones i should be using
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