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From down-tube shifters to STIs?(7 posts)

From down-tube shifters to STIs?Jervis
May 7, 2003 4:16 PM
I'm recently new to road riding after a year or two of mountain riding and I just bought a nice Cannondale from a friend. It's a fantastic bike, the only problem is it's an older model and came stock with down-tube friction shifters. I know I can get the screw in cable stops to replace the shifters, then mount STIs on the front, but like I said, I don't know too much about road bikes. I have 5 speeds on the back and two in the front and I was just looking for some advice on what brand and model shifters would be acceptable for me to use. I'd also be willing to upgrade my free-wheel to a 9 speed if at all necessary. Any info you guys/gals could give me would be much appreciated.
re: From down-tube shifters to STIs?Rusty Coggs
May 7, 2003 4:50 PM
Current 8,9,and 10 rears need 130mm rear dropout spacing and your is likely 126mm.Aluminum doesn't like to be bent.See Sheldon Browns articles at on how to get 9 speed shimano spacing with 8 cogs on a 126mm hub.You will need a new rear wheel,9 speed cassette,chain shifters and possilby derailers. Maybe better to leave it as is or buy what you want.
How about bar-end shifters?cory
May 8, 2003 8:00 AM
For just riding around, as opposed to racing, you may not really need more gears. If you're just looking for a way to make shifting more convenient, Shimano bar-end shifters will move the levers to (you got it) the ends of the bars. It's cheap by comparison, and they all have a friction option, so you don't have to worry about indexing a five-speed (if you don't friction shift now, the learning process takes about 10 minutes). I have 'em on two old bikes I still ride, and they work fine.
Upgraded late 80's steel bikeKeeponTrekkin
May 8, 2003 11:43 AM
WARNING: you are leaving the production bike world and entering the custom/DIY world. Beware all who dare to enter; there's no easy return.

Also, as another poster indicated, careful consideration may lead you to the conclusion that you're better off buying a newer (or new) bike; with 2 x 5 gearing, it's probably real old. New brakes are a lot nicer than old ones and new bearings (pedals, headset and bottom bracket) are a lot smoother than old, neglected ones). New(er) fasteners, cables, brake pads, etc. are almost certainly better quality and condition than stuff that's 20+ years old.

All kidding aside, you can get a nice upgrade on an old bike if it makes economic and personal sense. THIS IS YOUR CALL. It made sense for me with my late 80's touring bike for which I have very fond memories and which was in great condition with a few easily remedied exceptions.

I spread the rear triangle from 126 mm rear spacing to 130 mm as in the Sheldon Brown articles. Frame spacing steel wasn't hard (I did it by hand); but as another poster said, aluminum is another matter.

My conversion required a new rear wheel with Shimano compatible hub, a new front wheel to match (purchased used through RBR), a new derailleur and chain (on-line discount) and cable & stops (LBS). I reused a 9-sp cassette I already had (and modified it, also as suggested by Sheldon, to give a wider range). It was a major improvement. You would get most of these improvements with Sheldon's suggested 8 of 9 speed trick with 126mm rear spacing (note that this is a non-production setup and thus will inherently have compromises.)

If you are doing it yourself, you will need special tools, particularly a chain whip and cassette lockring remover. You need a chain tool to remove the existing chain and will probably need another chain tool for the new chain unless you get something like the SRAM chain with its clever link you can break by hand.

I may not add the STI's as I'm basically content with the downtube friction shifting on this bike (in case you haven't noticed, STI's are not cheap.)
May 8, 2003 2:46 PM
No offense intended, but any "friend" who charges you cash for a bike that old (and not easily upgraded) either doesn't know bikes or isn't much of a friend. That's pretty much a $25 garage sale bike because of its limited future, and at least with garage sale bikes you can find old steel retro gems from time-to-time.

Ride and enjoy it just the way it is, and if you get hooked on road riding you can either buy new or make a more appropriate choice on the used market.
re: From down-tube shifters to STIs?Jervis
May 9, 2003 12:34 PM
Thanks all for the information. It's made me think twice about dumping some dough into it. But I'm not so sure my question got answered. I'm not new to biking, as I custom built my Trek 9900 from the frame up. It's not a case of trying to upgrade a hopelessly upgradable bike (or so I believe). I went in and talked to my shop about it and they gave me the rundown and some options. What do you all think? Like I said, as is I have a 2x5 with the small lever shifters on the down tube (like I said before, I'm not really up to speed on roadie terminology). I realize the difference between the 126 spacing and the 130, but don't know if I want to purchase a new rear wheel so that I can upgrade to a cassette. This brings about a new problem. My wheels are 27" and not the recent standard of 700 so I'm rather reluctant to upgrade, but at the same time, I don't believe I've ever seen a 9 speed freewheel. I thought maybe a seven speed system? Do they make 7 speed STI's? Componentry is not an issue, I'm just curious to see if I can run 7 speed sti's and a seven speed freewheel on the rear without changing wheelsets. Also, does anyone know where I can find 27" kevlar bead tires? I hear they're few and far between.
Follow upKeeponTrekkin
May 9, 2003 7:46 PM
Sorry not to have recognized your experience.

See for better info. If there are options that work for you, you'll get a lead on them from him. There are other sources, but Sheldon's is the one I know best.

Good luck.