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Downtube shifters(20 posts)

Downtube shiftersscottfree
Sep 17, 2001 7:04 AM
Does anyone here still use them? Seems like there are some fairly substantial arguments for their superiority (weight, cost, reliability, ease of maintenance etc.)
re: Downtube shiftersLone Gunman
Sep 17, 2001 7:17 AM
My old bike had them, indexed shifting, worked great. Then the evolution began and STI was way too expensive to convert. The next best thing was bar end shifters. I used those for a few years until STI became affordable. You still have a brake hood/lever (no significant weight saving) and you still have a shifter on the tube, one hand releases from the bar to shift, a safety concern. You don't shift as often with downtubes either, possibly less efficient as a rider due to tech advance.
I don't miss...tee hee
Sep 17, 2001 7:28 AM
sticking my fingers into the spokes. doh!
just switched this yearvanzutas
Sep 17, 2001 7:50 AM
I just switched this year from downtube to STI. I find it is much easier to shift when you want to. With the downtube shifters I would plan what gear I wanted to be in and shift a few cogs at a time so I didn't have to keep reaching down. With STI I can shift when I want standing or sitting. Bottom line. I am a big fan of STI
re: Downtube shifters - 2 other advantagesTig
Sep 17, 2001 9:08 AM
The best advantage was you could switch them from indexed to friction shifting if you had problems with the derailleur after a crash and make it home. The other was you could run the rear shifter in friction mode and shift silently (or close to it) when you wanted to attack or jump into a sprint without detection. Sure, everyone behind you would see your arm reaching down to shift, but it was good psychology!

Otherwise you can keep 'em! Advances in shifting are one of the best improvements in recent cycling component design.

If you still have some old Campy shifters sitting around, they make nice auto rearview mirror or Christmas tree ornaments!
re: Downtube shiftersRay
Sep 17, 2001 9:26 AM
I know I'm gonna sound like a retro-grouch and I probably am one. After a seemingly mis-spent youth of friction shifting, I got into middle-aged cycling about six years ago with a bike with STI shifting. I thought this was as slick as ice, an amazing advance. After several years and a few bikes with varying levels of technology (including high-end STI and Ergo setups), I'm now down to one bike with STI and I'm probably gonna sell it soon. I have a friction-only downtube setup on my main road bike, a friction only barcon setup on my touring bike, and an indexable barcon setup on my cyclocross bike. When I sell the racing bike with STI (Dura-Ace), I'm going to replace it with a sport touring bike with friction.

I've come to the point of only preferring indexing for off-road rides where you can't shift as smoothly as you can on tarmac and where it's really nice to keep your hands on the bars. Otherwise, I've come to prefer friction shifting and don't mind the downtube position at all. I'll still occasionally (but very rarely) miss a shift with friction, but it generally feels and sounds so smooth compared to the clicking and clacking of index systems. It's also about a one minute job to get everything set up and dialed in, unlike with indexing. When I'm maintaining multiple bikes, that's a nice thing. I stick with 7-8 speed gear for ease of friction shifting, but I've heard of folks doing fine with 9-speeds.

I'm sure downtube friction shifting wouldn't make sense for a racer, but for a recreational rider, there isn't much downside that I can see. It takes a little while to get the feel of a really clean shift, but it's totally unconsious after the first few rides. The only functional disadvantage to having downtube shifters rather than STI/Ergo is that you can't shift while standing, something I wish for once or twice a ride, at most. After doing without it for a while, its a non-issue to me now.

quick follow upsRay
Sep 18, 2001 9:59 AM
After reading the other responses:

First, the accuracy of front shifting is much better with friction. Ergo isn't bad, but trying to trim a front derailure with STI isn't my idea of a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Second, the wide range of compatible equipment is a very nice benefit - I have all sorts of weird parts on a couple of my bikes and they work fine together in friction.

Finally, and most importantly, I've **NEVER** been dropped by someone on a group ride because I was using downtube levers and conversely, I never dropped anyone because I was using STI / Ergo. If I'm stronger than someone, I'm stronger - if I'm weaker, I'm weaker - the shifters just don't matter. And frankly, there's a small satisfaction associated with dropping someone on a high-zoot bike with my retro gear. *I* know there isn't any real difference, but they seem oddly more shattered by the experience :)

-Ray "not that it happens often" Sachs
I use themWarren128
Sep 17, 2001 10:55 AM
As I've said before, I'm retro, but not a grouch :).

I use Campy Super-Record downtube friction shifters on one bike, and Shimano 600 indexed dt shifters on my other bike. No problems at all, however, i've been using dt shifters for over 25 years. As the previous poster states, using them become 2nd nature very quickly. To me, it's also a non-issue. I've no doubt that modern Ergo/STI shifters are very convenient, and give an edge when shifting under certain conditions. If you're racing, you'll probably use the most modern stuff in order to be competitive, but as a recreational rider, it doesn't matter much to me.

re: Everything's great as long as it works.dzrider
Sep 17, 2001 11:04 AM
I have 1 Ergopower bike, 1 with improvised downtube STI, and 1 with friction levers. I shift more often and probably ride more efficiently with the Ergopower. Should it start to require lots of time or money to keep it working I will probably replace it with downtube levers or bar ends. Basically I'd rather spend my time riding my bike than adjusting it and I shift successfully often enough without indexing that I find it amusing more than annoying when I miss one. I also drive a standard and have no palm pilot, cell phone or beeper.
re: 9spd dura-acestanley
Sep 17, 2001 12:49 PM
I run 9spd dura-ace downtube shifters on my road bike. I race competively and find little problem. Although you shift less often its not really a problem. For one thing it is kind of like track racing where you develop an ability to go fast in a wider range of cadence than with STI. On the plus side it is significantly lighter. The factors that sway me are that I don't like the extra mass on the handle bars - I prefer a light feel to the stearing. And the related 'fact' that those STI Ergo levers are ugly!

I say go with the downtube shifters, lighter, better looks, less hasle and way more style!
re: Downtube shiftersAndy M-S
Sep 17, 2001 1:25 PM
I like DT shifters, especially those that can be switched from index to friction. They give a bike a clean look. But still, last year I went to Ergo levers.

I feel safer shifting from the hoods in traffic; I can keep my eyes where it matters, and I don't need to take a hand off the bars.

But I do miss the way the DT shifters looked. THAT was a bike.

Just my $.02.
d/tube shifting isnt that bad..........dupe
Sep 17, 2001 1:38 PM
i ride ergo and old non syncro and find both enjoyable.

for an important ride i wouldn't hesitate for the modern touch of shifting immediately.

but i enjoy taking my "old" fashioned bike out for a ride. the thing that impresses me is the better balance. i thought i was rosy eyed and swayed with frothy warm feelings so i fitted all the late model campy stuff to the same frame > the impression i had earleir was correct - the extra weight that is higher up and in front of the bike slightly alter the feel.

but all things said i know the modern all in one design is worth putting up with those unsightly cables simply because of the no brain assuredness of clicking to one's content.

on a modern bike i ride more miles, safely and faster but i feel modern bikes have no classical elegance, simplicity or purity of line of bikes even ten years 10 years their senior.

we will wait for a long time before current generations of picasso's and duchamp's are moved to draw and sketch current race bikes.

whilst im giving more than my two cents i think the cycling world would be a far better place if campy and shimano would stop designing for incompatability between the two. im sure they could both still make a profit if they showed some more integrity and created less bullshit aimed at perousing more dollars from our pockets.

ciao, ben
switched FD to DT this summerterry_b
Sep 17, 2001 5:35 PM
went to a DT shifter for the front derailleur this year on my Ultegra bike. what a wonderful change - full range of gears without any chain rub in the front. never could get the index adjusted to my satisfaction so I spent the 25 bucks and put it on. guess there's a reason why Lance and Jan both use them in the front - exact shifts and silent running. However, my Dura Ace, Chorus and Record bikes never had the same problem so I doubt I would swap them - I do prefer STI/Ergo when it works properly.
Lance and JanTig
Sep 17, 2001 6:42 PM
They use DT shifters only on their ultra lightweight climbing bikes for the weight savings. Otherwise, it's brake lever index shifting exclusively.
which raises an interesting pointterry_b
Sep 17, 2001 7:47 PM
how much weight advantage could the internal bits and 15 inches of cable really give? I did have read (in Pro Cycling?) that the DT shifter is on Lance's bike due to the fact that he does not trust the accuracy of the index shifter. one could argue that this accuracy would be more critical on a climbing stage than on a rolling stage hence on the climbing bike and not on the road riding bike. But matters not, regardless of their motivation I like the way it works.
Weight savings are significantDog Breath
Sep 17, 2001 8:24 PM
About 100 grams per shifter.
Weight savings are significantcycleguy
Sep 17, 2001 9:10 PM
Yea, but he still lost!
No, he did not lose.Dog Breath
Sep 17, 2001 9:34 PM
He finished second if I recall. He also recently won two medals at the Olympics, one which was a Gold. He "lost" to Ekimov in the ITT by only seven seconds, but he did beat Lance for the Silver.

Two big thumbs up for Jan.

ps - here is a picture of Lance losing.
I use them for all of the reasons you mentioned. Also...Dog Breath
Sep 17, 2001 8:49 PM
It keeps the bike tidy looking.

It also gives the bike an exotic, purposeful look, since most every other bike now-a-days is running ergo/sti.

A big advantage of friction mode downtube shifters is that they eliminate compatability issues that arise when mixing Shimano/Campy cassettes & derailleurs.

People take one or more hands off the bars all the time - drinking, eating, or whatever. Yes, it is possible to shift with one hand off of the bar. Skillfully shifting without assist makes cycling more enjoyable for me.

Downtube systems are still readily avail. for most groups, but not listed by many retailers.
My experiencejustaguy
Sep 17, 2001 11:36 PM
My older bike came with dt shifters, which were switched to a very nice set of friction shifters. While i'm sure i could learn to use them very well, my riding usually involves rolling hills and frequent stop and go, where the sti (actually campy chorus running 7 speeds) really shines. Plus I plan to start racing, which is pretty hard on dt's. Bottem line for me: the frequent need to change gears and keep my hands on the bar means more speed and comfort and outweighed the steep cost. Plus my bike is older steel anyway, so it's never going to be very light.