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Why downtube shifters & not stem shifters?(11 posts)

Why downtube shifters & not stem shifters?timfire
Apr 1, 2002 4:54 PM
Just curious, why are downtube shifters more popular with the cycling crowd than stem shifters? It would seem that stem shifters would be easier to use since you don't have to reach as far.

--Timothy Kleinert
The answer IS ...scottfree
Apr 1, 2002 5:51 PM
The position of stem shifters has two drawbacks: You can whack them with your knees when you're standing and climbing in a very low gear (when the right shifter pulled toward you) and you can skewer yourself with them if you crash.

Also, in the old days, cable length was an issue in crispness of shifting. Downtube shifters had a shorter cable run.

All that said, I've had stem shifters on bikes that I found perfectly functional, and even now have stem shifters on my indoor-trainer beater bike.
I guess this is one for the Retro Grouches...Lone Gunman
Apr 1, 2002 5:54 PM
Popular because it brings you out of your somewhat aero position to shift at the stem. My 70's era Schwinn had the stem shifters because it was a touring bike and most touring folk are thought to be riding at a leisurely pace with hands on the top of the bars. My theory.
it just has a certain je ne sai quois thats hard to explain nmSpirito di Finocchio
Apr 1, 2002 6:29 PM
Yeh, and a certain something too. [nm]Ahimsa
Apr 1, 2002 6:56 PM
re: Why downtube shifters & not stem shifters?Walter
Apr 1, 2002 7:28 PM
Back during the (road)Bike Boom days of the 70s and 80s stem shifters were routinely found on lower price bikes. They were universal on dep't store bikes (yes, they sold roadies in dep't stores then). Also they were found on Schwinn Varsities/Continentals. While these were solid running bikes by the end of the 70s they were very obsolete and obscenely heavy. As a result stem shifters are, with those of us old enough to remember them, forever associated with cheaper bikes, the types of bikes even proud retro-grouches have no interest in with the exception of the occasional Schwinn fanatic. It's worth noting that Varsities and Contis had DT shifters in the early 60s.

Also, as pointed out above, down tube shifters worked better b/c of the shorter and straighter pull. Tourers used barcons which theoretically might've been less efficient than stem shifters due to more cable but were much more popular. Used Suntour barcons usually fetch $30+ on eBay while you can't giv away even a good set of stem shifters.
re: Why downtube shifters & not stem shifters?Mel Erickson
Apr 2, 2002 6:39 AM
The better equipment from the manufacturers of the day like Suntour only came with down tube shifters. The stem shifters were reserved for the lower equipment lines and were put on cheaper bikes. It's also another example of win on Sunday and sell on Monday. Just like auto racing, the style followed what the pros used.
Wrong-o on one point. Suntourscottfree
Apr 2, 2002 8:39 AM
DID make stem shifters. I have Suntour Accushift Plus stem shifters on my indoor-trainer bike. Admittedly, it's a rarity. That's one reason I paid 10 bucks for the bike (yardsale).
Why do I hate stem shifters but love my barcons?retro
Apr 2, 2002 8:23 AM
In the old days ('70s), the extra cable you need for stem shifters was supposed to make the shifting sloppy, so only geeks used them. But then we all got barcons, which use more cable and make it bend around more corners, and we loved those...I still have them on a couple of bikes. Could be a style issue here.
Don't underestimate the safety issue.Len J
Apr 2, 2002 8:28 AM
I rode with a guy in the mid 80's who had stem shifters. He hit a pothole at about 40MPH on a descent & his bars crumbled. He buried the tips of the shifters about 1 inch into his shoulder. A little lower & he would have done some serious damage, as it was, the quick actions of an EMT rider with us kept him from serious blood loss.

Everyone there that day who had stem shifters went back to downtube as quick as possible, myself included.

Apr 2, 2002 8:41 AM
Friend of mine laid his knee open to the bone on a stem shifter.