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STI vs. downtube shifters(20 posts)

STI vs. downtube shiftersbikerbob
Jan 31, 2003 9:21 AM
I recently bought a new trek 5500 frame(99',it seemed to be a good price), no fork. I'm now getting ready to start ordering parts. I'm having a tough time deciding whether to go with the STI or downtube shifters. From experience the STI are definitely a little easier to deal with, however I like the feel of the way a bike shifts with downtube shifters. Any thoughts on the subject would be greatly appreciated. And any thoughts as to a fork? I tried to order a matching Trek fork at the LBS, but this years blue is different than 99's.

Biker Bob

I can't believe you'd even askpmf1
Jan 31, 2003 9:29 AM
STI shifters are just so much better than down tube shifters. Kinda like tennis shoes vs. bike shoes, or gym shorts vs. bike shorts.

The only edge they have is being much less expensive.

And are you sure the frame even has shifter bosses on the down tube? My 1999 Ultimate doesn't. Neither does my Colnago. They're at the headtube.
I can't believe you'd even asklonebikeroftheapocalypse
Jan 31, 2003 10:14 AM
Anybody who thinks that friction DT shifters have no advantage over STI has never had an STI system that wasn't shifting properly. The beauty of friction shifting is that you just set the limits on the deraileur (sp?) so you don't dump the chain and then you never touch it again.
Oh yeahlonebikeroftheapocalypse
Jan 31, 2003 10:21 AM
I'm pretty sure that new Shimano DA DT shifters have both a 9sp index mode and a friction mode. Imagine the versatily!
Each has its place, but if you're talking aboutOldEdScott
Jan 31, 2003 9:51 AM
FRICTION downtube shifters, I'm with you brother.

Advantages over STI: Lighter, quieter, smoother, cheaper, simpler & more elegant, prettier on the bike, give you a feeling of control and skill that can be quite satisfying.

STI has its advantages too. I just wanted to defend the honor of downtube friction.
re: STI vs. downtube shiftersmapei boy
Jan 31, 2003 10:39 AM
When you're toiling up that hill and you need that lower gear, it's nice not to have to take your hand off the bars and finesse a damned friction lever.
Most of us who ride frictionOldEdScott
Jan 31, 2003 10:44 AM
are so old and decrepit that we're already IN that lowest gear!
Might consider bar-end shifters, too.cory
Jan 31, 2003 10:53 AM
I have Shimano bar-ends on two bikes, and they're a good compromise. They'll index if you want them to, but you have the option of using friction if you need it (I ride a lot in remote areas and I like the idea of being able to get home if something goes wrong), plus they're handier than downtube levers. If you can't find them anywhere else, check
Might consider bar-end shifters, too.abelson
Jan 31, 2003 11:46 AM
Watch out for your legs hitting the shifters if you go with the bar-ends. You may have to shorten your handlebars. I borrowed my Dad's Cannondale touring bike which has bar-end shifters and every time I stood up while pedaling -- whack
In praise of bar-consDale Brigham
Jan 31, 2003 12:49 PM
Like Cory, I also have two bikes with bar-con shifters, a Kona Jake and a Steelman Eurocross. I also have a Campy Ergopower-equipped Colnago, and I used to have STI on the Jake. Previously, I've owned lots of downtube friction-shift road bikes and have ridden downtube index-shift bikes. Of all these shifting types, the bar-cons offer, IMHO, the best mix of function and reliability.

In terms of repair and maintenance, STI (and to a much lesser extent, Ergopower) is a "black box," the opening of which will bring only sorrow. Don't get me wrong -- both STI and Ergo work great, when they work. But, if and when they malfunction, your shifting is toast. In contrast, bar-cons (and downtube shifters) are open books, in terms of repair and maintenance.

I have never experienced or even heard of an indexed (RH) bar-con failing to properly perform. If the indexing fails (e.g. bent derailleur hanger), you can always revert to friction mode. Unfortunately, I have personally experienced problems with both STI (fatal error) and Ergopower (minor glitches) out on the road. Again, not the usual thing. But once it happens, and there's no shifting of the rear derailleur, it's hard to not be gun-shy. If it's a big ride (brevets and PBP), I'm going bar-con.

In terms of function, bar-cons shift great (better than STI and Ergo, IMHO), and they are actually more convenient to reach from the bar tops, IMHO. For winter riding, they work better with gloved hands than do STI and Ergo (no little levers to fumble with). For riding at night, they provide a "cog indicator" that you can guage from the shifter position (i.e., "Am I on my largest cog, or not?").

I'm a recent convert, but I'm hooked. I just wish that Campy made 9 spd bar-cons for my Colnago's 9-spd Chorus Ergo group. I swear, I'd change 'em out.

I still like/use downtubesgtx
Jan 31, 2003 11:45 AM
Front der shifting is superior with downtubes. I spend a lot of time on the top/flats of the bars--from there it's actually an easier reach to the downtubes that it is to the brake/shift levers (for me). Also, downtubes pretty much always work with no hassle, they look good and there isn't any cable flopping around in front of the bars.
I still like/use downtubes ME TOOinsidebirds
Jan 31, 2003 11:55 AM
I use both
both d/t are lighter and shift better
BUT new shimano index only go w/ 8-spd
re: STI vs. downtube shiftersWoof the dog
Jan 31, 2003 11:54 AM
Downtube shifters are the best, PERIOD. No stupid cables all over the place, ligher, better looking, works a lot better overall, never breaks. The only reason you'd want sti is for sprints during racing. Everything else - downtubes are superior! Ride them all the time and love them.

woof the downtube dog.
Good doggie! nmOldEdScott
Jan 31, 2003 11:57 AM
Good doggie! nmWoof the dog
Feb 1, 2003 2:12 PM
I don't like your condescending tone. Please don't do that again.

Woof the dog.
Good doggie! nmOldEdScott
Feb 3, 2003 9:57 AM
No condescending tone at all there, Mr. Woof. Just agreeing heartily with your defense of downtube shifters and giving my approval of your post, in the spirit of your dog persona. Sorry to offend.
mostly like 'emterry b
Jan 31, 2003 12:22 PM
Built one bike up last year with them and I think they're fun (reminding me of my 1972 Raleigh Grand Prix.) I also keep a FD shifter on my hilly century bike having had my STIs give up the ghost 64 miles from the end. Then there's the improved front end shifting (especially with a triple) where all gear combos can be trimmed to be silent.

What I've found is that since I generally ride in one or two gears, the increased convenience of STI is hardly missed - it's not like we're changing gears every few seconds. However, all of my other rides are STI and I don't think I'd be inclined to convert across the board. Having a bike with them is a nice thing though.
Have you considered Kelly TakeOffskilimanjaro
Jan 31, 2003 12:26 PM
Which acts like DT bosses that you clamp onto your handle bar.

Advantage: You can shift with your hand on the bar. You retain the feel of dt index shifting, possibly ligher, and you get a friction mode. Less to break.

Distavantage: Don't look as purty. The tube that exits from the underside of the brake lever sort of interferes with a normal grip. See
re: STI vs. downtube shiftersAllUpHill
Jan 31, 2003 8:19 PM
I'm afraid I can't concurr on some of these STI gripes. I've had glitch-free use with both low end (tiagra) and high end (dura ace).

Having said that, I recently got a set of 9 speed downtubies -- just because I'd never used them before! After a couple rides with them, they don't seem nearly as archaic and handicapping as I had expected. Wouldn't want to race a crit with them, and I find myself poking the STI flippers out of habit, but the action is pretty slick and they will stay on the bike at least a few more weeks. Might even leave the left one on for good.

I would recommend that you go ahead and get STIs while you're already in parts-buying-mode and thus somewhat desensitized to making expensive purchases. The fingertip convenience wins in the long run. Later on if you feel nostalgic and want to play with downtubes, they're pretty inexpensive.
Rough roads, obstacles, & night riding favor STI (safety issue?)teamsloppy
Jan 31, 2003 9:07 PM
I commute by bike in the winter on my older (91) Klein with down tube shifters (it's old an I don't mind damaging it riding in the wet). Occasionally I ride my new beauty 2002 Klein with STI.

Shifting at night or on rough roads with the down tube requires more time with one hand on the bars (the other arm dangling between your legs) than STI. On rough roads or in poor visibility (like tonight with fog and dark) hitting a bump or obstacle is unnerving with one hand on the bar while shifting. With a down tube you have to plan your shifts in consideration or (or mystically predict) possible obstacles in poor visibility (like fog, dark, on coming cars that blind you are night).

On smooth roads and in day light where you can look ahead, STI and Down Tube are probably equal.

But rough roads, obstacles and poor visibiltiy, STI allows you to keep you hands on the bars and avoid those one handed rides over bumps, junk, rocks etc.