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Why does everyone hate downtube shifters?(11 posts)

Why does everyone hate downtube shifters?Mr Nick
Jun 30, 2003 7:29 AM
I have never actually ridden them, so I don't know what there like. I really like how clean looking they are, so I thought they might be a cool retro addition to my bike. Does anyone have any real reasons not to get them besides the fact that they might not be cool anymore?
Try grabbing one more gear in a sprint...Quack
Jun 30, 2003 7:35 AM
The reason I hated them...given my tendency to select the wrong gear for the sprint.

If you misjudge the sprint and happen to grab too low a gear and don't find out until you're spun out, reaching down for that downtube will throw your rhythm off just enough to just about kill you.

Plus, two hands on the bars are always better tham one for bike control.

Hate? Too strong a word...TJeanloz
Jun 30, 2003 7:38 AM
Pretty much everybody acknowledges that STI/Ergo shifters are superior in almost every way - except weight and perhaps asthetics.

But downtube or barcon shifters work fine, they just aren't the best thing going right now. Like toe clips and straps - they work fine, but clipless pedals are just a better system.
If you race, it's a no-brainer. STI/Ergo isOldEdScott
Jun 30, 2003 7:57 AM
better. But for recreational/fitness riding, downtube shifters (especially friction) are great. The advantages are: Lighter weight, prettier on the bike, they require a bit of skill to use (which some of us find satisfying), plus they're quieter, cheaper, and simpler to maintain, adjust and repair. Those are some pretty serious advantages, in my view.

The downside is, they're awkward (reaching down between your legs is a b1tch in some situations). If super-quick accurate shifting is your need, STI/Ergo is your best choice. If simple bike riding is your need, you might find friction DT a great and very satisfying alternative.

I use both, by the way.
Try BarconsJervis
Jun 30, 2003 8:38 AM
I just got my bike a couple of months ago and the spacing is wrong on the back for me to run an 8+ speed system, so I've used downtube shifters for a while. Recently I picked up a set of Ultegra barend shifters and the improvement is unspeakable. It's not quite as sleek as the downtubies (you still have to run cables) and weighs a few ounces more but they feel much better and, since I ride in my drops a lot, there is minimal distance to move your hand(s) to shift. One thing that displeases me is the brake levers I have to use. Since I have no use for STI on my bike I have to use brake only levers and have yet to find a comfortable pair. They don't have the oversized (oversized compared to mine anyway) that the STI's have, so aren't nearly as comfortable and I've yet to see a reason why I should put STI's on my bike if they're just going to add weight without functioning. I say go for it. It's a pleasant change of pace.

Watch Lance in the mountains...ClydeTri
Jun 30, 2003 9:37 AM
Lance in the mountain stages the last couple years has used a bike with both..he has the downtube shifter for his front chain rings...saves weight...and STI for the rear cogs...
one thing I've noticed...gtx
Jun 30, 2003 9:59 AM
is that people who have never had downtubes shift too much, and seem especially bad at transitioning into hills. I see people shift way too early and lose momentum all the time. They also seem less able to crest a hill effectively/efficiently. Even on flats I hear people shifting constantly--what are they trying to achieve? I also notice that people are paranoid about taking their hands off the bars. These days STI/Ergo is pretty much a necessity for racing--you'll be at a disadvantage for sprints as another posted mentioned--but I'm not so sure it's great for beginners. You also can't beat downtubes for simplicity, reliability, aesthetics and weight. And friction downtubes are compatible with everything.
I don't mind it if I am riding by myselfLC
Jun 30, 2003 10:00 AM
But in a pack it is dangerous to take your hand off the bars. Also in heavy traffic I sometimes find myself staying in the wrong gear so that breaking and control is not compromised.

I left down tube shifters behind in 1997, and have not rode them again till this year so I found myself very rusty at it at first. My first few rides were pretty scary and i just about gave up trying to use them. The more you get used to it the easier it gets, and you have to plan ahead more for your shifts. I forced myself to relearn them and now I sometimes enjoy the "retro feel", but you certainly won't see me trying to race them.
They're not bad unless you're racing.AllUpHill
Jun 30, 2003 11:21 AM
Given the alternative, I'd never race with downtubes so STIs stay on the good bike. Much too cumbersome to reach down there during the heat of battle, at least for the rear shifter (but then, everyone did it for 4 decades or so, and had to reach back to the seat stay before that, and had to stop to flip the wheel around before that...).

Have a slight preference for using the STIs on my "just riding" bike, but the downtubes are plesant to use and stay mounted probably half the time. They're saving me right now, since the original right-hand Tiagra STI gave up the ghost last week (can't complain about several 10-thousands of miles and 3 years from the cheapest range). After a valiant 4-hour open-heart surgery effort on it, I concluded that it was out in the weeds for good. Gladly put on the never-fail downtubies until I can afford a replacement STI -- at $30 some from Nashbar, they're at least nice to keep in your spare parts box as a backup.
re: Why does everyone hate downtube shifters?paulg
Jun 30, 2003 12:45 PM
I used to ride downtube shifters - old bike.
Now use STI shifters - new bike. With STI you can easily do a simultaneous Front and rear DR shift. Not so easy or impossible with downtubes.
downtube shifters?Fredrico
Jul 1, 2003 9:11 AM
They're elegantly simple and straightforward, mounted out of the wind, where the hands can easily reach them, with the shortest cable run possible. They require no tuning or adjustment, but are operated by feel, like everything else riding a bike.

Rebutting others' arguments that they aren't quite as safe as STI: taking one hand off the bars in hectic urban traffic to reach down teaches balance and confidence on the bike. The rider must be relaxed, not white knuckled death gripping the handlebars. In that sense they are cooler than STI.