Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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TrevA
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Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby TrevA » 8 Jan 2019, 8:15pm

I'm still pondering on the braking and gearing combo for my Spa Tourer. I have 9 speed Tiagra STIs currently, but they aren't compatible with vee brakes and I've not been impressed with the cantilever brakes on my previous bike. So I'm thinking, new vee brakes with specific brake levers and reverting to down tube shifters. I'm not a huge fan of bar end shifters.

You still seem to be able to get Dura Ace 9 speed down tube shifters for reasonable money. Would they be compatible with a Deore 9 speed rear mech?

Bmblbzzz
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Bmblbzzz » 8 Jan 2019, 8:55pm

I haven't used them for about six, maybe seven, years, but I did briefly go back to them on a borrowed bike after having only used Rapid Fire flat-bar STIs for several years. I was a bit apprehensive about it but in fact it came back entirely naturally. This was friction shifting on a 5-speed block, but I don't think indexed would present any additional difficulties. The only time it was a problem at all was if I wanted to change gear on rough ground, it was sometimes a bit dodgy taking one hand off the bars; but that was at least in part because the borrowed bike was way too large for me.

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Mick F
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Mick F » 8 Jan 2019, 9:14pm

I've gone back to them on Moulton. It came with awful Tiagra STI, and swapped over to Dura Ace Indexed DT shifters and fitted Tektro brake levers. Much much much better.

My Campag Ergos on Mercian are getting worn out and the bits that are wearing aren't available any more, so when they give up the ghost completely, I'll be fitting Tektro brake levers and reverting back to the original Campag friction DT shifters that I used to use.
Mick F. Cornwall

Samuel D
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Samuel D » 8 Jan 2019, 9:25pm

TrevA wrote:You still seem to be able to get Dura Ace 9 speed down tube shifters for reasonable money. Would they be compatible with a Deore 9 speed rear mech?

They would.

A cheaper alternative is the same derailleur or another 8-/9-/10-speed one with Shimano SL-R400 shifters and an 8-speed cassette. The SL-R400 shifters are indexed only (except friction front shifting), but they’re well made and have been perfectly reliable for me over many thousands of miles. Here’s an old photo of my Spa Audax with these shifters. (It looks nothing like that now. I miss the summer.)

Down-tube shifting is nice. Advantages include shorter cables and housing, no flexible bends to the moving handlebars, tidier handlebars, easier bar taping, lower weight, lower cost (STI shifters being expensive and vulnerable to crash damage), and a free choice of brake levers. Indexing is clean and stays that way longer in bad weather because of the ideal cable routing.

mig
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby mig » 8 Jan 2019, 9:53pm

yup. never had a problem with them. what's not to like?

Greystoke
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Greystoke » 8 Jan 2019, 10:09pm

I still use them, they've never failed on my tourer in 34 years...fab.

slowster
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby slowster » 8 Jan 2019, 10:17pm

As an experiment I recently changed the Simplex Retrofriction levers on my Raleigh Randonneur for some similarly old Suntour Cyclone levers (i.e. both down tube levers). There's not a lot to choose between them, and the Dia Compe levers sold by Spa and others are similar to my Suntour Cyclone levers in appearance/ergonomics and, I think, in having a ratchet action. My Randonneur has an old 6 speed freewheel, so I cannot comment on how friction/ratchet levers would compare with indexed levers for the narrower 9 speed spacing.

My impressions/thoughts are that the need to move the hand to change gear is trivial. In fact if you are riding with your hands on the top of the bars, it's more convenient and less of a stretch to reach a downtube lever compared with an STI. I think downtube levers make a lot of sense for a touring bike. The only scenario I can envisage when I would want shifting at the brake lever is climbing a hill off road and out of the saddle on tricky/technical terrain, i.e. when I would be gripping the hoods at all times. I am planning a Rough Stuff bike build, and I've decided to try fitting Kelly Take Off Mounts with down tube levers to address that issue.

Something to beware of is that some modern Shimano MTB rear derailleurs lack a barrel adjuster, so if you use indexed down tube levers fitted to the down tube, you will either need to fit an inline adjuster in the cable between the cable stop and derailleur, or bodge a barrel adjuster to the derailleur. This factor was one of the things that prompted me to consider the Kelly Take Off Mounts, because then a cable stop with adjuster is fitted on the downtube lever boss.

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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Bmblbzzz » 8 Jan 2019, 10:39pm

Samuel D wrote: Here’s an old photo of my Spa Audax with these shifters. (It looks nothing like that now. I miss the summer.)

Tut tut! You went to all that trouble finding a wall to match bar tape and saddle, aligning the tyre labels and pedals and keeping the bike straight and shiny -- then mess it all up with valve stems of mismatched lengths! :wink:

Down-tube shifting is nice. Advantages include shorter cables and housing, no flexible bends to the moving handlebars, tidier handlebars, easier bar taping, lower weight, lower cost (STI shifters being expensive and vulnerable to crash damage), and a free choice of brake levers. Indexing is clean and stays that way longer in bad weather because of the ideal cable routing.

Easier bar taping? How do you reckon that? Especially as you have brake cables under the bar tape anyway.

Samuel D
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Samuel D » 8 Jan 2019, 11:58pm

Bmblbzzz wrote:
Samuel D wrote: Here’s an old photo of my Spa Audax with these shifters. (It looks nothing like that now. I miss the summer.)

Tut tut! You went to all that trouble finding a wall to match bar tape and saddle, aligning the tyre labels and pedals and keeping the bike straight and shiny -- then mess it all up with valve stems of mismatched lengths!

All true. I missed that cigarette too!

Easier bar taping? How do you reckon that? Especially as you have brake cables under the bar tape anyway.

I have aero brake levers but not everyone does. In either case, it’s two fewer cables to strap to the bars before taping. I had bar-end shifters in mind as an alternative, and those can be footery to get right in terms of cable entry point under the tape.

It’s a minor point (like my others and the competing advantages of STI shifting). But I enjoy the general lack of clutter and easy maintenance of down-tube shifters.

hodge
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby hodge » 9 Jan 2019, 12:06am

Mick F wrote:My Campag Ergos on Mercian are getting worn out and the bits that are wearing aren't available any more, so when they give up the ghost completely, I'll be fitting Tektro brake levers and reverting back to the original Campag friction DT shifters that I used to use.


here's a thought Mick:
If you like the campag ergos as brake levers ie if they're comfortable and work well with your brakes, also if you find them aesthetically agreeable; why not leave them as brake levers, but fit the gear cable to the downtube levers. I believe these ergo levers were also available (altho much less common) without the 'gear change paddles' or the gear change internals ie to function only as brake levers (for track maybe?) so these could be removed if you preferred. I saw a photo of a mint pair for sale recently (they looked pretty good).

I've found the ad I which contains photos of the aforementioned levers (they are hosted on photobucket so may well disappear).

Samuel D
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Samuel D » 9 Jan 2019, 12:40am

slowster wrote:The only scenario I can envisage when I would want shifting at the brake lever is climbing a hill off road and out of the saddle on tricky/technical terrain, i.e. when I would be gripping the hoods at all times.

An American friend recently converted his 1980s Raleigh from down-tube shifters to STIs because he thought riding in Paris traffic was adventuresome enough without being unable to grab the brakes mid gear change. So that may be another scenario.

I reckon I can get my shifting hand on the brake lever about as soon as a driver can get their foot over to the brake pedal. That’s enough for me.

I see that some cyclists dump a load of gears when approaching a red light. When they start rolling again they flick through each gear for mere metres. That mode of operation would get the arm flapping with down-tube shifters.

Meanwhile alongside them are fixed-gear cyclists, too often with no brakes at all. Perceptions of risk and desirable convenience vary.

tatanab
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby tatanab » 9 Jan 2019, 7:40am

My daily hack has indexed downtube levers. My vintage machine has downtube friction levers. Ignoring the fixed and Sturmey equipped machines, all others are Campag Ergo levers.

Ergo is very convenient, and I find I change gear because I can where I might just put up with the gear I am in on the downtube equipped machines. At one time I had 3 very similar machines, one with Ergo, one with bar end, and one with downtube, and yes I did reach for the wrong place on occasion.

Samuel D
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Samuel D » 9 Jan 2019, 8:13am

Mick F wrote:My Campag Ergos on Mercian are getting worn out and the bits that are wearing aren't available any more, so when they give up the ghost completely, I'll be fitting Tektro brake levers and reverting back to the original Campag friction DT shifters that I used to use.

Zinn’s latest column suggests it may be possible to use the innards of a 10-speed bar-end shifter to convert a 9-speed down-tube shifter to 10-speed (since Campagnolo didn’t make 10-speed down-tube shifters). This may be relevant to your interests, as the meme says. Though 10-speed friction shifting may also work fine.

iandusud
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby iandusud » 9 Jan 2019, 8:24am

I know this isn't answering the original question but I use indexed bar-end shifters on one of my road bikes (the other three having combined brake/gear levers) and I love them. It doesn't matter whether I'm riding on the tops, the hoods or the drops I my hand just falls naturally to the shifter, whereas I always find down tube shifters a bit of a reach (which may be more of an issue for me at 6'1" than for a shorter rider).

If I was building up a touring bike I wouldn't hesitate to fit bar-ends rather than combined levers.

Ian

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Mick F
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Re: Does anyone still use down tube shifters?

Postby Mick F » 9 Jan 2019, 8:50am

hodge wrote: ......here's a thought Mick:
If you like the campag ergos as brake levers ie if they're comfortable and work well with your brakes, also if you find them aesthetically agreeable; why not leave them as brake levers, but fit the gear cable to the downtube levers.
I've often considered this solution, but as yet, the RH Ergo is still ok. It's lost the positive clicky-ness but still works, and could possibly work for years yet.

The bit that's worn - the main ratchet thingy - has been described to me by the Campag experts that they only wear after astronomical mileages ................. what they don't understand, is that living in a hilly area, the gears are being changed hundreds of times per ride. Some folk sit in one gear for mile after mile after mile, but you can't do that round here!
Mick F. Cornwall