Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Please be fair and thoughtful in your opinions. No rants please.
peterh11
Posts: 207
Joined: 20 Mar 2010, 10:25pm

Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby peterh11 » 13 Oct 2018, 2:52pm

Hi all,

First, apologies if I missed a thread about this - I did a search but didn’t find anything: please link me to one if it’s there.

I am planning to buy a new bike - drop handlebar light tourer type, for day rides and lightly loaded touring (long weekends in hotels say).

My existing bike has 3x8 gears and levers are mounted on Kelly Take-Offs, the front mech is a Tiagra 10-speed on a Spa XD-2 with 26/36/46 rings, which I am shifting using a friction downtube lever and the rear is Deore with 8-speed indexed downtube lever. Shifting is very easy generally. I can do the rear all from above and a bit from below, with the front I can shift between small and middle from above and need to move my hand down to go into the big ring.

The front shifting is very reliable and I have no problems with it at all. I am obviously well in practice at finding the right position for the middle ring! As a consequence I move between chainrings frequently.

I have ridden a couple of bikes borrowed from friends with STI gearing. One had 105 with double front, the other is older with a 105 triple front. My impressions are mixed. The right hand (rear) shifts very well and I like being able to reach it from the hooks (under the lever). The left hand shifter is OK on the double but really not good on the triple. I know that this triple lever is rather old and seems very worn, maybe that is why?

Please can you share experiences of using modern STI triples, especially on XD-2 chainset or similar, since I would not want the standard Shimano larger rings which are standard. Do you recommend it? Or is it better to think of a very compact double? How about keeping it adjusted right?

On what I have seen so far, knowing I prefer a triple with relatively low gears as i am not so strong up hills, and I really like having a middle ring for the relatively flat bits (upgraded from double about 4 years ago) I am hesitating to buy a bike with a triple STI gearing setup. I might want to be perverse and use the STI for the rear changer and a downtube friction lever on a Kelly Take-Off for the front, but I am thinking I want something rather more standard and easily serviced and replaced.

Thoughts?

Peter H

Psamathe
Posts: 9349
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby Psamathe » 13 Oct 2018, 3:03pm

My bike previously has Shimano compact double 10 speed with Tiagra STI's (upgraded to 105 after ongoing poor shifting). But I wanted to go loaded touring and that gearing did not give me anything close to a granny gear.

Earlier this year I decided to take the bike on tour and spent a vast amount switching drive everything to Tiagra 4703 10 speed triple groupset (but sticking with my mechanical disk brakes). I love this configuration. From (maybe flawed) memory it only got me down to 23"/24" granny gear but I managed without too much getting off and pushing (and I suspect I'd still have been getting off and pushing even with a lower ratio).

BUT, since resuming cycling 5'ish years ago I've always had STIs and am now very used to them and has lots of reservations about switching to other types of shifter.

Certainly the 4703 STI Tiagra is on a par with the previous era 105 STIs and much better than the 4600 Tiagra (I didn't like those STIs).

I don't have the knowledge to talk about compatibility with anything as I got the groupset and had my LBS fit it. But I was very happy cycling on it.

I was going to write a review of the groupset but discovered the dangers of posting reviews on this site with my 1st one, so no more).

Ian

pwa
Posts: 8206
Joined: 2 Oct 2011, 8:55pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby pwa » 13 Oct 2018, 4:20pm

I have just replaced a not-very-old Claris left STI lever that had stopped holding on the big ring. It would move the chain over but not hold it there. Something inside had gone snap in use. I regard STI levers as the weak point in a Shimano set-up, having had several pack in over the years, and they are expensive to replace.

(I prefer bar end levers for my own use, but my family are using STIs)

peterh11
Posts: 207
Joined: 20 Mar 2010, 10:25pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby peterh11 » 13 Oct 2018, 8:51pm

Psamathe wrote:My bike previously has Shimano compact double 10 speed with Tiagra STI's (upgraded to 105 after ongoing poor shifting).
<SNIP>
Certainly the 4703 STI Tiagra is on a par with the previous era 105 STIs and much better than the 4600 Tiagra (I didn't like those STIs). Ian

Thanks, that sounds like a very positive experience - how would you describe the shifting on the left (front) changer? Can you just shift from one chainwheel to another with a simple movement of the appropriate lever and have it work easily more or less every time?

Psamathe
Posts: 9349
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby Psamathe » 13 Oct 2018, 9:10pm

peterh11 wrote:Thanks, that sounds like a very positive experience - how would you describe the shifting on the left (front) changer? Can you just shift from one chainwheel to another with a simple movement of the appropriate lever and have it work easily more or less every time?

Not 100%. I had a bar bag (Ortleib new design) and the shift tended to hit the bar bag but that didn’t stop it changing properly so not a major issue. But by the end I was thinking it was quite a hard push to change to bigger cog (front). But Recent memories are more prominent than earlier memories so it might just need a service or a bit of lube but I’ve not got round to sorting any checks. But that was not a major issue. It did get pretty mucky over 2000 miles being cleaned only once and lubricated only twice!

It did change pretty well every time when pushed properly. It does have the micro adjust thing for when you really “cross” the chain (big to big or little to little) which I never deliberately used but it did occasionally happen when I didn’t push properly.

My configuration was one that Shimano don’t “allow” (hence my thinking a review would be useful to others). On the tripple Shimano don’t allow/support the cassette with the 34T cog - but you need that to get the lower gear inches. My LBS checked with Shimano who said “no” but LBS thought it would be ok so I went ahead with the 34T cassette option. LBS fitted it and even little to little there was no chain drooping and they said it was fine, no issues. I never got to that situation when using it anyway. But do be aware of Shimano’s configuration and opinions and double check what you want. It’s a longer story but I’m not writing a review here (might write one in my personal web site at some point).

Even back in Flatlandia I wont be changing back to the compact double as I think (for me) the tripple is excellent.

Ian

reohn2
Posts: 31791
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby reohn2 » 14 Oct 2018, 12:22am

I've used STI's in double and triple mode in 7,8 and 9sp variations and in RSX,Tiagra,105 and Ultegra levels since the early 90's and can honestly say I've never had any problems with them and I've put a LOT of miles in on them on both solos and tandems.
That said I've also been using Kelly Take Offs on solos for roughly 12 to 15 years and find them to be as good in most respects and better in others particularly they are less vulnerable in a fall.

Spa XD2 chainsets are Stronglight Impact copies(mostly likely made in the same factory)and I've used both STI's and the Kellys/down tube levers with the S/light Impact triple c/sets.In fact they're my preferred c/set,which I've used with 24/26t inners,34/36t middles and 44/46/48/50t outers
You shouldn't have any problems at all,that said I believe the latterday lower end and 10sp STI's particularly the ones with gear cable under the bar tape aren't as durable as the older 7/8 and 9sp 'washing line' versions.

Personally I wouldn't go back to STI's after being so used to Kelly's :D
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I cycle therefore I am.

peterh11
Posts: 207
Joined: 20 Mar 2010, 10:25pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby peterh11 » 14 Oct 2018, 11:14am

reohn2 wrote: . . . . .
Personally I wouldn't go back to STI's after being so used to Kelly's :D

Thanks! Maybe you can enlarge a little bit: why would you not go back to STI’s?

I am curious, as a long-time user of Take-Offs myself (I’ve had the same set on the bike for about 12 years, with gradual upgrades through 6, 7 and 8 speed rear and both double and triple front. Very durable, I’ve worn the indexing mechanism out on some levers during that time! I also like the XD-2 a lot and would use one even if going to STI.)

Part of me thinks that a really nice setup for say 3x10 might be SRAM double-tap on the right (rigid main brake lever and paddle underneath, I really liked that on a bike I tested) and a Kelly Take-Off on the left. But maybe I will end up with Tiagra triple, knowing I can swap it out for a Take-Off based system if I am not convinced after giving it a few months.

Peter H

peterh11
Posts: 207
Joined: 20 Mar 2010, 10:25pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby peterh11 » 14 Oct 2018, 11:17am

Psamathe wrote:It did change pretty well every time when pushed properly.
<SNIP>
Even back in Flatlandia I wont be changing back to the compact double as I think (for me) the tripple is excellent. Ian

Thank you!
Peter H

reohn2
Posts: 31791
Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Shimano Tiagra (and similar) triple front STI road levers

Postby reohn2 » 14 Oct 2018, 1:48pm

peterh11 wrote:
reohn2 wrote: . . . . .
Personally I wouldn't go back to STI's after being so used to Kelly's :D

Thanks! Maybe you can enlarge a little bit: why would you not go back to STI’s?

I am curious, as a long-time user of Take-Offs myself (I’ve had the same set on the bike for about 12 years, with gradual upgrades through 6, 7 and 8 speed rear and both double and triple front. Very durable, I’ve worn the indexing mechanism out on some levers during that time! I also like the XD-2 a lot and would use one even if going to STI.)

Part of me thinks that a really nice setup for say 3x10 might be SRAM double-tap on the right (rigid main brake lever and paddle underneath, I really liked that on a bike I tested) and a Kelly Take-Off on the left. But maybe I will end up with Tiagra triple, knowing I can swap it out for a Take-Off based system if I am not convinced after giving it a few months.

Peter H

The plusses for Kelly's are:-
They are almost as handy to use as STI's once got used to.
Simplicity of a single lever per mech with seperate and cheap comfortable and very effective brake levers(Tektro RL340 or RL520 depending on brake type).
Having the gear levers inboard of brake levers out of harm's way in a fall.
The flexibility of friction should the rear mech take a knock.
Not being tied into a narrow banded 'system'.

I've nothing against STI's,IME they work great with the mech they're intended for,but as I see no need at all for anything more than a 3x8 or 9sp drivetrain,when Shimano went to 10sp> and the crossover use of rear MTB and road mechs with the same gearlever type was lost,and IMO it was the sad start of a more highly technical narrow direction I didn't want to be part of unless forced to.
I have a 3x10sp Shimano drivetrain on my MTB which I may yet change to 3x9sp
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I cycle therefore I am.