Author Topic: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint  (Read 14556 times)

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Offline peterharris

Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« on: November 04, 2011, 02:34:13 pm »
First off, let me thank all of you who so patiently answer questions from us newcomers, questions that sometimes seem sort of repetitive. I value all the input I've received from you on my previous posts and just generally enjoy reading what you have to say, even if it's not on a topic that is a burning one for me.

I'm the guy who originally thought about "converting" my hybrid bike to a light tourer but who - after much research, reading this forum, and riding bikes my friends own - have started thinking about a "cyclocross" as a distinct possibility for the type of riding I want to do ... light touring, exercise, back-road rides in my rolling Virginia countryside. I want a "do-it-all" bike that doesn't excel in any one thing but does a few things reasonably well and many of the models sold as "cyclocross" (even the venerable Surly Cross-Check) claim that's what their bikes do. I can afford money and space for one bicycle. I don't have the inclination or money to think about buying a frame and then building it out the way I want to (whatever that could end up being). I'm going to buy something off-the-shelf.

I see some bikes I like and they're sort of evenly divided between having brifters and bar-end shifters. My hybrid is easy ... a flat handlebar with rapid-fire shifters right next to the brake levers. And all the other friends' bikes I've ridden have brifters. But as I look at the "cyclocross" bikes, all of which have drop bars, I wonder about the convenience of bar-end shifters as opposed to brifters. I clearly see the pros of the brifters - an all-in-one package that lets me shift regardless of where my hands are. I wonder about moving my hands down off the brake hoods to shift with bar-ends. I intend to test ride a bar-end bike sometime over the next few months but I was wondering what your views are about the relative convenience of bar-ends? I've done a search of this forum for previous bar-end posts but they all seem to be discussions about the durability and maintainability of brifters vs. bar-ends.

One of the bikes on my short list is, in fact, the Surly Cross-Check. It has bar-end shifters. It's currently set up with a compact double but the bar-end shifter that works the front derailleur actually can work a triple. That would allow me to later swap out the double for a triple (maybe 48-36-26) to get to 21 or 22 gear-inches. I think the current set up (48-36 and 11-32) only gets me down to 31 gear-inches. So, from that perspective I see the flexibility to get down to granny-gear range with a relatively inexpensive swap. But that may just be THAT bar-end (Shimano SL-BS77).

So many decisions. I need your help! Once I spend the money, I'm not going to be able to spend even more $$ fixing a bad decision.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 02:38:43 pm by peterharris »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2011, 02:59:11 pm »
The pros and cons of these two solutions has been exhaustively discussed before. I didn't do a search, but perhaps you could find something that way.

I have one bike with each. For touring, I prefer the bar-ends for numerous reasons:
 - No cables to get in the way of your handlebar bag.
 - Can see or feel what gear you're in by looking at or feeling the shifters.
 - Easier to make wide shifts (useful at the end of a steep downhill that goes directly into a steep uphill).
 - Easier to operate with heavy gloves.

I know many others prefer the brifters, and if you get campy, the cable problem goes away. You can pretty easily adapt to either system. I don't find moving my hands down to the levers to be an issue.

Offline DanE

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2011, 03:30:16 pm »
With the Shimano brake/shifters, the movement of the large lever swinging inward can be hindered by the use of a handlebar bag. Since the use of handlebar bags is common for touring, many use the bar end shifters because of this. 

It just comes down to what you like and how you plan on using it. Some don't use handlebar bags and use the brake/shifters on their touring bikes. Some pick out a handlebar bag which will not interfere with the shifters. I think many just take whatever shifters come on the bike.

Offline Ailish

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2011, 05:37:15 pm »
I think one of the factors in the relative convenience of brifters vs bar-end shifters is the spacing of your rear cassette.  With an 13-22, there's going to be a fair bit of micro shifting as you go up and down one cog which is perhaps only a tooth different to find the optimal gear.  With an 11-34, your rear shifting is somewhat more set and forget.

I got used to brifters on my older Bianchi Volpe.  After it was stolen, I mostly ended up looking at touring bikes, which ran heavily to bar-end shifters, and on my test rides, I wasn't a fan of them.  I use the bike as a general purpose bike, including a good deal of urban riding where I frequently have to stop/start.  I typically like to downshift as I'm braking to a stop so that I can more easily accelerate off the stop.  With bar end shifters, I found it inconvenient to have the brakes and shifters so far apart.  On the open road, again, it probably wouldn't be as much of an issue.  What I ended up doing was getting a Surly LHT, and having them swap the shifters and break levers with Tiagra STI brifters.  I use an Arkel small handlebar bag, and it doesn't obstruct either the action or the cables.  I suspect I could use a large handlebar bag just fine, as well.

In the first of the Adventure Cycling reports of Interbike, recently, they featured four new touring bikes.  Of the four, three had drop bars, and all three of those had brifters, so I think the strict association of bar-end shifters with touring is loosening, somewhat.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2011, 05:41:46 pm »
Good news: they both work, and quite well.

Bad news: they both have a few quirks.

Handlebar bag doesn't interfer with my Shimano brifters, but the cables make getting them on and off slightly more challenging.

Barcons (or bar-ends, if you prefer) do require you to take a hand off that brake.  Not usually a big deal, as my hand naturally hits the barcons as my arm pivots down.

I haven't toured with the barcons, but I do wonder: my bike, loaded with panniers, naturally seeks its own level and direction when I park it with the kickstand down.  On the brifter-equiped bike, that sometimes leads to the handlebars swinging around and impacting the top tube.  Has anyone damaged barcons like this?

Offline DaveB

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2011, 06:27:48 pm »
I have used both and in hilly terrain, brifters are vastly more convenient than barends.  They are always right at your finger tips and shifting while under load or when surprised by a sudden uphill is far easier.  If you are standing while pedaling, they are the only accessable shifters. 

Brifters downside is that they are more expensive, not quite as durable and don't offer a friction option.  Despite this, to me there is no decision to make.  Brifters at all times on all bikes.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2011, 02:17:29 pm »
Pluses and minuses with each shifting method.  Front derailleur shifting is superior with bar end.  You can trim the front derailleur to any position.  STI has very limited trim function so the front derailleur and chain may be rubbing in some gears.  Bar end allow you to shift many gears at once.  STI is one gear at a time when going to smaller cogs.  STI does allow 2 or 3 larger cogs at a time.  Both types of shifters are easy to reach.  But this is spoken by someone who actually rides in the drops.  99+% of bicyclists have never touched the drops on their bikes.  These people would be very frightened of bar end shifters.  For durability, bar end wins.  Bar end shifters allow any handlebar bag.  The newest STI 10 speed shifters rout the cables under the bar tape so they can accomodate any handlebar bag.  Older 10 speed and 9 and 8 speed STI have the shift cable sticking out the side of the lever.  Exactly where a handlebar bag goes.  A tiny handlebar bag might fit inside the cables with these older STI levers.

Offline DaveB

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2011, 05:04:44 pm »
Pluses and minuses with each shifting method.  Front derailleur shifting is superior with bar end.  You can trim the front derailleur to any position.  STI has very limited trim function so the front derailleur and chain may be rubbing in some gears.  Bar end allow you to shift many gears at once.  STI is one gear at a time when going to smaller cogs.  STI does allow 2 or 3 larger cogs at a time.  Both types of shifters are easy to reach.  But this is spoken by someone who actually rides in the drops.  99+% of bicyclists have never touched the drops on their bikes.  These people would be very frightened of bar end shifters.  For durability, bar end wins.  Bar end shifters allow any handlebar bag.  The newest STI 10 speed shifters rout the cables under the bar tape so they can accomodate any handlebar bag.  Older 10 speed and 9 and 8 speed STI have the shift cable sticking out the side of the lever.  Exactly where a handlebar bag goes.  A tiny handlebar bag might fit inside the cables with these older STI levers.
Campy Ergo brifters address and/or eliminate most of your comments on the disadvantages of brifters. 

-They have a "micro-shift" ratchet for the front shifting so you can trim any deraileur to center it over any chainring, including triples. 

-The upper lines (Record and Chorus) allow a full sweep of both the cassette and chainrings in both directions, upshifting and downshifting. 

-Ergos have had the shift cables under the bar tape since the 8-speed days so they don't interfer with any handlebar bag.

-Ergo brifters can be rebuilt so the durability issue is lessened

I ride the drops a fair bit but I don't, and most other riders don't, climb with my hand in the drops and that's where the ability to shift from the hoods or tops is so very welcome.   For the record, both Ergo and STI brifters can be shifted from the drops if you wish.  Bar ends can only be shifted from the drops.  I'm not frightened of them, I've used them more than enough to give them a good evaluation and found brifters better in almost all conditions.
 
Finally, I assume everyone is going to say, true but they can only be used with Campy (read expensive) components and their gearing range is limited.  Well, Jtek's Shiftmate will make Ergos compatible with otherwise all Shimano components and they shift like a dream.   

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2011, 11:23:40 pm »
Finally, I assume everyone is going to say, true but they can only be used with Campy (read expensive) components and their gearing range is limited.  Well, Jtek's Shiftmate will make Ergos compatible with otherwise all Shimano components and they shift like a dream.   

I must be doing it wrong.  I put on a Shiftmate early last year while my 9-speed Campy brifters were being rebuilt, to use some newer 10-speed Campy brifters with Shimano derailer and cassette.  After three tries at installing and adjusting, it still doesn't shift reliably in the middle of the cassette range.  9-speed Campy brifters, Campy derailer and Shimano cassette worked fine for me.  Now if the darn 10-speed would wear out so it needs to be rebuilt, maybe I'd wake up from this bad dream!

Offline DaveB

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2011, 09:16:55 am »
I must be doing it wrong.  I put on a Shiftmate early last year while my 9-speed Campy brifters were being rebuilt, to use some newer 10-speed Campy brifters with Shimano derailer and cassette.  After three tries at installing and adjusting, it still doesn't shift reliably in the middle of the cassette range.  9-speed Campy brifters, Campy derailer and Shimano cassette worked fine for me.  Now if the darn 10-speed would wear out so it needs to be rebuilt, maybe I'd wake up from this bad dream!
I expect you are indeed doing something wrong or have the wrong Shiftmate pulley.  My first use of a Shiftmate (#2) was with Campy 10-speed Ergo brifters, a Shimano 9-speed rear derailleur and a Shimano 9-speed cassette and it shifted flawlessly all the way across the cogs. 

Last year I "upgraded" to a 10-speed Shimano cassette and chain using the same Campy 10-speed Ergos and the same Shimano rear derailleur and installed the appropriate Shiftmate pulley (#3).   Again, shifting is flawless all the way across.

You do have to be sure you have the proper pulley, the cable routing is correct and the pulley orientation is correct to make a Shiftmate work.  It's not difficult or tricky but has to be done correctly.   The directions with the Shiftmate are very clear but you have to follow them.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2011, 11:08:55 am »
You do have to be sure you have the proper pulley, the cable routing is correct and the pulley orientation is correct to make a Shiftmate work.  It's not difficult or tricky but has to be done correctly.   The directions with the Shiftmate are very clear but you have to follow them.

Ordered correctly, done, and done.  I haven't disassembled the thing to make sure the pulley's correct, but that's the only thing I can think of at this point.  As I said, I'm eagerly awaiting the death of the Campy g-spring so I can be bothered to switch the brifters back.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2011, 01:47:33 pm »
Campy Ergo brifters address and/or eliminate most of your comments on the disadvantages of brifters. 
-They have a "micro-shift" ratchet for the front shifting so you can trim any deraileur to center it over any chainring, including triples. 
-The upper lines (Record and Chorus) allow a full sweep of both the cassette and chainrings in both directions, upshifting and downshifting. 
-Ergos have had the shift cables under the bar tape since the 8-speed days so they don't interfer with any handlebar bag.
-Ergo brifters can be rebuilt so the durability issue is lessened
I ride the drops a fair bit but I don't, and most other riders don't, climb with my hand in the drops and that's where the ability to shift from the hoods or tops is so very welcome.   For the record, both Ergo and STI brifters can be shifted from the drops if you wish.  Bar ends can only be shifted from the drops.  I'm not frightened of them, I've used them more than enough to give them a good evaluation and found brifters better in almost all conditions.
Finally, I assume everyone is going to say, true but they can only be used with Campy (read expensive) components and their gearing range is limited.  Well, Jtek's Shiftmate will make Ergos compatible with otherwise all Shimano components and they shift like a dream.   

I suspect I have many many more tens of thousands of miles riding Campagnolo Ergo than you do.  But I have never bought into this adaptor thing.  If you want to use Campagnolo, then use Campagnolo shifters, hub, cassette, rear derailleur.  Don't add adaptors that may or may not work into the mix.  Especially not on a touring bike.  Reliability is something most people want on a touring bike.  Shimano is the only touring component maker.  SRAM does not make a triple shifter.  Campagnolo does not make cassettes bigger than 28 or 29.  And is impossible to find in the US market.  Easy to find and replace parts is crucial for a touring bike.  I'm aware IRD makes some kind of adaptor cassette that fits on the other hubs or has spacing like the other company.  But again its a specialty adaptor part, not commonly available.

As for Campagnolo being expensive, this is a myth unknowledgable Americans perpetuate.  European bike shops, mail order places sell Campagnolo for less than the cost of Shimano.  Anyone who buys Campagnolo from the US is just wasting money.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2011, 01:14:10 pm »
From a rider comfort point of view, brifters are the way to go.  I have one road bike setup with brifters, and one with barcons.  But I would still go with barcons for touring, as you can always limp home in friction mode.  I have had brifters seize up, and while I have always been able to fix them once I got home, this is not something I would want to deal with on a trip.

My understanding is that cyclocross bikes have a shorter wheel base.  This might not be much fun when you have panniers on the bike.

Light touring bikes, those things the bike stores carry, might meet your every need.  I have hear of people touring on Cross-Checks, but the Long-Haul-Trucker will also do all of the things that you say you want to do.
Danno

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2011, 01:44:44 pm »
I'm kind of old school: I don't have brifters and I don't have bar end shifters. I have down tube shifters. And everybody makes fun of me.

However, I cannot trust brifters - they are too complicated if something goes wrong. I don't like bar end shifters because they easily get damaged if the bike falls or touches a wall.

I have used down tube shifters the past 12 years and they perfectly suit my riding style. Plus, if a wire snaps you can fix it with a coca cola can and a swiss army knife.

Lucas

Offline briwasson

Re: Brifters vs. bar-end from a convenience standpoint
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2011, 02:53:11 pm »
I remember back in the day of down tube shifters that they were much "cooler" to use than handlebar-stem mounted shifters. One of the reasons everyone gave was that the longer cable run from the handlebar stem shifters made shifting worse. Now we have brifters and bar-end shifters with really long cable runs and everyone loves them! :-)

For ultimate simplicity and crisp shifting I think you can't beat downtube shifters.