Author Topic: bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?  (Read 14577 times)

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Offline wsharp

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« on: January 09, 2008, 10:28:51 pm »
I'm a small woman thinking of ordering a Surly Long Haul frame and building it up.  The bike I ride now has brake-lever shifting and I love it but have heard that it isn't as reliable as bar end shifting-especially for out of the way places or countries. Can anyone give me some advice on the pros and cons?  I know that "brifters" cost way more but could possibly take them off my present bike so that may not be an issue.  thanks

Offline whittierider

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2008, 01:24:19 am »
Three of us in this family have bar-end shifters (although all on the ends of aerobars).  One of the shifters did break an indexing ring when it was only a couple of months old, but that's very rare, and the shifter could still be used in friction mode.  This son's other bike however has brifters (integrated BRake-lever/shIFTERS) and they have been needing a shot of fine silicone lube every month or two to free them up from sticking.  One time the right one quit shifting up, he had about 60 miles of riding left for the day, and the only shifting he could do was the front.  Our tandem's brifters have not needed as much attention, but I'm not in love with them.  I probably won'tever buy brifters again.


Offline biker_james

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2008, 07:59:10 am »
The idea of "brifters" not being reliable has pretty much been fading away. My wife and I have been touring for 8 years with STI shifters, and never been stranded, or left unable to shift. We did replace the original Tiagra shifters with Ultegra after 5 or 6 years, but they still worked fine when we replaced them, just a bit of a sloppier action. I've only ever met one person who had trouble with brifters while touring, and that was a woman touring with one she knew was broken (racing accident) before she started her trip. Adventure Cycling even published in their mag a while back that worries about brifter reliability were pretty much unfounded. So I think it comes down to what you like to use-barends or brifters? They both do the job just fine.


Offline RussellSeaton

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2008, 10:18:59 am »
I know a man who's STI stopped working on PBP 2003.  Had to ride a few hundred kilometers of hills before he got to a control that could fix it.  I was riding on a 300k brevet in 2000 when an STI broke for a friend.  Man had to ride the second hilly half with just the front working.  I ride with a man who has replaced several STI in the past 5 years due to them not working anymore.  All these STI are 9 speed.  And I have Ergo shifters that needed a new spare part, easily replaced by me at home after ordering the part.  And occassionally my Ergo sort of freezes, the thumb button does not pivot on and off the ratchet ring like it should.  Rust and gunk can cause this.  Can be fixed by removing the rust/gunk or replacing the thumb button.  So both STI and Ergo fail, stop working.  Whereas my 1991 bar end shifters had to have the rubber lever covered glued back on in 1992 but that is it for repair.

Only my loaded touring bike has bar end levers.  My other geared bikes have Ergo.  Its more fun, enjoyable, better, etc. despite the extra potential of not working every now and then.  If I was touring in the remote parts of the world, I'd go for bar end if buying new or cheap.  If touring in the developed world, I'd go with STI/Ergo if buying new.  But since I own a loaded touring bike already, I won't waste money replacing the bar end shifters with STI/Ergo.


Offline staehpj1

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2008, 08:01:39 pm »
I think STI is the way to go.  They are just so much nicer IMO.

I don't get the whole bar end thing.  If I was that worried about keeping it simple and repairable I would use down tube shifters.  They have less cable, are less subject to damage, are not as easily bumped by a knee, etc.

If in a third world country you could carry a set of d/t shifters as a spare if that concerned.


Offline driftlessregion

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2008, 12:06:30 am »
I agree with preferring STI but if I was going doing a Willie Weir trip I definitely would go with bar end or down tube shifters. If I was going to be where I could not get repair parts easily (STI are not easy to work on) I would want to simplify the moving parts.  There's really no difference between bar end and down tube shifters except a foot of wire which is insignificant in function or risk of breakdown.


Offline biker_james

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2008, 08:17:46 am »
I think that if I were suddenly endowed with a ton of money, and a ton of time to go tour for 6 months or a year in Mongolia, or Africa, I might get a custom bike built up. It would definitely still have STI's, bu maybe put on mounts for downtube shifters as backup. However, still working for a living, and all my forseeable travel is either on this continent, and maybe in Europe, so I think I'll continue to not worry about my STI. Or maybe I'd just take my mountain bike to those places, and hope its shifters don't ever wear out.


Offline whittierider

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2008, 05:28:07 pm »
To my knowledge, integrated shifters have been around at least since 1949, but did not make a big market splash until the last 15 years or so.  If you really want to be able to shift without removing your hands from the brake levers and you have any reservations about brifters (including the cost which is sometimes nearly 25% of the bike), there are other alternatives for mounting down-tube or bar-end shifters right next to the brake lever hoods.  Rivendell used to sell such a thing and probably still does, although right now the only related thing I can find on their website is Paul Thumbies which is not the same.


Offline DaveB

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2008, 09:29:05 pm »
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If you really want to be able to shift without removing your hands from the brake levers and you have any reservations about brifters (including the cost which is sometimes nearly 25% of the bike), there are other alternatives for mounting down-tube or bar-end shifters right next to the brake lever hoods.


You are describing "Kelly Take-Offs" which are brackets that mount just inboard of conventional brake levers and provide mounts for downtube shifters.  They aren't quite equal to STI/Ergo brifters for convenience but are far ahead of barend or downtube shifters. I have them on my rain/beater bike having replaced the barends it originally had and they they are worlds better.  You can use friction or any speed downtube levers.

Unfortunately (and this is really unfortunate) Chris Kelly is out of business and no longer sells them so the only source I know of these days is e-Bay.  If you can find them, they are highly recommended.    


Offline whittierider

bar end vs brifter shifting for touring bike?
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2008, 01:53:31 am »
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You are describing "Kelly Take-Offs"

Thankyou!  I couldn't remember the name.
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They aren't quite equal to STI/Ergo brifters for convenience but are far ahead of barend or downtube shifters.

I've never tried them, but my hands are usually on the aerobars, so it makes to put bar-end shifters there.  If you're always on the aerobars as I am on any long ride, it's inconvenient to have to reach for the STI's to shift.
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Unfortunately (and this is really unfortunate) Chris Kelly is out of business

Yes, unfortunate.  Thanks for the info though.  I suppose that if there seemed to be a good market for the Take-Offs, Grant at Rivendell will find a way to get that kind of thing made by another company.

This message was edited by whittierider on 1-11-08 @ 9:55 PM