Author Topic: Bar end shifters  (Read 6060 times)

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Offline Rich46

Bar end shifters
« on: March 02, 2010, 02:36:44 pm »
I have been riding for many years but am about to embark on some bike touring.  In researching different bikes and bike configurations it seems that most touring bikes have barend shifters.  I am very comfortable with the various STI shifters I have used on my other bikes and would probably continue with them unless there is something I am missing concerning barend shifters.  So... why bar end shifters on touring bikes? 

Offline whittierider

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2010, 03:01:48 pm »
One reason is that integrated shifters' cables tend to interfere with a handlebar bag.  That's probably becoming less of an issue however as more of them put the cables under the bar tape.

Another reason is that integrated shifters have had the reputation for breaking down much more easily.  That reputation may have been justified at one time, but today STIs last last tens of thousands of miles, and most of the malfunctions require no actual repair or replacement but can be corrected simply by cleaning.  That can be a problem on tour though.  One of the STI-equipped bikes in our family needs it about every thousand miles or even more often.  Another one has only needed it two or three times in 10,000 miles.  Another one has had no trouble at all in its 16,000 miles.

When an STI shifter has the problem, it gets to where the shorter lever acts like it is no longer connected inside.  I take the LPS-1 aerosol can with a tiny straw, open the brakes' quick releases so the levers can be pulled in farther, and spray the penetrant/lube into the inside of the shift mechanism.  While it's saturated and dripping (actually I use rags to keep it from running down the handlebar or onto the front wheel and tire), I pedal the bike on the little stand and work the shifter up and down the range many times, and repeat.  It only takes a few seconds to make a totally non-op shifter work absolutely like new again.  It is not necessary to remove the shifter from the handlebar.  LPS-1 leaves a dry lubricating film, so it doesn't attract road dirt.  The shifter mechanism resides in kind of a cylinder in the lever housing, and there's a hole in the side, near the front, where the cable is fed through during installation.  I put the straw into that hole and aim it back toward the inside of the mechanism.  The LPS-1 comes out foamy and this foam fills the whole mechanism.

I should probably mention that we did have a bar-end shifter go down at maybe 4,000 miles a couple of years ago, although that's probably extremely rare too.  The indexing ring broke and was sticking out from under the plastic cap.  IOW, bar-end shifters are not immune to breakdown either.  But even with the broken indexing ring, the bar-end shifter was still usable in friction mode, unlike a non-op STI shifter.

I mostly ride on the aerobars now myself though, even all day, so I put the bar-end shifters on the aerobars, and I don't expect to ever buy STI again.  The same goes for our two sons.  Our bikes with STI don't get ridden much anymore.  Having shifters on the brake levers has been around at least since 1949 but hasn't been popular until the last 15 years or so.  If fit correctly (which most aren't), half of aerobars' value is comfort.  They offer a lot of relief for wrists, elbows, shoulders, and other parts.  I have very small bones and joints for a 170-pound man, and even as a teenager in the 1970's, the pounding from bad roads quickly left my wrists and elbows in pain.  That trouble ended ten years ago when I got aerobars.

If it matters to you, bar-end shifters and separate brake levers are both lighter and a lot cheaper than integrated shifters.

Offline Spokey

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2010, 03:19:19 pm »
I've had barends since I bought my '94 Cannondale.  Before that downtube shifters.  I've briefly ridden STI and didn't really like it but I guess I could get used to it.  I sort of think simpler mechanicals make more sense though. 

One thing whittierider doesn't mention that I sometimes use although not often is to whip the gears all or most of the way through the range.  My limited experience with STI was that you had to through the lever a few times to go through all the gears.  Not a biggy I guess.

I did run in to a problem after I picked up my bike in Seattle to start on the trans-am.  As whittierider indicates, it was easy to just switch to friction and not worry about it.

When it comes down to it though why would I use STI?  I don't really see any advantage.  I haven't moved my shifters on to the aerobars, but don't have any problem swinging my hand down to shift.  I'm thinking shifting while on the bars might be easier with barends than STI.

You do have a choice on some bikes.  I think barends were the only choice when I bought my 2002 americano but I think you can opt for STI in current models.

Offline aggie

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2010, 07:31:29 pm »
I've used the bar end shifters in my first bikes then switched to sti.  I prefer the sti.  Since I mostly ride with my hands on the hoods or top bar it is a hassle to get into the drops to shift. 

It's really a matter of preference.  If you are comfortable with your current set up then keep it. 

Offline DaveB

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2010, 10:52:20 pm »
I've ridden with both types and the convenience and accessibility of STI/Ergo integrated "brifters" is so much better than barends that there is no comparison in my experience.  The hillier the terrain, the bigger the advantage brifters have.  You can shift brifters while standing and barends are nearly impossible to reach from that position.

Barends are less likely to give mechanical problems.  They aren't immune and brifters have gotten very reliable over the past few years but barends do have friction as a fall back option.  They are also MUCH cheaper so manufacturers will use them to reduce costs if possible.

BTW, there is one other option; Kelly Take Offs.  These are brackets that fasten under standard brake levers and mount downtube shifters just inboard of the brake levers.  They put the levers in reach of your thumbs while riding on the hoods and are nearly (but not quite) as convenient as brifters.  Since downtube levers all have a friction option, you have that fall-back too. They sell for $50 to $70 and use any model or "speed" downtube shifters so the entire thing is much less than any brifter.   Here is a reference:

I have a set of Take Offs on one bike and I'm quire fond of them  They are far better than barend or regular downtube shifters at a fraction the cost of brifters.

Offline Rich46

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2010, 09:32:05 pm »
Whittierider, Spokey, aggie & DaveB  thanks for the reply.  I am planning on building a bike using a Surly LHT frame.  Currently I plan on using a rear rack, bar bag and pull a BOB.  Barends might be the shifters to use since the handle bar bag could interfer with the cables for the STI's cables.  I have been riding for many years and I have never had mechanical problems other than an occasional flat.  I solved that by purchasing better tires.  I am anxious to extend that experience into touring.  I am pretty anal about maintenence, that should help.  Thanks so much for the insight(s).   

Offline Tourista829

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2010, 12:55:38 am »
As mentioned above, they are more reliable and if the you should start slipping you can change from index to friction and adjust the tension. If you like STI stay with them. If you are traveling, in the States or Western Europe you should be fine. SA, Africa or Asia you may want to us bar cons. I know one couple, who have both on their bikes. I believe they are using STI's, but can easily convert to bar cons, if needed.

Offline Rich46

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2010, 09:25:13 pm »
Tourista829, thanks for the input.  I agree the frictions shift option is also an appealing option.  The planned tour(s) is a US tour probably several moderate length tours, the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Bar end shifters
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2010, 10:50:51 pm »
Rich 46, you are welcome. We have toured with both. I have only experienced one time, when I have had bar cons and I had to switch to friction. I also had them on my Santana Tandem and I didn't like them. I do like STI's and when they went out of wack, I just pulled over and adjusted the cable tension. Another time, I had to replace the cable. The rear/right one is the one I have had trouble with. Since you feel more comfortable with STI's, if you really wanted to hedge your bets, bring a spare one with you. (Then you will never need it) These are things, that are important to know how to fix, prior to touring. If you haven't already, maybe your local bike shop could give you an after hours primer. It would be invaluable and build up your confidence. Regardless, I still think you will be fine.