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So today is the first day of snow here in Norway, and I had prepared well for this day. My Giant Cyclocross has new spiked tires and i've done a check on all components, they are ready for the winter-commuting.

When I got to my first climb on my way to work today, I noticed my right shifter wasn't working. I got Shimano Sora shifters, and Tiagra derailleurs. I could flip the shifter, but the gear wouldn't stick. If I held the shifter flipped, the gear would lower, but as I released it, it would jump right back. This happened after just 5 minutes outside in the heavy snowfall. It was as if the mechanical inside the shifter wasn't working. I store my bike indoors at home, so my bike wasn't frozen when I got on, and I don't think its below 0Celcius outside even.

My bike is only a year old, and I haven't had any big troubles with either shifters or derailleurs before. This is my first year riding it in the snow.

Is this a common problem with the cheap shifters? Is there anything I can do to help/prevent sticky shifting?

edit: It seemed I could shift into a heavier gear without problem (loosening cable tention), but shifting into a lighter gear( thightening cable) was close to impossible.

Edit 2: After the whole day inside my shifter still won't work. I'll open the shifter up this weekend and see if I can find the problem.

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What happens if you try again indoors? Do they behave in a similar fashion? –  astabada Oct 25 '12 at 8:29
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This is a common problem with many shifters. It's due to temperature (and age). When the temperature drops, the factory lube in the shifters gets thick and gummy. This effect gets worse as the bike gets older and the lube dries out. The solution is to spray some sort of spray lube into the shifter -- the only disagreement here is with what sort of spray lube should be used. (Disassembly is discouraged, since it's hard to find all the parts after they go "sprong".) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 25 '12 at 11:22
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In terms of the spray to use, you need something with some solvent properties, to dissolve (and, to a degree, revitalize) the old lube. Teflon is good as a lube but not a very good solvent. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 26 '12 at 0:01
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Since nobody else posted an answer, and you solved the problem, you can post your last edit as an answer and mark it as accepted. It's well within the rules to answer your own question. –  Kibbee Oct 31 '12 at 9:02
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I opened my shifter a bit, not disassembled the whole thing, but I was able to degrease it well. I then applied a lot of spray lube. I shifted up and down while spraying, making sure the lube got everywhere. I have used my bike every day in cold weather now, one day as cold as -10Celcius, everything seems to work. It can be a bit sticky, but I always manage to shift correctly now. I guess I'll have to apply lube quite often now, the spray isn't as heavy-duty as the original grease, but my gears work now.

Edit: I took my bike to the shop today, the shifter has gotten worse the last few weeks. When I picked it up they said Shimano has called back several models, a faulty spring seemed to be the problem. I got it replaced no-cost. My new shifter works perfectly in the -5C now!

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