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Can I simply choose one shifter without taking into consideration the derailleur that will be used with it and vice-versa?

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Can you let us know which derailleurs and shifters you have in mind? We might be able to tell you with absolute certainty if you can do what you're trying to do if you are considering specific models. –  hillsons Nov 9 '12 at 20:38
    
@hillsons, none. I'm clueless. –  supertonsky Nov 10 '12 at 14:25

3 Answers 3

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Derailers differ in the amount of "pull" needed to get from one gear to the next, and, for front derailers, whether they are "spring in" or "spring out". Neither of these mattered much before indexing, but with indexing a mismatched shifter will mean that you can never get shifting to work cleanly over the entire cog range.

As imel96 says, though, generally a shifter of the same brand and number of gears should be compatible with a given derailer.

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No, different maker or different model with different number of "speed" shifters have different pull ratio (i.e. the length of cable pulled by a single shift). Usually it's safe to use different model with same number of gears from the same maker.

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If you don't already have something in mind, first find a shifter you like, and it should be easy to go from there because whoever you buy the shifter from should be able to tell you which derailleur is going to work with it. Or vice versa, start with the derailleur and then there will be a specific set of compatible shifters.

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