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I have just buy for the first time a road bike (Boardman Team Carbon) after long years on hybrids bike and unfortunately due of a injury I didn't have much time to experience with it.

The bike has a SRAM Rival 10 speed gear shifter and I was wondering what are the difference between all the different type of gear shifters.

It would be good to know what are the advantages and disadvantages and if you have experience with it what are the optimal way to use them.

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Are you looking for comparison between types (eg. integrated brake/shift levers, bar-end, downtube) or between brands? Assuming this is for road bikes... –  darkcanuck Feb 5 '11 at 21:54
    
I think both of it as long this is cover a gear shifter. –  Chmouel Boudjnah Feb 5 '11 at 22:07

1 Answer 1

This is based on my experience with the following type of shifters, but is limited to Shimano so others may have a different experience. I haven't tried to split out the different variations of brifters either since I've only used 105's.

Integrated brake/shift levers (aka "brifters")

Pros:

  • Shifters are always close at hand, so you can always shift when you need to without taking your hands off the handlebar (unless your hands are on the flats).
  • This means shifting while climbing/descending is a breeze.
  • Similarly, brakes are always nearby

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Complicated devices, so a mechanical issue can cripple your shifter when on a long ride far from the nearest bike shop.
  • Brake levers are very likely to take a pounding in a crash (whether major or minor), which is bad news for brifters (see "expensive" and "complicated" above)

Bar-end shifters (mount at the end of drop bars or aero bars)

Pros:

  • Simple devices, usually indexed for quick gear changes, but can also be switched to "friction" mode which allows you to dial in your gear by feel (handy when your shifting goes out of alignment).
  • Lower total cost than brifters (including separate brake levers)
  • Easier to learn than down-tube shifters

Cons:

  • Shifters are nearby, but you still have to take your hand off the bars.
  • Inconvenient if you need to shift while out of the saddle.
  • Possible to hit them with your knees (depends on bike and rider geometry) which can cause an unwanted shift (and can be quite painful)

Down-tube shifters

Pros:

  • Simple like bar-end shifters (including choices of indexed/friction shifting)
  • Also inexpensive
  • Shorter shifter cable runs
  • Not likely to hit your knees

Cons:

  • Quite far from the bars, so you'll likely shift less often than with the other styles
  • Inconvenient for shifting while out of the saddle or during a white-knuckle descent
  • Takes some getting used to finding the levers without looking
  • Not all modern frames will have the appropriate braze-ons for mounting (but most should).

My current bike uses bar-end shifters based on some of the reasons above. Plus for long randonneur rides (over 20 hours) I lose a lot of hand strength and the bar-end shifters are the easiest to work with (can shift using the heel of my palm).

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Another problem with integrated shifters - the left and right are mirrors, so the up lever on the front gear is the down lever on the rear one. Takes a few k on on my road bike to reset my brain from the 'thumb down - index finger up' –  mgb Feb 7 '11 at 17:47
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@mgb: it's the same with bar-end and down-tube shifters. Muscle memory helps me pick the right direction, but if I stop to think about it, I usually shift the wrong way... –  darkcanuck Feb 7 '11 at 18:34

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