Hot answers tagged shimano
You can find what you're looking for under names like "downtube shifter lever boss kit".. You should be able to find something at a bike shop (especially one which works on older bikes) or a frame builder. Another alternative is to use a clamp.
You are right to say that the compact crankset will give you smaller gears to help you get over hills. You can do a straight swap of the crankset, everything else will be compatible, although will need readjustment. If you currently have a 5600 crankset, then you are absolutely safe to swap for another 5600 (compact) crankset. Now, the compatibility ...
If it screws on then it is a freewheel not a cassette. They are not the same. There is a link in my comment. Your spacer kit with one sprocket was probably for cassette / freehub. It is not going to work. I suspect you can find a freewheel single speed conversion. You need a single speed freewheel - not a sprocket and a lockring.
See the comments on this question. On an old compatibility chart, Shimano says they will play nice with old brake levers, but on newer ones they say they the braking force may be much too high on their data sheets. However, other companies make decent long reach calipers as well, such as the Tektro R556/R559 (maybe these are extra long reach by some people ...
The cable pull ratio was changed for the listed models, whereas previous generations were compatible with a wide range of Shimano and non-Shimano brake components. Use Shimano's Specifications site to compare the compatibility of your levers and brake calipers. http://productinfo.shimano.com/specifications.html
For most people, they're just a bit pricier. The weight difference is insignificant for almost everyone (excluding possibly serious racers). As for durability, I'd expect its more of a function of maintenance rather than trim level. But I'd actually guess the "lower end" Tiagra part is probably a bit more durable since its probably got a bit more material ...
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