There are a few questions floating around regarding sticky STI shifters and the standard procedure seems to be to flush with a load of WD-40 and relube with aerosol grease or similar.

My set is Ultegra 6500 series.

Having tried this with with unsatisfactory results I think I need to take more drastic action. It is clear there is still significant grime and gummed-up grease in the mechanism (excerbated no doubt by long-term lack of name plate). I figured the best method would be to remove the shifter from the bike and give it a good submersion in degreaser.

My idea was to leave the body on the bars and just remove the lever, which incorporates the mechanism by removing the pivot pin and brake/gear cables. The tech docs show this process but I'm slightly scared of tiny pieces flying everywhere and being unable to reassemble. It also requires a "return spring installation tool" which I do not possess.

Has anyone had experience with this? How tricky is it for a reasonably technically inclined person? Would I be better off just removing the bar tape and taking off the whole unit?

  • 2
    Its a pretty hard job, from what I hear - IIRC, there are people who specialize in refurbishing STI brifters, and I'd find one of those people and get them to do it, especially on Ultegra level gear.
    – Batman
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 15:33
  • @Batman The 6500 series is 9-speed and the outfit I'm familiar with that repairs Shimano brifters won't touch the 9-speeds. Commented May 21, 2014 at 20:29
  • Hm. I seem to recall there being problems with some of the 9 speed era, but now a days, Sora is the 9 speed group (and the brifters don't have the nice hoods that 105 and higher do).
    – Batman
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:17
  • Yes, it is indeed a 9-speed and a cursory google will produce many posts about sticky shifting problems on shifters of these era . I'm using the opportunity to upgrade to 10-speed and have ordered a new set of 105 5700 shifters to replace them.
    – harryg
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


So, after studying the tech doc I took the plunge. It is actually not difficult and the only tools you need are some hex keys. I managed to successfully remove the lever assembly from the shifter for cleaning. Just don't try to disassemble any further than the doc instructs.

The bad news was that even after a thorough soaking in degreaser (which turned black from the grime) and relube, shifting performance has hardly improved, suggesting some mechanical issue. I think some new shifters are in order.

Reassembly for almost as easy, the only slightly tricky bit was getting the return spring in the right place without the official tool. A bit of poking with a pointy implement solved it though.

Conclusion: definitely a viable and effective way to clean shifters - if grease and grime buildup is the cause of stickiness.

  • Have you checked and replaced your cables and cable housing? Commented May 21, 2014 at 8:50
  • 1
    Yes, the cables are all only a few months old and I removed the them to detach the lever; so was testing the shifter without any cables in anyway.
    – harryg
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 10:45

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