I found this old junkie bike and I want to use it. I don't have very much experience with bikes, and I noticed that that the speed shifters and the brake handles are one piece together. Is that normal? Do they normally come as one piece?

Because I was thinking of getting new brake handles but I don't want to change the shifters.

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That is pretty normal on entry-level mountain bikes. Shimano claims this is to not confuse beginners.

Torney, Altus, Acera and Alivio groupsets come this way, at least by default.

However, Acera and Alivio are getting better and better with the trickle-down tecknowogy.

See here, in the upper corner "Components".

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  • And they've convinced the roadies that integrating the shifter with the brakes is the only way to go. Not that I'm really opposed to the idea, but it does make it more expensive to replace components, and makes the components more complicated. – Kibbee Jun 9 '14 at 15:25
  • Access to gear and brake controls from the same hand position is a good idea, however for medium-to-high-end MTB, systems of mounting separate gear and brake controls using a single bar clamp are more popular; see Shimano iSpec and Matchmaker adapters. – Emyr Jun 9 '14 at 16:19

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