I've just bought an early 80s steel framed bike with unindexed stem mounted shifters. As I plan to use the bike for commuting, I'd like to change the rear mech to use trigger shifters.

I'm not so bothered about converting the front mech at the moment, although I assume it's a similar (if not easier?) process.

The rear dérailleur is a Shimano Tourney (couldn't see a date - it's not new though) and there are 5x2 gears. The gear spacing is definitely less than 10mm although I've only tried to measure it with a ruler.

I've read lots of guides about doing this conversion, but I'm a little confused about what I actually need to do in my case.

I think the rear dérailleur is fine and doesn't need replacing. And I think that all I need is some trigger shifters, but I'm worried about the indexing and spacing. I've read that faster triggers are less likely to suit the spacing, but I don't know why?

Am I on the right lines? Thanks!

  • At the very least you need a new rear sprocket cluster. The secret to indexed shifting is the profile of the sprockets, with "ramps" on the sides of them to lift the chain up to the next larger cog. The pins of the chain engage in these ramps, and that's what makes the magic. And, of course, the spacing of the cogs, the geometry of the derailer, and the design of the shifter must all match so that a click on the shifter moves the chain exactly one cog's distance. Jun 3, 2015 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


Stick with the friction shifters. Changing a non indexed bike to index is expensive and unnecessary.

You will need a new dérailleur to index correctly along with a rear wheel that can mount a cassette (assuming your running a freewheel). You will also need new shifters which if your running a road bike are very expensive.

If you must have index shifting I would recommend a late 90's bike with index shifting already installed. They are generally very cheap second hand and don't require a complete overhaul.

I have an old 80s Apollo road bike that I use for wet weather commuting. I was thinking of doing the same thing and upgrading to indexed shifting. I installed new wheels (Mavic Aksiums) and added a seven speed cassette to the rear hub. I stopped there because the bike ran brilliantly. The new wheels are much lighter than vintage wheels and the hubs are much smoother. A worth while upgrade.

You will get used to using friction shifters very quickly. I actually quite like them now even for commuting.

  • +1 Yes, friction shifters are the best. You'll get used to them, and you'll never have to deal with the chain clicking
    – BSO rider
    Jun 3, 2015 at 23:25

For some people who want to spend the money and time customizing a sweet vintage ride, I'd say go for it!

It's certainly a fun experience. You don't need a new wheel or hub if you're running freewheel. Index shifting works fine with freewheel.

What I did with my 6spd was keep the friction shifters for the front and install a SRAM x9 trigger shifter next to the stem. Worked a treat. Now I don't have to worry about the chain falling off, not having the precise shifting, and not having to plan ahead and yank down on that stupid knob which always seems to get knocked out of gear.

$50 total, got new cables and housing and re-packed the hub bearings so she runs smooth.

  • Welcome to Bicycles @bikerboi. Please do read the help center to see how this site works, since it's different to typical discussion forum. I've edited your post to make it fit our rules better. Looking forward to seeing more from you!
    – andy256
    Jun 3, 2016 at 1:57

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