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I've got a few friction shifters knocking around but all seem so rough as to be impossible to use on a bike. Are they meant to be like that or can a service be done on them to get good use out of them?

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    Friction shifters are required to have some level of resistance, else they'll be pulled back by the deraileur mech's springs. Too much on the other hand is definitely bad. Can you post photos? Are they cheap nasty ones or quality ones? – Criggie Jun 15 '16 at 22:13
  • Are you sure they're purely friction shifters and not friction+index? Friction shifters are relatively straightforward devices. – Batman Jun 15 '16 at 23:21
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    My bike has friction shifters. I've noticed that twisting the lever while holding them is not an accurate measure of their tightness. A shifter can seem very tight but be just right once it's mounted on the bar – BSO rider Jun 15 '16 at 23:44
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    The most common problem, by far, is that the cable gets rusty and stops sliding freely. Sometimes simply lubricating it well is sufficient to fix this, but often the cable must be replaced. Beyond that, the shifter itself has some built-in friction (which is why it's called a "friction shifter"). This friction is generally adjustable and some degree of it is necessary for the shifter to hold it's position. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 16 '16 at 11:42
  • I'd agree with Daniel. The best mechanic I ever knew suggested 90% of all shifting problems were fixed by replacing the cables and housing. I'd start there. – Deleted User Aug 15 '16 at 5:14
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Based on my personal experience with friction shifters, they are relatively easy to keep serviceable. Mine have adjustments to add or reduce friction which I generally leave set to a generally usable amount of friction between maintenance cycles. The level of friction should hold them in place, but it shouldn't be a workout to shift gears. Maintenance for me mostly consists of replacing cables and the tubes which the shift cables travel through, along with some cleaning.

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  • Welcome to Bicycles @WilBur. As with all new members, we recommend taking the tour to get best use out of the site. Good start ... – andy256 Sep 12 '16 at 4:14
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They can be serviced, but various techniques were used to get them to work. After you clean the parts and lubricate only where appropriate, you have to be very careful to put them back together exactly the way they were built. Which shifters do you have - can you furnish a picture?

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    Friction shifters must not be lubricated to retain enough friction. Thorough cleaning is quite sufficient. – Carel Jun 17 '16 at 17:19

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