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I have a bike with lever/downtube shifters. I hate them, feel like they don't stay in gear for more than 10 minutes at a time, and would prefer a bike that has preset gears. Is there a way to get the shifting mechanism on my bike replaced to something like a thumb shifter?

I'm not looking for opinions about the best kind of gears.

  • We need to know what brand.model of shifters and derailleurs you have in order to answer the question. If you don't know, please edit your question to include good quality pictures of the shifters and derailleurs (or a links to pictures uploaded somewhere on the web). – Argenti Apparatus May 16 '18 at 19:04
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    It sounds like you have friction shifters (the shifter moves continuously), and want indexing (the shifter has preset stops, corresponding to each gear). Some shifters have a little setting on the side which allows you to switch between friction and indexing. Also, there's normally a screw on friction shifters to adjust the amount of friction (increasing the friction will make it harder to slip). In order to see what you need to do to go index shifting, you need to know the # of gears in the back and the derailleur type in the back and type of handle bars (flat/drop/etc.). – Batman May 17 '18 at 2:50
  • How many gears do you have on the front and back ? – Criggie May 31 '18 at 10:31
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There is a nice instruction video from RJ The Bike Guy on youtube on how to convert from downtube shifters to brifters. Perhaps that can be some idea for you.


In case the video is taken down, I'm posting a written answer.
Yes, it is possible to convert from downtube shifters to brifters. Here's what you need:

  • brifters compatible with the cassette and front chainrings on crank you already have, or
  • brifters, cassette, front chainrings with crank, probably derailleurs in case your current are not compatible with new cassette and front chainrings
  • new brake cables with housing, new shifter cable housing (shifter cables are delivered with the brifters usually)
  • "downtube cable stops" (can be found in the internet) - the cable stops that allow the shifter cable to go pass the current shifter bosses to the steering bar and the brifters.

The procedure is pretty straightforward:

  • you remove the components you need to remove (at least the bar wrap, current brake handles, cables, downtube shifters),
  • install the new components,
  • install the cables,
  • adjust and finetune everything,
  • and enjoy your upgraded bike.

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