I have an old road bike with 3x7 speed and STI levers. I need to downgrade it because I can't reach the levers due to my small hands.

What downtube shifters can I buy to that will work with my Shimano derailleurs? I'm on a low budget.

Are downtube shifters designed to be indexed only on the rear derailleur? My LBS has a pair of 3x7 downtube shifters and only the rear is indexed.

  • One option is to move the shifters up onto the handebar stem -- "stem shifters" were the norm before downtube shifters became popular. If you can find an appropriate bracket (perhaps used, from a neighborhood bike shop) then likely the existing shifters can be used (but you'd need longer cables, of course). Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 13:06
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    Ya I know but I prefer the downtube option. Simply I'm not understanding if it's normal that a 3x7 speed have the indexing system only on the rear and not on the front. I'd like to find a 3x7 all indexed but it's an hard search. Recently i found SHIMANO Tiagra SL-R400, but are for 8 speed and I don't know if they works also for 7 speed.
    – Moretti66
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 13:58
  • Presumably you have brake/shift units with the shift levers just behind the brake levers. If you cannot reach the shift levers how are you reaching the brakes? What lever units do you have? Some have reach adjustment. Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 14:29
  • I have a pair of shimano rsx STI shifters 3x7 mounted in a 38cm compact handlebar. Its reach is 75 mm and I've a 60mm stem. I will try to move them in order to find a good comfort, but I'm considering to mount crosstop levers and downtube shifters. I already tried shims and they don't work for my hands.
    – Moretti66
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 14:35
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    In my experience, simple lever-type shifters tend not to be indexed on the "front" shifter because you usually need to trim the front derailleur for different chainlines - you have to move the front derailleur a little bit depending on which rear cog the chain is on in order to prevent the chain from rubbing on the front derailleur. Heck, I never liked indexed downtube shifters anyway, as non-indexed lever shifters are a lot easier to adjust - as in "never needed" - at least as long as the lever can move the derailleur over the entire required range, anyway. Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


7 and 8 speed cassettes have the same spacing, so you can use either in your situation.

As for indexing on the rear, usually there is no indexing, though I've seen 'semi-indexing', where they do have an index mechanism, but it still requires several clicks to switch chainrings.

Additionally, you sometimes need to adjust a little bit based on what gear you have selected in the rear. Spacing between chainrings can vary somewhat on different cranksets, it's not as rigidly specified as it is for the rear.

The 3x7 shifters your LBS should work just fine.

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