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My bicycle has clamped downtube shifters that I would like to replace with stem shifters. Is it as straightforward as replacing the downtube shifters with cable stops, then running cable to the stem shifters?

The bottom cable stops in the frame of my bike are on opposite sides. But I've only seen double cable stops like this one where the stops are closer together. Can the cables partially "wrap" around the tube? Are there double cable stops with the stops on opposite sides? Or should I use two single stops on opposite sides? Or should I use a double cable stop at the bottom too instead of the frame stops?

Any advice would be great. Thanks!

  • WHY would you want to do this? I've had both, and downtube shifters are vastly superior. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 23 '19 at 21:09
  • Aside - If your bike has brazed-on downtube bosses, avoid cutting them off. That makes it very hard to revert in the future. – Criggie Dec 23 '19 at 22:34
  • @DanielRHicks I usually ride more upright holding the top bar so it's somewhat inconvenient to bend down and reach for the downtube. – sfmiller940 Dec 26 '19 at 17:47
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You'll need longer cables in order to bridge the distance between where your original downtube shifters were and the stem (where the new shifters will be mounted). And you'll need to install a shifter cable housing going from your new cable stops (on the downtube where the original downtube shifters were located) to the new shifters on the stem.

If you plan on using shifters on the stem without an integrated cable stop you will have to add one just before the shifter(s) on the stem. Most likely your stem mounted shifters will have integrated cable stops though (such as can be seen in the following image) enter image description here

Make sure to cut the cable housing to the appropriate length, make sure the liner is not folded over on itself before inserting the shifter cable. Use housing end caps on the cable housing if your cable stops allow for it (if there is enough room for the cable end caps). End caps: enter image description here

It's alright if the shifter cables running from your bottom bracket towards the top of the down tube "'wrap' around the tube a bit" as long as they are not rubbing against the frame or if they are only slightly rubbing against the frame it shouldn't cause issues (it will be even less of a problem on non-indexed friction type shifters). If you find that your cables are rubbing too much on the frame/are not running smoothly because of it your suggestion of using a second cable stop on the bottom of the downtube might not be so bad. Do keep in mind that after the first cable stop your cable is already sheeted by cable housing so in this scenario I would suggest using only 1 cable stop (near the BB on the downtube) and letting the shifter cable+housing combo run all the way to your stem mounted shifters. This will most likely save you money on parts (less cable stops and brake cable housing is not that expensive especially when bought in bulk (10+m)). also this approach eliminates the posibility of the shifter cables rubbing against the downtube.

To neatly manage the cable housing in said situation I suggest using a cable clamp such as this one (dura-ace):enter image description here

Mounted on a bike it looks like this: enter image description here

There are also downtube mounted cable stops (clamp style) available where the two cables stops are further apart, which may match your current bike frame's cable stop spacing better. Here is an example: enter image description here

They appear to be less common though so you might have a hard time getting your hands on one.

Perhaps you could use 'braze on downtube cable stops' . If the bolts used in your current clamp on down-tube shifters (to keep the shifter handles bolted onto the 'clamp body' have the same dimensions (same thread/diameter) as the bolts used to bolt on downtube shifters to a bicycle frame with braze-on downtube shifter mounts you might be able to install these 'braze on downtube cable stops' on your original clamp on shifters to create the needed cable stop.

What braze-on downtube shifter mounts look like:

enter image description here

What braze-on downtube cable stops look like:

enter image description here

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    Bravo on this answer! I'd just like to add a till ghetto tips for people who can't get the required fittings. You could run a full outer cable from the shifter to the mech and simply tape it using insulation tap to the frame at various intervals all the was along the frame. Beauty of this is that you can ride the bike whilst waiting for the nicer clamps to arrive. – abdnChap Dec 24 '19 at 14:48
  • Also to be careful with clamp on cable stops, if you buy an inadequate one or don't install it correctly, it can start moving due to the cable tension and mess up gear indexing. – abdnChap Dec 24 '19 at 14:51
  • @abdnChap could you please elaborate on what you mean by 'inadequate' clamp on cable stops? What about these cable stop causes the cable to 'start moving due to cable tension)? Thank you – Maarten -Monica for president Dec 25 '19 at 0:36
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    I've bought some cheaper ones made of soft metal and another time the sizes weren't quite right so they didn't clamp properly. Expecially on the chain stay. I found that that the clamps didn't hold onto the frame well enough, so when I put tension on the cable by changing gears, the outer cable moved and the inner cable pull was affected – abdnChap Dec 25 '19 at 19:29
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For the rear derailleur, you may be able to run a full length of housing all the way, regardless of if the cable is routed on top of or on bottom of the bottom bracket. That would be the least expensive solution, and is up to you.

For the front derailleur, you will probably need a cable stop somewhere. The item you linked has some additional options, importantly an option for a single stop.

The black comes in pairs or singles, the silver comes in singles only. You could definitely stack two of these singles and rotate them to get proper alignment of both cables if you don't run a full length of housing like mentioned above. The double one you linked would MAYBE work if your cables get routed over the bottom bracket (time period of downtube shifters) if you put the two stops on the top, and down low more toward the bottom bracket as long as aren't binding the cables much. If installed up higher and on the bottom they would probably "wrap" as you suspected back to the top, likely rubbing the frame. If your cables go underneath the BB through a plastic corral (the age of modern shifters), that positioning would be ideal.

Add in a pair of inline barrel adjusters between any shifter and housing stop to allow for easy adjustment.

In addition, I would recommend skipping the stem shifters altogether. Go for some "brifters" or brake levers with intergrated shift levers. Microshift makes some decent aftermarket sets if you want new ones, or again check a LBS or facebook swap group. On an older bike they would need to be (2,3)x(5,6,7) or (2,3)x(8,9,10) depending on your drivetrain. If the rear gears are a freewheel, you could easily upgrade to a 7 speed in the back. Anything with a cassette is probably 8 speed or higher already, and probably irrelevant as far as having downtube shifters anyway, but could be upgraded to 10 speed cassette if you're buying new brifters. This would add the cost of a new driver and chain on top of the new shifters. If you want to go up from 7 or less gears (freewheel) you will need to purchase a new cassette based wheel as well. This might be the best upgrade path if your current rear wheel is less than ideal: bent, missing spokes, etc., or you're a clydesdale rider, or you plan on doing any loaded touring in the future and require a wheel with more spokes.

These costs would add up of course. It would be up to you to determine the sentimental and actual value of the bike and whether $200+ in upgrades would be worth it. If you can avoid paying full retail it's probably a worthwhile upgrade. Otherwise keep your money in your pocket and throw on those stem shifters!!

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    Good points - OP has said they ride on the tops a lot, perhaps flat bars would be another option to consider. – Criggie Mar 7 at 1:54

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