I'm interested in trying friction shifters, also to save space on my cockpit. I bought a Mongoose Hilltopper 1994 recently and I want to play with it a little.

A bike mechanic told me in order to shift to the large chainring I need to keep pressed the shifting button until the front derailleur manages to jump on the bigger chainring. I always try this and it rarely manages to shift into the bigger chainring. Perhaps my front derailleur needs proper adjustment (which was made by the bike mechanic so IDK what's wrong).

So my final question is, would a friction mechanism be compatible with the "Hold the trigger pressed until the gear changes mechanic" the front gears have?

  • 1
    Are you aware that friction shifters are just levers? Turn them, derailleur moves, and you stop turning them. – Criggie Mar 22 '20 at 21:03

The beauty with friction shift levers is they're compatible with almost every derailleur.

The greatest challenge is to get the rear shifting dialed in with the closely spaced rear cassette cogs on 10, 11 and 12 speed setups. But your Hilltopper was probably sold with 7 or 8 speeds in the back which will work perfectly for friction shifters. If one over or under shifts a bit the chain will be noisy, so be prepared to have to make minor adjustments to quiet any noise. That's just how thing work with friction shifters, but again with a 7 or 8 speed system this shouldn't be a problem.

Oh and yes, with many (most?) friction front shifters one must push and hold the shift lever until the chain actually engages with the chainring teeth. As soon as the chain engages it will begin to climb onto the big ring and the shift is essentially done.

That said, it sounds like the FD HIGH travel limit screw needs to be unscrewed (counter clockwise) a bit to all the FD to push the chain up onto the big chainring. I would suggest a half turn. Check to see if this helps and incrementally unscrew the limit a 1/4 turn until the FD shifts quickly.

If you find the FD overshifts (i.e. drops the chain onto the crankarm) simply reduce the FD limit by turning the limit screw 1/4 turn clockwise.

A couple other things to check:

  1. Make sure the cage of the FD needs to be parallel to the chainring. To improve shifting to the larger chainring one can slightly angle the cage outward (i.e. the rear of the FD cage is pointed out very slightly). This however will reduce the shifting performance to smaller chainrings. If you do this just make certain the crank arm does NOT contact the FD cage.

  2. Ensure there is at about 1 mm and definitely not more than 3mm clearance between the bottom of the FD cage and the top of the chainring teeth. Too much clearance and the chain & FD can flex which will slow shifting.

That vintage Hilltopper is a great bike. Enjoy!

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