Saturday, September 21, 2013
Gear talk: Shifty shifters
For cycling nerds like me with deep experience using Dura Ace bar end shifters, the sorry tale of Shimano's poor quality control is well known. Once the gold standard in shifters, the bar ends got worse and worse. For over a decade, I used the old thumbies on an mtb and never had a single problem. When Jodi and I had our Greenspeed recumbent tandem, we went for thousands without a problem. On my old HPVelotechnik Street Machine, I put in 10,000 trouble-free shifting miles. In the years since every set of these shifters has failed to one degree or another. Mostly it's a slight and then increasing sloppiness that makes precise shifts impossible. You can feel the indexing go, the sharp notches blurred. The issue is a flimsy plastic ring with holes in it. It wears and cracks pretty quickly. One of the nice features of Shimano's bar ends is that they can be converted to friction with the spin of the wire ring featured above. The bad news is that I've been given no choice in the matter. To cope I've simply adapted to friction shifting. For the most part, this has been fine, but when cranking the Catrike Expedition down the road, I really prefer indexed shifting because of the radical maneuvers I have to make working with the Schlumpf internal bottom bracket gearing. That unit takes a 2.5 to 1 jump, so to make my gearing transition smooth, I have to pop up or down two to three gears in the back. Making this move precisely every time without indexing is pretty challenging.
Enter Microshift! The black unit on the right is one half of a new set of Microshift bar end shifters I recently acquired. They are Shimano 9 spd compatible and don't have a friction option. The rubber cover on the lever has a slight ergonomic flare that I prefer over the Shimano. So far, I have a couple of rides on my Catrike with the rear shifter. I'll get to the front one soon, but always being friction and only dealing with three gears, that's never been a problem. The Microshift has performed well, although I may need to adjust the derailleur a little still. The shifts are sharp and pleasant. Occasionally, I've had to do a tiny "trim" on some shifts to clear a slight noise, but this could be due to improper adjustment. Overall, I'd say I'm happy with the results. Finish and materials are very bit as nice as the Shimano stuff. After I've logged some bigger miles, I'll post a follow up. The best news? They run about $70 vs. the $129 $himano is now asking. And I believe Shimano has dropped the friction option. So if you need to replace, or you're putting together a grouppo for your next steed, check out these units. I think you'll like them.