Why bar end shifters ?

We seem to be going round in circles here.

Can we agree that high-end "brifters" (hate that term) are pretty reliable, except when they break, but that for ultimate simplicity and reliability, bar-ends or downtube shifters win the day and the best compromise between reliability and ease-of-use are bar-ends?

Having used all three, and using both integrated and bar-ends today, I'd choose the latter for a long ... and especially a remote tour.
randochap said:
We seem to be going round in circles here.

Can we agree that high-end "brifters" (hate that term) are pretty reliable, except when they break, but that for ultimate simplicity and reliability, bar-ends or downtube shifters win the day and the best compromise between reliability and ease-of-use are bar-ends?

Having used all three, and using both integrated and bar-ends today, I'd choose the latter for a long ... and especially a remote tour.

NO I don't agree.
Just changed from drops with brifters to bar ends on a bull horn bar. Three hand positions, shift with both hands on the bar. Great for my smell the roses style of touring.
BikeyGuy said:
I've been a road bike rider for 25+ years.
I'm looking to get into long distance touring. Panniers...etc.
I never understood why tour bike riders prefer bar end shifters.
What's the deal?


I can understand why drop bar users may prefer brifters as their placement is more convenient. For racing dudes, I guess the shift is quicker.

I tour, relatively upright. Recent switched from drop bar with brifters to bull horn with bar ends. Wish I'd done it long ago. Love the simplicity, reliability, and control you have with bar ends. With the bull horns, they are at my finger tips. Hooray for bar ends.:D
Recently switched from brifters to bar ends mounted on the ends of bullhorns. Finger tip access. I love the positive control I have over derailleur placement as well as their rep for reliability. As I use the bike for touring, and ride relatively upright, the bullhorns work just fine for me.
I run bar ends on all of my bikes for the following reasons:

Very little maintenance
Clean look
Option to switch to friction mode

Actually, I run friction mode pretty much all the time any more. But if you are indexed, and some adjustment gets out of wack, you can just dial to friction on the fly and tweak your shifting to be clean and smooth. That just cannot be done with twisties or triggers.
pcrx said:
I run bar ends on all of my bikes for the following reasons:

Very little maintenance
Clean look
Option to switch to friction mode

All excellent reasons -- the one's realized by most fans. Actually, I've been re-aquainting myself with my first bike to sport (friction) bar-ends recently. What an old beauty!
I have them on my bike but that is only because my bike has V Brakes and so I had to buy DiaCompe brake levers. I have Dura Ace ten speeds, they do work very well, the advantage for touring though is that there is nothing to really go wrong with them, you can even turn the indexing off on the rear shifter so that they are both just friction shifters.
[SIZE=10.0pt]i think the argument about reliability is bogus, decent quality STI generally won't have problems unless you crash. it's just an incredibly rare failure, and clichéd that they are not as reliable, even though technically there is truth to it.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt]the main reason i would prefer bar ends is the feel is nicer than the STI shifters. for touring usually they are setup so the front lever is friction and the rear is indexed. this makes sense because on a touring triple you will have to mess with front chain wheel trim more than a road bike. trimming is harder with STI shifters, so the bar end friction style is less fussy. also you can get a rough idea what gear you are in by the pos of the bar ends, not so with STI (except the newer ones with indicators). So, no need to look back and take your eyes off the road to see what gear you are in. Another advantage for me is that when the shifters move to the bar ends, the brake levers now become simpler. they brake - no dual function. so i get some peace of mind knowing they do one thing and they do it well.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt]regarding Campagnolo-- that stuff is generally for roadies. but maybe they make a good ergo lever for a triple, i have no idea.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=10.0pt]For me, either one would be great for a drop bar touring bike. I would prefer bar ends for the reasons mentioned above.[/SIZE]
There is touring and there is touring.

When I was younger I rode 800+ miles from my house to my mother-in-law's every summer. Racing bike with down tube shifters. Clothes, sleeping bag, and tent - tied to a rack over my rear wheel.

I never had any issues with down tube friction shifters. On the other hand I now have brifters and they seem to do the job well.


Use what you have on your bike. When something breaks, replace it with something more durable.
There is an interesting exchange betweem Michael Barry Touring bike maven, and Grant Petersen of Rivendell, about STI. In short Barry thinks it is better, and more reliable, until it blows, for fairly civilized touring such as most of us do.


A lot of the appeal of bar ends is just that they are retro like so much touring styling in the US. That said, they have their advantages. In addition to excellent reasons given in the thread so far. Bar ends are a lot cheaper. On the last package bike I bought in '05, I was able to substitute bar ends for the STI in the package, provide my own brakes, and get a nice Brooks thrown into the bargain. I think that while STI is better in some regards it is also expensive. There are people out there looking for 400 dollar bikes, and 1K seems to be the most many want to spend. STI just doesn't come that cheap, and when you move to people spending big bucks, they often have some heavy duty use in mind, or want Rohloff.

Also Barry, who mentions effortless shifting with STI, is an elite cyclist, and his son a tour de france pro. I on the other hand find myself on tour shifting a lot less than in the city. I like to shift all the time as the pace changes in the city, but out touring I just don't seem to have that need. I would not have felt the need for STI from a touring perspective.
3 reasons:
1 on newer bikes the brakes and shifters are integrated resulting in a very wide control to grip, not good for the hands, especially for older hands.

2 The shifters are still close to the handlebar so there is no need to look down as compared with the legacy position on the bike tube.

3 is already mentioned - it allows friction - very important on a triple crank when choosing an unusual gear combination and there is unnecessary friction. Friction is good for the triple. It is what we all used.(over 50) group.
I have an Ultegra triple up front with brifters, and I must say that there is no gear combination it won't handle. I could use my 30x11 combo if I wanted to--the front derailleur would handle it just fine. But I wouldn't do that because there are other combos in my setup at near that ratio (39x14 or 52x19, and inner front to outer rear is bad for your chain no matter what derailleurs or shifters you're using. The Ultegra brifter also has an adjustment for the FD that allows you to easily adjust it one way or the other to keep the cage from rubbing the chain--essentially a half-index.
Originally Posted by cyclemanx .

It seems that bar-end shifters are traditionally the way to go, because of simplicity.
Personally, I think it's a very strange place to put a lever, but where else can you put it?
There are adapters called thumb shifter mounts that allow one to mount down tube shifters up nearer to the brake hoods. http://store.velo-orange.com/index.php/components/shifting-freewheels-cassettes/shifters/vo-thumb-shifter-mounts-22-2-23-8.html

It seems there are a lot of ways to go with shifter types and placements. And obviously each has its proponents. I generally prefer brifters and drop bars although being old, I have used downtube, stem, flat bar MTF, and bar end shifters at one time or another.

I recently got a ten year old Rockhopper mountain bike that I'm planning to use for mountain biking and on a 200 mile ride over a rutted dirt paved trail because of the softer ride. It has inexpensive 9 speed Deore trigger shifters that seem to work almost as easily as my Ultegra brifters. I'm not so comfortable on flat bars and replaced that with a trekking bar and like the fact that I can stretch out on the front bar to get lower have a variety of hand positions. I have no idea if the Deore shifters are as reliable/durable as bar end shifters but they are pretty protected on a trekking bar and seem pretty simple. While I am not planning any long tours, I think a trekking bar with Deore (or better) MTB shifters and drivetrain might be my choice over drop bars and brifters if I were touring.
Originally Posted by longfemur .

The only real reason for touring bikes having bar end shifters on their drop bars is for control when riding a loaded bicycle, especially on descents. With bar end shifters, you don't have to take your hands off the handlebars much, and so you have less chance of losing control of a heavy bike. In control situation you would likely be riding in the drops anyway, and so bar ends are handy for that.

Now, that was before the integrated brake/shift levers. These make the above issue moot, because they are even better for maintaining control than bar end levers are. At this point, tourists who choose bar ends do so more because they are simpler than integrated levers. But the latter are pretty reliable nowadays, and many tourists ride with them. I guess it might depend on how far away from civilization you plan to ride.
The first paragraph is absolutely correct. The second paragraph sort of correct, it's more of a personal opinion just as my post is.

I have two touring bikes, one has bar ends and the other brifters, I will be changing the brifters to bar ends because with a heavy load I found I felt more secure with the bar ends, also there is the complication issue with brifters which translate into potential mechanical problems you don't want 250 miles from a LBS! There are tourist who ride with brifters just as I've done so it's a personal thing, but I prefer to eliminate as many potential headaches as I can and that's one area I can eliminate a potential, maybe remote, but still a possible headache. Bar ends have been extremely reliable just like down tube shifters and their very easy to repair just like down tube shifters; I have 25+ year old down tube shifters that never broke or wore out, and one of those has over 150,000 miles on it, try that with a brifter; in fact none of my 80's vintage bikes ever had a down tube shifter malfunction no matter the brand.

It's kind of like me carrying 6 fiber spokes (some tourers zip-tie steel spokes to a rear stay) with 48 spoke rear wheel and a 40 spoke front wheel (40 40 on another touring bike), the likely hood of a wheel spoke failing is next to none, but it's not impossible. I carry two pumps when I tour, a main frame pump and secondary mini pump, in the remote case the main pump fails. For me it's about removing potential headaches and thus the reason for the bar ends.

Overkill? Maybe. Over worrying about nothing? Maybe again. But better safe then sorry.

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