Opinions on Downtube/Friction shifters


Comrade Member
Limoges or York
Used to use DT shifters, non-indexed.

It was a huge improvement over having to get off and flip the back wheel!

But seriously once you are accustomed to them they are fine. Surprisingly it is possibly to move a good lever precisely the right amount for the shift which is very satisfying. When I modernised to a 9-speed block though, the STI levers came too.

I'd happily ride a bike with them again although for competitive riding I am sure they put you at a disadvantage over STI.


Chandler's Ford
I always had in mind, when I converted my current bike from DT to STI, that I could carry a pair of DT levers as spares on long tours in case of STI malfunction, they weigh very little.

I won't have the same option on N+1... because it will have the cable guides on the headtube in the modern fashion rather than the bosses on the downtube... although the thought did occur that it might be possible in extremis to mount a band-on friction shifter on the spacers below the stem, or on the stem itself.


Legendary Member
Frcition DT shifters on both my geared road bikes (Puegeot and Aerospace). I don't see any problems with them in normal riding. You quickly get the hang of it (I was coming from an indexed MTB) and they will work with anything and are childs play to set up. Sure it can be inconvenient to reach down to change gear at times but you learn to ride to anticipate the need for a gear change and there is a certain pleasure in doing "clean" gear changes by skill.

Having said that, I prefer my bikes to have no gears at all which is even simpler :whistle:


The older I get, the faster I used to be ...
DT levers on the winter bike, Ergo on the summer. Only problem I have is reaching for the down tube levers when riding the summer bike, after riding the other one, and vice versa ......
New bikes offered for sale with friction shifters are generally going to be at the lower end of the price range, with componentry to match. Avoid if possible. Older bikes are a different matter - my winter bike is 1992 vintage. There was a recent thread about when combined brake/gear shifters were introduced.


A Velocipedian
Friction shifters move the mech until it finds a gear or until you stop pushing / pulling ( a little slower then indexed system but great if your cable has stretched. An indexed system moves a given amount with one push. If indexing is out this means the chain can end up 1/in the wrong gear or 2/ between gears.

help me whats the difference?

Mad at urage

New Member
Early indexed levers used to be able to switch to friction (is this option still available now?): This was very useful for commuting as it gave a fallback option if things stop working on a mucky winter's evening!

david k

North West
Friction shifters move the mech until it finds a gear or until you stop pushing / pulling ( a little slower then indexed system but great if your cable has stretched. An indexed system moves a given amount with one push. If indexing is out this means the chain can end up 1/in the wrong gear or 2/ between gears.
thanks, i guessed that was it but wasnt sure, thanks again
I prefer friction shifters. My Dawes' bar end shifters are switchable and whenever I replace the cables I set up the indexing. Then, when it goes out or I get fed up with the "drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ... " noise from the chain, I switch it over to friction and there it stays until I next replace the cables.


I have these bar-end shifters on my commuter - http://www.sjscycles...trol-prod21014/ . The bike started off with Campag 8-speed ergo levers, but it was getting harder to get replacement cogs and the original wheels were due for replacement as well. I started by replacing the shifters and used the Shimano wheels with an 8-speed cassette from my previous commuter that I was 'retiring' - it had Sora shifters which were also not worth re-using. The next cassette that went on was 9-speed shimano, and the bike now has a 10-speed Campag cassette on new wheels, since they are compatible and switchable with the wheels on my 'good' bike.

It took no time at all to get used to friction shifters again and the flexibility it gives you in terms of wheel/cassette combination and a quick swap is great for a daily commuter.


Somerset UK
Like everyone else I used to ride with DT friction shifters. Didn't take long on any bike learning to be able to select a gear directly more accurately than indexed systems do.

A fraction of a second more anticipation of gear changes was needed. Never a chain noise from the indexing not being quite right. The only setting up for gears was the end stops. I've tried bar-end friction shifters but don't like them quite as much as the DT ones, no problems though using them with a Shimano 8 speed mech. If the STIs break I'll probably change to bar end friction as replacement STIs are ridiculously expensive and the bar end ones are in a drawer ready to go on.

I have STIs on one bike and quick-fire on the other, but would be perfectly happy to change back to friction any time.


Legendary Member
I've only ever used DT shifters - they work fine for me, but then they're what I grew up with. I've only once in 40+ years' cycling regretted it - going head to head with another feller along Upper Street, and he pipped me due to that fractional delay in shifting thru' having to move hand from bars to shifter and back (he had STIs). Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it...


Ride It Like You Stole It!
South Manchester
I find my indexed shifters much quicker when changing chain rings and rear sprockets at the same time - I can do both at the same time with one hand.

One thing it does make you do is think about that hill you are just about to hit. Been with far too many folk that don't know when to change, and are faffing and clanking about with their STI/ERGO just because you can be a bit lazy changing - crunch clatter clatter, when I've already gone click click.

Got STI on the MTB and love it though - that's been working perfectly for over 15 years, so panic about longevity isn't a problem.


Active Member
i grew up with dt levers and 5 or 6 blocks so i don't have a problem with them.i was just given a 7 speed dawes galaxy, it had bar end controls on which i don't like so it got 7 speed dt levers. this allowed me to put lo pro bars on which i prefer to drops. it made a refreshing change to ride. the 10 speed ergos would be on e bay if campag made 10 speed dt levers.:biggrin:
Can't you put bar ends on lo-pro bars? That's one of the big reasons they're still made - used on TT bikes sticking out the front, though that is on the tri bars.
Top Bottom