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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Getting ready to shop for a touring bike, and I see that a lot of good ones have bar-end shifters. I realize they are simpler, less likely to fail and easier to repair wherever you might be. I've never ridden with them (yet).

But I really like the integrated shifters on my sport road bike because they are *right there* quick when I have to make a last-second shifting/braking action, and I think this is a big safety advantage.

I don't expect to do any third-world touring, but some multi-day rides out in the US hinterlands, yes.

Experienced tourers, can you give me some feedback?

TIA.
 

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My winter commuter has bar ends, and motorists have provided me with several opportunities to do some last-minute shifing/braking. Hasn't been an issue to date (and my other bikes are STI).
 

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You've already mentioned some of the advantages. The biggest advantage, IMHO, is being to use friction shifting if the derailleur is bent or something else that prevents index shifting from working properly.

If you ride in the drops, the shifters are right by your hands. So no safety issues that I'm aware of. Us old folks survived using downtube shifters for many years.
 

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It's really your own preference

I ran 8spd barcons on my tourer/commuter for 12 years and only because I had a free set of Ultegra brifters and wanted/could move to 9 spd. made me change to STI brifters. I never had issues with needing to shift and brake in traffic and that's while commuting in Brooklyn, NY

Bar-Cons are more reliable, so if you are doing long term self-supported tours and don't have the time to change cables if/when they get gummed up, having the ability to go to friction can be an advantage. Likewise if the R derailer gets knocked. Another advantage is if you are changing to a custom F crank with a chairing set based on other-then-stock, 'cause stock sometimes doesn't offer the gearing, then using Bar-Con friction front shifting allows the whole system to work, as opposed to trying to get Shimano STI indexed front shifting to work, which can be a PITA with custom cranks and ring setups.

That said, it was the great Sheldon Brown who weighed in on the subject about 10 years ago, in favor of Shimano brifters, stating that they rarely (in his experience) get knocked about so bad they fail to function and that he saw no real reason not to use them on touring bikes. They are, however, a bit more problematic to get working with V brakes, requiring a Travel Adapter or some such, where as it's cheaper to go the Bar-Con route and use DiaCompe 287 V brake levers.

SB
 

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With the bar-end shifters you can quickly down shift 5 or 6 gears in one move with a single rotation of the crank-set; not as easy on the flight deck controls.
 

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FWIW, I use both, and have had bar-end shifters for 30+ years and STI since it became available. Both work fine. STI is more convenient in city traffic, and when riding offroad, but bar-ends are lighter, simpler and cheaper, and *much* less likely to cause problems with triple chainring drivetrains than STI. (Campag Ergopower levers are also less problematic here as they are not indexed.) I've never broken or worn out an STI lever despite a few high speed crashes, but have managed to snap one Suntour Barcon a long time ago.

I'd get whatever you are more comfortable with and not worry too much about breakage. I've never had to switch an indexed rear shifter to friction mode, despite having them since ~1985. OTOH, I really dislike indexed front shifting with triple chainrings as adjustment is tedious, and the ability to mix and match parts (i.e, non-huge chainrings plus MTB front derailleurs to suit) with the road levers isn't all that great. YMMV.
 

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Something to consider: If you ride in the colder weather and wear lobster mittens or mittens altogether, you will find brifters very clumsy. I have added downtube shifters to my commuter this year. Brakes are there where you need em and shifting is simple.
 

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I have brifters on my road and cross bikes, and bar ends on my touring bike. I like each for their respective purpose. The durability and flexibility of bar ends is what sold me on them for touring. I probably got totally used to them after 200-300 miles of riding and now don't even really think about the fact they are there.
 

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I tend to shift my bar-ends by squeezing them between the heel of my hand and bar ends. This keeps my hands firmly on the bars at all times, and the brake levers are a short reach away.

With downtube shifters you have to remove your hand completely from the bars. Arguably a safety issue, if you want to get really picky.
 

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My commuter has STI and I find the integrated shifter allows me to down shift quickly while on the drops or on the hoods. All this when i am braking going round curves/corners or slowing down at traffic light which i know will turn green. this negates me from having to remove my hand off the hoods or drops.
I think it is not so much of an issue for FDs but really come into play with RD and its many cogs. YMMV.
 

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safety?

My belief is that if you can't shift without crashing, you don't belong on a bike. I've used downtube shifters for a long time, and it's never been an issue. Touring, I can't imagine a situation where you'd have to make an emergency shift, so worst case, just don't shift. So, for me, I would not even use bar end shifters. I'd simplify and just go downtube.
 

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I recently picked up a Lemond Poprad for wet commuting duties and spare my CF road bike for nicer weather.

At first, I was a little dissappointed that the seller had done away with the STI levers in favor of a frame mounted shifter. But we worked out moving the shifter levers to bar end position and I am quite happy with the setup.

I never did like Shimano's using the brake lever compared to SRAM's doubletaps. But i guess it's all preference.

Anyway. I'm finding I like the simplicity of the bar end. I hold the end of the bar with my thumb and a couple fingers and use the end of my palm to wiggle the shft lever to whatever gear I need. Quite simple and quick actually.
 

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I've used bar ends, but not recently. I vastly prefer brifters & wouldn't go back to bar cons or downtube shifters if I didn't have to.
 

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Lots of people race cx with integrated shifters and they seem to work. I've banged around many bikes touring, in the woods, in cars, etc and they still work.

I think the bar-cons are just a touring / retro / de riguer style thing. Kinda like Coleman green paint.

But if you like 'em, use 'em.
 

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I have STI shifters on 2 road bikes, bar-ends on my commuter-touring bike, and downtube shifters on my classic bike. I like the bar-ends and they really aren't that much more trouble than STI shifters, particularly for commuting or touring. They are also a lot less expensive. The only downside to bar-end shifters, in my view, is that you can't use a bar-end mirror, which I like for safety reasons. However, if my STIs quit working I will probably replace them with bar-ends because they are so much cheaper.
 

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If I could find a way I would put MTB grip shifters on my road bars--one either side of the stem.
That would rock.
 

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Creakyknees said:
Lots of people race cx with integrated shifters and they seem to work. I've banged around many bikes touring, in the woods, in cars, etc and they still work.

I think the bar-cons are just a touring / retro / de riguer style thing. Kinda like Coleman green paint.

But if you like 'em, use 'em.
STI/Ergo shifters are very reliable and if they break when you're racing cross, the only consequence is probably not finishing.

If your STI/Ergo failed to shift or problems with your derailleur for index shifting when touring, you could be miles from any bike shop. Bar end shifters have a friction option, so you can continue to shift. It would be pretty bad to be stuck in one gear with a loaded touring bike.

For adventure tourers, you can easily carry a spare one in your pack, along with derailleur holder, and extra cable as part of your emergency kit. Carrying STI shifters adds alot of weight and bulk.
 

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I don't think the V-brake concern is much of an issue - I use short pull cantilever brakes on my tourer. There are a lot of options out there.
 

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Another advantage of bar end shifters on a commuting/touring bike is that they allow for a handlebar bag/basket. Not so easy with brifters.
 
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