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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My son thinks he is interested in trying bicycling as a new sport. I have an older (1980's) Bianchi (cro-moly) bike with downtube shifters. Since I would like him to experience index shifting, can a bike like this be practically converted to index shifting. This is seen as temporary measure to see how he likes biking. If he really gets into it, then we will buy him a new bike after a few months. Is this practical or should we just forget the old Bianchi and buy him a new bike? I hate to buy him a new bike to have him lose interest after a few rides and, if he does get into it, he will want a better bike than we would buy him as a beginner. I would hate to have to buy 2 new bikes in only a few months. Suggestions?
 

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Other more knowledgeable people than I might respond, but index shifters, a new cassette, and front/rear derailleurs that all work together will cost at least $300-$400 plus installation (I am assuming you don't know how to do this yourself). For that price you can buy an old tiagra/105 equipped bike on Craigslist.

As much as I love index shifting, I still ride my old Cannondale with downtubes on occasion. Give him the Bianchi and see if he rides it. If he does, then get him different/newer. It is about two wheels, peddling fast, and the wind in your face, not the shifting mechanism.
 

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It is a good skill to master using friction shifting on the downtube. I ride a bike from the 80's equipped like this and really enjoy the bike, retro bikes look cool and have a great ride. Make it work right and if he likes riding and keeps at buy him a new modern bike, retro is cool.
 

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You're likely looking at a few hundred dollars invested at the minimum if you buy new parts. It's steel, which is good... you can stretch the frame to accomodate a 130mm hub but it's probably not worth the effort for a try-it-and-see scenario. If it were my bike, I'd grab a $200 wheel set, an eight speed cassette and chain on the cheap, and a set of Veloce shifters for about $100. I think that $300 minimum as an investment is about the best you can do to modernize and $400 is much more realistic. As others have said, better to just ride it as is or make a longer term commitment. On the plus side, that shouldn't be a difficult frame to resell (and break even after any investments).
 

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Just a reminder that index shifters have to match the number of cogs and chainrings and that different companies' equipment often isn't compatible.

An '80s bike (like my Univega) is likely 12-speed and it may be tough to find any indexed shifters that will work.

Yes, who made the components and did you plan to still use downtube shifters or go to STI levers?
 

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Yeah, are you meaning index shiftling like the current stuff of today integrated in the brakes or ye oldie index shifing on the downtube shifters?

Also why does it matter, had over the bike, show him how the downtube shifters work and tell him if he gets into it you'll look at either upgrading the parts or the whole bike in the future, if he doesn't then no money spent at all. There is nothing wrong with friction shifters, its just hardcore cool.
 

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Just a reminder that index shifters have to match the number of cogs and chainrings and that different companies' equipment often isn't compatible.
True, and the combo I suggested is definitely, um, mavericky... but, it works in this case. Good to put it out there, regardless.

It seems that most odd ball combinations are playing with fire (or is it playing with the OP's money?).

Most replys seem to forget there are DT shifters that are indexed. Heck, if he has Shimano it may just be a turn of a screw and you are indexed.
Didn't forget, just made the very safe assumption that a bicycle that old wouldn't work with any indexed systems due to cog-spacing and cable pull issues. I'm not the best bicycle historian, but the first indexed group was what, 7speed?
 

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the first indexed group was what, 7speed?
First index in modern times was Shimano's 5-speed "Positron." The indexing was built into the rear derailleur, which had no return spring and was actuated by two cables going to one lever. It never really worked as advertised. Shimano replaced it with the "SIS" 6-speed shift-lever index system which was a huge success for them.
 

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my first bike with indexed shifters was 105 6 speed. they were down tube. Putting a new cassette on may not be an option. 6 and 5 speed used freewheels. Remember when every shop had a board on the wall with individual cogs. Some 7 speeds had cassettes, but many, maybe most, had freewheels. My two campy bikes both used freewheels.
 

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First index in modern times was Shimano's 5-speed "Positron." The indexing was built into the rear derailleur, which had no return spring and was actuated by two cables going to one lever. It never really worked as advertised. Shimano replaced it with the "SIS" 6-speed shift-lever index system which was a huge success for them.
OK, so complete thread drift coming, but re:indexing in the derailleur: Always an idea with promise because it minimizes the problems of cable "stretch" and tension, but always had other complications (like double cable runs). Just thinking that SRAM's "doubletap" functional method could relatively easily be built into the RD - the cable would only need to indicate "short pull" for releasing a pawl and moving to a higher gear, or 'long pull' to draw up a notch. Cable adjustment would impact 'zero loss', but nothing more.

Probably no good reason to pursue it - except that maybe it leaves room in the hoods for a more respectable placement of hydro master cylinders. Or maybe that it makes hydro shift actuation viable... No idea why that would be beneficial, but would definitely be interesting.
 

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First index in modern times was Shimano's 5-speed "Positron." The indexing was built into the rear derailleur, which had no return spring and was actuated by two cables going to one lever. It never really worked as advertised. Shimano replaced it with the "SIS" 6-speed shift-lever index system which was a huge success for them.
Holy Cow! Thanks for the learn'n. :)

Probably no good reason to pursue it - except that maybe it leaves room in the hoods for a more respectable placement of hydro master cylinders. Or maybe that it makes hydro shift actuation viable... No idea why that would be beneficial, but would definitely be interesting.
Neat idea! I'm not sure if you could index a hydraulic system appropriately (fluid expansion/contraction due to temperature change would make it really difficult, you'd possibly have to retune the shifter for different seasons and it could get screwy if you overworked the controls). The benefit would be faster response time and no cable stretch... but the electronic set ups already address this. Given a choice between changing batteries or playing around with oil, I'd go with the batteries.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Interesting discussion. Lots of good suggestions and info. I think I will go the way of having my son ride the retro bike "as-is" for a while. I rode it for years and it worked fine for me. If he really gets into biking, then we will look for a more modern set-up for him. Thanks for you thoughts.
 
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