01 June 2011

Shifting Gear

If you've been following this blog for the past couple of weeks or so, you may have noticed some ever-so-subtle changes to my bikes.  I have documented how Arielle traded a triple crankset for a Sugino Alpina double. Well, I've also installed an Alpina double, albeit with different chainrings, on Helene.

And you may also see that I have Carradice Barley bags on all three of my Mercians. (Tosca, as well as Arielle and Helene.)  I think I may just leave them on the bikes, as it will make it easier to carry my camera, notebook and an extra layer of clothing, if I need it.  I can also pick up some goodie or another in a bakery or flea market en route!  So, the Bike Burritos I had been using are inside the pockets of the Barleys.  I liked the way the Burritos looked on the bikes, but they also serve nicely to keep my tools and tubes organized and separate from whatever else I put in my bags.

Finally, there is this change I made on Helene:

I purchased a pair of shifter pods from Velo Orange. They function in the same way as the ones Paul Components makes.  However, VO's cost a good bit less and fit a wider variety of handlebars.  The VO Porteur bars on this bike are of the same diameter as road bike bars. (Most flat and upright bars are the same diameter as mountain bike bars, which are of a smaller diameter.)  

The problem with Paul's--and many other thumb shifter mounts--is that they will fit one type of bar of the other.  But the ones made for road-bike bars will fit only on the "sleeve" of the bar, which is the section nearest the stem clamp.  That "sleeve" is a wider diameter than the "body" of the handlebar. 

Of course, one probably could put a shim or tape underneath  a Paul clamp.  But who wants to do that after spending 75 dollars for the pod?

The VO pod has a hinged clamp instead of the solid clamp found on the Paul pods.  That, of course, allows for greater adjustability.  Plus, VO supplies the pods with some nicely-machined aluminum shims.  And, for those of you who care, the VO pods are silver, while Paul's are black. 

The pods are made to be used with Dia Compe Silver downtube shifters, which is what I had been using before I bought the pods.  I happen to like the lever very much, so I was happy to keep it.  I was able to mount the shifters so that I could reach them as I was holding the straight part of the bar, which is where the brake levers are located.  As I have them mounted, I can actuate the brakes with two fingers and the shifter with one.

As much as I like the position,  I'm still getting used to the shifting.  A basic rule of thumb is:  The longer your cable, the slower, less precise and less crisp your shifting.  That is one reason why you just about need either a ratchet mechanism (like those on the Silver levers, or the old Sun Tours), a retro-friction mechanism (as used on the Simplex "teardrop" levers) or an indexed mechanism (as found on Ergo and STI levers) if you're using a handlebar-mounted shifter. 

I think that I should be accustomed to this setup fairly soon.  After all, I once had a bike with Sun Tour shifters that mounted on top of the bars.  After a while, I found the shifting just as predictable, if not as quick, as on my bike with downtube shifters.

And, oh, yeah, the bright pink Cinelli tape. Turns out, the gray tape I had on the bars wasn't long enough once I installed the new shifters.  


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  2. This is wild! Nashbar builds a dirt cheap mustache bar, but there are very few budget options for mounting shifters. Bar ends start at US$75 and Brifter US$110. I would be really interested in seeing your hand position when shifting as I've never seen shifters on a mustache style like this. V. cool

  3. Anon--I've changed the shifters again, which I'll show in a future post. I found that the position of the shifters took away a hand position I like.

    1. Thanks for the response on your shifter position Justine - I guess they're similar to mounting thumb shifters on a town bike bar but I hadn't thought about that until recently. I lost your blog after posting and am very happy to have refound it (through a lovely bicycle article). Bookmarked now!