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Conversion of Gravel Bike to Flat Bar and Friction Shifters


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I couldn't get used to the drop bars on my Trek 920 touring/gravel bike. The bike's SRAM S700 Doubletap brake/shifter levers were okay, but I had constant problems with brake rub and had to barrel adjust ever so often for the shifting to work well. Both annoyances were really not what you want when you are far from base in hot dusty conditions, especially brake rub.

 

So, I decided to fit an Alt-bar (FSA Metropolis - a flat bar with a back sweep) that I had available. This conversion also required new flat-bar brake levers and shifters to complete the setup. Shimano Brakes and 2 x 10 shifters are not readily available at the moment.

 

Rummaging through my parts bin, I came upon two new Sunrace friction shifters which I always wanted to use and now seemed the perfect opportunity to do so. Our local bike shop fitted new Tektro brake levers and calipers and  I did the friction shifter fitment. The Sunrace SLM10 shifters were super easy to fit and set up. They are not indexed and will shift just about anything. All you have to do is set the limit screws on the front and rear derailleurs and that's it. (The Sunrace Falcon Top Mount shifters set currently sell for about R240 on eBay, including shipping).

 

Shifting is smooth and the new bar makes the bike feel nimble and a lot more comfortable. The shifters are very easy to get accustomed to and it is comforting to know that there won't be any compatibility issues if an odd emergency sprocket or derailleur is the only part available far from home.

 

 

Should have done this long ago. It is time to ditch index shifting. 

 

 

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I bought myself a second hand Fuji Absolute as a gravel bike because the price was (very) right.  It comes standard with flat bar 105 11 speed road shifters and Tektro hydraulic brakes.  The thought was to look out for drops as I am a roadie and felt that I would be more at home with them.  Thing is the shifting is so good - far better than my road bike with under bar tape cables - that I wont go to the expense and hassle of changing.

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Posted (edited)

 Thing is the shifting is so good - far better than my road bike with under bar tape cables - that I wont go to the expense and hassle of changing.

Exactly. I am not sure why gravel/touring bikes need to have drop bars. If it is for the odd occasion when a rider wants to assume an aero position, it certainly isn't worth while. It was the least comfortable position for me and I spent most of my time with hands on the hoods. There is not much aero advantage when you have loaded panniers and water bottles. Great shifting, reliability and comfort outweighs everything on the long haul. It is amazing how well the friction shifters work and the Tektro brakes are really good. Haven't had a single squeal from them.

Edited by Karakoram
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..David; both you and to a similar extent Karakoram, praise the CHANGED POSITION of shifters as leading to greater smoothness/efficiencies...

 

With a million and one road bikes, therefore drop bars, having breake and shifters on the curve on the bar, and cables USUALLY under bar tape, are you meaning that flat bar shifting is ‘crisper’ than drop-bar shifting?

 

I can possibly understand your preference for flat bar over drop bar, but not shifting efficiencies?

 

Thanks for clarification: happy to learn here!

Chris

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Considering doing the same. Need to locate a Ragley Carnegies Bar and a friction shifter.

 

My Cotic will be very snazzy with that.

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Considering doing the same. Need to locate a Ragley Carnegies Bar and a friction shifter.

 

My Cotic will be very snazzy with that.

Doubt if you will find either locally. Shop on Amazon. My shopping experience has been a pleasure and delivery slick. You will know exactly what the tracking status of your goods are. They have very similar bars on offer.

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Doubt if you will find either locally. Shop on Amazon. My shopping experience has been a pleasure and delivery slick. You will know exactly what the tracking status of your goods are. They have very similar bars on offer.

Thank you. That is the plan. CRC or Amazon

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..David; both you and to a similar extent Karakoram, praise the CHANGED POSITION of shifters as leading to greater smoothness/efficiencies...

 

With a million and one road bikes, therefore drop bars, having breake and shifters on the curve on the bar, and cables USUALLY under bar tape, are you meaning that flat bar shifting is ‘crisper’ than drop-bar shifting?

 

I can possibly understand your preference for flat bar over drop bar, but not shifting efficiencies?

 

Thanks for clarification: happy to learn here!

Chris

Hi Zebra. I can only speak from my experience. I've never owned a drop-bar bike till I bought my Trek 920 tour bike. I felt stretched out with drop bars, in spite of fitting a shorter stem. My bike's STI shifters were not very slick from to get go. I took it back to the bike shop and they made some adjustments which improved shifting, but it didn't last. Downshifting was especially lazy and I was forever busy tinkering with the barrel adjusters. The bike's brakes were particularly problematic. I experienced bad binding problems on a super hot day (41 degrees C), gravel road dusty conditions and 30km from home, having already done 45km. Afterwards, I tried out all the suggested remedies, but did not not do a full brake bleed. It is a new bike and maybe there was air in the system which expanded during the hot conditions. This would probably have cured the brake binding issue, but I had had enough.

 

So, I cannot comment on the shifting drop bar setups on other bikes I am sure that these work perfectly.

 

I can however compare friction lever shifting to all the other flat bar shifters I've experienced, and I would say that it is the slickest shifting I've experienced to date. I wouldn't hesitate to change to friction shifters on my other bikes when the index shifters eventually fail. Friction shifters are super cheap and there is hardly anything that can go wrong with them. The additional advantage is that they shift anything and don't require any setup, besides adjusting the limit screws on your derailleurs. 

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With a million and one road bikes, therefore drop bars, having breake and shifters on the curve on the bar, and cables USUALLY under bar tape, are you meaning that flat bar shifting is ‘crisper’ than drop-bar shifting?

 

I can possibly understand your preference for flat bar over drop bar, but not shifting efficiencies?

 

Thanks for clarification: happy to learn here!

Chris

It is simply the routing of the cable and more importantly the housing that influences the shifting feel.  I have two drop bar road bikes - an older one where the cable is routed from outside through the shifter to inside and then into the housing which follows a graceful curve to the down tube and then on to the RD.  The shifting performance is as good as the a flat bar shifter.  

 

The newer one has the (now more common) under bar tape routing.  The cable enters the shifter from the underside and makes a sharp turn to the rear of the hood.  Another sharp turn along the bar and then possibly more sharp turns if your frame has routing through the bar, stem or frame.  This added friction influences the shifting feel.  The other effect is on the way the housing and cable interact.  As you shift up the cassette the cable gets tighter but still moves the same distance with each shift.  If it twists as it tightens it will not move the same distance.  That is why if you strip off the outer layer of gear housing you will see the shielding wires have a long gentle twist.  This is so that the housing can move to compensate for any cable twist.  The more corners you route around the more the tendency to twist and the less the housing can move.  This is the reason that you just don't use brake housing on your gears.

 

Just by coincidence the super slick coated cables made their appearance at the time the cable routing changed.  Problem being that the Shimano cable coating sheds like snake skin and clogs the housing ferrules while the Sram ones shed "gunpowder" with much the same effect.

 

But never fear! Electronic and bluetooth groupsets will solve all this.

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It is simply the routing of the cable and more importantly the housing that influences the shifting feel.  I have two drop bar road bikes - an older one where the cable is routed from outside through the shifter to inside and then into the housing which follows a graceful curve to the down tube and then on to the RD.  The shifting performance is as good as the a flat bar shifter.  

 

The newer one has the (now more common) under bar tape routing.  The cable enters the shifter from the underside and makes a sharp turn to the rear of the hood.  Another sharp turn along the bar and then possibly more sharp turns if your frame has routing through the bar, stem or frame.  This added friction influences the shifting feel.  The other effect is on the way the housing and cable interact.  As you shift up the cassette the cable gets tighter but still moves the same distance with each shift.  If it twists as it tightens it will not move the same distance.  That is why if you strip off the outer layer of gear housing you will see the shielding wires have a long gentle twist.  This is so that the housing can move to compensate for any cable twist.  The more corners you route around the more the tendency to twist and the less the housing can move.  This is the reason that you just don't use brake housing on your gears.

 

Just by coincidence the super slick coated cables made their appearance at the time the cable routing changed.  Problem being that the Shimano cable coating sheds like snake skin and clogs the housing ferrules while the Sram ones shed "gunpowder" with much the same effect.

 

But never fear! Electronic and bluetooth groupsets will solve all this.

good, detailed feedback, thanks: I was aware that 'sharp bends' were no friend of cable actuated brakes, gears, whatever, but had NO idea about the 'snakeskin & gunpower' effect(s) - thanks for the education!

Cheers

Chris

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I am using friction shifters with Thumbies on a Jones Bar and and is the best gear changing I have ever experienced.  I used the same setup on a Mary Bar witch was also good.  The Mary Bar is now up for sale if anybody is interested.  Nothing beats a Jones bar for touring in my opinion.

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Is it just me or a gravel bike with flat bars is a rigid hardtail MTB?

Is it therefore easier to change bar+brakes+shifter etc on the gravel bike, or get a Hardtail MTB and put a fixed fork on?

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I am using friction shifters with Thumbies on a Jones Bar and and is the best gear changing I have ever experienced.  I used the same setup on a Mary Bar witch was also good.  The Mary Bar is now up for sale if anybody is interested.  Nothing beats a Jones bar for touring in my opinion.

 

What price did you have in mind? 

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