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How to Use Downtube Shifters on an Old-School Bike

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You don’t have to be a pro to use old-school downtube shifters! They’re more straightforward than you think! 

Many cyclists love downtube shifters because they are very easy to use and give an unmatched cycling experience. Once you learn how to use them, downtube shifters can improve your road cycling. They’re more reliable and durable than modern shifters, and they give you more precise control over your bike.

Keep reading to learn everything about downtube shifters, including how to use them.

How to Use Downtube Shifters

To change gears, you just have to move the lever, and the derailleur moves until the chain jump from one chain to the other. If you move too far, you will hear a noise; adjust the lever gently until the noise goes away. You will use the right hand to shift the rear derailleur and the left hand to shift the front.

These shifters have two elements – the lever and the barrel. The lever is the obvious aluminum handle that sticks out, and the barrel is the round bit attached to the bike frame. The cable itself is attached to the lever and then the derailleur. 

If your derailleur is out of adjustment, it will be harder to function correctly. 

Some modern entry-level road bikes with downtube shifters come with indexed shifters. Others come with a little control attached to them to switch from indexed to continuous mode. 

How do you adjust downtube shifters?

Where can I read more about downtube shifters? 

Check out this excellent book Understanding, maintaining, and riding the ten-speed bicycle. It’s from 1979 but probably the best resource on old road bikes. 

Read more: Is Shimano Revoshift Any Good?

About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.

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