Touring bicycles are made to travel long distances with everything you need for your trip.
Because of how they are used, a touring bike is often far from home and may not be near a convenient bike shop, so the rider needs excellent on-the-fly emergency repair skills and reliable parts like bar end shifters. Why install bar-end shifters on a touring bike?
The main reason you should use bar end shifters on a touring bike is because of their functionality in offering friction shifting at the front chainrings and the option of switching between friction and index shifting at the back cassette. Bar end shifters are highly adjustable, contain fewer parts, and are independent of the brake levers.
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Why Bar End Shifters
Although every rider is unique, most touring bikes will spend a fair amount of time in and out of cities.
These long-distance travel bicycles are often composed of a mix of components from different styles like MTB and cruiser parts to achieve a bike that can carry all the gear you need for an extended cycling trip.
Below are 6 reasons why to choose bar end shifters:
- Inexpensive – A typical touring bike enthusiast is not a pro cycler. They don’t have races to win or fancy stunt work to do. Without sponsors and paychecks coming in based on your ability to ride, keeping costs down is wise. Plus, it means you can replace a part without breaking the bank.
- Reliable – You will often hear that bar end shifters ‘never’ break. While that’s clearly an exaggeration, they don’t fail as often as more complex brifters.
- Easy To Fix – Bar end shifters are simplified versions of shifters. Not only does this style have fewer parts, but it takes less time and effort to maintain and repair.
- Versatile – You can install bar end shifters on virtually any bike regardless of style, how many speeds it has, or other unique features.
- Separate Brakes – When your shifter and brakes are integrated together, a problem with one can interfere with the other. Bar end shifters are not part of your brakes.
- Overall Functionality – The ability to switch between friction and index shifting is a significant boon to riders. Usually, modern brifters are index-only.
Are Bar End Shifters Good
Bar end shifters are good. There are two basic options for shifting for a bicycle; the older, more reliable bar end shifter and the modern style shifters.
The modern shifters are also known as integrated shifters or brifters. They have their benefits, but a bar end shifter is best for overall ease of use, reliability, reparability, and versatility.
The one place a bar end shifter is not an advantage is when you are in a hurry. You probably won’t ever take your touring bike to race with, but the slightly slower shifting could cost you a close race if you did.
Luckily, touring bikes need endurance much more than high speeds, so a bar end style is ideal for the more leisurely pace.
Pros And Cons Of Bar End Shifters
I am a huge fan of the bar end shifter, but everything has two sides. I’d be lying if I said there were no downsides to this style of shifter.
However, the benefits significantly outweigh any challenges, as you’ll see below.
- Bar end shifters don’t interfere with a front basket or bag. More modern shifters can cause phantom shifting when they come in contact with a front storage system, but the bar end shifters live up to their name and sit on the end of your handlebars.
- The bar end style of shifters is small and lightweight. You can easily carry a spare part or two without weighing yourself down, and making a swap is quick, thanks to the simplicity of the elements.
- Repairs are easier to learn and quicker to complete with bar end shifters.
- Because bar end shifters are not a new design, there’s a retro-cool aspect to having them. Many touring enthusiasts like them for their pure aesthetics and visual presentation.
- When you buy a modern brifter, it is suitable for one setup. You can’t use the same brifter for a nine-speed as you do on a twenty-one-speed bike. However, bar end shifters are more versatile and one-size-fits-all.
- A bar end shifter can come into contact with your leg. Depending on the way your bike is set up, it’s possible that switching to a bar end shifter can cause you to bump into the new shifter as you pedal. You can fix this by choosing handlebars with more rise or a slightly different style.
- There are more high-tech options available. If you are into the latest and most technologically advanced products, then bar end shifters can seem a little old-fashioned. However, high tech means more problems if a part breaks.
- You will need more cable for a bar end shifter than a modern brifter. However, being independent of the brakes means you also have more possible configurations, so it’s worth a little extra cable.
- Most modern bikes come with stylish, integrated shifters, and the learning curve, while not exactly steep, is a bit bigger for bar end shifters. You don’t need to move your hand to shift the modern style. However, with bar end shifters, you have to reposition to make the shift, which is more complex and can cause mild distraction in inexperienced users.
If you are not familiar with how bar end shifters work, I recommend this video from Terry bicycles. You will learn how to shift using this shifter style without getting off track for a smoother and ultimately safer ride.
Best Bar End Shifters
All bar end shifters are good, but the best bar end shifters need to go beyond basic.
Shimano parts are found in virtually every type of bike, and you can get them all over the globe because they are known for their high-quality products.
As Bike Radar puts it, “As one of the ‘big three’ manufacturers (the other two being SRAM and Campagnolo), Shimano groupsets and parts are always well-made, usually well-regarded and often well-priced.”
My pick for the best bar end shifters is the Shimano SL-BS77 Dura Ace Double / Triple Bar End Shifters from Amazon.
These outstanding silver shifters are ideal for touring bikes and are cost-effective. If you want all the benefits of top-tier bar end shifters and the reliability of Shimano parts, these are for you. Get a set by clicking right here.
- SL-BS77 BAR END SHIFTERS W/CABLES
- 178 grams per pair
Helpful Tips To Know About Using Bar End Shifters On Touring Bike
If you are looking to give your touring bike an upgrade, then adding bar end shifters is one of the easiest and most effective options around.
A good set of bar end shifters can last years, plus they are very straightforward to install, maintain and repair.
Here are more helpful tips to know about using bar end shifters on a touring bike.
- Bar end shifters are in a less vulnerable position if you crash. Hopefully, you will never be in a head-on collision on your touring bicycle. However, if you are, one of the first parts of the bike to take damage is the brifter which can make it hard to continue on if you need to go home or to a hospital without assistance.
- Indexed shifters move only a specific pre-set distance every time you use them. This style makes a clicking noise and can cause chain rubbing that is difficult to fix.
- Friction shifters are manual, without presets. The rider has to learn where to stop so that the chain moves to the next gear. However, the advantage of this style is that you can make minute adjustments if the chain is rubbing since there are no predetermined settings.
Touring bike enthusiasts typically prefer bar end shifters because they are durable, simple, and cost-effective.
Learning to use and repair a set of these shifters is well worth the effort because a good bar end shifter can last years.
With this classic style, your breaks won’t be tied to a brifter. Plus, you can choose between indexed and friction shifting for a smoother ride.
Best of all, even if your touring bike is made from a mashup of pats from different styles, it won’t matter because bar end shifters will fit on almost any bike.