Saturday, June 23, 2007

STI? Isn't that some kind of infection?

There's one saving grace that comes with Tasmanian winters and it's one of the reasons I chose to live here: the fine winter day. Once in a while the skies clear and the sun shines and mother nature turns a crisp clear winter's day that's just perfect. Today was one of those days so I go up early, had a big breakfast and did a few miles on the trusty Surly.

A few hours in the saddle is a good time to ponder things and a skipping gear got me thinking: who the hell asked for STI gears? It's been bothering me for a while. Is the act of changing gears really that difficult that we need the marginal help offered by indexing. I seem to remember friction shifting was pretty reliable and reasonably foolproof.

Now I'm willing to admit it does have some slight redeeming features, but somehow we've all accepted a technology that's more complex, heavier and less reliable. You have to use both hands to shift, there's no way of trimming a noisy derailleur and you can downshift only one gear at a time. Were friction shifters really that bad? I don't remember anyone complaining about them at the time. Maybe my STI levers are getting old, but lately my gears always seems to be going out of adjustment. I think I'll go back to a set of the old downtube friction levers.

Downtube levers would solve a few problems I've been having. I'm mounted a very nice retro Brooks saddle bag on my front rack, where it stands clear of the handlebars (which I much prefer). It's a handy place for a raincoat, wallet, keys et cetera instead of my back pockets. But the bag, like all handlebar bags, gets in the way of the STI gear cables. I've got some bids in on ebay on some retro old friction levers and brake levers which only act as brake levers so I might see if that's any better. They certainly give the front end of the bike a much cleaner look, without cables sticking out everywhere. I wonder if I'll ever stop tinkering with this bike?

3,167km so far this year.


Tim said...

Quite agree with the sentiment, allthugh I am STI infected.

You might be interested in
particularly the last sentence.



Anonymous said...

I'm still running STI for the rear derailleur and friction for the front. The difference is that I'm using barcons on the end of bullhorns as I found I never rode in the drops. It also mean that it's dead easy for me to grab a honkin' great handful of brake which I could never do on the hoods. Admittedly my rear derailleur is Sora 8spd which might be substantially less finicky than the 9 and 10 spd gear but I doubt I'd really get that much more functionality out of another ratio or two. I like the fact that I can just whack it through a number of clicks and know it'll be well in gear and with the barcon lever you can still sort of half shift if you want, which was handy for the first day or two until I adjusted it properly.