shifters or brifters?


i’m looking at 2 roadies tonight (both the sellers are hopefully laughing at this thread) and they have different shifting systems in place.

both are reynolds tubed frames and are a bargain. i like both of them (well i definitely like one, yet to ‘meet’ the other) and at the moment i’m very undecided (i’ve told them they should fight it out!!).

the one that i’ve seen has downtube tension shifters and is complete, all matching suntour superbe pro.

the other is not complete (but could be for not much money) and has full shimano 600 groupset and uses the STI system.

i’ve done a bit of reading and it seems the shifters are favoured for their simplicity and interchangeability (is that a word??).

thing is, i’d prefer the STI system. i’m not needing this to be a classic vintage build, that will hopefully come later. this is my first roadbike so want something that is comfortable and reliable that is as intuitive as possible.

so what do you all prefer/think is a better system and why?

*hopefully all of the above makes sense, but feel free to point out any specifics i need to mention. yes, i tried searching the forum for info, but there are a lot of different terms for these things!



brifters for ease and speed of use.

non-indexed shifters for being able to adjust your mechs as you go.

lets see some pics… form > function :open_mouth:

How easy and/or expensive is it to replace busted Shimano 600 brifters if you need to? Personally, I’d go the Suntour Superb Pro.

Not sure about that. There is a reason why all modern road bikes have brifters- they’re great!
Go the brifters for sure, unless you’re deliberately after a vintage road bike, in that case go downtube shifters. But for something useable, brifters win IMO.
Ask Blakey about Superbe Pro compatibility, but Shimano 600 is still pretty compatible with 8,9,10speed hyperglide etc.

This one

i had brifters on the colnago but switched to downtube shifters when i built up the pagani. brifters are nicer to use, but i only bring that bike out on spesh occassions so went with the aesthetic of the shifters.

In other words if you’re an aesthete, go the downtube shifters…

i think for the time being i want something that i can use as a bit of an allrounder (maybe some touring) and the occasional commute. not looking to build something classic at the moment, that will come further down the track. this is how i obtained my two fixed gear bikes and think it’s a decent strategy.

this is about getting me on my first road bike and enjoying myself.

thanks everyone for all your input, i appreciate it. think at the moment i’m leaning towards the brifters on the frame that’s more likely my size…

600 STI FTW…

I personally don’t understand why anyone would prefer downtube shifters unless it is for a period correct build/aesthetic…

Get a can of brake cleaner (from your local auto store like repco or supercheap auto) and blast the insides of the 600 brifters clean (to remove any old solidified grease) then relube and re cable if needed, delish.

There’s a few:

The bike manufacturers can make more money on replacing non repairable brifters.
Ditto " " make more money replacing incompatible or obsolete brifters
People are too lazy to learn how to shift gears manually.
Increasingly all that manufacturers are offering is system compnents.
People kid themseleves they need brifters even though they’re never gonna race.
People like having and excuse to bail a ride because their shifting fucks up on a ride.

I could go on …

Brifters are nice, but anyone who poo’poo’s downtube shifters clearly doesn’t get the point: Simple and they work forever.

Complete Suntour Superbe? Will it fit me? I’ll have it!

i was hoping to go on a ride or two with chaz and gene, and then there’ll definitely be racing!! haha.

thanks though spirito, you make a good case. i am pretty bad at maintenance, reliability needs to be a factor

Ride Campagnolo then? Or if you’re handy with mechanisms you can still rebuild Shimano STI’s too.

complete suntour superbe pro.

i have no doubt that if i pass on it the seller will have no problems finding them a loving home…

Exactly, Brifters are nice.

The interface between the rider and the shift mechanism is almost instant, rather than having to remove a hand from the handlebars (sometimes removing your eyes from the road ahead) and reach down to change gears…

Yes indexed downtube shifters are great in terms of reliability and simplicity, but I don’t really see the need when brifters are so readily available these days.

Depends more on the bike. I have some set up with brifters and some with downtube shifters (both indexed and friction). For a touring bike when I’ll be far from a bike shop and hours or days away from my tools I’ll only have downtube or bar end shifters. Being in the middle of nowhere and not being able to ride a bike is a deal breaker so downtube’s overrule other options and in any case I’m just rolling along so don’t need hyper shifting.

Even on group rides I don’t see dowtube shifters being too tricky. Brifters IMO actually make people just change gear more often than they need to, often riders only work in a small range of cadence. Riding fixed gear is opposite to that - you muscle up on climbs and learn to spin down hills and long flats with a tailwind. Cadence from 40 - 140 is natural, and riding a downtube shifter bike is a little more of the same as your less likely to be changing gear for every small nuance.

You also feel your shifting, you need to tune into what gear your in and where you are - it takes a little practice but once mastered it’s quite satisfying doing manual shifts. Also reminds you that people had done it for close to a hundred years. It’s also nice to have a bike that you can mix and match and do nearly anything on with regards to parts - downtube shifters can be easy to set up and make lost of sense if on a budget.

If you’re racing or ultra competitive then brifters makes sense. I really like brifters too … they’re fantastic, easy to shift and not at all a bad thing but some bikes really don’t need them. Cheap or tired old brifters are the worst of the worst.

^ Good points spirito.
How often do STI’s fail under normal use though? I’m interested to know because it’s never happened to me. Of course if you crashed on them I can understand…

Aren’t the 600 STI’s getting a little long in the tooth? How do they hold up?
D/T shifters can love you loooong time.
Having said that, I use both. Later 105’s STI’s though.

Check a few forums, some Shimano shifters are known to be quite fragile and prone to issues. Bad weather and gunk build up can also mess with ratcheting mechanisms.

If you know the history of the shifters and they haven’t been crashed or abused then there’s less to worry about. I prefer Campy shifters as I think they’re better designed and i like the shape of the levers (older style ones). They’re also more serviceable than Shimano’s … not to say Shimano brifters can’t be repaired but often it’s cheaper to buy a new set. I don’t know much about SRam stuff.

I’m surprised how many people buy older shifters that in real terms can’t be used once they’re busted - big investment for an older bike.

I will say one caveat: if campy cassette hubs were cheaper, more readily available and had a wider range of cassette cogs i’d use more brifters on my bikes. Mrs. Spirito rolls with Campy 9 speed with a Jtek shiftmate just to get around that issue. Campy brifter goodness - with cheap shimano splined cassette and hub options. The $30 widget doesn’t wear out. win/win.

Oh yeah … i can’t stand the till recent Shimano style of wires sticking in front of the bike (on the inside of the shifters) - i think it’s an inelegant design. Yet I like non aero brake levers with exposed cable housing on my older bikes. Silly aren’t I?