Downtube Shifters in 2023?!

2 comments by Igor Shteynbuk

In our newest WrenchFest video, we're building up a Rando Frameset with downtube shifters, drop bars, and plush 700x33.333 tires!

You might wonder, "Downtube shifters in 2023?!" Yes, you read that right! Downtube shifters are making a triumphant return, and you're about to discover why.

Downtube shifters are the epitome of simplicity in gear shifting. They offer a pure, tactile connection to your bike and are the unsung heroes of shifting mechanisms. They're simpler than brifters, electronic systems, and even bar ends. These classic shifters pull cable with grace and are compatible with nearly every mechanical drivetrain under the sun.

So, grab your popcorn, your favorite beverage, and get ready to relax with another long-form WrenchFest video!


  • Douglas M

    @ Kevin Havener Nov 29, 2023
    About that shifter wobble you mentioned, I have had that same experience a few times, but rather than discuss that here I will soon contact Scott @ Velo Orange and mention what can be done about that, so he would then be the one to contact.

    The early 2×5 “ten-speed” gear trains really put downtube shifters to work, with lots of half-step front chainring shifting out of necessity. But then came the heyday of pre-index downtube shifting by the adoption of 3x triple cranksets which worked so well with 6/7/8/9-speed freewheels and cassettes. The criticism of them was in their having a number of duplicate gear ratios, but such duplication actually was what made them work so well, like having a bike with three different transmissions which could be engaged in a few different ways. A rider could assess the roadway conditions before them as being of flatland, minor grades, or hill climbing, and then chose one of three different chainrings to use in a few different ways in order to get to where they were going.

    For a number of practical reasons the 3×8 gear train with non-index shifting was arguably the best bicycle gear train ever developed, not perfect but great.

  • Kevin Havener

    I am using the same down tube shifters (10-speed though) and my right side lever won’t tighten down. It holds cable tension just fine but it wobbles left and right. I can’t figure out how to get the play out of it. I removed the brass spacer and was able to take the play out of the lever, but lost the ratcheting feature. That leads me to believe the mechanism is not far enough onto the down tube boss. examining the left lever, the square part of the boss seems to stand prouder of the frame perhaps allowing the lever stop washer to sit flush(er) with the square part of the boss, thus allowing the spacer and lever mechanism to slide inboard. It’s a theory. Any ideas on how to make the lever stop washer fit closer to the frame or find a slightly thinner brass spacer?

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.