Bar End Shifters And Friction Shifters – ( June, 2024 )

Updated on January 20, 2024

Choosing a bike that suits your style and fulfills all your needs is hard to find. We get such a great variety of bikes in the market that it blows our minds. Most companies are still modifying bike designs to meet the demands of the customers. One thing that always bothers bikers and tourers is the bike shifters. With time, many modern shifters are replacing conventional bike shifters but two of them are still being used in this era. These include bar end shifters and friction shifters.

If you are curious about what bar end shifters and friction shifters are and why they are still being used in bikes then this article is for you. A long time ago bike shifters like twist shifters, butterfly shifters, index shifters, etc. were also available in the market. This guide has every bit of information you need to know about the bar end shifters and friction shifters so stick around.

Bar End Shifters And Friction Shifters

The shifters are like the gears of the bikes. Most of the classical bikes from the 80s had several types of shifters to improve the riding experience but this is not the case with modern bikes. In this article, we will focus on two conventional shifters that are still being used in the modern cycling world.

Bar End Shifters

The bar end shifters are usually situated near the end of the handlebars. These allow the rider to change gear and enjoy aerodynamics better. Most of the classic touring bikes had these shifters but now in modern times, it has been limited to triathlon and trial bikes. You can shift the gear by pressing the levers on it. This can be done by shifting the lever up and down to change the gears. You will get the following advantages if you install a bar end shifter on your bike.

Simplicity

The bar end shifters have a very simple design and their durability is praiseworthy. The simplicity of these shifters has a reflection of the 80s. They are separately attached to the handlebars instead of integrating them into the brake levers which gives it a very simple classic look.

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Serviceability

The bar end shifters are incredible in providing a relaxed ride to the bikers but most of the bikers back off because of the serviceability issues. It’s better to detach it from the bars and service it on your own. That is why it is preferred to be incorporated into touring bikes.

Position

Unlike the modern shifters, the bar end shifters are located at the ends of the handlebars which keep them protected during accidents. The smaller size also keeps it safe from getting broken easily if the bike falls or meets an accident. Along with the damage protection, the position of the shifters does not cause trouble to the bikers while riding.

Friction Shifters

The reason why most tourers decide to have bar-end shifters in their bike is that they can be transformed into friction shifters. But one needs to be an expert to use the bar end shifters because it provides friction shifting as well as index shifting. The index shifting does not demand expertise but the friction shifting is not as precise as index shifting. Although friction shifting gives more control over the bike to the rider, it needs a lot of practice to friction shift your bike gears perfectly.

You can enjoy different aerodynamic positions for longer periods as well as change gears with bar end shifters.

Disadvantages of Bar End Shifters

One of the biggest disadvantages of bar end shifters is that they are situated away from the brakes.
The installation is not easy as they need to be internally routed which is a difficult task.
Just to be safe, use it while sitting because if you use bar end shifters while standing it can make you lose your balance and fall.

If you are thinking, do the bar end shifters make a difference in the speed or efficiency of a bike then the answer is yes. It does maintain the high speed of the bike and provides maximum efficiency. Also, your brake system becomes independent and shifting gears becomes easy.

Friction Shifters

These are the most unique shifters available in the market. The biggest benefit of friction shifters is that the rider has complete control over the gear shift. Unlike other shifters that snap and click the chain on their own. For a gear shift using friction shifters, the rider has complete control over the movement of the chain. It doesn’t allow the chain to automatically move and click like other shifters. Moreover, you get one shifter for each front and rear derailleur.

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Advantages of Friction Shifters

  • It allows you to shift between a wide range of gears to control speed.
  • Friction shifters are very budget-friendly and reliable.
  • Low maintenance
  • It can be attached and detached easily
  • It requires no tuning
  • Lightweight
  • Can be used on straight or drop bars
  • Easy to replace

Disadvantages of Friction Shifter

You need to align the chain correctly because improper fixation of friction shifters can lead to problems. You will need time to become a master who can use friction shifters perfectly.
They are not located near brakes which is not a good option if you want to apply brakes fast.
They are based on old technology which makes finding their parts a little difficult.
Not recommended for a bike having a Rohloff speed hub

One thing is for sure the friction shifters do not require indexing which gives you more control over the gears. Unlike other shifters that click the chain to the position automatically, the friction shifts give sliding control and the movement of the chain is totally under the control of the rider. It is the major advantage that you get with a friction shifter.

Controlling speed and shifting gears is the property of both bar end shifters as well as friction shifters but aerodynamics is strictly related to bar end shifters only. Once you equip your bike with one of these shifters you will instantly know their importance and what difference they make compared to having no gear shifters at all.

FAQs

What are friction shifters?

In simple words, we can say friction shifters change the gears of the bike by pulling the gear cable when you press the lever.

What is a bar end shifter?

Bar end shifters allow the rider to stay in an aerodynamic position for a long time. You can also change the gears with these shifters.

Do friction shifters click?

Unlike other shifters, friction shifters do not click; rather they give slide scale control to the riders. You can push and pull gear cable and change gear the way you please. In short, they give more control to the bikers on speed gears.

Which type of gear shifter is best in the cycle?

Trigger shifters are the best gear shifters in the cycling world. They are located below the handlebar.

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Why do touring bikes have bar end shifters?

The tourers prefer bar end shifters mostly because it offers friction shifting along with shifting gears while you ride your bike. Most importantly it allows the rider to switch between friction shifting and index shifting which is a rare combination.

Are friction shifters universal?

Yes, friction shifters can be used on any type of bike as well as there is no restriction for the handlebar as well. The friction shifters are low maintenance, reliable, budget-friendly, and can be fixed on any classic or modern bike.

How do I choose a bike shifter?

Choosing a bike shifter depends on the rider’s comfort and preference. So you should always try the shifters on your bike before purchasing them.

Are bike shifters universal?

No, not all bike shifters are universal as there are many brands and companies that are manufacturing bike shifters. Even if they have the same number of gears they can still vary in performance.

Conclusion

Many modern bike shifters can be used as a replacement for classic bike shifters. But has this question ever crossed your mind why many cycling companies are still producing bar end shifters and friction shifters? No doubt their popularity is declining with each passing day and modern inventions. After spending hours searching this topic, according to my knowledge, the reason behind why they are still being used for classic and modern bikes, particularly touring bikes are the following:

  • Fewer chances of shift failure
  • Easy to use
  • Reliable

Although the concept of having a bar end shifter or friction shifter on your bike is old. It is an idea from the 80s and is still giving advantages that most modern equipment fail to deliver. This is the reason behind their existence even in the modern world of cycling. I hope you enjoyed reading our article and don’t forget to install one of these shifters whilst touring to make it more memorable.

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