Shifter/Brake Choices and Reliability- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Shifter/Brake Choices and Reliability

    Hello,

    I am building up a new disc commuter bike that can also be used for medium to light touring. I am new to commuting but not so new to biking and huge stockpiles of parts. I am trying to decide what types of shifters and brakes to use to maximize reliability in bad weather (rain, low temperatures). I have available: Shimano dual controls (mtb), grip shifters, bar end shifters, and triggers. For brakes I have some mountain hydraulic discs but also the cable operated Avids. Can anyone tell me from experience what might be the most reliable?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    The absolutely....

    most reliable shifter is the bar end type friction shifter. No fiddly levers, pauls, little springs, etc. to get gummed up, jamed or break and leave you shiftless so to speak.

    As for disc brakes, go with mechnicals. The best being the Avid BB7. Parts are very common, they are very reliable and durable, and they require your to carry fewer "just in case" parts. The most likely areas of failure with disc brakes are pads, and brake line for hydraulics or cables for mechanicals. Brake pad replacement is a wash for either, but bugger a brake line on a hydro and it requiers new line, a bleed kit and brake fluid. Bugger a calbe on a mechanical and it requiers a 5mm allen wrench and a new cable. Crash and screw up the master cylinder/lever on a hydro and you'll have to hunt down the correct MC at your next stop. Screw the lever on a mech and just stop at the first bike shop you come to and buy whatever brake lever they have on hand.

    The key with self contained touring is sustainability, i.e. if it breaks in the middle of no where can you fix it. The best parts are those that simply do not break, or at least break so rarely that it's not an issue. All you really need to do is think about it. When considering a part or system for a touring bike think about these things, how complicated is it (the less compicated the better), if it breaks what will it take to fix it (the fewer parts you have to haul around the better), and should it be totaled, how common are replacements (common components are easily replaced, uncommon ones have to be ordered).

    So, shifter, bar end (if you are using a flat bar or similar pair em up with a set of Pauls Thumbies and turn em into thumb shifters), simple and so darned reliable that they'll likely out last the bike. Brakes, mechanicals, common so good parts availability, uncomplicated by comparison, and easily repaired or replaced, few spare parts required.

    Take a look at complete touring bikes from the manufacturers. Most of them come with barend shifters, and, if they come with disc brakes, they'll likely be Avid BB7s. If not they'll likely have vbrakes or cantilevers. There is a reason for that.

    Good Dirt
    "I do whatever my Rice Cripsies tell me to!"

  3. #3
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    Cool!!

    Thanks for the great reply. It makes a lot of sense so I'll go that "route". I need to order the Paul's platforms because I opted not to use drop bars.

  4. #4
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    While I don't dispute anything that Squash said, I will add that in my opinion most shifters whether they be twist, trigger, bar end, etc. fail so rarely that it isn't really an issue. I don't know if there are actual numbers to back this up, but I'm pretty sure that the average cycling life of 99.9% of shifters are a mighty long time.

    Squash may have more of a point when it comes to mechanicals over hydraulics, but once again I'm pretty sure that there are hydraulic setups that have lasted many of years with the proper maintenance.

    Personally, I would prefer to choose the shifters and brakes that I was most comfortable using, properly maintain them, and do checks before embarking on any touring trips.
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  5. #5
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    I have been mountain biking since 1995 and grew up on the grip shifter. I realize most folks now like triggers, but reality is the grip shifter is the fastest, lightest, cleanest, cheapest, and probably longest lasting mountain shifter out there. I've not worn one out (internally) and if you do use them enough you might have to lube them once in a while. The big drawback is they take up more bar space. I have small fingers so the trigger was never to my liking. Technically the bar end shifter is probably still simpler and hence more reliable, but not sure how much difference it will make. As far as bakes go, the point about replacing just cables and pads is also important. But I believe there are lots of riders doing adventure touring in the back country with hydraulics and not having issues. I would also tend to think that if I am touring with loads I am not riding aggressively doing jumps and drops like I might do on the weekends so not sure how much chance there is of breaking a brake line or MC. But I suppose anything can happen.

  6. #6
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    I ran BB7s and Shimano triggers commuting all winter in VT without any issues.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squash
    most reliable shifter is the bar end type friction shifter.
    Agreed 100%. I have a trigger shifter (1X7) on my utility bike, brake/shifters on my 'cross bike (1X10) and friction downtube shifters on my road bike (Surly Pacer).

    The easiest to set up and the least amount of hassle is my Pacer. I had it set up as a 1X9 using a XT cassette (11-34), a 38T front ring and a XT long cage derailleur. On my last big ride, there was a climb that was insanely long, steep and tough - I think a granny would've been nice in some sections.

    So, I threw the small ring back on the crankset, reinstalled the front derailluer, turned a couple of screws and now I have a 2X9 with the wimp gear (30/34 for when things get steep).

    With my trigger shifter and Ultegra brake/shifter, I'm always having to go back and re-adjust things when I get a rattle, or if the thing is mis-shifting or what not... sometimes I think I should go friction on everything and be done with it! Although the 'cross bike would be a little sketchy.

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