UPDATE 2/3/15: In the two years since I posted this story, I’ve used the Fisher to commute back and forth to work, 16 miles round trip–not every day, mind you, but enough to know that these brake levers/shifters are my all time favorites for drop-bar use. They’re right where I need them, super easy to shift and more durable than the STI shifters that came on my tandem. Plus, I can swap out the Shimano 105 units mounted to the brake levers for new ones–without cutting into my bread-and-beer money. There have been some changes since 2013: The company changed its name to Gevenalle and offers additional products, including GX levers “for Shimano’s newer 10 speed Dyna-sys and Shadow Plus MTB derailleurs.” So when you read “Retroshift” below, think “Gevenalle.”
It’s a cold and windy January in central Illinois–perfect weather to play bicycle mechanic. Today’s victim: the World’s Heaviest Fisher mountain bike: the Advance.
On the left, the before picture: mountain bike levers, mountain bike bars (with a generous amount of rise), bar ends and good ol’ dependable 7-speed indexed thumb shifters.
On the right, the aftermath: road bars, no-name stem and some old Cinelli cork tape from one of the magical junk boxes in the basement. Those housings arcing into the sky like they’re on a Peugeot U0-8? They aren’t brake cables; they’re derailleur cables. They’re connected to Shimano 105 downtube shifters that are, in turn, bolted to the top of Tektro brake levers.
And that’s what the self-styled Goats in Portland, Oregon, call Retroshift CX2 Cyclocross shifters.
When you think about it, Retroshift is the perfect name for this set-up. It doesn’t pretend to be similar to Campy Ergopower, Shimano STI or SRAM Double Tap. It’s just a couple of downtube shifters bolted to otherwise normal brake levers.
Of course when you make things this simple, you have to accept some limitations. For example, you can’t shift from the drops. That’s okay with me; I can’t even reach the drops. However, for cyclocrossers, Retroshift is an interesting way to save expensive road brifters from mud and wrecks, and to stop replacing them after off-road racing takes its inevitable toll.
But why do I have it? Easy. Can’t find any 7-speed bar-end shifters. Beyond that, I just think its neat to mimic integrated controls at a fraction of the price–and downright revolutionary to bring my own shifters to the party (You can also buy the set-up with shifters pre-installed). Plus, Retroshift offers something no brifters do: the possibility of friction-mode shifting.
Now if you’re a sophisticated cycling consumer, I assume your nose is about as close to vertical as it’s going to get. (I’m not sure how you can still see your computer screen.) But you should at least see the shifting in action.
If I squint hard enough, and pay no attention to the truly amazing weight of the thick, straight-gauge cromoly frame underneath me, it’s almost like I’m looking at one of my old road bikes. Again, only if I squint.
What’s it take to put road bars on an unrepentant Fisher, keeping in mind you’re starting with an oversize threaded headset? First you shim the 1-1/4 steerer to 1-1/8. Then, you install a stem riser (Nitto calls it a Column). Finally, to get the bars up where your inflexible back won’t complain, you install a ridiculously steep Aheadset-compatible stem.
Shifting from the hoods. I haven’t done that since I took the STI controls off the tandem in favor of levers that worked with my brakes without Travel Agents in the middle. Kind of miss it. So I guess I’m ready for some gravel road riding.
As soon as it gets a little warmer.
Note: The Goats behind Retroshift responded to a few questions I sent their way.
I’ll post the interview soon. Here’s the interview.