Dropping the Fisher, Retroshift style

SIDE BY SIDE

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.

P1060495When 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.

P1060505

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.

P1060502

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.

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About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Equipment, Other bicycles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dropping the Fisher, Retroshift style

  1. Craig Burgess says:

    To bad you didn’t do this last weekend so you could race it at the world ‘cross championships in Loovul this weekend.

  2. Craig Burgess says:

    How did that “to bad” get in there? That was supposed to be “Too bad.”

  3. Josh C. says:

    I have seen Retrofit shifters around and have been curious about them. I understand the functionality but they certainly look bizarre to me.
    Tonight, on my ride home, I was riding at the top of my Tektro R-200’s (same as yours in the pictures) and using my hands to emulate shifting up and down with the Retrofit. It felt natural to me to shift in, toward the center of the bike, but shifting toward the outside felt fairly unnatural as it slightly stresses the wrist. Of course, this is just me testing out what I THINK these shifters feel like. Your opinion easily trumps mine since you actually have them.
    One setup I absolutely love is Suntour’s Command shifters (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3391/3427390187_7c23157023.jpg). These, to me, seem like the most natural and efficient pre-STI setup one could have. I believe they even go up to 8 speeds.
    Either way, I am pleased to see that you installed the Retrofit’s. I will be following closely to hear your thoughts on the performance.

    • Your note reminds me how much I miss Sun Tour. I remember selling a Sun Tour-indexed KHS children’s bike back when Shimano had nothing that worked as well. Unfortunately, Sun Tour didn’t go upscale with the idea.

      When Shimano came out with indexing at the high end of its component range (and it worked), it basically signaled to enthusiasts that indexing was an acceptable, even desirable, technology.

      And, somehow, everyone forgot about its double and single-wire Positron derailleurs.

      Unfortunately, I never got a chance to try the Command Shifters. They did have the advantage of being separate from the actual brake lever–no way to accidentally hit the brakes while shifting.

      So far, I’ve only shifted the Retroshift in the stand; I’ll put out my initial report within the week.

      There’s one other shift alternative I’d like to try some day: Kelly Take-offs. Kind of like a one-lever Command Shifter, though a lot less elegant in appearance.

  4. The Goats says:

    Super install, and something we love to see: Old 26″ MTB getting some drop bars. 26″ MTB’s are not getting much love these days with the 29’r being the industry ‘darling’ and 650 now crashing the party. We expect a good few old 26″ MTB’s will get s second wind with drop bars.

    Looking forward to your road test. One word of advice on using your new retros. Treat them rough and they will treat you well. What we mean is don’t be afraid to grab them any way that comes to mind when shifting as they just don’t operate quite like STI and you will limit your shifting ability if you shift them like STI.

    Lastly while our system is super simple, it is still designed to be as effective a CX shifting system as possible. It has been ridden to victory in races this year (its first season) and was on a bike that took home a masters series here in Portland (Cross Crusades). While we don’t pretend our system is ‘similar’ it is every bit as effective for racing CX!

    Cheers,

    The Goats

  5. Pingback: The Goats Who Stare at Bicycles: reviews, restocking and Retroshift | 16incheswestofpeoria

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