Mar 6, 2010
It seems as though most aspects of bike touring really haven't changed a great deal over the years. For the most part, bikes are still made of steel, although the type and geometries have changed a bit. Racks and panniers have the same general look that they did 20 years ago, and we still use low profile rims with high spoke counts. Another tried and true part of the touring bike that is hanging on quite well would be bar-end shifters.
Despite their small stature, bar-end shifters provide a few key benefits that give them a nice edge on dual control shifters. For starters, they are less expensive than dual control shifters, which is due largely in part to their simplicity, which is another big benefit gained. With fewer moving parts, there is less that can go wrong with them, and the index style shifting can usually be set to friction style shifting if you are having adjustment troubles.
Another benefit is that the cables are routed underneath the handlebar tape, which clears up space for handlebar bags, although dual control shifters are beginning to embrace this style of cable routing. Thanks partly to triathlon and time trial bikes, bar-end shifters are also staying up-to-date with technology, and are available all the way to to 11 speed drivetrains.
I should also mention that this post isn't intended to put down dual control shifters, as they have benefits of their own. While their quicker shifting is often touted, it's not super practical for touring. Dual control shifters are very nice for keeping your hands near your brakes while shifting, just in case something unexpected happens fast, and you need to react as quickly as possible.
If you are in the market for bar-end shifters, I have had great luck with Shimano's variety, however, Campagnolo and SRAM also make bar ends to match up to their specific drivetrains.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.