The Perfecto Commuter Bike : Type of Shifting

If you are just stopping in on our Group Build of the perfect commuter bike let’s catch you up.   After introducing who will be riding the bike, the overall landslide of bicycle frame choice was a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This wasn’t a surprise to me or many others.   Over at the Surly Long Haul Trucker Owners Group, Bryan from Renaissance Bicycles, started a topic about our bike build.   Everyone had positive things to say about the bike and I’m very excited to be using this platform going forward.

Our next step is the shifting type, there’s standard STI/Double Tap/Ergo shifting which is all from the brake hood area, then bar end shifting and down tube shifting.   I guess we could also through mountain bike style shifter pods into this as well.   One last thing in the mix is the Long Haul Trucker is available as a complete build, which would save me money as well on the build.



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0 thoughts on “The Perfecto Commuter Bike : Type of Shifting”

  1. Winter around here necesitates single speed or thumbies for mechanical simplicity.

  2. Brian says:

    STI or single speed, I bought my cross check complete, and have a laundry list of things to upgrade/replace, starting with those damn bar end shifters.

  3. Michael says:

    Bar-End–Much more economical to repair/replace than STI and field serviceable.

  4. Matt says:

    Are you definitely going to have drop bars on this thing? Or are you considering mtn bars or alt bars?

  5. BluesCat says:

    Because of the Butterfly (Trekking) Handlebars which will be a requirement for me, the MTB type trigger shifters are the best choice.

  6. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    When I built up my LHT I put STI on the drop bars. Then when I retired it from commute/utility it got bar ends and the STI went to my light touring bike… Over all the STI are very nice for fast commuting.
    What hear form non-cyclists is that bikes take too long… HA, a fast commuter may be only 5 minutes slower for 10 miles in city traffic…

  7. chiggins says:

    I went with bar-ends. On drops, they’re not as awesome usability-wise as STI’s I’m sure, but they’re better than downtube shifting, and Ultegra-grade shifters are cheap, durable and serviceable. I have them on my Trucker at the ends of Noodle bars.

    But where they shine is on the ends of the Albatross bars I have on my Xtracycle 🙂 Love ’em. If the cockpit ends up being Albatross, Northroads, or Mustaches then the bar-ends are going to pay off.

  8. Michael says:

    Most of the time commuting by bike is a huge time saver…not only are you getting somewhere just a few minutes slower than by motor vehicle (if that) you are also getting a good aerobic workout that you need to be healthy reducing the time needed for trips to the gym or an after work run.

  9. BobP says:

    I have the Surly LHT, and the only drawback for the bar ends are that when I stand to pull a big hill, I have a tendency to bump them and shift with my knees. I went for MTBs.

  10. Casey Anderson says:

    Bar end shifters are stock on the LHT, and I found that I liked them so much that I put bar end shifters on my other road-style bike, too.

    On the other hand, if you aren’t using drop bars, then MTB shifters would be a good choice. One of the great things about the LHT is that it is designed to be built up in all kinds of different ways, and I have seen them with all kinds of different bars and shifter combinations.

  11. Sean says:

    For winter riding – I’m running a singlespeed using a White Eno eccentric flip flop hub, with a White freewheel. Last winter I found that the light action indexed shifters tended to get freeze and/or gum up here on the tundra of Canuckistan.

    I do also like the Shimano Alfine 8 speed IGH though, but the shifter choices are currently “low normal” MTB style rapidfire or a Nexus gripshifter, though some company called J-Tech apparently makes a bar end shifter for the Alfine now so I may convert my rig next year.

  12. Logan says:

    I purchased an LHT complete and I enjoyed my introduction to the bar-end shifters. I preferred them over my road-bike’s STI shifters primarily because of urban cycling. All of the starts and stops with lights and stop signs was difficult with the STI. With a flick of the wrist I could down-shift with bar-ends immediately at a changing light. Also I had one minor fall with the road bike and was afraid I had broken the plastic STI shifters. I liked the peace of mind that bar-end placement (rarely damaged in an accident) and materials (metal) provided.

    I have since built up an LHT for my partner and I gave her my bar-end shifters. I am now using Rivendell silver down-tube shifters. It takes some getting used to changing hand placement but I love the sheer simplicity in function and appearance. They provide similar functionality of bar-ends but the front of the bike is so clean without the extra derailer cable housing (Sheldon Brown spelling ;). Without the cables there is plenty of room for a front rack, baskets, an/or bags. Overall I now prefer the downtube shifters; they are easy to adjust, maintain and I love the retro look of the bike.

    Good luck with all the choices!


  13. Greg says:

    Normally, I like thumbies in the winter with a single front chainring.

    Sean, for the Alfine there is also the Versa-8 shifter that is like an STI lever but spaced properly for the Alfine IGH. I have this setup on one of y bikes so we will see how it works this winter!


  14. Bob Baxter says:

    I have trekker bars on my LHT and use bar ends mounted on Paul thumbies with Dura Ace derailleurs. Slickest shifting setup I’ve ever had but the most expensive. Fewer bucks if you stick to 9 or 8 speeds.

  15. Bill says:

    Bar end shifters are nice, especially on upright bars as Chiggins said. (I also have them on an albatross equipped Xtracycle). I liked STI’s, despite the expense — but like Sean, I had trouble with them in the cold (Wisconsin). One nice thing about bar-ends is that you can change from drop bars to upright bars (Albatross, Sparrow, some alloy North Road and Wald steel) or vice versa. I think that’s a big advantage since it minimizes any reluctance to switch bars if the initial choice doesn’t work well or if the commute changes. You’d still have to change brake levers, but the less impediment to change the better I think. Downtube shifters are OK — and dead simple, but they are just not a match for the others on a new commuter.

  16. Deb says:

    Mmm. Had to vote for the downtube shifters, since that’s what I have on my LHT!

    I love them. I love that I can check by feel for what gear I’m in, and they’re so convenient, especially when wearing big winter gloves. I love that I can change multiple gears at once, which is great when starting off at a light and hitting a downhill shortly after. Though probably someone will yell at me that it’s not good to do that.

    I have STIs on my road bike, and I hate them. Plus they don’t work all that well, and that was after the previous ill-functioning STIs were replaced with new ones. I see no reason to trust the expensive and seemingly flimsy STIs, which is fine because I love my trusty downtube shifters.

  17. Kevin Love says:

    Internal hub gearing is what a commuter bike needs here in Toronto. So much salt is put on the roads in winter! If my Pashley did not have a fully enclosed chaincase my only choices would be to watch it turn to rust before my eyes or spend more time cleaning and lubing the chain than riding my bike

  18. iamtraffic says:

    For cross city commutes I think single speed is best for the following reasons.

    1)no messing around with gears at lights
    2)lot less maintenance
    3)allows you to concentrate on the cars around you rather than messing with gears
    4)keeps cost down – less kit to buy

    I held off converting my bike for a long time, then my derailleur broke so it forced me to stick to one gear. I liked it so converted the whole system to single speed. I commute in Brussels which is quite hilly, initially it was tougher but after a week or so it was fine. I’m a lot fitter now – love taking over folks with gears struggling up hills.

  19. Sean says:


    Thanks for that heads up on the Versa-8. They look good! Is the left lever a shifter too so that you could run a double chainring or are you just running 1×8?

    I have the Alfine 2×8 setup on my Big Dummy, using the trigger shifters. I like it but may get the hubs rebuilt into a 700c rim for a Cross Check build that I might pull the trigger on this payday 🙂

  20. Jim says:

    So BikeShopGirl, you aren’t considering an IGH like the Alfine? Is that because the LHT isn’t specifically designed to accept it? No elliptical BB or sliding horizontal dropouts?

  21. Jim –

    I like the idea of an alfine hub for a dedicated commuter, but I also plan on doing longer trips and touring.

  22. Ghost Rider says:

    Thumbies for a flat bar, bar ends for a drop bar. Either set to “friction” mode — way less to go wrong and can handle any combination of drivetrain components you can throw at it.

  23. Ghost Rider says:

    @Sean — the left Versa 8 lever is just a brake lever…no shifter.

    I’ve tried them (in the prototype stage)…they work quite well.

  24. Tinker says:

    I have been considering the Nu Vinci Continuously Variable Planetary Transmission. yes, it seems to be a bit heavy, but on an urban bike with fenders, lights and fat tires, its fine. With a continuously variable gear range you can shift down a bit to get your cadence up, and go right up the hill, up-shifting the whole way. It’s instantly adjustable for any condition you can name. A thing of beauty, and a joy forever!

  25. Even though STI’s are the winner at this time, I’ll be sticking with the stock build that comes with bar-end shifters.

    One of the biggest reasons is bar choices, much like one commenter asked about. I plan on trying various “alternative” bars, like the Mustache, and Albatross bars.

  26. Matt P says:

    Well Why didn’t you say so! Sheesh
    I like STI because of the convenience of not having to move my hands much (yes I’m lazy) but my touring bike will have bar ends for the simple fact they are simpler to fix.

  27. Matt P,
    I didn’t weigh in as I wanted everyone’s opinions.

    STI is good, but at the same time I don’t want to be stranded out on a tour in the middle of alaska because they are frozen.

  28. Matt P says:

    I was just kidding Bike Show Girl. Rock on with you bar ends!

  29. ac says:

    It seems like we’re mixing up a few different choices in this one question: Handlebar type, gear type (e.g. IGH vs. derailleur vs. CVT), and shifter-lever type.

    Any chance we could back up one step, and decide on handlebar type first? It seems like that would tend to guide the shifter-lever decision.

  30. ac –

    I’m one that would like options. I don’t want to be stuck with a flat bar, or drop bar. That’s why I’m really leaning towards bar end, as they can become almost anything… drop, multi-use, or even flat with thumbies

  31. ac says:

    I like that answer! Handlebar type: variable.

  32. davidg says:

    Prefering moustache bars and multiple gears, I have to go with bar end shifters. I’ve never much like the intergrated brifter idea for a machine meant to tolerate hard use in foul conditions. Thusly, have never used them.

    1. David – Do you have pictures of your set up? I’m collecting photos of various mustache bars to continue this LHT build.

  33. Mike says:

    BSG, a quick anecdote on LHT builds. My bike shop guy is a genius. His favorite among his bikes is his LHT. When I talked to him about buying a LHT frameset, he dismissed the idea immediately.

    The complete bike is so thoughtfully spec’d out by Surly, he said, that even he — a bike freak — changed only the bars and the saddle. The rest was spot-on.

    Just saying.

    1. Mike –

      I agree on the complete build, keep it a secret but I purchased a complete LHT last week thanks to all the comments. We will continue on with the perfect build to outfit it.

  34. ac says:

    My only problem with the LHT complete build is the lack of disc brakes, for stopping in the rain.

  35. ac says:

    Oops – I just took a look at the Surly website, and it looks like the LHT frameset does not accommodate disc brakes at all.

  36. davidg says:

    bikeshopgirl- I don’t presently have any pics, but can shoot some this week. Pretty standard fare really. Stock qbp/lht build with the exception of the on one mungo bars and brooks saddle. Requisite add-ons: front rack/wald basket, carradice on the back. Good call ordering the lht, by the way. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  37. Max O. says:

    By far the best bang for buck shifting available is lowish end Shimano stuff like Alivo/Acera/Deore pods. They do great on a trekking/butterfly bar like the brilliant one offered by Nashbar, or a traditional curved city bar like the VO Milan.

    If drop bars are a must, downtube shifter really are the most inexpensive and reliable option.

    For the bits that move the chain, anything Shimano that’s above bolt-on-claw level will shift a commuter drivetrain fine.

    Bring everything to a stop with Vee-brakes. Tektro/Avid/Shimano–all have great offerings for less than twenty bucks an end. Add some Kool Stop pads eventually for smooth and easy to service brakes.

  38. Dave says:

    I’m thinking a disc or singlespeed build for winter, maybe an internal geared hub setup for summer. Really like to see something with the clearance of a Cross Check that comes with this kind of flexibility.

    LHT has a popular following, great for the touring across Alaska and such–
    I am looking at BB7 brakes for a disc setup.

    The Big Dummy has possibilities, IMHO.

  39. Max O. says:

    If you want an Alfine hub and disc setup, the new Kona “Dr. Fine” is a great choice:

    Swap out the Contis for some cxcross tires and you can have some sloppy fire road fun.

  40. Micah McKinley says:

    Bar end shifters all the way on my Surly Cross check…sure sometimes my knee will shift them by accident, but you become quite aware of them after good habits are formed.

    What makes them nice is the ease of use of them at lights or gearing up or down at different grades. They’re graceful and discreet. The come stock on Surly and Ive liked them better than STI shifters…I’m commuting, not racing.

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