Are Bar End Shifters Good For Use?

Different types of bike gear shifters are available in the market today. However, are bar end shifters good enough for use by beginners and pros as well?

Bar end shifters are good for non-competitive applications, and you can choose between friction and indexed shifting. Also, bar end shifters happen to be cheaper than most of the other systems in the market. Notably, this type of shifter requires little or no maintenance.

Another reason bar end shifters are popular is that you don’t have to take your hand off the handle bar to change gears. Therefore, even beginners can comfortably shift gears without compromising on their safety.

are bar end shifters good

What Are Bar End Shifters?

Bar end shifters are gear shifts that attach to the end of bicycle handlebars. They are used to change gears, giving the rider more control over the bicycle.

These shifters can be found on almost all racing bicycles, but are also found on touring bikes, hybrid bikes, and mountain bikes.

A major benefit of bar-end shifts is they allow you to keep your hands in the same position without having to change anything at all. Say from a hood grip down on drops or vice versa with no adjustment of the brake levers or additional attachments needed.

The ability to jump from one style of hand positioning on brakes and shifter set-up allows the rider greater flexibility, comfort, and ease of use.

Types Of Bar End Shifters 

Bar end shifters make bike riding easier because all gear changing take place at more natural hand positions. Generally, there are two types of bar end shifter.

1. Indexed Bar End Shifters

Indexed shifters have a series of detents that hold the shift cable against a stop. This allows the rider to click through all the available gear combinations without moving their hand from the bar end. Usually, there will be eight or nine different indexed positions.

The shifter has been redesigned from the previous generation to have much less play in the mechanism, making it feel quite precise. There is also no rattle whatsoever when you spin the shifter around.

An excellent example of an indexed shifter is the SHIMANO Dura-Ace 11-Speed (amazon link) bar end shifters. These shifters provide a unique, comfortable, and ergonomic position for your hands while shifting gears.

The friction front shifting is compatible with double and triple cranks, while the gear shifter can be converted from index to friction.

SHIMANO Dura-Ace SL-BSR1 11-Speed Bar End Shifters

2. Friction Shifters

Bar end friction shifters operate the derailleur exactly as indexed shifters but without gear notches. Therefore, friction shifters do not have that clicking sound as in indexed shifters.

To change gear, you need to twist the lever up or down, moving it through the range of gears available.

You move the lever until you get the desired gear. Therefore, you are always left with a choice of two gears on each lever – the one you want and one further up or down the range.

Notably, some indexed shifters have a conversion mechanism that allows a cyclist to change it to a friction shifter if the drive train has issues.

A good example of a friction bar end shifter is the MicroShift Bar End Shifters (amazon link) They are designed to be used with any standard brake lever.  

The friction front shifter accommodates double or triple cranksets and includes shift cables. In addition, the rear shifter is can work as indexed or friction, which allows for a wide range of gears and easy shifting.

Why Do Touring Bikes Have Bar-End Shifters? 

Without a doubt, it has been the tradition of touring bikers to utilize bar end shifters. Therefore, some cyclists use this type of shifter as out of a long touring tradition.

All the same, what makes these shifters a darling for touring bikers?

1. They Are Hardy

One feature that makes touring bikes use bar end shifters is that they are tough. Even in the event of a front-end crash, you can be sure the shifters are safe.  

With so many uncertainties that come with bike touring, having a sturdy shifting system is rewarding.

Are bar end shifters good? A touring bike by a river

2. The Shifters Are Long Lasting

As mentioned above, bar end shifters are hardy. They are not likely to develop abrupt mechanical issues.

Most riders who go through muddy terrains prefer bar ends to any other type of bike shifters.

3. You Can Switch Between Friction And Index Shifting

Another reason why these shifters are dear to tour cyclists is their versatility. With friction shifting as an option, you can switch between indexed shifting and friction and use any number of cogs.

Also, if something goes wrong with your drive train, you can switch from indexed to friction shifting. As such, you will get seamless shifts for the whole journey.

4. They Allow Room For Handlebar Bags

There is a misconception that states that bar ends are for guys with big palms. While this isn’t true, the shifting system leaves enough room on the handlebars for you to hang your bike bag.

In addition, since the shifters are at the extreme of the bars, you get excellent leverage and ensure that you have total control of the bike at all times.

What Are Their Advantages – Are Bar End Shifters Good?

Some of the reasons why this shifting system is good include:

  1. A bar end shifter is lightweight
  2. These shifters are easy to use
  3. It adjusts the gear quickly with just a few clicks of the lever
  4. Durability is higher

Disadvantages Of Bar End Shifters

  1. Difficulty in quick gear shifting on the road
  2. The bar end shifter can wear out over time
Are Bar End Shifters Good? A bar end shifter close up

Why Are Bar End Shifters So Expensive?

Bar end shifters are expensive because they are among the most versatile shifters in the cycling world. The more speeds a shifter can handle, the higher the price.

For example, if you have an indexed shifter for a ten-speed cassette, you can convert the shifters to friction type to allow you to use it on sprockets of different speeds without hiccups.

Notably, the design also makes the system cost slightly more. It offers better weight distribution by moving weight out of the handlebar area and placing it at the ends of your bike.

How Do You Fix Bar-End Shifters?

Purchasing the best bar end shifters is one step but installing them right is equally crucial. That is why it is critical to get it right.

Notably, the two shifter controllers (left and right) have identical installation processes.

Start by pushing the conical end of the shifters into the hollow end of the handlebars. As you do so, ensure that the cabling housing stop (a tiny hole on the shifters) is at eh bottom.

Using a wrench, fasten the shifters to the bar end.

The next step is running the lever’s boss through the hole on the bar end shifters. Place the positioning washer and verify the projection.

Finally, install the grip and hand tighten the screws through the lever grip hole. Use a screwdriver to fasten the lever grip to the shifters.

Once you are through with that part, install the cable housing and cable.

Are bar end shifters good? A mechanic's hand with a spanner

How Do You Ride A Bar End Shifter?

Riding a bike with bar end shifters is simple and elegant in its simplicity. Even novice cyclists can get it right every time on their first try.

The shifters work more or less like the downtube shifters, only that they are mounted at the extreme ends of the handlebars.

On a bike with bar-end shifters, the palm moves up while the fingers press the lever down. This has to do with leverage and introduces a different shifting style because it is not our natural way of moving our hands around.

In order to use this method perfectly, you must practice regularly, or your riding will suffer from missed shifts or having to adjust your hand position mid-ride.

Doing it well takes a little practice, but the rewards are worth it, especially if you have a long ride in your future.

To use this type of shifter the way they were designed to be used, you will need to keep a few points abreast.

First, maintain a firm grip on the shifter at all times. Second, pull up and back on the shifter while pushing down and forward with your palm/outside of your thumb to engage the gears.

 This is where it will take a little practice to get it right without looking, but once you get this technique down, you’ll really enjoy riding with them much more than the standard grip shifter.

Are bar end shifters good? A cyclist riding down a trail

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do You Pedal While Shifting Gears?

You need to keep pedaling as you shift gears in a bicycle. The chain has to be in motion for the derailleur to move the chain from one sprocket to the other.

 If you change gears while coasting, the gears won’t change until you start pedaling. Unfortunately, the drive train will produce distressing noises.

2. What Are Road Bike Shifters Called?

Modern-day road bikes use integrated shifters to change gears. The reason for their popularity is that it’s relatively simple and puts all the gear-changing mechanisms that are best placed under your fingers.

Integrated shifters have braking and shifting components, which is why they are casually known as “brifters”.

3. Are Bar End Shifters Friction?

Bar end shifters are both indexed and friction. Ideally, the front derailleurs use friction shifter while the rear uses indexed ones.

All the same, if the need arises, you can convert the rear ones into friction shifters to allow for customized shifting.

4. Are Friction Shifters Good?

Friction shifters are good because they significantly reduce the chances of failed shifters. In addition, the friction shifter systems are easy to install.

5. What Are Downtube Shifters?

Downtube shifters are gear shifting levers mounted on a bicycle’s downtube instead of the contemporaries that mount on the handlebars. It would be best to look at our earlier article, “Are Downtube Shifters Good To Use?” for more details.

Final Word

Bar end shifters are an excellent choice for those who don’t need to shift quickly or compete but still want a reliable and affordable gear system.

They offer the best of both worlds with friction and indexed shifting options and are cheaper than some other types of shifters in the market.

If you’re looking for a reliable way of changing gears without breaking the bank, bar end shifters may be right up your alley!