Downtube Shifters Vs Bar End Shifters ?

The debate on downtube shifters vs bar end shifters has been around for a while. It’s not like either of these two types of bike shift levers are wrong, but they do have their differences.

Downtube shifters are bicycle gear levers mounted on the bike’s downtube using bosses or clamps. On the other hand, bar end shifters install to the open ends of the handlebars using screws on each side of the handlebars.

According to the discussions on common bike forums, the two shifters are liked in almost equal measure. So, look into their features closely.

Are you in a hurry? Well, here are some of the best downtube and bar end shifters in the market.

Downtube shifters vs. Bar end shifters - Bar end shifters on a white wrapped handlebars

Downtube Shifters

The downtube shifters have been around for a long time, and they worked excellently. In fact, that’s the reason why some riders swear by downtube shifters to date. 

So, what are the merits and demerits of using downtube shifters?

Pros Of Downtube Shifters

1. It’s The Most Versatile Type Of Shifters

Downtube shifters are the most versatile type of shifter because they are usable on bicycles with any frame. Also, they can handle abuse more easily than other shifters.

2. Setup Is Quick And Easy.

Setting up downtube shifters is easy. You can install them on any bicycle that has a hub gear system or derailleur gears.

3. Less Expensive Than Other Options

For beginning cyclists, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on your bike. Go downtube shifters. They are inexpensive, and they’ll last for years.

Cons Of Downtube Shifters

  1. You have to move your hand down a bit in order to shift gears, which can be inconvenient when you ride off-road.  
  2. It’s not very easy to use when riding uphill.
  3. There is less space for a water bottle holder compared to the other two types of shifters.

Bar End Shifters

Bar end shifters came later after the downtube shifters. The principle of cable-operated bar end shifters is basically the same as with downtube shifters. The main difference is that they are not attached to a frame tube but to handlebar ends.

Are bar end shifters good? A left hand bar end shifter close up

Advantages Of Bar End Shifters

1. They Aren’t Limiting 

Bar end shifters are positioned on the end of the handlebars, so they don’t interfere with braking. Also, if you prefer having your handlebar bag on, bar end shifters are the best choice.

2. They Offer Precise Gear Shifting Under Heavy Loads

When riding a loaded bike, especially when touring, you need to stay in perfect control of the bike at all times, even when changing gears. Since bar end shifters enable riders to shift gears without letting go of the handlebars, you can precisely and safely change gears under heavy loads.

3. The Cost Is Minimal In Comparison To Other Parts Of A Bicycle

Compared to other types of bike shifters, bar end tubes are relatively affordable. They are also easy to install, and you don’t need a lot of techniques or tools. In many cases, they will take less than 10 minutes to fit on your bike.

4. Bar End Shifters Can Be Mounted On Any Handlebars

Regardless of what type of bars your bike has, you can use bar end shifters. This is a great option for those who do not want to go with the standard road bike shifters. 

Disadvantages – Bar End Shifters

1. Cable Routing Can Be Complex

Bar end shifters have cables that run from the handlebars over the downtube to the derailleur. This calls for long cable housing that has to negotiate several bends.

If wrongly fitted, the system could experience increased friction that would cause difficulty in shifting.

2. Restricts You From Installing Other Accessories

It is hard to enjoy other accessories like bar end mirrors that mount to the same position as bar end shifters.

Downtube Shifters Vs Bar End Shifters

3. Reduced Knee Clearance

Depending on the rider’s height and their bike sizes, bar end shifters may keep getting in the way of 

a rider’s thighs or knees.

4. The Is More Costly Compared To Downtube Shifters

When compared with downtube shifters, bar end shifters are relatively expensive. For example, for the price of new bar end shifters, or slightly more, you can get a good second-hand bike with downtube shifters.

Side By Side Comparison Of Downtube Shifters Vs Bar End Shifters


  1. The shifters are designed to move the chain around the inner parts of their respective derailleurs.
  2. Both types of shifters usually use a shift cable routed on the frame to the derailleur.
  3. Downtube shifters are used on road bicycles, while bar end shifters are popular with touring or mountain bikers.
  4. Both are compatible with multiple brands of derailleurs, meaning that if you upgrade your gears in the future, it won’t be a problem.


  1. Bar end shifters are more expensive than downtube levers,
  2. Downtube shifters are located on the downtube above the bottom bracket, but the bar end shifters are mounted located on the handlebars.
  3. Bar End Shifters are easier to use and have better ergonomics than downtube shifters.
  4. Downtube shifters use less cable housing as compared to bar end shifters.
Are Bar End Shifters Good

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Bar End Shifters Good?

Bar end shifters are suitable for touring and mountain bikes. Also, they are easier to use for beginners than downtube shifters. It would help if you looked at an article written earlier titled “Are Bar End Shifters Good For Use?”

3 Are Downtube Shifters Indexed?

Downtube shifters were originally unindexed. However, in modern days, there are downtube shifters that come with the indexing feature.

4. How Do Indexed Shifters Work?

The levers of indexed shifters have notches that click when you shift gears. These notches help beginners to change gears perfectly. The clicking sound guides riders on how far they should push the levers.

5. What Are Butterfly Handlebars?

Butterfly handlebars, also known as trekking bars, are bike bars that take the shape of butterfly wings. These bars are popular on European touring bikes for comfort and efficiency on those long rides.

6. When Was Indexed Shifting Introduced?

Indexed gear shifting came into the biking world in 1985. Before that, only friction-shifting systems were available.

In Summary – Downtube Shifters Vs Bar End Shifters

 For those looking for a more affordable and easy-to-install option, downtube shifters are the best choice. These fall into two categories – friction or indexed shifting.

A friction shifter utilizes an adjustable cable to move the derailleur in relation to the cog set. At the same time, indexing uses a small lever that moves up and down a series of notches.

This allows you to easily find your gears without having to search around blindly.

Downtube shifters tend to be less expensive than their bar end counterparts, but either type will work well with any setup.

 In addition, both types of levers (downtube or bar) can come equipped with gear indicators.