Saturday, June 11

Road shifters on a Salsa Fargo?

Going STI shifter, wondering what others think

I've been diligently looking for an alternative to bar end shifters for about two years now and it just so happens I've scored a sweet mismatched set of used Durace / Ultegra STI shifters which should be absolutely perfect for the job. Obviously I'll have to use a cable doubler, but it should be lighter, quicker shifting, no need to take my hands off the bar in singletrack and so many more advantages.

Indeed the only disadvantage I can think of is it will impede bivy roll space a little, but with my bikepacking gear now so well dialed and my frame bags so big (XXL frame) I only ever use a bivy roll in winter.  

Good morning

Ironically my road bike, a salsa campeon with a compact double has pretty much the exact same setup already! :)

Specifically I was doing a road ride on my Campeon here in Ohio called the CFC (Columbus Fall challenge, 17,000 vertical feet, 200+ miles, 2 days,one of my favorite organized rides) and I needed the extra gear so I put an XT long cage derailleur and a 34-12 on my road bike opposite my compact 50-34 cranks. It worked flawlessly and brilliantly. In fact it worked so brilliantly that I've kept it that way. Indeed I've dialed in the low cogs for road riding cadence and can hang with even the fastest group rides with the local area clubs (avg 21/22+mph). So, I actually know the setup will shift flawlessly. I've already put at least 3k miles on it.

Inversely I have on multiple occasions run rapidfire with ultegra and durace derailleurs with no issues. I should state this is 100% 9-speed. Can't speak for the 10 speed stuff at all.

So... about the only thing I don't know is how well the braking will work with a cable doubler and what cable doublers one might recommend??

Mud? Some people have brought up the mud issue, citing the inability to micro-adjust shifting or turn off the indexing like you can with a bar end shifter. But technically most people run Rapidfire shifters on trips like the great divide which has no friction mode and not even half clicks like the STI triple shifter. I have run rapidfire, STI and bar end shifters for years (albeit STI never off road) and can't think the STI shifting will be anything but a huge plus even in the mud.

Durability? The thought has come to mind that the STI while more protected then the bar end shifters could be susceptible to taking a major hit (i.e. on a tree) and/or be more susceptible to mud/rain/wear long term wear.  I guess only time and experience will tell.

Why not bar end?

Doing technical midwestern singletrack I've come to the conclusion that I hate bar end shifters on my fargo. Love the fargo, love bar end shifters, just not the combination. Indeed on my onroad / backroad Cross Check touring bike bar end shifters are awesome. However the fargo is a singletrack beast capable of even the most technical singletrack and all but downhill, even with drop bars. But my fargo mine as well be singlespeed for the shifting capability of bar end shifters in technical trail riding. One cannot simply remove their hand from the bar in technical riding, reach down and slap the shifter into the exact right gear before returning the hand to the bar. Especially when the left shifter is not indexed. God forbid one should need to shift but left and right shifters at once.

Furthermore with a woodchipper bar with it's flaired drops the bar end shifters are extremely exposed. Indeed on my first major trip with it last year (TransWisconsin) I dropped my fargo on its side and busted the right bar end shifter. When laid on its side or dropped the bike simply does lay/land on the bar end shifter. Even if turning the shifters inward toward the bottom they're still very likely to take a hit if the bike is dropped or falls over. THis is not even to mention the knee issues with bar end shifters and technical singletrack.

So! What do others think? Anyone have any experience?


Glenn said...

Michael, I love your blog and photos, and have been diligently watching what and how you configure your Fargo. I would love to know how this switch works for you. I had been thinking along similar lines for my Fargo, but then had issues with my index shifting and was grateful for the friction mode. However, having ridden some single track with it now, I agree, it is difficult if not impossible to shift while riding that terrain.


Anonymous said...


Thinking of making a similar conversion to my el mariachi; meaning going with sti shifters and woodchippers. Any advice/thoughts.
Thanks Gene

Michael Meiser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Meiser said...

repost comment, fixed errors

@Glenn and @anonymous... the STI are working great. I've been continuing to make tweaks.

My only concern is the durability of the left shifter. This is odd because usually the right shifter wears out first. I think this is purely due to the shifters being well used before I put them on. The left pushes a little hard. Perhaps also it is the 105 der I've chosen to use it with. Anyway, I shoot it full of aerosol lube every chanse I get to keep it free of dirt.

As for the right shifter... it's simply superb.

I have been considering backing up to 8-speed... considering... I have a real problem with drivetrain durability considering my size, the number of miles and the conditions I ride in... high mileage gravel grinders and lots of rain and snow rides to be clear.

I tend to stretch chains and toast cassettes to quikly even with meticulous maintence. I think also that 8-speed might give me even more solid shifts when the drive train is bound in mud and snow.

At the very least 8 would be cheaper to maintain.

In summary... shifts like a dream on singletrack. As I dial it in it just shifts handles better and better.

Riding... You have to watch doing technical singletrack on the hoods though. supposedly this is why the woodchipper bars exist... to ride technical in the drops.

The way the hoods mount they can't take a massive jolt like coming off a drop.

But then I rarely do so technical a track... mostly I'm gravel grinding or power line riding... not technical singletrack and definitely not downhill on this.

As for durability... I think for most modern STI and the new sram Apex it's there.. but you will want to blast them with lube first sign of trouble after heavy rain riding or mudding. They are no more delicate the rapidfire, but not as bomb proof as gripshift or bar end. They are suseptible to mud and dirt getting in them causing the paws to slip or miss and/or premature wear.