Retroshift Install and Initial Review

20 04 2012

Retroshift brake lever w/ Shimano bar end shifter...


Retroshift Two brake levers are simple to install. Just slide the mounting bracket onto the bar. Move into position. Lightly bolt lever on and fine tune your lever position then tighten. Once you get the levers onto the bars your bar end shifters just bolt on. Retroshift provides a few small washers to take out any play that you may experience depending on the levers you are using.

My 26" wheeled LHT - Black Beauty...

The cable routing is a bit funky, but I actually like how it looks and it’s less in the way of a bar bag than my usual bar end shifter cable routing.

The whole installation process is painless. I thought it was weird that Retroshift didn’t provide a step by step set of installation instructions, but it really is so simple that you don’t need any.

Keeping the cables neat...

On The Road

  • The bar end shifters mounted to the Retroshift levers fall to hand very easily.
  • Shifting is fast and positive. The position of the levers tells you what gear you are in by feel.
  • You can dump multiple gears on the rear with a swipe of your hand.
  • The shifters don’t interfere with braking from the hoods or the drops.
  • You can only shift from the hoods so if you are on the drops you have to move your hand.
  • Due to the shift mount you can’t use the cable release feature at the lever to generate extra cable slack.
  • The ergonomics are not as refined as brifters, but it’s way easy to dump a lot of gears or operate Retoshift bar cons with heavy gloves on.
  • Using bar end shifters the front derailleur is always in friction mode and the rear derailleur can be run in indexed or friction modes. That means it will keep shifting in challenging environments.
  • Current version will work with road bike specific mechanical disc brakes, but not MTB disc brakes.

Another look...

I like Shimano bar end shifters. I’ve used them mounted on the ends of drop bars and on flat bars using Paul Thumbies. Retroshift levers just give you a 3rd option for a mounting location. Which one you would prefer is simply a matter of taste.

I spend a lot of time with my hands just behind the hoods on drop bar bikes so I am used to moving my hands to brake or shift. I’m also not an uber frequent shifter so this doesn’t present a problem for me. In fact I find moving my hands to brake and shift is helpful to prevent circulation related problems on long rides. I don’t race so I don’t need a dozen lightening fast shifts each minute.

More cable routing porn...

What about Brifters?

I’ve used several sets of integrated brake & shift levers that came OEM on my bikes. They work fine when they are clean. I don’t want to mess with them for any challenging applications like bike touring and I would never pay the retail cost for a set if I was building up a frame. I’d rather go the Retroshift route myself or stick with bar end shifters.

Tektro 720 cantilever brakes...

The Downsides

  • need to buy new brake levers
  • current version not compatible with v-brakes/MTB mechanical discs [a compatible version being released later in 2012]
  • can’t shift from drops
  • looks a bit unusual

Some fresh bar tape...

You can read my initial impressions of the Retroshift levers when they were unpacked here.