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.



18 responses

20 04 2012
The Goats

Glad the install was simple (there really is nothing new to learn here right! :). We have had a good number of these Shifters go to Long Haul Truckers and am looking forward to finding out why.

As always super nice photos!

20 04 2012

These seem like just the ticket for my Rawland rSogn.
Is there any reason you couldn’t, or shouldn’t, use downtube shifters on them instead of bar-ends?
The brake levers look very similar to my Tektros, do you think I could just unbolt my current levers from the clamp and bolt these on without having to mess up my bar tape?

20 04 2012

@Ryan – DT shifters should work and they are modified Tektro levers so they “probably” would bolt right on.

20 04 2012

Is that a yes on the DT shifter question then?


20 04 2012

Yup…anything that would mount to downtube shift posts would work on the Retroshift levers.

20 04 2012
Leaf Slayer

More importantly, what are your thoughts on the 26″ wheeled LHT? I’m sorta kicking around the idea of picking up a disc version with the plan to have it on the road by winter. I have all the parts I’d need with the exception of wheels.

20 04 2012

@Leaf Slayer – at the moment I prefer my 26″ wheeled LHT. If I was starting again I might go the 26″ wheeled disc route and then use 650B wheels.

20 04 2012

For me, the selling point is not fishing for downtube shifters, banging my knees on bar ends, or buying low-end 8spd brifters. Getting cheap Ultegra levers turned out to be a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision to replace chains far too often.

20 04 2012

I just played around with my levers and some shifters and think that using bar ends with these is probably best for me. The bend in the lever should help since I seem to have better range of motion with my fingers than my thumb.
I just realized, though, that I’d have to put the rear shifter on the left, which is the opposite of what I’m used to.
I guess I just need to order the things and experiment!

@champs794: why would you need to replace chains more often? The chain and derailleur only know how much cable is being pulled, not what’s pulling it.
I’ve noticed no difference in chain wear between my STI, DT, and bar end bikes.

20 04 2012
The Goats

thelazyrando –

Disc Brakes: just noticed you mention current version will not work with disc brakes. To clarify it will only work with road versions of disc brakes like the BB7R as found on a Salsa Vaya for example. The upcoming V-brake compatible model will work with MTN disc brakes like the plain BB7 as found on the Surley Disc Trucker.

Compatibility: “Yup…anything that would mount to downtube shift posts would work on the Retroshift levers” Just wanted to post a caution. There are so many subtle variables between shift levers and not all will work. Stick with Shimano (Bar-end or Down-tube) and you are likely be fine. Microshift for example will not work as cable groove is to short and will cause miss-shifts on lowest gears. Campagnolo and SRAM will ‘currently’ not work until a later date if/when a version specifically for them is done. There is soon to be available available a well matched Retroshift shift lever. It will be available in 9 or 10sp (no friction). If you would like friction the Rivendell Silver shifters work GREAT!

Front Shift Setting: I notice you are running a double chainring and have the front shifter set up in the three chainring position. (Guess you are right regarding the need for better (any!!) set up instructions – we will work on this). See our support page for some details. Upcoming Retroshift units will have all undergone some updates. A nice one is the ability to choose between 3 instead of two positions on the front shifter position.

Ryan –

Left Shifter: The left Retroshift will likely only work with a left shift unit due to the direction of the cable groove on the shifter.

Bar Tape: If you are currently running a Tektro lever it very likely has the exact same bar mount and you might well be able to swap out without a bar re-wrap.


The Goats

20 04 2012
Leaf Slayer

Vic, I’m with you on the 26″ Disc Trucker with 650b wheels. I’m sure it won’t take long for someone to try it.

21 04 2012

Thanks for the review. Not sure I have got my head around the cable routing but or maybe it is the red housings :). Might consider them down the track for sure.

24 04 2012

Nicely done. This is a “someday” buy for my tandem. I live for the hoods but moved away from non-indicator STI levers back to bar ends. The STIs were a bit worn and glitchy; I can tell about what gear I’m in with a quick glance at the bar ends. Plus I was able to install road brake levers that let me eliminate Travel Agents to the rear disc and front v-brake. The Retroshift set up seems to be that rarest of upgrades, improved function at a moderate price.

17 05 2012
The Goats

“The Retroshift set up seems to be that rarest of upgrades, improved function at a moderate price.”

Nice quote 16incheswestofpeoria. 🙂

The Goats

6 04 2013

Hey– Do the shifters that come stock with the 9-spd Retroshifts have friction-index adjustability? Or are they index only?

6 04 2013

@LK – AFAIK Retroshifts do not come with shifters. They are brake levers only.

6 04 2013
The Goats

We do now sell a complete system with the option to still buy without shift levers installed. Our 9 and 10 speed sets are index only for rear and friction for front.


6 04 2013

@Goats – thanks for the info. I’m obviously out of touch! 😉

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