An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Esoteric Cycling Argument #117c: Indexed shifting vs. friction shifting


I hadn't really checked my calendar, so I wasn't aware that it was once again the season for all the retro-grumps to start complaining about electronic shifting -- and the inevitable reminder that the 100-Years War against indexed shifting is still in progress.

And Shimano invented indexed shifting specifically to make you buy a group, including their shift levers (and freewheel).



Of course, I agree with the general sentiment. Electronic shifting is, on the face of it, one of those ridiculous "innovations" that will only do one thing well: Separate the overpaid and gullible from their money. Still, to carry the argument all the way back to indexed shifting gets tiresome. I personally am a fan of friction shifting (er--actually, no shifting it all is fine by me).



But to suggest that indexed shifting was merely a conspiracy to sell more parts is kind of silly, since it really does eliminate the need for (the beautiful but obscure art of) finessing your downtube or barend shifters. Incidentally, it also makes STI- and rapid-rise-type shifting possible, and you'll have a hard time prying the cold dead fingers of certain cyclists from these devices.

Even the übergrump himself, Grant Peterson, is a fan of rapid rise.

Still, I have to say... the whole kerfuffle reminds me of something... can't quite put my finger on it...




10 comments:

Jim Thill said...

Rapid Rise works fine with friction shifting.

Pinchie said...

true enough. although i wonder if it ever would have come into existence without indexed shifting. rapid rise strikes me as an innovation that occurred to "correct for" the disparity between upshifting and downshifting, where upshifting was easy and indexed but downshifting felt more like friction shifting -- i.e. your thumbs got worked on quickdraw MTB shifters. (Pretty sure that's the genesis of rapid rise, but I could be completely full of it.)

Pinchie said...

i realize there were much earlier archetypal RR derailleurs tho, so i guess this is more a "mainstreaming" story... though one wonders if RR would have stuck around if the MTB world hadn't gone STI.

Ron Georg said...

Howdy--

I ended up with low normal (Rapid Rise didn't stick as a marketing tag--must be some viagra conflict) by accident. A customer at a shop where I worked couldn't shift with it, and the shop graciously gave him a high normal replacement. We were left with a perfectly good, if backward, LX rear, at the same time I was building a Surly Long Haul Trucker. I stuck it on, and I see why Grant loves them--they're great with bar-cons. Even with decades of shift experience, I enjoy shifting down to downshift and up to upshift, front and rear. I know it's simple minded, but there it is.
Happy Trails,
Ron Georg
Moab Utah

Matt said...

I've been thinking of doing RapidRise on my winter bike. It's a mountain bike with a regular derailleur and a twist-grip shifter. My usual commuting bike in the warm months is a Nexus 8-speed with their twist-grip shifter. The inscrutable genii at Shimano made these things SHIFT IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS! God damn it, that was stupid. I spend a couple of weeks at each end of the season shifting the wrong direction or hesitating, having to think about which way to go, going through an intersection and suddenly spinning wildly, or dropping into a much higher gear as the hill gets steep. You hate to change out a perfectly functional derailleur, but I'll probably do it.

Jim Thill said...

That sounds like a plausible reason for the existence or mainstreaming of rapid rise. In any case, one reason I like them because one or another distributor is always blowing them out at a huge discount. I have a lifetime supply of LX Rapid-Risers.

I had a quick moment of intense confusion a few days ago when replacing the BB on some 30 year-old war horse. It had one of those reverse action front derailleurs on it. Really threw me for a second.

Anonymous said...

I would also hazard to speculate that Rapid Rise was supposed to correct for those painfull gear-grinding downshifts that come too late -- when your're already into the crux of a steep climb that you didn't see coming. At least I recall that as a selling point when those first came out... and yeah, folks who like them tend to love them, and hoard them.

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