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How to Use Downtube Shifters? – The Cyclist Guy

how to use downtube shifters

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Do you love to ride a bike and get reasonable control of it by every pedal? Then a classic ‘ol downtube shifter [affiliate link] is your best friend! People may think this is a thing of the past; a downtube shifter offers numerous advantages!

Not only are they simple, reliable, and cost-effective, they allow you to shift across the entire range of gears with one quick movement!

Downtube shifters are great accessories for the cycle to get the utmost experience of biking on the roads. Mainly, these shifters are used on road bikes. They are easy to use with your hand. But it can be a bit tricky to set up and use them. So, the question is how to use downtube shifters easily.

Well, Downtube shifters can be operated using a lever. This lever is mounted on the down tube of the bike frame, close to the bottom bracket.

You can easily pull and push the lever with your thumb while holding the handlebars. You can shift gears as you push or pull in an accurate direction.

Nothing to worry about understanding the tactics of using these unique shifters! I am here to share knowledge on the downtube shifter tutorial as a problem solver.

The Definition of Downtube Shifters

You can find variations while looking for bike shifters. Some of the popular shifters are:

  • Thumb shifters
  • Bar-end shifters
  • Electronic shifters
  • Twist-grip shifters
  • Downtube shifters

The last one I am explaining here. It is a unique type of shifter with levers mounted on the bike frame. Generally, other shifters are set on handlebars.

As this shifter is fixed to the frame, you can get versatile technical advantages. When your hands are on the handlebars, you can control
the levers.

How to Use Downtube Shifters

The popularity of these shifters is at its peak nowadays; that’s for a good reason! You can easily use, rely on, and gain a better shifting experience to install the downtube shifters.

Below, you can find a quick guide or tutorial on using downtube shifters on your bike:

  • Installation of Downtube shifters
  • Start Using the Installed Shifter

Installation of Downtube shifters

Installation of a down tube shifter can seem pretty daunting as it is a manual process. But the whole process comes down to:

  • Gathering required parts & instruments.
how to use downtube shifters
1. Gather Required Parts & Instruments
  • Screwing Shifter on the baseplate.
how to use downtube shifters
2. Screwing shifter on the baseplate
  • Threading the Shifter Cable.
how to use downtube shifters
3. Threading the shifter cable
  • Connecting the Cable to the derailleur.
how to use downtube shifters
4. Connecting the Cable to the derailleur
  • Adjusting the high-limit screws.
how to use downtube shifters
5. Adjust the high-limit screws
  • Taking necessary precautions.

Now read the following steps that are shown in the images.

First, you need to install the shifter to the frame’s down tube. You may need shifter fittings or square baseplates on the bike frame.

Without having them, you can install the mount and baseplates onto the frame. Now, screw the shifters into the fittings.

Then, thread the shifter cable into the hole and connect it to the derailleur with a snug fit. You can set up the tension using a barrel adjuster for an emergency. Repeat the same process from the opposing side.

Now, adjust low and high-limit screws to a suitable range. It will prevent the chain from falling off. Do the same thing for the bike’s frontal derailleur.

Besides, keep in mind that a loose shift lever means overturning past the limit point. Then, tighten the lever again. Lastly, turn the know to the expected position by switching the shifter from Index to Friction.

Start Using the Installed Shifter

Now that you are done with installation, you must be wondering how to use downtube shifters. After installation, you should follow the following steps:

  • Ensure that the installed shifters are in the right place.
  • Place yourself on the saddle and start pedaling.
  • Reach down with your left hand.
  • Place your thumb on the shifter.
  • Start shifting accordingly.

You can apply pressure with your thumb to move the chain up to a higher gear. It’s not mandatory to use the thumb.

However, you can use the index finger to pressurize the shifter to move the chain down to a lower gear. Usually, pushing the shifter lever up means increasing the gear to a higher phase.

If it is a left shifter, you push it down to shift up.

After shifting gear to a higher or lower position, you can release the pressure of your hand on the shifter.

Then, return your hand to the bike handlebars. It is the easiest method of using downtube shifters.

How to Adjust Downtube Shifters?

I assume you have downtube shifters on your bike. Also, you may want to install and operate the shifters.

Once you install it, you can follow these ways to adjust the downtube shifters:

  • Ensure the shifter cable is well-tensioned. It may not work if you keep the tension low. Then again, too tight or extreme tension may create difficulties operating the shifters.
  • Examine the limit screws. Usually, these screws tell you how far a derailleur can move in the opposite chain direction. The chain may fall off or be jammed between the cog and frame if you fail to set the screws properly.
  • Adjust the indexed shifting now using the barrel adjuster. You can turn the adjuster clockwise if you cannot control the shifters easily. If you see the chain falling off, turn it counterclockwise.

After adjusting the shifters, I suggest you test the shifter once. It will ensure that you installed and changed the shifter correctly.

Benefits of Road Bike Downtube Shifters

If you want to learn how to shift and have a better handle on a bike, downtube shifters are the most reliable and simple option among all the road bike gear shifters.

They require very little maintenance and last for decades, with minimal parts to wear out. They are effectively well-protected from being damaged in a bad crash.

 They shift quickly due to the shortest possible cable and a single short length of cable housing. They have no battery to worry about too.

In friction mode, they can reliably shift anything from old 5-speed freewheels to 11-speed cassettes. If you learned how to shift, downtube shifters allow you to shift across the entire range of gears with one quick movement.

In contrast to that, brifters are much more complex. They have a shorter lifespan as their cables tend to break inside the shifter.

Brifters are also proprietary because they only work well with the derailleurs and brakes they were designed for.

Besides being expensive to replace, they can’t compete with down-tube shifters. After all, downtube shifters are great for improving road cycling performance.

Tips for Using the Downtube Shifters

You should follow some tips when you want to use the downtube shifters on your bike:

  • Use a light touch

Downtube shifters are very sensitive to touch. So, you should not apply excess pressure to shift gears.

  • Be precise

Ensure you are precise with your movement during the gear shifting. A wrong alignment can cause the chain to come off the gears.

  • Be patient

These shifters can be finicky. So, you should be patient when using them. You can take a break and try again later if you face trouble shifting the gear.

  • Keep your chain clean

Do you keep your bike chain dirty? If so, you can hardly shift the gears using downtube shifters. So, keep your bike chain neat and clean.

  • Lubricate the shifters

Adding some lubricant makes the shifters work smoothly for a long time.

  • Stop shifting gear while standing still

You should not shift gears at all if you are standing still. It can be a reason for the chain to fall off. Additionally, it can lead the bike to uncertain damages. By following these tips, you can get the maximum benefits of downtube shifters.


That’s all about how to use downtube shifters!

As downtube shifters offer numerous advantages by being simple, reliable, and cost-effective, they might be a great upgrade to your cycle.

But keep in mind that you are shifting gears before pedaling the bike. Avoid changing gears when you are not moving.

Lastly, I hope you can understand the tutorial fully. Just install and adjust the shifters well to get the most out of it.

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