First implemented by Shimano for road bikes in 1990 as "STI" or "Shimano Total Integration", it was pretty cool to be able to shift gears without your hands leaving the brakes -- indeed, while braking. Eventually Campy brought out their own different "Ergo" brifter, and SRAM "double tap" is a third. Now there are made-in-China brands such as Microshift.
But brifters, at least the Shimano version, are not perfect. Indeed, the versions I have used in the past 10+ years (5600, 6500, 6600, 7700, 7800) have a way of eventually slicing through the shifter cables. (I have never lost the brake cable, fortunately. The brake cable is significantly thicker, and its motion much simpler inside the brifter).
Usually a sliced shifter cable just means a ride home with dramatically reduced shifting (only one derailleur working). And it is possible to fix the gear so you can even get over hills in a decent gear. Randonneurs try to avoid this problem preventing them from completing a long event by carrying a spare shifter cable, to change in a pinch.
So on the 29th I did not think much of it when my rear shifter cable broke just as Jerome and I headed down the last descent on Onekansen Doro. Indeed, I thought "great, only a flat stretch between here and home, then I can change the cable and be good to go again."
But when I got home, and inserted the new cable (careful to push the small paddle many times before inserting the cable so that the brifter was in the "outside" gear position), ... the shifter did not work. No take up at all when I tried to shift. I tried lubrication (CRC-56) and rethreading the cable (multiple times). I played with the shifter, shook it upside down, etc., etc. No luck. It is non-functional. Just as non-functional as the rear brifter that ceased working last year during Rocky Mountain 1200.
|My dead Shimano Ultegra 6600 Brifter|
These things are very expensive, and there is no way to fix them once they blow up like this.
|My dead Shimano Dura Ace 7800 Brifter from last year|
Is there a better solution? Do the newer brifters (6800, 7900, 9000?) work better, with their different routing of the shifter cable along the handlebar under the bartape?
As I was heading over the C Speed today, I happened to pass Gunnar riding a beautiful looking cyclocross bike built by Equilibrium Cycle Works, a Shinagawa-based foreign custom builder. He had shifters I had never seen before -- Retroshift CX2s. A better solution? I may need to give them a try!