Bar-End Shifter Savvy: Making the Switch to Friction Shifting by Tamia Nelson

Do you have Shimano bar-end shifters? And are you less than enamored with indexed shifting? Or is your shifter giving you grief? Then help is at hand. Literally.

Not sure what indexed shifting is? OK. You’ve got it when the right lever (the one that shifts the rear mech*) resounds with a solid CLICK each time you change gears. Each click-stop moves the chain to another cog on the rear cluster. At least that’s the idea. But it doesn’t always work out for the best. Indexed shifters are fussy beasts. It can be a royal pain to keep your right shifter working as it should. And with indexed shifting you don’t get to tweak a misaligned shift from the saddle. It’s either spot on or you’ve blown the shift. Period. That’s no fun in the middle of a long climb. Which is why some cyclists — Farwell, for one — prefer the simplicity and tweakability of old-style friction shifting. Luckily, if you’ve got Shimano bar-end shifters, you can have it both ways. So if you, too, hanker after the simple life, you’ve got it at your fingertips. All it takes is a turn of the screw.

Examine your right shifter. Unless you’re nearsighted you might need magnifying lenses. See the inscription? (My shifter is badly corroded, I know. But you can still read the lettering.)

Friction of SIS

SIS stands for Shimano Indexed Shifting, and FRIC indicates — you guessed it — friction shifting. Look for the red arrow on the outer edge of the chromed boss. If you’ve been hearing clicks when you shift, the shifter has been set for indexed shifting, and the red arrow should be aligned with the white arrow next to the SIS inscription. Now lift the D-ring — it normally lies flush against the housing — and …

Friction of SIS

Turn the ring counter-clockwise until the red arrow points to the second white arrow, the one next to FRIC.

Friction of SIS

That’s all there is to it. Push the D-ring down so it’s flush, and you’re good to go. Now you can shift for yourself!

Friction of SIS


* “Mech” is British English for derailleur.


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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.