Bar-End Shifters: How to Remove and Install Them by Tamia Nelson

Whether you call them barcons or bar-end shifters, they’re a reliable way to change gears. But sometimes you need to remove them like, say, when the shifters need to be cleaned and lubed. Or if you’re swapping out the bike’s handlebars. This isn’t a tough job, but removing them involves turning a screw. Be sure to turn it the correct way. In this article, Tamia shows you how to do it right.

Also known as barcons, bar-end shifters are mounted inside the hollow handlebar ends. When I bought my Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, I didn’t care for the stock handlebars, so replaced them with wider Nitto Noodle bars. Swapping handlebars isn’t a difficult task, but it does require removing the bar-end shifters from the original ‘bars and placing them into the new ones. With the generous and helpful advice of folks on the Surly Long Haul Trucker and Cross Check Group, I learned that the procedure was easier than I feared, but only because everything was done properly. Mess up, and the job becomes a lot harder. So, to pass on what I learned, I’ll describe how I removed then reinstalled my bike’s bar-end shifters.

Ready? Then let’s do it.

1.  There is no need to disconnect the shifter cables from the derailleurs or levers, but …

2.  DO remove the handlebar tape and set it aside to wrap the new handlebars, UNLESS you plan on replacing the tape. Now …

3.  shift gears so both bar-end levers point DOWN as far as they as they can go. DO NOT rotate the levers until after you’ve reinstalled them.

Bar-end shifter levers DOWN

4.  Remove the two cable stops, which are mounted to the downtube (you’ll need an allen wrench to unscrew the bolts). To avoid losing the bolts which hold the stops in place, I reinserted them into the braze-ons. Removing the cable stops slackens the cables and makes it easier to continue with the job. Just allow the stops to dangle while you’re working on the shifters.

Slack cables

With the cables slack, you can now unscrew the bolts which secure the levers in the shifter pods. My bolts were tight, but once loosened with a little elbow grease, they unscrewed very easily.

5.  Before removing the locking bolt, observe the orientation of the various elements of the lever. Once the levers were removed from the pods, I reinserted each lever component and retightened the screw to hold it all together as I worked on the rest of the job — see the picture below. Everything fits together only one way with these shifters (yours might be different), and they slide into place easily. Pull the levers away from the pod, and allow them to hang there as you proceed.

How it all fits together

6.  Look inside the pod and you’ll see a large bolt head. Insert a properly sized allen wrench and loosen the bolt just enough to slacken the pod’s grips on the bars. BEWARE! These bolts are NOT loosened like others. TO LOOSEN, TURN THE BOLT CLOCKWISE.

7.  If swapping handlebars, remove the brake levers and anything else in your bike’s “cockpit.” Now mount the new handlebars. When the time comes to reinstall the shifters, do this AFTER the brake levers are placed. If you forgot, then you’ll be reminded as soon as you try to reinstall the brake levers. I know — I did it that way and had to remove the shifters before replacing the brake levers.

8.  Now reinstall the shifter pods. Align them with the levers pointing straight down. Hold the pod in place, then tighten them — TIGHTEN POD BOLTS COUNTERCLOCKWISE. This pulls the expanders against the inside of the handlebar, which secures the pods.

9.  Tape the handlebars. The picture below shows the tape already in place, but that’s only because this shot was taken to illustrate the tightening procedure. You cannot remove the pods without displacing the cable running along the bottom of the handlebar. With cables covered with tape, that tape must be removed when you remove the bar-end shifter assembly.

Tighten that bolt counter-clockwise

10.  Insert the levers into the pods, being sure to align all the components correctly, then reinstall the cable stops on the downtube.

Reinstall cable stops

11.  Test the shifters by running the chain through all the gear combinations. Adjust shifters if you have to — I didn’t need to, and if you are careful, you might not have to, either.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully removed and replaced your bike’s bar-end shifters. That wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be, was it?

This article is an update of one originally published on 4 August 2008.

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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.