Sunday, May 9

Bike Shops and Shifters and Simple Green

Simple Green - Fixer of Shimano Brifters
Here, I related my first ever mechanical work that I got done at a bike shop. On my road bike. Things worked great. Or so I thought. A week ago, I went for a proper road bike shakedown cruise and it rode well  – until the first time I shifted the front derailleur from the small to the large chainring. Hmm, nothing happened. Actually, what happened was that the thing shifted smoothly and then shifted back down as I released the brifter lever. The shifter was not ratcheting. It was as if I wasn’t pushing the lever far enough to “catch.” I fiddled with the limit setting and the cable tension. No joy. Someone at work suggested I take it back to the shop. Well, looking at the receipt, it appeared that they didn’t even LOOK at the front shifting system. They did adjust the rear derailleur which was working dandy. I felt I wasn’t going to take it back because, for all I know, the car ride bunged things up, or maybe it was the long winter’s sleep.
So, what to do? Checking the internet, I quickly confirmed my previous impression (from an aborted dismantling attempt) that Shimano did NOT design the shift system for any kind of meaningful user, or even shop, intervention.

Next, I reviewed the selection of used items available on eBay. I thought it fortunate that my rear shifter works great, meaning I wouldn’t have to find an eight speed shifter. ON THE OTHER HAND, Buddy has shown me a better way – SRAM. What better time to upgrade than when I have to make a purchase anyway? It’d mean moving to a ten speed cassette, and either new derailleurs or a “problem solver.”

In the meantime, I was resigned to only using the small front chainwheel.

Fortunately, I read about the notion that something had gotten stuck, and that using WD40, applied liberally, would free things up. This vaguely intrigued me, but I also was uncomfortable with WD40 as an actual solvent. It seemed to me that things might work for a while, but then be gummed up worse than ever. Suddenly, inspiration arrived. There WAS a great solvent, and it was even one I have experimented before and received data from the manufacturer. Yes, our old friend, Simple Green.


Here’s how:
#1 – Protect bar tape and brifter cover from getting soaked in Simple Green (not really mandatory, but it seemed like a good idea).
#2 – Apply Simple Green to the mechanism. Easiest is to just squirt it in after you remove the allen screw.
#3 – Work lever back and forth until you can verify proper operation. Adjust the limit screws so everything works properly.
#4 – Blow the Simple Green out with compressed air.
#5 – Verify proper operation.
#6 – Add a touch of light oil.
#7 – Reinstall and ride test. I suggest a coffee run.

I guess I’ll have to wait for something else to happen before I step up to SRAM...
Steve's Bike With No Name. Both Shifters Now Work Thanks to Simple Green!


Rat Trap Press said...

I've recently read a positive review of the Sunrace 10 spd brifters ($160) and rear derailleur ($45) if you decide that you want to upgrade to 10 spds but don't want to spend too much money.

The review was in the last issue of Bicycle Times.

Sabinna said...

Your experience is really the story for Shimano over the last year...lost significant ground to SRAM as well as the move by cyclists to component substitution in group sets. Maybe the 90th anniversary next year will produce some extra efforts to stem the flow begun this year.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever ridden something equipped with SRAM? I would be afraid that I might accidentally shift the wrong way when I don't push the lever far enough. Don't know, good excuse to go test ride a new bike :)

Steve A said...

The biggest SRAM problem I have is trying to upshift with the downshift lever when I go back to Shimano.

cafiend said...

You should read me more attentively, Steve. I have been writing for several years about the problem that convinces riders to discard perfectly usable Shimano shifters, as Shimano intended. It's called "earwax." The lube from the factory congeals, sticking the ratchet pawls so they do not engage. It usually starts as an intermittent problem that worsens, mimicking something actually wearing out. You may also experience a sudden onset.

Shimano stated in 1990 or '91, the year in which they began to shove this shit down our throats, that STI and Rapidfire shifters could not be serviced. That is true if the problem really requires disassembly and replacement of internal parts, none of which are offered.

The best cure I've found for earwax in brifters is PG2000 spray lube. For manual de-earwaxing of MTB shifters, which can be opened up, I use Pro Link chain lube to dissolve the sticky grease. Both these products leave a light lubricating residue, which Simple Green would not.

Do NOT use something like White Lightning or Tri Flow. The PTFE particles in them will not enhance your shifting performance and may actually form the basis of a new crop of crud. For the same reason, avoid oily lubes in there.

Attempts to open a road Shimano brifter usually end up with a mangled, ruined unit.

Velouria said...

I really need to buy that Simple Green stuff!

Steve A said...

Sure enough, a Google search of "citizen rider pg2000" DOES reveal some interesting and relevant items from the dim past before I became addicted to cafiend's blog. It does pay to look at older blog archives!

Velouria, Simple Green is good stuff and reasonably priced. If you wish, I'll also see if I can post the test results SG sent me when we were trying to get it to "eat" metal.

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