Press my flesh against your action lever
I choose friction, a superior maneuver to index
My speed declines yet my heart rate will rise noticeably with every crank
How you appease me with your taught cables, I adjust your position to tighten your feel
Gently we dance
Friction is the motion and the pace will elevate until……..
We find a medium where harmony
Amongst a cacophony of motorized modernity
Some have said that the fixed gear bicycle is a Zen like experience but I think simply riding a bicycle can be a Zen experience, gears or not. Sometimes the freedom from changing gears can be a wonderful thing but so too can the expression of ones soul through the moderation of cadence with the selection of appropriate gear combinations. So was my trip to work this morning. As such I bring you a review of the Dia-Comp Silver lever available only in friction shift configuration. These are a bar-end shifter and as such an appropriate handlebar is necessary for their functional method. A bar such as the Nitto Albatross pictured above works quite well and so do drop bars but what will not really work (without being totally awkward) is a flat bar setup. As these are friction shifters there are no “clicks” to indicate which gear you are currently in which I like as it does add to the Zen nature of shifting in this instance. One must align ones heart rate with their cadence with their gear selection to truly appreciate the combination of factors involved in achieving superior performance from ones bicycle. While not a functionally complicated maneuver, like anything, it takes some time to perfect. Once you have it down though it becomes second nature like, well, riding a bicycle.
I installed my shifters myself when I built my city bike up and they are no more or less complicated to install than other types of shifters. You do have to wait until the entirety of the rest of your setup is finalized though as the shifters in this instance should be the last thing installed and cables tightened and adjusted following installation of brake levers, grips, and handlebars. These particular shifters do contain a plastic washer in them which has been said to wear out after time although in more than a year of everyday (practically) use I have not had an issue with them. The main concern is not messing up and installing the several washers, spacers, and bolts in an incorrect configuration which is possible to do but will render the system useless so one would realize rather quickly that this had been done. Once properly installed the actual tactile feel of the lever is fantastic and the ratcheting mechanism is smooth and effective. Getting used to finding the right gear can take some time if you are used to simply “clicking” into place but one of the advantages of this system is the ability to “trim out” the gear selection. While a bicycle with a triple crank such as mine may not like being in the large front ring and a large rear cog, with a “trim” of the derailleur or a slight lever position adjustment one can make sure that the chain isn’t rubbing against the mechanism or that the chain isn’t about to slip from one cog to the next. Additionally, many touring cyclists seem to prefer friction shifters as there are fewer parts to fail and their long term reliability is well proven. Overall I wouldn’t recommend that a rider use a large chain ring, large cog combination but many riders have experienced the noisy drive train that results from the chain line on a gear bicycle being not entirely straight and this system can remedy the noisiness. If you like reliable and smooth shifting and don’t have a problem not having the newest most fanciest thing out there, I highly recommend trying out a pair of bar end shifters and the Dia-Comps are an excellent choice.