How to Use Stem Shifters

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Bicycle stem shifters are known and used for their ease of adjustment and accurate, user-intuitive shifting. Because of their friction-based design, (hence the nickname "friction shifters") the user controls the accuracy of the bicycle's shifting mechanism. Get the most out of your stem shifters by learning when and how to shift them correctly.

  • Begin pedaling in an open practice area, empty track, driveway or bicycle path. Riding too slowly will result in missed and inaccurate shifts, so work up a bit of speed.

  • Pedal to the top of your spinning range, which for most cyclists is around 80rpm, and take your hand off the right side of the handlebars. While still holding the left handlebar, move the right shifter up towards the stem to shift into a higher, more difficult gear.

  • Keep pedaling and shifting up until you reach a comfortable speed and cadence. When you are ready to slow down, do not simply grab the brakes and coast to a stop. Instead, brake with your left hand on the brake, and pedal lightly while shifting down with your right hand. Pull back on the shifter to move to a lower, easier gear.

  • Continue lightly pedaling and shifting down until you come to a complete stop.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stem shifters are not indexed to a specific gear cassette. When shifting, move the shifter slowly and smoothly to avoid click, pops and unnecessary chain wear.
  • The left shifter may be used in the same fashion as the right, but causes a much more dramatic shift in gear ratio. This is handy when climbing hills (shifting to a much lower gear) or descending them (shifting to a much higher gear).

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