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The Feel of Stem Mounted Thumb Shifters

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snizz Offline
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Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2013
Post: #1
The Feel of Stem Mounted Thumb Shifters
Hi!

I am extremely new to bikes, as I finally decided to learn how to ride at age 29. It was only the other day that I got the hang of pushing off and actually riding and it feels GREAT, exactly how I imagined it would. I just have some questions regarding the bike itself and how things are supposed to feel when in good condition, and what adjustments I can make.

I bought a very cheap bike ($65 off of CL) because I was just learning. I found it very difficult to find a smaller frame, so after a bunch of hunting I slightly settled on this "Huffy Sweet Dreams" 10 speed road bike from the 80's. It's obviously made for a teen girl and from a department store, but it has an 17" or 18" frame which is perfect for me at only 5'.

It has plastic stem mounted thumb shifters that are kind of confusing to me. It's almost impossible to know what gear you're shifting into because there is no click--sometimes I don't even think it shifts at all, as I feel no difference. How are thumb shifters supposed to feel? How do you know if you've jumped a gear or something?

It also seems to stay on the highest(?) gear, making it difficult to pedal. Changing gears is also a little hard for me because it affects my balance, but I'm sure I'll get over that as I get better.

Should I just find a new bike all together, or is it worth tinkering with it/paying to have it tinkered with? Since I didn't know how to ride at all when I first bought it, I couldn't really test these things out.

Sorry if this is confusing, I don't really have the lexicon down yet!

Thanks so much.
Jun 7, 2013 04:42 PM
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nfmisso Offline
Veteran Member

San Jose, CA
Posts: 2,294
Joined: Jul 2010
Post: #2
RE: The Feel of Stem Mounted Thumb Shifters
A few things to help us help you:

* where are you?
* post pictures of the bike.

The bike probably has friction shifters so there will be no clicking, you will hear noises from the derailleur area when you shift, and need to adjust the shifter on each and every shift to minimize those noises.

Are you sure the derailleurs and cable lengths are properly adjusted?

This the Bike Repair Forums - we are dedicated to doing our own bike work, not paying someone else to do it. Most of the regulars here ride older bikes that we rebuilt ourselves.

Paying for a bike tune up in most locations will cost far more than what you paid for the bike. Here shops advertise special spring tune ups for $125- to $150-......

Nigel
Jun 8, 2013 08:09 AM
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redfoxglove Offline
Member


Posts: 46
Joined: May 2013
Post: #3
RE: The Feel of Stem Mounted Thumb Shifters
(Jun 7, 2013 04:42 PM)snizz Wrote:  Hi!

I am extremely new to bikes, as I finally decided to learn how to ride at age 29. It was only the other day that I got the hang of pushing off and actually riding and it feels GREAT, exactly how I imagined it would. I just have some questions regarding the bike itself and how things are supposed to feel when in good condition, and what adjustments I can make.

I bought a very cheap bike ($65 off of CL) because I was just learning. I found it very difficult to find a smaller frame, so after a bunch of hunting I slightly settled on this "Huffy Sweet Dreams" 10 speed road bike from the 80's. It's obviously made for a teen girl and from a department store, but it has an 17" or 18" frame which is perfect for me at only 5'.

It has plastic stem mounted thumb shifters that are kind of confusing to me. It's almost impossible to know what gear you're shifting into because there is no click--sometimes I don't even think it shifts at all, as I feel no difference. How are thumb shifters supposed to feel? How do you know if you've jumped a gear or something?

It also seems to stay on the highest(?) gear, making it difficult to pedal. Changing gears is also a little hard for me because it affects my balance, but I'm sure I'll get over that as I get better.

Should I just find a new bike all together, or is it worth tinkering with it/paying to have it tinkered with? Since I didn't know how to ride at all when I first bought it, I couldn't really test these things out.

Sorry if this is confusing, I don't really have the lexicon down yet!

Thanks so much.

WOW snizz, congratulations on trying out bicycling, it's great that you started riding. It will be an ongoing adventure and has the potential to change your life. The bike you chose is a good beginning point. I want to recommend a book for you, it's called Bicycle Maintenance and Repair by Todd Downs, it's published by Bicycling Magazine, you should be able to find it on amazon. The lexicon of bicycling can be confusing, as it really is like a different language. This book has drawings and pictures and will really help you start learning how to speak bike.

In the meantime, keep riding. Yes, if you have friends who ride, ask around and see if anyone can help you get started dialing in what is going on with your bike. It's likely, as the poster above stated, that you have the older model of shifters that operate with friction instead of the more modernized "indexed" type that make a click when you move them. When you move the shifter lever, the cable tightens up and that pulls on the derailleur which shifts the chain from one cog or gear to the next. Just keep riding and feeling things. Pretty soon you will get the hang of it. Most people don't know what gear they are in, they just go by feel. They are not thinking, I need to be in third gear, they just think, I need a lower gear. It's by feel. After practicing for a few miles you get the hang of how far to move the lever and in what direction. It's by doing it that you learn.

If you don't yet have friends who ride, keep riding, and pretty soon you'll meet some! That's the world of biking. Keep asking questions, and learning, and soon you'll be motivated to try out some of the simple adjustments that most bicyclists learn how to do. In time you may find it interesting enough to want to do more.

There are bike shops that will work on the type of bike you have. Huffy is an entry level bike and lots of people start out on entry level bikes. Look around your neighborhood for a shop that caters to families with kids. They are usually the most friendly to beginners. And see if you can find a copy of the bike book mentioned above. It will take you a long way toward learning how to ask the questions that will come up. It sounds like you might need your derailleur cables adjusted, or even a minor tuneup. Some of the bike shops around where I live have a menu of services, like if you just need a cable adjustment they will charge $10. Ask around in your neighborhood.

I am also short, only 5'4", and it is quite difficult to find quality bikes in smaller sizes. Most in this size are entry level bikes like yours, made by companies that sell to families who don't want to spend a lot on bikes that kids outgrow pretty fast. However, Trek and Cannondale make some really small frames. Both those brands are very good quality and can be found on craigslist, though the smaller frames are more rare. Keep your eyes open and you will see them occasionally.

Congratulations on trying out bicycling. I love how you said, "it felt just as good as I imagined it would feel." And that's only the beginning! Keep riding, see you on the road.
Jun 9, 2013 11:46 PM
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