Versa VRS-8 integrated drop bar levers… for hub gears

Ever dream of a hub-geared road bike? Versa levers could make it a reality…

by Tony Farrelly   December 21, 2009  

Now these levers from Versa look interesting, the Versa VRS-8 drop bar levers let you run a Shimano Alfine or Nexus 8-spd hub gear on a road bike. Why would you want to do that? Well, when it comes to fit and forget drivetrains you can't beat a hub gear – if you want more than one gear that is. All the important gubbins is protected from the elements, road salt, gunk… and crashes inside the hub unlike a rear derailleur which is hanging down taking a continual battering from water, salt, ice and snow and the general wear and tear of everyday cycling.

Up until recently hub gears have been the province if heavier Dutch-style sit up and beg roadsters, hire bikes, and of course the Chopper. But the latest generation of hubs have come a long way, lead notably by the Rohloff Speedhub with its 14 speeds and lifetime guarantee. Rohloffs have found there way on to any number of expedition bikes, (James Bowthorpe used one on Santos for his recent round the world trips) as well as various types of lighter tourers and mountain bikes – Thorn have long been big fans. The downside of the Rohloff for many is its price tag and the fact that while undoubtedly a very fine piece of kit it's probably a little over-engineered for more everyday use for those on a budget.

Luckily Shimano and SRAM have plugged in to the mid-range, but up until recently you were restricted to flat bar set-ups if you wanted to run either Shimano Alfine or Nexus 8. These levers look to remedy that, they came out in the US last year, but are now being brought in to Europe by Sideways Cycles.

The Versa VRS-8 combined brake and shift lever are compatible with caliper, cantilever and road disc brakes, enabling a pretty looking drop-bar set up on touring, road and cyclo-cross bikes. Sideways Cyclles reckon this “is the answer to your prayers if you want to run Shimano’s internal hub system on your drop-barred bike.” They are sending us an Alfine equipped Surly Crosscheck in the New Year (the one pictured) so we can judge for ourselves – should be interesting.

The levers sell for £179 a pair, roughly on a par with what you'd pay for some Shimano 105 10spd levers, and are available in black or silver, including inner gear cable, inline cable adjuster and pinch bolt.

Aside from being low maintenance the other big advantage of a hub gear set up is that you can change gear when stationary, useful if you are cycling through stop-start city traffic. The perceived downside is that a lot more weight is concentrated over the back wheel – even if the system weighs roughly the same as a derailleur set up, which in turn means you need to build it in to a sufficiently strong wheel. That said, a road bike with hub gears and drops has cropped up in the US (guess whose levers it uses) and we can see that the idea would work over here too, especially for longer haul commutes or touring… we'd be interested.

To find out more call Sideways Cycles on 01270 883785 or email info@sidewayscycles.co.uk

5 user comments

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Glad to see someone has found a use for those levers ... they've been doing the rounds now for a couple of years under various labels/guises.
They seem to be built and work quite well, but were never going to be able to compete with Shimanolo or SRAM.

neilwheel's picture

posted by neilwheel [130 posts]
21st December 2009 - 15:31

4 Likes

Does the bike shown in the picture brake properly? Or is that round thing a travel agent?

My understanding is that the Versa VRS-8 doesn't pull enough cable for V brakes

vorsprung's picture

posted by vorsprung [295 posts]
22nd December 2009 - 10:51

6 Likes

That round thing is indeed a travel agent...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
22nd December 2009 - 14:38

4 Likes

why wouldn't you just use cantis?

posted by naylar [3 posts]
22nd December 2009 - 19:53

7 Likes

They work fine with short V-brakes such as 85mm Tektros. Here you can see them locking up the backwheel with pull to spare.

http://youtu.be/03T29d8-lro

they'll lock a front wheel too so you will need an antilock device in the cable.

posted by vadido [24 posts]
3rd November 2014 - 21:41

0 Likes