We flagged these up here a while ago and we’ve finally got our hands on some. Simply put Retroshift levers are a Tektro brake lever that's been fiddled with to accept a down-tube or bar-end shifter mounted at the top of the lever to create a system that’s lighter, potentially cheaper and considerably less complex than your usual brifter.
Designed especially for cyclo-cross Retroshift is the brainchild of Adam Clement from Portland in Oregon where cycling is almost a religion and cyclo-cross is something to be observed every Sunday. An alternative to dragging expensive mechanical levers around dirty, muddy, crash-prone races their use can obviously extend much further than an hour at the weekend to tourers, commuters, expedition bikes, winter bikes…..
The whole idea might seem a little Heath Robinson but the quality of the workmanship is top notch. Retroshift have taken a Tektro R200A brake lever, dismantled it, drilled it to fit their machined part and polished and etched it. The levers come with all the washers needed to fit a pair of shifters to them that you’ll have to supply yourself at the moment, we had a set of Shimano bar-end shifters in the shed doing nothing so they’re being pressed into service, a pair of down-tube shifters will do just as well.
It’s easy to see ways they might be useful; you can sweep across the whole range of gears with one long swipe of the shifter, the shifting can be switched to friction mode if needs be, and if you crash on them bits are going to be significantly easier to either fix or replace than your usual STI, all parts are replaceable and a complete re-build can be accomplished in as little as 15 minutes according to Retroshift. So if you remember those golden years when shifting was cheap and serviceable then these could be a breath of fresh air.
Retroshift say they’re built to be durable not dainty but still come in at a respectable 388 grams when built up with town-tube shifters, which is about 50 grams lighter than Ultegra 6700. Our naked Retroshift units weigh 325g a pair on the kitchen scales, and 397g with these dusty 9 speed shifters on which is still 50g lighter than a pair of Ultegra STIs.
With Ultegra levers hitting your wallet at about £270 a set or roughly £170 for ten-speed 105 they’re an alternative, if not necessarily a drastically cheaper one. A pair of Retroshift ‘Two’ brake levers will set you back $119, plus $15 postage. That's about £85 at the current rate, and don’t forget the customs charge, which was about £25 for these, so £110ish all in, and on top of that you'll need to source some shift levers if you don't have some gathering dust anywhere. Dura-Ace ten-speed sets can be had for about £50, so you can have indexed and rebuildable ten-speed shifting from your levers for £160. If you only want to shift at the rear, you can have the ‘One’ set with a single shifter mounting point on the right hand lever for $89, and you can buy just the unadapted ‘Zero’ levers if you find the standard Tektros ones they’re based on not niche enough. Retroshifts come with either grey or red finishing components on a standard black and silver lever.
Just fiddling with them we can already see that shifting from the drops could be an issue but we’ll bolt them on and see if that’s the case, we’ve got some new brake and gear cable and a new set of handlebar tape waiting, let’s go.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.