Just In – Retroshift Levers

We've seen pictures, now we've actually got some Retroshift levers!

by VecchioJo   February 21, 2012  

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.


10 user comments

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[continues to watch this space] Smile

posted by BigDummy [315 posts]
21st February 2012 - 12:23

1 Like

Love the idea of "town-tube shifters" - perhaps they'll become more trendy than fixies! Wink


posted by shay cycles [305 posts]
21st February 2012 - 14:16

1 Like

(goes to copyright "town-tube shifters")

posted by VecchioJo [809 posts]
21st February 2012 - 15:31

1 Like

actually a really good idea, im sure all the singlespeed hipsters, are taking some lomo photos of their singlespeeds for ebay to make a 9 speedster Smile. but seriously a great idea, simple but effective

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
21st February 2012 - 16:33

1 Like

Should come as little surprise to discover this concept is very welcome in my republic Smile

Shaun Audane's picture

posted by Shaun Audane [781 posts]
21st February 2012 - 17:14


I like the idea of these but they look like they'd interfere with braking from the hoods with the gear lever in certain positions. Would be good to see some photos / video of this in action, the video from the previous article only shows shifting.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [1114 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 10:23

1 Like

I'm pleased to see someone tackling the overcomplexity of indexed gear levers that never quite work right anyway.

I rode for many years with friction d/t levers and never had a problem getting a neat change. It was a good move to incorporate them into the brake lever, but indexing just isn't necessary. You soon know how much to move the lever. I accept that the gear lever needs to return to a neutral position, but that's not the same as indexing.

One detail that's missing is where does the gear cable run? Flapping around in space like Shimano again?

Roll on the next development of this good idea.


posted by davebinks [136 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 18:57

1 Like
minnellium's picture

posted by minnellium [84 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 22:32


Does anyone know where the "retro" part of the name comes from ? I was expecting an article about friction shifters !

posted by zoxed [63 posts]
23rd February 2012 - 13:11

1 Like

I kind of like the idea, but what's wrong with bar end shifters, erm, fitted to the bar ends?

posted by limitingfactor [16 posts]
23rd February 2012 - 20:57

1 Like