Most of my builds are used in and around Berlin with no real distance traveling. Berlin is mostly flat with the token hills, like Prenzlauer Berg or Temeplhofer Damm, but nothing too serious. For this reason many of my builds have little or no gearing systems. Gears are useful, but they require attention and maintenance. Most people who have ridden a geared bike would attest to this and that’s why some customers opt for one gear. But there are also the customers who just know they need gears and want them.
I’m often asked what is the perfect gear setup for a city bike. How many gears one needs depends on the type riding and personal preference. But there are a few problems. Most people equate more gears with value. This thinking is purely a byproduct of bicycle industry marketing. A 24-speed bike is the epitome of this.
Another problem is that not every frame is suitable for what products are commercially available. As a bike builder this is my problem. As older systems get phased out to bring in the bigger and better successors, the choices become limited. And if you’re looking for something elegant…choices are VERY limited. As a result I’m forced to look for other solutions.
For my latest project #023 it was decided to use a 6-speed setup. This is a city bike and the customer isn’t comfortable with a downtube shifter. The solution had to be something on the handlebar and preferably indexed. Grift shift or rapid fire are a no go. Much too bulky for an elegant woman’s bike and also only available in black plastic. It had to be a thumbshifter. And so my search began looking for a indexed 6-speed thumbshifter. Well, I guess only department store bikes are built with 6-speed drivetrains these days because the selection of affordable thumbshifters look like they come from the 99cent store. They are all plastic, all black, all friction, and all fugly. Comme ça…
Looking for something vintage by eBay is always an option, but it is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack. Then there’s the boutique market, you have Microshift or IRD indexed thumbshifters and they cost more than 100,- a pair and that was not in the budget. In a desperate moment I considered investing into a pair of thumbshifter mounts from VO or the Paul “thumbies”. But this hardly seems worth the cost considering I only need one side. And I still would have to find a suitable indexed shifter. Conclusion, in this market there are too few mid-range options. Back to the drawing board…
As desperation ensued I began thinking of a DIY solution. I had a few pairs of Shimano SL-1050 downtube shifters available. I also had a bunch of Sturmey Archer thumbshifter mounts from projects where the shifter was mounted on the downtube. It felt like it could work, so I went at it, grinding, filing and polishing.
The final result is exactly what I wanted. Sometimes desperation leads to ingenuity. I’m quite proud of the result and will definitely do this again!