The search term of the week poses and excellent question: “is it expensive to upgrade road bike shifters?”
An excellent question indeed. The answer of course depends on your definition of expensive, but more importantly how well you want the components to work.
First we have to look at the type of bike drivetrain that we’re upgrading. If it’s anything less than an 8-speed, good luck. If you’re lucky you might find some seven speed integrated shifters on e-bay but half the time they’re used up junk. You can use 8-speed shifters with a 7-speed drivetrain – it can be done, but the mechanic will have to use a few tricks to make it work and there is a question as to how well the 8-speed shifters will work with a 7-speed drivetrain. When I ride, I don’t want to have to worry about tuning up my shifter cable tension every few hundred miles so that option was out for me.
I took my Cannondale SR-400 to the shop to see if I could get it upgraded from down tube shifters. My local shop wanted $400 “to do it right”. This included a new rear wheel, a new cassette and 8-speed shifters. I’m guessing here, but I also believe that they would have to spread the seat and chain stays to accommodate the new cassette and hub. In fact, 8-speed shifters can still be purchased. Now, my Cannondale is aluminum – steel is much more acceptable to spread but it is my understanding that aluminum can be done, it’s just not easy.
Now, I also called my not-so-local Cannondale dealer. They said they could do it for $300 but they would be using the 8-speed shifters, trying to make the indexing work with a 7-speed drivetrain. In other words, they would use the tricks to make it work.
So, is it expensive to upgrade to integrated shifters? I think $3-400 is a fair amount of cheese but it’s not ridiculous. On the other hand I still decided to buy another bike rather than upgrade the old girl – and then I bought my wife another bike rather than upgrade that one for her. Old bikes are great. They’re old-school cool. While they can be upgraded (and I’ve seen a few on the Tuesday night club ride that were), for me it made more sense to get the bike I wanted (and that fit my height better) than upgrade the old one.