Project Any Road: Retroshift CX2 Shifters Long Term Review

Retroshift Front Side View

Catch up on the Project Any Road build here.

When the Project Any Road bike started to take shape on paper, I knew immediately that the shifters were going to be Retroshift.  At BikeRumor we often get spoiled with SRAM Red, Dura-Ace, and Campy SuperRecord, so why would I want to run this clunky antiquated technology after riding the best?  Well, in short, because it’s simple, reliable, and cheap enough for anyone to obtain.  Adam Clement and crew have to put together a well thought out product that, while intended for cyclocross, has many enticing applications across the cycling spectrum.  Personally, I wanted to find out how these levers would do day in and day out on my go anywhere rig.

Shift through for the full review.

Retroshift Colors

The Retroshift levers are a smart design.  The base lever for our CX2 model is a Tektro R200A brake lever.  It’s then transformed into a Retroshift lever by being dissembled, drilled, polished or left black, laser etched, and then reassembled with the shifter mount added.  The CX2 model sent our way included custom 10 speed compatible bar end shift levers sourced from Microshift that have a been optimized specifically for the Retroshift bracket.  That said, the shifter mounts are compatible with the majority of Shimano bar end and downtube shifters.  The mounting bracket for the shifter has a star burst style pattern cut away behind it, and the square pin can be turned slightly to fine tune the final angle your shifter is set at.  This allows you to fine tune the lever position when running something other than a 10 speed shifter (it comes ready to go for 10s out of the box).

The build quality is good as long as you don’t directly compare it to the top of the range shifters from the big three.  The CNC’d shifter mount is well made, and truth be told, the Microshift levers feel solid.  There is some side to side play in the brake lever arm, but it isn’t noticeable when traveling down the road, and has never affected the performance of the product.  The aesthetics of the lever seem to be a love it or hate it affair.  Me personally, I love it.  But to each their own.

Retroshift Front Closeup

Setting up the levers on the bike was very straight forward.  Once the lever is placed on the bar and tightened, and the cables fished, the brake cable gets run under the tape, and the shift cable is angled out the top of the shifter bracket.  Tape up the bars and you’re done.

The levers are designed to work specifically with Shimano systems. Ours is paired with an Ultegra 6700 front and rear derailleur, 6700 chain, an Ultegra 6600 12-27 cassette, with an FSA SL-K crankset fitted with 52-36 Praxis Works chainrings (more on those soon!)

Retroshift Front Shifter

Shifting performance from the Retroshift levers has been fantastic.  You get a nice solid, but not alarming, clunk with each indexed click for the rear.  One advantage of the system is that you can sweep the entire cassette (in either direction) with one motion.  That said, it’s not a graceful maneuver, and is accompanied by a fair bit of noise.  It is however, very useful when you hit the bottom of a hill and you are faced with a steep incline immediately.

The front shifting is friction based, and with the derailleur limits set correctly, it is the best front shifting performance I have ever had.  Granted I am using a double, which means I slam the lever all the way in one direction and keep on pedaling.  With finer movements, you can get a bit of trim out of the system, but I almost never find myself needing to trim the front derailleur.  The front shifter, being friction only, can be used with a triple as well, but would require a bit of finesse.  It is nice to have the option.

Retroshift Logo

Speaking of options, Retroshift has many.  The Retroshift crew will be the first to tell you that the product was designed for cyclocross racing first and foremost.  It’s durable, cheap, easy to rebuild, and lightweight all at the sometime.  So of course, it makes sense to use on a commuter, adventure bike, and even for touring.  The advantages are certainly there.  The levers, with shifter mounted, weigh close to 40 grams less than the current gen Ultegra “brifters”.  Oh, and they cost $360 less.  Pair a set of Retroshift shifters along with one of their new Derailleurs and you have a cheap, reliable, and rebuildable setup.

Retroshift Front View

As with any product there are some downsides however.  The overall ergonomics aren’t up to par with the levers from the major players, but they aren’t far off.  I rarely notice any discomfort when riding on the hoods.  It usually only occurs if I am wearing winter gloves.  Miss-shifts do occur from time to time as well.  When the right lever is pointed further out in either direction, accidental contact can cause it to shift a gear.  It’s a pretty easy issue to overcome after just a few rides.  And last, but not least, you just can’t shift from the drops.  For some I have talked to this is a complete deal breaker.  For most of us however, it’s simply a minor inconvenience.  And considering these replace downtube shifters for some, it’s one hell of an improvement.

Retroshift Rear Shifter

My CX2′s have been in use for about 9 months now.  They’ve seen rain, cold, heat, cross rides, and epic all day journeys.  Their performance has been far better than expected, and they have needed very little adjustment.  I have a new set of Shimano 105 shifters sitting in my parts bin.  They were my back up for this build in case I didn’t like the Retroshift.  They are still in the parts bin nearly a year later, and that’s where they are going to stay.  Retroshift has put out a great, affordable product that meets the needs of so many different applications.  It wouldn’t be the option to go with for the full on road race bike, but for just about anything else from a commuter, to a cross racer, to a touring build, to a gravel grinder, it’s worth a look and then some.

Comments

uhhg - 10/27/13 - 2:23pm

Great, another advertisement for retroshift.

anon - 10/27/13 - 3:03pm

This entire website is geared towards advertising.

mudrock - 10/27/13 - 3:03pm

I was a skeptic at first but I like the idea. Cheap and rebuildable, when you’re a crosser on a budget, makes a lot of sense. Do a header in the slop and I’ll bet these keep going. They should use that old Timex phrase (unless it’s still trademarked) “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

The Goats - 10/27/13 - 3:16pm

mudrock – How about “Takes a licking and keeps on clicking” ;)

The Goats

Joe - 10/27/13 - 3:47pm

*I like the product*: Awesome review!

*I don’t like the product*: ADVERTISING! THE AUTHOR IS A PAID SHILL!

Sevo - 10/27/13 - 3:55pm

I have had a chance to play around with a retroshift setup…it’s slick.Really works and it’s cheap. I think they deserve all the props they get. I’ve got a fairly fancy rig in the works, and it’s going to have retroshift on it once I get around to calling them to order.

Mike - 10/27/13 - 4:16pm

And riding in the drops? Very limited . . . . more of a Gen Y “hey look at me I’m different” type product. Yawn. Look if I want retro I want really retro . . . ye olde Campagnolo on a beautiful steel frame.

Joe - 10/27/13 - 4:45pm

Mike – these shifters are designed for CX. People use the drops very rarely in CX. People don’t use vintage Campy for CX. Your comment is invalid.

Gravity - 10/27/13 - 4:54pm

Why does everyone say no one rides in the drops in cross? I see it all the time, and I personally use my drops probably 1/4-to-1/2 the time when I’m racing.

I’ve said this a thousand times already, but used STI are cheap, as as Ergos, which are completely integrated and rebuildable, and will allow you better access to the shifter should you decide to use the vestigial dropped portion of your handlebar.

Dave - 10/27/13 - 4:59pm

You posters crying about this being advertising should really give Retroshifts a try before complaining. Despite the name, they are not “retro”, they are another way of attacking what brifter provide and they do it very well. And, no, they are not a “hey look at me” component either.

I have them on three bike, two 10-speed and one 8-speed drivetrain and all three with triple cranks, and they WORK. Solid, reliable and way less expensive then any model brifter. They replaced two sets of Campy 10-speed Ergos and I don’t miss the Campy’s at all.

The triple cranks are no problem either and the unlimited fd trim is a great feature.

The Goats - 10/27/13 - 5:23pm

Just wanted to say a word regarding the comments on ‘Advertising’. Bike Rumor has done a super job (as do a number of other news sites) to expose new products to all of us. We don’t pay Bike Rumor anything to test/talk about our products for the benefit of those who would not otherwise know about them. Bike part reviewing might sound like a glamorous gig but like any job its work. Just unwrapping, running cables and wrapping bar tape, tuning brakes and derailleurs etc for a shifter review soon gets old when it is your daily job. Talk to any good bike mechanic, end of the day they are not super excited to work on their bikes, they just want to go ride, head home and get a beer!

Note on the shifters. Yes these (and all of our existing and upcoming products) are purpose built for cyclocross. They are different, no they do not allow shifting from the drops but they provide some extra ability from the hoods that you MIGHT find a winning advantage. We are a TINY company but happy that our customers are thankful that we have provided the market with an OPTION.

Yesterdays GPET http://cyclocross.gp/ cyclocross series race had wins by riders using our CX shifters in 4 categories, men, women from Beginner to Cat A. None of the riders are paid by us (we don’t have sponsorship budgets like the big boys). None of them complain much about the inability to shift from the drops, but they do say some embarrassingly nice things to us about the shifters overall. -BLUSH-

We understand our shifters don’t look slick and cool but we do hope that if you love to ride you will give them a go some time. Diversity and competition makes for a better community for ALL of us! If these catch on, maybe (just maybe) your next set of STI might be priced a tad cheaper as a result of this option being available.

Cheers!

The Goats

TheFaGoat - 10/27/13 - 5:24pm

This system may work well for recreational riders, on road. I had a chance to ride it a little bit offroad and it is not the best place where to place thumb shifters. Not cheap, actally it is very priecey for what it is. However it may have a “look how cool i am” market

DocTrike - 10/27/13 - 5:43pm

I love the concept and being a recumbent designer/manufacturer it gives us another option for mountain the super reliable MicroShift bar end shifters. I plan toy use them on both my personal TransAm-2014 and my TDR 2014 race bikes. Currently trying to adapt then to my daily ride. Remember MicroShift is the OEM supplier to Shimano for barends shifters these are very simple mounts with high end shifters, just a different mounting configuration for those that want it. In our case we are using them on bull horn bars where the shifter options are far less.

BlodadTand - 10/27/13 - 6:01pm

Absolutely love mine. All that’s needed now is a 10speed dynasis compatable version.

I’ve been using the slight bodge method kayak scott posted but would rather have something a bit more substantial.

blue-healer - 10/27/13 - 6:46pm

I do NOT own a road bike. Old road bikes actually had room for tires. The new road bikes are so specialized they are almost worthless on anything but pavement. Fine for folks who want that. I love that they have that option. I do however have several Cross bikes. All of them have been converted to retroshifters. I race in the pacific NW where there is tons of mud, sand and crashes.
It is commonplace for people to be begging for a right or left shimano, sram or campy shifter because they trashed said shifter in a cross race. I decided to give a retro shifter a try near the end of the 11 cross season. Simply put. They work great. One of my cross bikes is my do everything bike with fenders, is ridden thousands of miles each year and I have yet to even adjust a shifter or brake cable much less replace one. They are also very tuff. I have had my share of spills, the last being a direct / hard dirt impact on the left retroshifter when my front tire slid out on an off camber section of a course. I was damaged slightly, the retro shifter was just scratched and continures to work fine. All you have to do is look inside one of the large company’s shifters and observe all the complexity of the design to understand why the retroshifters just make more sense. The big company’s are the same as the automobile industry people. They keep coming out with new models every year accompanied by advertising to make you think you must have the new product. They have done a tremendous amount of good for cycling for sure, but the more intricate and complicated it gets, the less dependable the end product is. Take for example at my last race the poor soul that had to get a loaner race bike from a buddy because is shimano electronic shifting battery was dead. Retroshifters are not bling, just functional.
I believe if you try them with an open mind and give yourself time to get used to them, you might appreciate how well the work for all drop bar cycling. They shift super fine in the most technical parts of a cross course. I have to ask you to trust me on this because I have been racing cross for many years and know what I am talking about.
If you think about Cross, Commuting, Gravel grinders, Day rides and even Touring, they are designed to go the distance and as has been pointed out can be tweaked to meet your personal needs. Well designed, GREAT PRODUCT from a group of people more concerned with giving people real world products than flashy promotions. Fairly priced as well. I do not miss my dura ace brifters at all.
BH

dwiz - 10/27/13 - 8:16pm

This is a completely stupid idea. Someone tell me what’s wrong with the shifters that are out there. Seriously, I can’t believe how and why someone would buy this crap

spokejunky - 10/27/13 - 8:24pm

I’ve been running the CX2s since August for a gravel/CX bike. It was a toss up between Retroshift, SRAM and Shimano. Price and durability won out by using the Retroshift setup. The CX2/BURD setup is reliable, comfortable, durable with the added gifting of being less than the third tier systems of SRAManopag. And honestly, the whole idea different shifting positions debate is just tired. I can’t remember anyone besides Andy Scheck complaining about that missed 2mm shift due to a muscle memory failure.

bin judgin - 10/27/13 - 8:47pm

this stuff works great. stop crying you cry babys. i won’t use it, but jeeeeeeez!

shafty - 10/27/13 - 10:14pm

@dwis — Couldn’t tell ya. They’re quite the hack a la Kelly Take-offs. I used to be of the opinion that the integrated stuff was hype, but I was just broke. For a wee bit more(ok $100 more) than the “Retro”shift CX2s you can get a set of new Shimano 105 or Campagnolo Veloce shifters. Microshift vs. Dura-Ace/Record bar-ends isn’t anywhere near a fair comparison. Once you add the cost off real shifters onto the Retroshift bracket/brake levers there’s no cost benefit. There can be, and usually is, a very large difference between “it works” and “it functions smoothly and consistently”. I’d like to see US manufacturing innovate a little bit more than a small machined shifter mount.

cyclingman - 10/27/13 - 10:35pm

Count me among Retroshift fans – big time. I have them on a CX/gravel bike, and also on a road bike with S&S couplings, both with Shimano 7800 shift levers. On my road bike, I dumped DA 7800 STI levers in favor of Retroshifters. They’re cheaper, lighter, just as easy to use, comfortable – and they’re much harder to break, easy to disassemble/clean/rebuild, and they have a friction mode. So in a pinch, I can run any wheel that fits my frame.

I gather that the next generation of Microshift levers will also have a friction mode. Three cheers for the little guys – Shimano abandons friction mode, & Microshift adds it. (Same path they followed with thumbshifters.)

You want to run STI/Ergo/DoubleTap? Have at it. I’m thrilled to have a different option, and happy to tell people about it, since most people I encounter have never seen them.

Jeff Struck - 10/27/13 - 11:43pm

I have Retroshifters on both of my ‘cross bikes and they have worked wonderfully for two racing seasons in all conditions. Previously, I have trashed at least two sets of Dura Ace STI levers in very muddy ‘cross races. Retroshifters are sensible and innovative . . . in a retro way. Highly recommended.

ve - 10/27/13 - 11:54pm

Campagnolo Veloce is basically as cheap, light, and rebuildable.

Shimano’s STI shifters have always been their weak point, heavy, prone to damage, and overpriced with their component tier structure to prevent upgrading. Comparing anything to Shimano STI will usually leave STI in the dust.

Tommy - 10/28/13 - 12:30am

I’d rather have Kelly Take-offs…
That being said, I wonder if these or Kelly’s work with those newer time trial “sequential” ratchet shifters? That, my friends, would be slick…

Mindless - 10/28/13 - 2:47am

WHY?

captain derp - 10/28/13 - 7:49am

one thing not mentioned anywhere here – they also make a version that’s compatible with linear pull brakes. meaning you can dig out your old avid bb7 mountain mechanical disc brakes and throw them on a cross bike…

flange - 10/28/13 - 7:57am

I love how everyone that uses these really likes them, and all the internerd keyboard warriors who probably don’t even own a bike go to great lengths slagging them off.

Why? Why not? It’s good to have that choice and frankly having seen the cost of a set of Red levers I can understand why these make sense.

Disassemble a set of STI/Ergo levers and you have a LOT of small non replaceable parts. This looks pretty easy to strip and rebuild and I can see why for cross or long distance stuff it would make sense.

Reformed Roadie - 10/28/13 - 8:22am

Nick, how much for the 105 lever in your parts bin?

One Percenter - 10/28/13 - 8:41am

Retroshi$ / Micro$hit. I’ll keep riding my overpriced Di2 setup in CX! “with the derailleur limits set correctly, it is the best front shifting performance I have ever had.” Sorry, but the Di2 front derailleur is the honey badger of derailleurs. Di2 front derailleur don’t give a F***, it slams chains up and down with brute force.

Gerry - 10/28/13 - 10:05am

My only complaint is that the ferrule support could be increased.

Other than that: bar-ends for people who ride on their hoods. Nice. Performance is surprisingly acceptable.

Thanks Goats!

mudrock - 10/28/13 - 10:06am

Checked out the RS facebook photos. Love that so many riders are using RS to upgrade their old road bikes. These guys are bringing brifter performance to the vintage bikes. More power to them. The naysayers on this page are forgetting the democratic nature of this sport. If you race cross you will destroy your equipment. It’s just a matter of when.

Gravity - 10/28/13 - 11:53am

@flange – Non-replaceable parts on an Ergo lever? You can still get parts for eight-speed Ergo levers from Campagnolo NA. I’ve yet to encounter an integrated Campagnolo shifter that I could not find parts for repair, and I’ve repaired hundreds. Most everything you need is in the Quality catalog, a click of a button away.

[deleted]

Psi Squared - 10/28/13 - 12:19pm

Just because some can’t see the sense in or the use of the Retroshift kit, doesn’t mean others can’t. So the answer to all of the questions of why is several fold: because others have different needs than you; because others don’t limit themselves as much as you; because others are different than you; and etc. Asking “why” about Retroshift’s stuff is just as stupid as asking “why” when someone else buys a different frame than you.

Simon Hirota - 10/28/13 - 2:19pm

Raced this past weekend with my 1×10 Retroshift equipped Swiss Cross in 20 °F/-6.67 °C snowy/blizzard conditions. I’m normally a Campy guy but loved that, although my fingers were numb and semi-functional, I was still able to shift. I was even able to slam 4 gears and win a sprint for 5th place….yes, I sprinted in the hoods…..

Ralphy - 10/28/13 - 2:42pm

“It’s possible to rebuild Campagnolo ergo levers, therefore there’s no reason for Retroshift and no other manufacturer should be recognized for making something easily serviceable.”

I learn something amazing every day on BR.

Anyway, since we’re taking a survey, when it’s new bicycle time, I’m planning on going with Retroshift.

DaleC - 10/28/13 - 3:39pm

Now that I see this product, it surprises me that this was not the interim step from downtube shifters to STI/Ergo et al.

Anyone complainign about using these in the drops has missed the point and is not the targeted audience.

I wonder what percentage of road and cross riders spend any significant time in the drops? Racers do I know and they are, what, 3% of all road riders? Maybe? Even among them, how much time in the drops? When I watch the major tours, those guys spend the vast majority of their time on the hoods. Even elite pro racers need STI/Ergo/Doubletap very little of the time, but when they do, they REALLY need it.

I am not advocating Retroshift over lever shifters, but they seem pretty cool to me, if you want, or need, them.

DaleC - 10/28/13 - 3:41pm

On a related note, cantilever brakes are completely useless to me, but others seem to find them perfect for their uses. That doesn’t mean I will trash Paul’s for making them.

BRADMANN - 10/28/13 - 6:47pm

Running CX2s on my LeMond Poprad and I love them. The front friction shifter needs tightening sometimes (every 6 months at least) and I dropped a chain once but other than that smooth sailing. Personal preference is just that.

Reformed Roadie - 10/28/13 - 8:52pm

@ DaleC – Google SunTour Command Shifters.

Ajax - 10/28/13 - 9:16pm

[deleted]

TheFaGoat - 10/28/13 - 10:40pm

Designed by people who were riding “fixies” 5 years ago X people who were riding “fixies” five years ago. Not one comment about shifting performance and ergonomics. Here we go… USA commodity cyclists

gravelrules - 10/28/13 - 10:58pm

I think these look really good, I would definitely consider them for a new bike. Price still seems high considering how simple they are but I know it’s a new product, small company etc.

JOEP - 10/29/13 - 12:35am

Wow lots of hate- too bad I think the concept is rather cool. Is it fully retro- No. Is it a means to apply a different type of riding style and give options- Yes.

If I was building a road bike or commuter I would try them for sure.

The Goats - 10/29/13 - 9:42am

TheFaGoat – The smartest people at the races are the ones on single speeds. They don’t have to deal with broken shifters and derailleurs etc and always seam to have more money for beer. :)

gravelrules – A note on pricing. Unlike the other integrated shift levers available ours include CNC machined parts made in the USA which does effect pricing. We also provide higher (normal, not sub normal!) margins to bike shops which is important to help them run profitable businesses.

Campagnolo levers – Yup they are rebuildable and we wish everything was! In an event of a bad crash we will take back a shifter and repair/replace it for $34.

dwiz – there is nothing wrong with the other shifters out there, each is preferred by a group of users. Our CX system just provides another option with lighter weight, faster shifting etc that makes it a very compelling choice for CX. It is not pretty (we don’t design it for posers, but performers) and its limitations (no shifting from drops) makes it a last choice out of the competition for a road race bike.

Thanks all for the additional user endorsements! More CX products in the works!

XOXO

The Goats

Bluehills - 10/31/13 - 10:18pm

Sorry, this aint a new idea. In 1986 I was doing this with a pair of old friction shifters mounted on the inside of the lever to shift my clunking Target bike’s cheaop gears. But I can’t claim credit for it as I saw it in the back of a bike magazine as a reader photo of some cheap skate’s budget STI. Back then I was living in Australia and I can’t remember if it was a local rag or an import. Anyway, negates retro shift’s patent application as it’s prior art.

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