Founded by Adam Clement as an alternative to running (sometimes very) expensive mechanical levers on dirty, muddy, crash-prone cyclocross bikes, Retroshift takes an age old shifting idea and gives it a fresh spin.
Retroshift levers combine a metal brake lever with a simple indexed “thumb lever” style shifter arm, much like the ones found on down tubes from bikes a couple decades ago. Ergonomically, hitting the full range of gears with a single hand movement has now been race proven under Kona’s Erik Tonkin.
“What I most like about them is how quickly I can shift up into harder gears – I can easily go thru 4-5 gears at a time,” said Tonkin, after racing the levers to a win at the muddy Kruger Farm race in Oregon a couple weekends ago. ” I can also plow through a lot of gears on the downshift. This is a feature only offered by down-tube and bar-end shifters–modern STI levers don’t really afford two-way, multiple-gear shifting with one throw of a lever.”
Check the video after the break to see it in action. Basically, you can dump (or climb) the entire cassette’s worth of gears in about one second, quicker even than the 1.5 seconds it takes Campy’s new EPS electronic group to do it.
Photos and a little Q&A with Adam and Erik after the break…
“I can’t believe no one’s done this before. I went through about a hundred years of patents looking for anything like it being done before and couldn’t find anything,” says Clement. “I’ve tested it with Shimano 7- 9- and 10-speed and it works great. I haven’t tried it with SRAM or Campy, but it should work fine.”
“I’d been playing around with the design for a while, but with the cyclocross craze growing, the timing was right. It’s cheap, and it works really well, and you don’t risk ruining expensive STI levers.”
Right now it’s a Tektro R200A brake lever that’s then disassembled, drilled, machined and laser engraved in Portland, OR. The lever has a standard downtube shifter mount on the front of it. Then they put a standard downtube shifter on it and it becomes the Retroshift.
“I appreciate the simplicity of the design. I’m surprised that STI levers didn’t evolve by way of the Retro Shift design,” Tonkin said. “Of course, they kind of did if you include Suntour Command shifters as part of the process. The Retro Shift levers have that “Why didn’t I think of that?” quality.
“They have a very positive index shift, thanks of course to Shimano down-tube shifters”
Pricing should be around $140 for the front and rear levers and then you’d mount your own shift levers on them. He’ll also offer them with Dura-Ace downtube shifters included for about $220. There will also be a third version that’s for 1x systems with only a rear derailleur. They’ll have about 400 units ready for sale in December. Weight’s not finalized, but Clement says it should be lighter than a set of Ultegra STI levers; less than Dura-Ace if you’re only running a rear derailleur.
In the future, Clement wants to move full production of the entire lever to Portland and add a carbon fiber lever option.
Tonkin on usage: “They’re surprisingly ergonomic and easy to use, especially in the middle of the cogset. You can only shift from the hoods, and but that’s not really a problem for ‘cross – except if you’re trying to sprint in the drops and shift at the same time. I do not feel that braking is compromised, the shifters just don’t get in the way (of braking).”
Retroshift’s website should officially go live in early December with products for sale. Right now, there are pictures of goats. We’ll get the first look at the finished product, so stay tuned to Bikerumor.com for the announcement!