Since we first posted about Retroshift, they’ve worked through production and have been selling the units all over the world. According to founder Adam Clement the response has been pretty incredible.

The Retroshift is a modified Tektro brake lever for drop bars that fits a Shimano friction shifter on the top front. Clement says this gives the rider quick, precise shifting even in foul conditions, making it perfect for cyclocross and touring bikes where more expensive integrated brake/shift levers might get gunked up too easily.

The video above shows how quickly you can whip through the gears. The levers are actually a discontinued Tektro model that the company has revived production just for Retroshift. It’s available in two versions: Version 1 has only a right-hand shifter for single chainring setups and retails for $89. Version 2 sells for $119 and is ready for both front and rear shifters. They include only the shifters, you’ll need to source your own bar-end or downtube shifters to mount on them. For now…

Retroshift brake levers with integrated friction shifter mounts for cyclocross and touring bikes

Clement says he’s working on a complete set up with custom made shifters, hoping to have it available by this summer.

As it is, once shifters are added, he says it’s not only far cheaper than STI (or similar) levers, it’s anywhere from 50g to 100g lighter than Ultegra STI depending on whether you’re running multiple chainrings. Both versions are available in Feldman Grey (below) and Werle Red (above). Order ’em up at

Retroshift brake levers with integrated friction shifter mounts for cyclocross and touring bikes

The Gallery

Retroshift brake lever mounted friction shift lever for road touring and cyclocross bikes

Retroshift brake lever mounted friction shift lever for road touring and cyclocross bikes

Retroshift brake lever mounted friction shift lever for road touring and cyclocross bikes

From Adam:

Strong, Light or Cheap, the usual saying is “pick two.” With Retroshift you can now have all three. Utilizing proven and durable bar-end/down-tube shifters a fully serviceable Retroshift system is lighter than Ultegra 6700 and easily comes in at under half the price (about 1/3rd if you already have shift levers on hand) and ongoing costs of ownership are lower still. A Stronger, Lighter, Cheaper alternative to STI it offers a great option where the advantages of Retroshift are desired. Cross, Touring, Commuting etc.

We are up and running and in just the first month shipped not only within the USA but also to Japan, Canada, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Czech Republic. We have been contacted by distributors in a number of countries including TKC Productions who will be distributing in Japan (they also distribute Portland Design Works and Tonic). Overall we are thrilled at the response.

The initial system is selling very well and we are running a little low on the model 0ne and Werle Red and are looking at doing a second run of parts in the coming month to remedy this. We are also working with a manufacturer to have custom shift levers produced to best match the system and hope by the fall to have complete systems (with shifters) available. We are just starting to set up a network of dealers in the U.S.

Retroshift brake lever mounted friction shift lever for road touring and cyclocross bikes

Retroshift brake lever mounted friction shift lever for road touring and cyclocross bikes


  1. My first thought: wow, ugly as hell! Looks like a brake lever with a piggyback shifter.

    But after a second I was like: “hey, this is exactly what I need for my commuter!”. I have to say I like the idea – it’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s almost indestructible. Nice thing if you care about functionality more than about looks.

    • Also friction shifters are far superior for commuting. Indexed shifting, unless you have a Hub, is terrible because you have to down shift so much at every light or stop, and if you suddenly brake, you have to deal with the clunky start of trying to turn a high gear, lowering it, before racing your pace. On a friction shifter you can just jump from the highest to lowest gear with on twist and maybe a quarter of a pedal rotation.

  2. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for beautifully crafted, simple designs like these. Makes me want to build a cross bike just to play with these.

  3. Having used both 7-spd downtube shifters in friction for 10-spd and modern brake/shift levers a lot in recent years, I don’t think there’s any reason for these things to exist. They are uglier than both, so much so that nobody who isn’t already wearing an orange safety vest will buy. They will not perform as nicely as the brifters or, for most of us, any better than downtube shifters — which can be used without thought, after a little practice. If one must buy the whole package, the retroz are not likely to be much of a savings over microshift or even 105 and will cost 4 or 5 times what simple levers cost.

  4. It is kind of kludgy looking but I don’t know how else you’d make it look better and still have it be as modular. Also kind of like having the shift cables exposed – makes replacing cables much easier which can be a plus for ‘cross.

  5. @waterglass: “Having used both 7-spd downtube shifters in friction for 10-spd and modern brake/shift levers a lot in recent years, I don’t think there’s any reason for these things to exist. ”

    Clearly you don’t race cyclocross. 7 spd downtube levers won’t work too well in ‘cross and modern brake/shift levers can get pretty unreliable in crappy conditions. They’re also very prone to being permanently damaged in a crash…which happens a lot in ‘cross and can quickly become very expensive. Also there are still people out there who like to run drops on their MTBs and again you have the issues of durability/reliability. Finally you can shift through any number of cogs in either direction which you really can’t do with other systems (though I’m not there are many situations where this is really an advantage, even in racing)

    The closest competition for these isn’t Ergo/STI/DoubleTap or downtube shifters but rather bar-end shifters. These are simply a more ergonomic solution than bar-ends though again, only really an issue in ‘cross and MTB where you may not have time or the ability to safely slide your hand down to a bar-end shifter. They’re a niche item serving a niche purpose. If you don’t get it it’s because you’re not into that niche.

    • A racing advantage with the friction shifter is on cornering primarily, and even hills sometimes. On very tight cornering you can approach the turn at high speed, pump your brakes to slow to a near stop, drop to first gear and accelerate from your easy gear, whereas it’s almost an art form to figure out tight corners on STI, trying to steadily drop your gears or brake much earlier and going down one at a time, or even the nicer gears (which cost a fortune) that can skip a couple at a time, shift extremely fast, or are electronic/hydraulic will still not be able to brake as fast since they dont shift from top gear to bottom gear on one turn. They would be compromising somewhere on their time coming into a corner. For a hill, what I do on my friction shifters that I cant do on an STI is go from my high flat gear and carry my momentum as far as I can go up the hill before changing my speed to rock bottom, which would give me a significant distance advantage over an STI that needs to steadily drop their gears in anticipation of the hill since they dont like shifting under max load. Now, again granted the very most expensive and modern gears that are electronic or hydraulic have made up for this problem but those systems are literal thousands of dollars.

  6. waterglass alluded to it, but obviously these are not for the team-kit-clad crew w/ their $10k wonder-bikes pimping at the coffee shop. I do think these look great from a “form follows function” perspective. Barcons are certainly ideal for adverse conditions. Also the post is a little misleading, as shown in the video, the rear shifter is an indexing shifter w/ the -option- to put it in friction mode if things get knocked out of whack (as opposed to a friction-only shifter, which you could also bolt on if so inclined).

  7. I’ve been a life long friction downtube user, but the older I get, it’s harder to reach down. These shifters are ugly, but I welcome them because it’s function over fashion.

  8. These look well executed and I’m glad they made it out of the prototype phase. The shifting looks to get a little awkward towards the high end of the gear range, but certainly not unmanageable.

    I’d be curious to see what Matt Budd’s solution would look like if executed to this degree of finish, as I think I’d prefer side mount over front mount. However, Matt’s a busy dude and between real work and Budd Bike Works, I think we’ll have to wait a little while to find out.

  9. A cool concept. This is not for everyone but I can think of many differnt situations where they would work well. I doubt I will get to install to many of these in my shop but I can see these making there way onto my next commuter build.

  10. Those of y’all that knee jerk this with pissy comments about homelessness, etc…are bitches.

    If you don’t like it, that’s cool. Don’t like it. Don’t use it. If you have a legitimate concern or criticism, let’s hear it. Writing ignorant hateful remarks is a waste of our time.

    But so is arguing with juveniles via the internet I suppose.

  11. How about a SRAM compatible mount so users could opt for R2C style shifters. Will the cost go up, sure. Will it clean of the look and improve the functionality, yes, a ton.

    It took Paul a long time to come around to the idea of Thumbies for SRAM, don’t follow their foot steps.

  12. @Rich:

    Do pro level racing bikes come with instructions to explain to your friends why you’re a poser? Seriously, anyone who owns a pro level bike with DuraAce/Record/Red and is not a pro is by the very definition of the word a poser. You’re trying to look like a pro without actually having the talent to be one.

  13. I raced some prototypes this last fall in cyclocross. They worked well and made me smile! very confident shifting and immune to Portlands epic mud.

  14. @uglyyeti – why don’t you try mini-V brakes from Tektro? There are several models of which I am personally using the AL921 – a pretty decent budget brake and it works with a road brake lever too! If you are looking for a top-end product, you may try CX8.4 or CX9 models from them.

  15. @mkrs – good call, but the posts on the rear of my frame are welded a hair too low – I need a brake with a fair amount of vertical pad adjustment. I called TRP last year and the measurements on their CX9’s slot seemed a little short for me. It might be worth trying the cheap one for $15 though just to check. I’m running a 1995-ish avid single digit now and while it works ok with a road lever, I know it could be a lot better with a linear pull lever. The frame has a ybb back end and no cable stop, so I have to run a V on the back (I run a canti up front.)

  16. From Adam- ” We are also working with a manufacturer to have custom shift levers produced to best match the system ”

    I’m interested to see how these will turn out, hopefully 9 and/or 10 speed with an index/friction option. I can see where there is room to make the shift levers curve down more in line with the brake levers, less clunky, and more ergonomic. It looks like a lot of potential for function and form.

  17. I have been riding them for 2 months on road and cyclocross. I have no desire to put my sti back on. I love these things! This is an item where less is more.

  18. @mkrs – (thanks for the help by the way) – I’d thought of that too, but the cable stop has to be on the lower clamp side of the ybb shock or the 7/8″ travel will affect the cable length as the shock moves. Here’s a pic…

    I could always use a travel agent (I have a few in my parts bin) but it works well enough without it. Trying linear pull levers or a tektro v-brake may be the next move.

  19. Wow, $120 for the levers, _and_ I have to buy my own shifters? Considering a _great_ pair of levers runs about $30-40, the price seems really steep.

  20. @Adam “…opt for R2C style shifters.” …and then, if only they could mount something like this behind the brake lever, with the cables routed under the bar tape…

  21. Hey guys, these retroshifters are now available here in the Philippines? I want to try one or more of them than expensive STI shifters…i know it’s a more than a practical used interesting…how to get one for shipping to my country?

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.