How to Use Integrated Shifters & Brakes

By Justin Wash

Integrated shift/brake levers, also known as "brifters," have become the standard shifting and braking solution on modern road bicycles. The brifter combines the shifter and brake lever in a way that allows a cyclist to use either without removing her hand from the handlebars. This makes cycling easier, safer and more efficient. For those accustomed to downtube or stem mounted shifting systems, this new standard can take some getting used to. Follow a few steps to learn how to use your integrated brake/shift levers and get the most out of your cycling experience.

Step 1

Examine the levers and buttons on your integrated shift/brake levers. Get accustomed to the basic principle behind their use as well as the multitude of hand positions available on the bars. Locate the brake levers, which are the largest levers on an integrated brake/shift system. The brake levers are activated by pulling them backward toward the curve of the handlebars.

Step 2

Locate the down-shift lever on the right shifter. On Shimano STI shifters, the down-shift lever is activated by pressing the brake lever sideways, toward the front wheel of the bike. On Sram and Campagnolo shifters, the down-shift lever is located behind the brake lever, activated by pressing it fully toward the front wheel.

Step 3

Locate the up-shift lever on the right shifter. On Shimano STI shifters, this is the small lever behind the brake lever, activated by pushing it inward toward the front wheel. On Sram shifters, the up-shift lever is the same as the down-shift lever. Pushing the lever fully (two clicks) shifts down a gear. Pushing the lever only slightly (a single click) shifts up a gear. On Campagnolo shifters, the up-shift lever is located on the left side of the shifter body. It is activated by pressing it down with your thumb.

Step 4

Examine the left brake/shift lever. The left lever works exactly opposite from the right shifter. Pushing inward on the down-shift lever fully causes the bike to shift up one gear. Similarly, pushing inward (on Shimano and Sram shifters) or down (on Campagnolo shifters) on the up-shift lever causes the bike to shift down one gear.

Step 5

Take your bike out for a ride. Start in a small gear, one in which it is easy to pedal. When you are ready to shift up to a higher gear, press the up-shift lever of the right shifter. Continue until you can not shift up any further. When this happens, press the up-shift lever of the left shifter once, and the down-shift lever of the right shifter a few times. This will allow you a few extra gears to accelerate in. Continue in this fashion until you are ready to stop, at which point you should pull backward on the brake levers to activate the brakes. With practice you will become smoother and more efficient in shifting and braking with integrated brake/shift levers.

References

About the Author

Born and raised in St. Louis, Mo., Justin Wash began his professional writing career in 2004 with an online freelance copywriting business. Over the years, he has written for a myriad of clients including China-Vasion and The Executives Closet.

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