It all started very long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away…
One day I got tired of waiting to gather the money to buy all the bike parts I needed to build a bike so I decided to buy one complete bike (an older LX model) and then mix and match the parts I needed. So there I was having fun, fidgeting with bike parts, until I got to the integrated shifter handles. I though it would be a good idea to lubricate and clean them so I took them apart and went to bed (it was late).
Two days later I went back to the garage with the intent to clean those parts and put them back together. I was shocked when I finally realized how many parts there are in a shifter. There are somewhere around 30-40 separate parts, and I had no idea whatsoever how to put them all back together.
It took me 6-7 solid work hours until I finally figured out how the damn aft integrated shifter really works. I did quite well up to that point, I did wind the springs and cleaned everything, but I was stuck on the gearbox afterbody. I had to sit down and think hard in order to figure out what the problem was. This is what I found out; some member of my family decided to clean the garage and misplaced several of the parts which belonged to the gearbox. I was missing one piece from the gear shifter and one other part that serves as a lever for the break. It was a ring to which is attached to the spring, and that missing ring I had to manufacture manually. I managed to fix the other parts somehow. The whole thing was driving me mad.
- The ring I made to replace the lost part, I made it up side down to make things easier.
- A hole I made on the steel ring which I needed in order to wind the spring.
- One other part I had to manufacture manually. It is used as a ring placed on top of the slide bed, which is located on the break lever.
- This is all that was left of the drill bore. The drill bore head was 4 times longer than the one you can see on the picture. This came as a surprise to me when I stopped drilling. Until that moment I thought that the sparks that flew around during the drilling were the pieces of the metal ring but it was the drill bore itself that was getting shredded. This was my second drill bore, I completely destroyed the first one.
Here you can see a complete and completely operational gear shifter. Underneath the thread you can see the hole that I made on the metal ring, I wound the spring through this hole.
You simply wouldn’t believe how complex gear shifts can be. True, the left one (which is used to shift three basic gears) is somewhat simpler, but the right one is exposed to much greater forces so it has to be entirely made of metal (I was also amazed that the housing of the right gear shift was made out of gus (breakable metal alloy), same goes for the spring and levers. It took me some 40 minutes to finish the work on the left gearshift, and some 13 hours for the right one.
After having done this I became aware why mechanics have such a wide repertoire of curses! I had numerous lacerations on my hands, I got burned because I handled a fragment of the drill bore right after the drilling (it was still hot), my hand were numb due to excessive exposure to gasoline and I had numerous pricks from the bike wires. On top of it all I wasn’t able to wash all the grease off of my hands.
Just for the record, it’s quite interesting to learn how ingenious the Shimano’s experts are in producing different models of shifter handles. XTR is a top notch product. I got my hands on a new service catalogue for Shimanos products, so I begun studying how those beauties operate, and I can say that they indeed are a premium quality product! The entire production process, the quality of raw materials used and other things make a huge difference when compared with other, less expensive models. You will find LX model to be awesome, but XTR model will give you headaches. The only thing that I don’t like about these products is the fact that Shimano doesn’t use industry standard bearings for hubs.
If you are thinking about dismantling a shifter and messing around with it, my advice to you would be: DON’T DO IT! You would have to do a tremendous amount of work, the logistics needed to pull off this project are extremely complex, in addition you have to own a lot of specialized tools and really know your mechanics. I am not saying that you wouldn’t be able to learn all of that, but simply skip the whole process. When it breaks, throw it into the garbage and buy a new one.