Urban Velo

Retroshift CX2 Brake/Shift Lever Review

retroshift_cx-1The Retroshift system was born from the desire for a simpler, more dirt- and crash-resistant system than STI, DoubleTap or Ergopower combined shift and brake levers for the muddy cyclocross courses of the Pacific Northwest. It just so happens to make a reasonable alternative for commuter, adventure and other riders more interested in long term durability than the most race ready shifting. At it’s most basic, the Retroshift is a Tektro brake lever with a (patent pending) machined aluminum mount added to the front to accommodate a downtube or bar-end shifter.

Reliability in the face of abuse is a primary goal behind the Retroshift design. Rain and mud won’t clog the shifters and render them inoperable, laying the bike down is less likely to damage the Retroshifts as compared to more fragile combined road levers. They are even a few grams lighter than most other systems at 380g for the pair.

retroshift_cx-2While interested in the Retroshifts since the moment I first laid eyes upon them, I’ll admit I was skeptical of their placement. I’m a big fan of top-mount thumbshifters and have them on a couple of my personal bikes, using models from the 1980s and retrofit mounts that use downtube shift levers to replicate old models, similar to the Retrofit mounting system. Perhaps the main downfall of this style of shifter is the range of motion required due to the lack of any ratcheting system—one thing on the top of the bars, another all together on the front of drop bar levers. I was concerned about inadvertently activating the brakes, or being able to reach to shift through all of the gears.

Once installed a single ride is all it took to get used to the shift action, with my fears of braking interference immediately set aside. If you ride primarily on the hoods and like the feel of top-mount, bar-end or downtube shifters you may find yourself in love with the Retroshift system. You can easily shift through the entire cassette range with a single swing of the right shifter, and the left friction shifter works double or triple ring setups with the trim adjustment to make every gear silent. While rear shifting is snappy and easy the range of movement and force required for front ring shifts can be trying, especially deep into an all-day ride I wish the front shifter had a shorter throw. Shifting from the drops is near impossible, even with my giant hands. From the hoods however it’s an easy reach, and I happen to prefer the Campy-like shape of the Tektro hoods over more narrow types. I’d prefer that the shift housing could run under the tape for a cleaner look and to not interfere with a handlebar bag, but such a change would invariably alter the simplicity of the entire arrangement. Given my style of riding (ie. on the hoods, not racing), the Retroshifts have found a permanent home on my bike.

retroshift_cx-3Buy the Retroshift CX2 nude for $130 and use them with your own Shimano-compatible shift levers or buy them complete as tested for $190 with Retroshift branded Microshift levers pre-installed. The V-brake compatible CXV is available for $10 more, the single front ring CX1 for $40 less. Break or bend any of them in a crash and Retroshift will repair the damaged brake body, lever or shifter mount for $24.

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