Your Guide to Buying Shifters on eBay

Like if this guide is helpful
Your Guide to Buying Shifters on eBay

Shifters are a bicycle part used to switch between gears while in motion. Shifters were traditionally found on road bicycles, and tended to use a friction system to move the chain from gear to gear. The shift in gear is managed by two levers attached somewhere on the bicycle frame, usually either on or just below the handlebars. There are a number of different shifters available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. It’s important for buyers to understand the various types available, and how each style works.

eBay is a great place to search for shifters, and the site offers an unrivalled selection of new and used bicycle parts at considerably lower prices than those found in stores. The following guide shall examine the most popular types of shifters and how to buy these components on eBay.

Bicycle Shifters

The shifter controls the gearing mechanisms by way of a cable system. Today shifters either use a derailleur mechanism or an internal hub gear mechanism to switch between the gears. Shifters are either connected to the down tube of the frame, the stem or the handlebars. The right shifter lever controls the rear derailleur, while the left controls the front derailleur.

Types of Shifting Systems

There are two types of shifting systems found on bicycles today, friction shifting and index shifting.

Friction Shifting

This type of shifter is the original and simplest. This system requires the cyclist to push on a lever which moves the chain from one cog to the next, thus changing the gear. Six to seven cogs are used, giving cyclists a number of gear settings to choose from. Using a friction system can take time to get used to, and cyclists have to feel when the chain has slid onto the next cog. The chain can become suspended between two cogs causing a rattling sound and the bike to stall.

Friction systems remain popular due to their simplicity and long lifespan. Friction systems also allow the cyclist to switch from a low to a high gear in one motion, eliminating the need to pass through the gears in between first. This style of shifting system is also faster and quieter than index shifting. Friction shifting is most common on road and racing bicycles, and those used for speed performance.


Index Shifting

As the name suggests, gears used in this system are indexed and it is not necessary to adjust the gears after each change. The majority of bicycles manufactured today use index shifters, and this eliminates the problem of slipping chains and stalling that is found in friction shifters. The main issue people have with index shifting systems is the inability to combine different parts from different manufactures. Also, it is not possible to move straight from a low gear to a high gear when using this system. Index shifters are most common on mountain and hybrid bikes.

Types of Bicycle Shifter

Bicycle shifters are made for use with specific types of bicycles and one of the two above shifting systems. Buyers need to make sure that the shifter is compatible with their bicycle before purchasing.

Twist Shifter

Twist shifters, also known as grip shifters, are a relatively new style of shifter, and consist of a twist grip mounted onto each side of a straight handlebar. A benefit of using this type of shifter is the cyclist does not have to remove their hand from the handlebars to change gears.

However, some cyclists believe that twist shifters are harder to maintain and take longer to repair if they become damaged. Twist shifters are suitable for use with mountain and hybrid bikes that use an index shifting system.

Trigger Shifter

Trigger shifters are used on bicycles that have an index shifting system, and are quite similar to twist shifters in how they work. The main difference between trigger and twist shifters is the location of the mechanism used to change the gears. A trigger shifter is also located on either end of the handlebars, but comprises of a small trigger housed in a unit mounted on the end of the bars.

As with twist shifters, the benefits of using this system is that it allows the cyclist to quickly change gears without removing their hands from the steering unit. This is especially handy when cycling off road or on rough terrain, and reduces the safety risk posed by other mechanisms. Trigger shifters are most commonly found on mountain and hybrid bikes.

Thumb Shifter

Thumb shifters use the same index shifting systems, and in this case the device is mounted closer to the centre of the handlebars. This is a popular form of shifter with mountain bikers, as it allows them to quickly change gears with their thumbs, while maintaining brake control with their fingers. As with the above two, thumb shifters are usually found on hybrid and mountain bikes, although it is possible to mount this style onto track and triathlon bicycles.

Down Tube and Stem Shifters

One of the oldest forms of shifters available, down tube and stem shifters have been used on road and racing bicycles for many years. Down tube shifters work well with friction shifting mechanisms and comprise of two levers attached to either side of the down tube.

The lever on the right controls the rear derailleur while the one on the left controls the front. Stem shifters work the same but are mounted on the stem, as opposed to the down tube, and are preferred by cyclists looking for aerodynamic efficiency.

Stem shifters achieve this efficiency by removing the amount of cable used to connect the shifter to the gear system. There are a number of down tube and stem shifters available that use index shifting mechanisms, making these shifters compatible with more modern types of bicycle.

Both of these styles of shifters are inexpensive and easy to install, but it can take time to get used to the position of the levers, and there is the safety risk of having to remove a hand from the handlebar to change gears.

Bar End Shifters

For use with road, racing and vintage bicycles, the levers used with this style of shifter are found at the very end of the handlebar. Bar end shifters can be used with friction and index shifting mechanisms, although many believe this style works better with friction gears. Bar end shifters are simple to install and easy to use, but it is not possible to switch gears if sitting back in the saddle.

Integrated Brake Shift Levers

Also known as brifters, these consist of a combined shift and brake function housed in one unit. Similar to the twist and trigger styles, the benefit of using an integrated brake shift lever is both of the functions are close to the hand and easy to access. This makes gear shifting easy when ascending or descending, and reduces the safety risk posed by shifting units housed on the frame. However, these are expensive, complicated devices and can be easily damaged by any sort of impact. Brifters can be used on a variety of bicycles.

Shifter Speeds

Bicycle shifters come with a number of speeds, so buyers need to be aware of how many cogs are available on their gear system. The speed of a gear system refers to the amount of cogs on the front and rear derailleur, so if a gear system is ten speed then this means there are five cogs on the rear derailleur and two on the front (5 x 2 = 10). Keep this in mind when shopping for shifters, because a shifter that is made for use on an eight-speed bicycle and mounted on a ten-speed system then the cyclist will not be able to access two of the gears.


Bicycle shifters are small components used to access the front and rear derailleurs and change the gear settings when a cyclist is in motion. Bicycles use either a friction shifting system or an index shifting system to change the gears, and buyers need to be aware of what is used on their bike. There are a number of shifters to choose from, and some are more suited to specific types of bicycles than others. Spend some time thinking about the bicycle and terrain it’s ridden on, as this will influence the decision.

eBay is a great place to buy new and used bicycle parts, and this is especially true of bicycle shifters. Buyers will find a more varied selection at better prices than those in stores and on sites. Remember to enter as much detail into a search as possible, and be patient when browsing.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides