Modern Transmission, Ugly but Convenient

by Chikashi


Brifters are ugly.

They have none of the grace or charm of the traditional brake levers, with brake cables arching above the handlebars. However, I must admit that it is very convenient because you don’t have to take your hands off the handlebar to shift gears. It is the sort of convenience that becomes so much more evident when climbing a categorised incline or bumpety-bumping along a cobbled stretch.


I am not a stranger to indexed shifting, but a non-Campagnolo system was unfamiliar to me until I rode the rented Basso in Sicily this summer. It had Shimano brifters that require shoving one of the two levers inward regardless of whether I was trying to get the chain to shift inward or outward. Shoving the lever to the left whilst wanting to move the chain to the right is counterintuitive at best. I did get used to it after the second outing, but it remains counterintuitive. I suppose that it is like getting used to clicking ‘Start’ to shut down, but it is still a poorly conceived procedure. If you are going to propose a system that makes no sense, then the product ought to be at least visually pleasing. But, it isn’t. Campagnolo’s system is at least sensible even if the brifters still look like the nose of a Cinderella’s step-sister.

Having succumbed to contemporary convenience, I had to adopt the latest transmission. I am quite comfortable with fixed gear / single speed or at the most a transmission that has 5 or 6 speeds. But, 11? What am I supposed to do with all those sprockets? A Formula One car has only a 7-speed transmission. I think anything that has more variants than an octave is not in tune with what one might call a natural rhythm. And, 11 is such an… odd number.

It turns out that it ain’t so bad to have so many sprockets. Imagine that.