Paul Thumbies

Regulars who read this blog know I’m a long time fan of bar-end shifters set to friction mode. I’ve been using bar-ends for over 25 years and I still find them to be the most intuitive and comfortable shifters available (for me). The only drawback to bar-ends is that they only work on a certain, limited set of handlebars that have the proper inner diameter and enough sweep to point the shifters toward the rear of the bike. This eliminates a good 50% of the available bars, some of which I’ve been dying to try out.

My second favorite shifters after bar-ends are old-school mountain-bike-style thumb shifters. High quality thumb shifters are pretty much a thing of the past, but a super alternative are Thumbies from Paul Component Engineering. Thumbies are cool little shifter mounts that convert bar-end shifters to old-style thumb shifters. They’re available in models to fit Shimano, Campy, and SRAM shifters, they’re beautifully machined, and they truly are a joy to use. The icing on the cake is that Thumbies open up access to many of those other handlebars that don’t accept bar-ends.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ll be testing a bunch of handlebars over the next couple of months. The first set are the 50 degree Aldrich bars from Civia (see above). Next in line are a set of Nitto Promenade porteur bars. Neither of these bars accept bar-end shifters, so the Thumbies will be getting a good workout and earning their keep.

Paul Component Engineering

35 Responses to “Paul Thumbies”

  • CJ says:

    What are the grips and levers in the picture? Looks sweet!

  • Bob Baxter says:

    One caution on Paul Thumbies. The raised square that locks the lower part of the shifter is fairly shallow. If the center screw is allowed to get the least bit loose the lower shifter piece will override the raised square rounding off the corners and causing erratic shifting. Don’t ask how I know this. Keep that screw snugged up.

  • qx87 says:

    they come with a horrendous price.

    shimano deore shifter are half the price and offer click shifting, sadly they don`t fit on my road bar.

  • Alan says:

    @qx87

    Thumbies are machined in Chico, CA. There’s always a premium to be paid for high quality, U.S.-made products. I think they’re well worth the money.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @CJ

    “What are the grips and levers in the picture? Looks sweet!”

    The grips are ODI “Ruffian” lock-ons, and the levers are from “Real”. Unfortunately, the levers are no longer in production.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Bob

    “Keep that screw snugged up.”

    That’s a good tip Bob. Someone might mistake the screw for a tension adjuster – it’s not. Keep it tight.

    Alan

  • Matt S. says:

    I agree Thunbies rock! try a little medium strength loctite on those screws Bob.

  • Eric says:

    Alan,

    Are you aware of Jagwire Barcons? They let you clamp bar-end shifters to the outside of a handlebar, and they come with a shim for 22.2mm bars so you can use just about any type of handlebar you like.

    http://www.jagwireusa.com/index.php/products/triathlon/shifter_mounts/

    Cheers,
    Eric

  • Alan says:

    @Eric

    “Are you aware of Jagwire Barcons?”

    I hadn’t seen those – thanks for the link. I’m not clear on how they work. From what I can see, they clamp on the end of the bar like a cap – is that correct?

    Alan

  • voyage says:

    Just to add to what Alan has posted: Paul Thumbies are not limited to mounting bar end shift levers. They also accept down tube shift levers. I’ve moved Shimano RX-100 and 105 down tube shift levers to the bars on 1990 road bikes using Thumbies and installing housing stop adaptors on the down tubes where the shift levers were. The benefits: the riders felt more comfortable (safe) using shifters on the bar rather than reaching down to the down tube to shift (wimps?) and much less costly and more reliable than brifters (brake and shift lever integrated, common on current road bikes). Index shifting and friction shifting work fine. The only difficulty was the usual: getting the cable pull just right. Once that is accomplished they hold the tune infinitely better than brifters and are essentially bullet proof. Similarly, I’ve moved down tube shifters to bar end mounts. And I’m not a pro wrench. Props to Alan for the current theme at Eco Velo: Bikes are much easier to modify than cars.

  • Alan says:

    @voyage

    Hey, thanks!

    It’s all about setting up a bike so it’s within the comfort zone of the person who will be riding it everyday. There’s really no reason anyone should have to ride a bike that doesn’t fit or have the controls in a location that works well for them.

    Alan

  • Moopheus says:

    I’ve been thinking of swapping my STI shifters for thumbie-mounted bar-ends, so I can have the shifter up on the top of the bar, where my hands are most of the time. Also, I want friction shifting for the FD. Just curious, though, when you the shifter set up as you have it in the photo–do you need two fingers to shift, or so you find it easy to work with just the thumb?

  • Ben W says:

    The first thumb shifter I’ve used in over a decade is on my Torker Graduate. It replaced the stock twist shifter used with the 5 speed Sturmey Archer internally geared hub. What a huge difference the thumb shifter made, in fact they’ve made it standard for the newest bikes. The darn thing is so simple and works flawlessly.

  • Alan says:

    @Ben W

    That’s great that Torker made the switch to thumb shifters on the Graduate – thanks for the info.

    Alan

  • Eric says:

    @ Alan

    Yes, they clamp around the end of the bar. They’re mostly advertised for their weight savings over traditional barends (for time trialists), but I think their greatest value is bringing barend shifting to 22.2mm bars.

    However, another great 22.2mm bar that does accept standard barends and inverse brake levers is the Soma Sparrow.

    Eric

  • Jay says:

    I’ve got old thumb shifters on my hybrid bike (friction front, 7-speed indexed rear, with option to switch to friction), and love them. I push with my thumb to downshift, and pull it back with my index finger to upshift. Works great for me!

  • Pete says:

    Ditto for my commuter bike – the thumb/index finger shifting is incredibly easy and convenient. I set up silver bar-ends on my Sam Hillborne but it’s taking me a while to get used to them. The last bike I friction shifted was my new 1980 Schwinn LeTour!

  • Andrew says:

    I have nothing against thumb-shifters – I actually kind of like them. But when I replaced the indexed front shifter on my flat-bar commuter with friction, I ever-so-briefly considered Thumbie’s, but realized that $35 + barcon seemed like a ludicrous proposition compared to a brand new metal SunRace friction shifter for $8 (it even came with a new cable and housing, to boot).

  • Alan says:

    @Andrew

    I must admit to being a little out of touch on this; after so many years of using them, I always seem to have a set of bar-end shifters lying around, so I don’t factor them in with the total price. When priced as a set, bar-ends and Thumbies aren’t cheap, though they’re still far less than high-end push-button shifters (for example, XTR RapidFire shifters run around $275 per pair).

  • Scott Wayland says:

    LOVE ‘em! I’ve got a pair on my commuter and I’m getting a set on my mtb (RANS Alterra crank forward). It’s sad that Shimano doesn’t still make the old model. I had a set on an old commuter for something like15 years. Worked flawlessly. I realized that I hated trigger shifters after having a set on my commuter. I forked over the big bucks for the conversion, and it was worth every penny. I don’t put big miles on the commuter, but it is the bike I ride most frequently, so I wanted a good riding experience. Now, every bike and trike we own is on Dura Ace bar end shifters in one config or another.

    Those Civia bars look good. I may go with something similar on my mtb.

    Cheers,

    Scott

  • Ashley says:

    Hey Everyone –

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know if the Paul thumbies will work with the Dia Compe Silver shifters? I’ve searched everywhere and can’t find anyone that’s tried that combination.

    Btw, Alan…haven’t said it before, but thanks so much for the great articles and inspiring pictures :)

  • randomray says:

    Hmmmm , got me thinking about up grading my ole girl , she’s still got her down tube shifters .

  • Alan says:

    @Moopheus

    “Just curious, though, when you the shifter set up as you have it in the photo–do you need two fingers to shift, or so you find it easy to work with just the thumb?”

    It’s a two-finger operation: push forward with the thumb, pull back with the first finger.

    Alan

  • Archergal says:

    I have an old Cannondale road bike with down tube shifters. I’m a little wobblier these days than I was when I first got it, and I confess that I’m a wuss that doesn’t really like to take a hand off the bars to shift. So I’ve been looking at different alternatives. There are just some compromises you need to make as you get older to be able to keep riding safely.

    Can anyone give me any indication of how much force to you need to push with your thumb to shift?

    @voyage: I’ve got 105 downtube shifters that I could use too.

  • Pete says:

    @Ashley-
    According to the Rivendell web site, the Silver shifter will mount to the Shimano bar-end pods:

    “Then if later on you graduate to friction only forever … just get our Silver downtube shifters and bolt them on to the Shimano shifter pods that are already stuck in your handlebars.”

    http://www.rivbike.com/products/show/shimano-bar-end-shifters/17-098

    so it’s almost certain they will mount to the Paul Thumbies, too.

  • Alan says:

    @Archergal

    “Can anyone give me any indication of how much force to you need to push with your thumb to shift?”

    The force is the same as with a downtube shifter or a bar-end. In other words, the Thumbie is only a mount; the internal mechanism of the shifter remains the same regardless of whether it’s mounted on the downtube, bar-end, or Thumbie.

  • Archergal says:

    @Alan:
    Thanks, that makes perfect sense! Not sure why I didn’t think of that. ::facepalm::

  • Bob B says:

    I have had thumbies and they work great, tho should be gold plated at that price. I didn’t like the ergonomic shape of the shifter as much as a dedicated 80s thumbshifter. I also have some Sunrace thumbshifters ($13) that work great. They are really easy to install (bendable clamp). My favorite shifters are 80s Suntour ratcheting stem-shifters (purchased used like new for around $5). I prefer them because of the longer lever. I just move my hand over to the shifter and shift with my palm. It is easier more comfy than using my thumb.

  • Ninobur says:

    Thank you Bike Stash for saving me from ~$150 shifters. These retro Suntour beauties look and work fantastic.
    http://www.bikestash.com/shift-levers/suntour-6speed-thumb-shifters-xcls7000-p-105.html

  • Alan says:

    @Ninobur

    Nice find.

  • Alan says:

    @Bob B

    “I have had thumbies and they work great, tho should be gold plated at that price.”

    I agree Thumbies aren’t cheap, but I’m glad to be able to support a skilled designer/craftsman who manufactures products in the U.S.

    Alan

  • Ninobur says:

    Good point, Alan. Paul Engineering is based in Chico, CA.

  • dynaryder says:

    I prefer my SRAM double-thumb triggers. Two levers each worked with your thumb. In heavy traffic I can keep a finger on my brake lever and still shift normally,and in the winter there’s no issues with heavy gloves or mittens.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Paul Chain Keeper says:

    […] The Paul Chain Keeper is a chain retention device for 1X single ring drivetrains. It clamps on the downtube in place of a front derailleur to prevent chain derailments. The clamp-on Chain Keeper is available in three sizes to fit 28.6mm, 31.8mm, and 35.0mm seat tubes. They also make a bottom bracket mounted keeper for bikes with external bottom brackets. Like many Paul components, the Chain Keeper is fully machined from bar stock in Chico, CA. The quality of this piece is superb and on par with Paul’s other products. […]

  • austincyclist says:

    I see this blog post is a couple months stale. I recently recorded a demo of my own paul/dura-ace thumbies.. in case someone hasn’t seen thumbies in action before, check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVvTuHLggsM

 
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