Mullet Hacking 10 Speed, "Thumbie," Friction Shift

I am more than a little over indexed shifting. In the days of 3x7 (ah, the 90s) you could setup chainrings that would give you near 500% gear range, while never having to change more than one step at a time - eg: righthand 1, 2, 3, lefthand 1 to 2, righthand 3, 4, 5, lefthand 2 to 3, righthand 5, 6, 7 and back down. Indexed gearing really helped with this at the end of a really long day. Now we do the same thing over 10 gears on a single chainring and only the righthand shifter for no better ratio, but the indices are finer, trickier to set up, bump your derailleur, and you're tweaking for the rest of the day's ride. Ugh.

On the other hand, in the days of friction shift, the setup only needed to be right on the derailleur stops, the shifting was tuned with every gear change, and it wasn't a hard knack to master. My first adult bike was a Roadmaster Grand Tourer 12, 2x6 friction shift on the downtubes, the best bike money could buy for under $200 Aussie in 1982. That bike taught me cycle touring and bicycle mechanics and how to pace myself and that cycling IS transport, not simply sport. The road is not a racetrack, 99% of riders don't have a team mechanic and tuning you gears from the handlebars is only a pain for Grand Tour pros. But I did love my Hyperglide, 3x7 Alivio, 1993 Giant Iguana, indexing was a great advance on the bike that cost way less than a Surly and lasted longer than one.

So, back to today... I'm building a recumbent trike and I want to futureproof my riding. Part of that future proofing is, after getting everything aligned on the workbench and changing perfectly, I don't want the next three days riding to involve stopping every 5km to road tune the damned thing. I'm 60 now, getting in and out of a sofabike to pull out the tools for the first few days after a service, does. Not. Appeal.

Enter the "pull converter." As you might imagine, Shimano, SRAM, MicroShift, et al, want you to spend on a bike's worth of matched groupset and they also want to fuck-you-up™ when you try to mix and match cheaper parts across brands. Most importantly, between engineering's essential requirement to fit a product into a small space, and marketing's need to keep you tied to the most expensive stuff money can buy ("Hey, gold is a lubricant coating, don't tell marketing!"), it's impossible to really settle on a standard for gearing, like there is for wheels. So, those of us who "mullet" our bikes to save money on maintenance, have to think outside the box. And China, as well as a lot of the rest of SE Asia, have come to our aid, again.


The shifter on the left is a SunRace 6 speed friction shifter, the sort of thing you don't even stick on kids' BMX-based mountain bikes anymore. If I'm going to prove this concept, I may as well push the envelope. The LiteOn "stroke converter" (pull converter, the mind boggles at the mind of the translator), on the right, takes the cable from the shifter (red), wraps it around the smaller pulley, then feeds it onto the larger pulley, behond, and out the port at the bottom. (blue) A 6mm pull on the shifter becomes an 11mm (approx) pull on the cable at the derailleur. Surprisingly, this thing designed to give longer travel to linearpull brakes on drop bar gravel bikes, also matches 6 speed cable travel to 10 speed, narrow/wide derailleur width. $30 worth of parts and the shifter was $6 for a pair. I can always replace them with a nice indexed barend shifter if it's a dead loss. It won't be a dead loss. Follow me for gear tips 😜



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