Microshift 7-speed shifter fits the bill

December 12, 2016
Microshift 7 speed levers have an unusual shifting method.

Microshift 7 speed levers have an unusual shifting method.

UPDATE (Jan. 4, 2017): I corresponded with Microshift regarding the lever not working properly. After seeing a video I created, a new lever was shipped to me at no cost. Indeed, the lever was defective. It was purchased through Ebay from a seller called “microshift-bicycle” based in China and in no way affiliated with Microshift of Taiwan.

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This story starts six years ago when I finally threw in the towel and switched from down-tube index shifting to brake/shift levers on a new bike.

It didn’t take long to realize I had made the right decision. So much so that my second bike with down-tube shifting called out for a make-over. I still enjoy riding that 1986 frame built by Dale Saso, even though it has been through a lot. Another reason: Dupuytrens contracture is reeking havoc with my hands, making it painful to use the old Campagnolo brake levers — small and narrow.

When I started looking at cost, I discovered that Shimano has abandoned 10-speed cassettes for 11-speeds, and even worse, they’re not compatible. Enough already! Ten speeds in the rear was more than I needed. I would have to widen the rear stay another 4 mm, build new wheels, buy new cassettes.

I decided to try a 7-speed. I could swap my 6-speed screw-on freewheel for a 7-speed without widening the frame, as it turned out, and screw-on 7-speed freewheels are available. Your bike may be different and require a hub spacer or not work at all. The issue is chain clearance in the high gear. Gear stops cost $11 and screw into the down-tube shifter braze-on.

Microshift levers, derailleurs
Looking around I found Shimano still makes 7-speed brake/shift levers. I also found Microshift makes the levers and rear derailleur for a 7-speed. I had good luck with their shifters on my mountain bike, so I decided to give them a try. The price was right, $50 for the levers on eBay and $22 for the derailleur. A Shimano freewheel (13-28) runs about $9 on sale. I would need to buy cable housing ($20) and then a cable cutter ($25).

I bought through the mail, so I was on my own when it came to troubleshooting.

Would my Dura-Ace 7402 rear derailleur work? I wondered, so I held off ordering the Microshift rear derailleur. Dura-Ace 7402 was compatible with 8 speed SIS, so it might just work.

The levers went onto the bike with no issues. Cable routing is straightforward. They didn’t come with directions (they’re online in PDF), but Microshift has instructions on YouTube.

The moment of truth: I began shifting gears. I made barrel adjustments going from high to low speed on the rear derailleur and it worked well. However, I noticed that shifting from low (easy) to high gear (hard) didn’t work. I tried everything — barrel adjustments, checking the cable housing length, different ferrules, lubrication, checking the chain, rear hanger alignment, on and on. No matter what I did, the chain clunked from low gear to high gear without stopping between cogs.

Dura-Ace to blame?
I figured the Dura-Ace derailleur was to blame, so I ordered a Microshift 7 speed derailleur. I installed it without any issues (nothing unusual about how it works) and again the moment of truth: Argh!!! No matter what I did, I got the same result.

By the way, in the meantime I read about cable housing and discovered that Shimano SIS shift housing is different from brake housing. So much so that using shift housing on brakes can lead to sudden brake failure! So I had to go back to my old brake housing, which is a single strand of thick wire wrapped in a coil (helical). The Shimano SIS shift housing is multiple strands of thin, straight wire held together by plastic lining and then nylon sheathing. Brake cable undergoes compression, which puts a lot of pressure on the housing lining.

But I digress. Now I was really mystified by the problematic shifting. I couldn’t find squat about Microshift derailleurs and how they worked. YouTube videos only explain how to adjust derailleurs, not how to use the levers.

I tried opening the brake/shift lever and figure out how it worked. It was like a Sturmey-Archer hub in there.

Shifting works this way
As I was messing with the gears I decided to try something different. The shifter has two paddles. The large paddle is pushed to the left to shift from a high to low gear. Pretty straight forward. There’s a small paddle that you push in to do the opposite, low to high. Makes sense. But as I mentioned, every time I pushed the small paddle the chain shifted all the way into high gear. I wondered: What if I push in on the big paddle, holding it in place, and then push in on the small paddle?

Lo and behold, that was it. Perfect shifting. Microshift might have a patent on that process. I couldn’t find one though. If only they had instructions. It’s not intuitive.

After riding, I got used to the shifting, but I wouldn’t want to use it in a race. It’s way too complicated to have to think about it during the heat of competition. However, for an old geezer riding around town, it’s fine.

So how about the levers for comfort? They’re far better than Campagnolo and with padded gloves my hands can tolerate them. They’re a bit narrower than Shimano Ultegra 6700 levers, but not enough to be an issue. All in all, they have a nice feel.

By the way, I kept the Dura-Ace front derailleur. It works fine with Microshift. I didn’t notice a long throw as some have reported. It has three clicks, but I think one of them is for trim and not a triple crank. As for the Campagnolo brakes, their 1-1 pull ratio isn’t any different. The 4-1 ratio found in modern brakes is much preferred by me since my hands aren’t all that strong, but I can live with it. In terms of hand size, larger hands are probably better for Microshift levers.

Finally, I still wasn’t sure about the Dura-Ace derailleur. Would it work? I reinstalled it and gave it a try. This is an old derailleur. Maybe that has something to do with it, but the results were not great. It could work in a pinch, but I would go with the Microshift derailleur, which shifts as smooth as glass. It’s light years better than my down-tube index shifting.

Note: The official Microshift instructions for the levers do not say that it’s necessary to push in on the large paddle while shifting the small paddle. I doubt that my levers are defective. The instructions may be wrong. Microshift has not responded to my email, so hard to say.

More reading:

Drive-train history

Dura-Ace 7402 rear derailleur

Microshift rear derailleur. Cable housing should be about 30 cm long.

Microshift rear derailleur. Cable housing should be about 30 cm long.

Too much of a good thing

December 11, 2016

Seven pounds of chanterelles. My neck ached after the ride.

Seven pounds of chanterelles. My neck ached after the ride.


It’s not anywhere near as impressive as 2006, but 2016 is shaping up to be a good one for chanterelles after the long drought.

I can only carry about seven pounds in my bike bag, so I had to leave behind about five pounds, and that was what I saw where I looked. I quit looking once I filled my bag.

I found a new location, although in reality it’s an extension of another spot I know about.

I’d give some away, but with the exception of my neighbor, who has “European sensibilities,” people freak out when offered.

Chanterelles sell for about $25 a pound (and up) in the few markets that sell them. You need a permit to sell to stores.

It was a cool, cloudy day, perfect for riding in the Santa Cruz Mountains and finding edible fungi.

Eating an oak tree — one acorn at a time

December 6, 2016

Acorns are best left for the squirrels.

Acorns are best left for the squirrels.


We’ve all ridden through oak-covered hillsides in the Bay Area, but I’ve always wondered if the acorn could be a delicious food source, so with a lot of free time these days I decided to find out.

I’ve eaten Miner’s lettuce, Chanterelle mushrooms, Thimbleberries, and other wild foods, but I’m hardly a survivalist.

If we ever have one of those events leading to a dystopian future, I’ll be the first to go.

Gathering acorns is the easy part. They’re everywhere. I picked up some in a nearby park as the squirrels chattered away in the trees, watching their food source disappear.

I followed the process recommended by Arthur Haines in his YouTube video. He recommends cold-water leaching of the tannin, the stuff that makes acorns poisonous to most animals.

I didn’t see the point in drying the acorns in the sun, as recommended, and besides, it was raining. Probably not a good idea. They should be dried.

I used a claw hammer and a flat stone to smash the acorn (lying on its side) to get to the nut.

It took at least two hours of pounding. I thought about the indigenous people who used to do this all the time and thanked my lucky stars for Costco.

Then I had to grind the nuts into a fine powder before leaching.

Leaching took a week of twice-daily emptying water-filled mixing bowls with ground acorn. On the eighth day the water was clear except for a slight color tinge, so I knew the tannins were gone and I wouldn’t die.

Then I had to dry the acorns. On a cold winter day that can take a while, so I used a space heater.

Finally, I used the acorn mix to make waffles. I figured, one cup of flour and one cup of ground acorn would do the trick. No, the acorn is more like ground nuts, not flour.

I had to add another cup of regular flour. The verdict: Acorns don’t have much taste, if any. Think sawdust.

The lesson here is simple. Good foods are popular.

Acorns don’t make the grade. That’s why you only see them being eaten by survivalist types. Same goes for buckeyes, only they’re even harder to prepare and taste like bland potatoes.

OK squirrels, you can keep your acorns.

Follow-up: I tried it as coffee. With sugar and half-and-half, yum! The Southern troops drank acorn coffee in the Civil War.

Sunnyvale improves signal light for bikes, San Jose fills potholes

December 5, 2016

The signal at The Dalles Ave.  and Mary Ave. in Sunnyvale has been adjusted for bikes so that it's a short wait. (Google Maps photo)

The signal at The Dalles Ave. and Mary Ave. in Sunnyvale has been adjusted for bikes so that it’s a short wait. (Google Maps photo)


Every little bit helps, including making traffic signals “bicycle friendly” as was done recently at Mary Avenue and The Dalles Avenue in Sunnyvale, after I made inquiries.

Sunnyvale public works, Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (SBPAC), as well as John Cordes, SBPAC member, paid attention to my request and now the Mary intersection signal turns red for bikes on Dalles after a brief wait of about four seconds. I registered my concern when the light did not turn for long periods, or not at all. A local cyclist I spoke with at the intersection said she had the same issue.

I can’t say for sure it will always change in that time, but it has behaved that way for me on a couple of occasions, weekdays non-rush-hour.

San Jose fills dangerous potholes: And not to forget San Jose, they quickly filled in some seriously deep potholes on McKean Road near the Cinnabar Hills Golf Club after I reported it. The holes presented a severe hazard for cyclists speeding down McKean. Thanks!

San Felipe Road wanderings

December 4, 2016

A horse-drawn grader on San Felipe Road.

A horse-drawn grader on San Felipe Road.


South San Jose, with all its traffic, has some nice roads for cycling, including San Felipe, which heads south to Metcalf Road (steep descent) and downhill to the Coyote Creek Trail.

Another neat road for descending is Clayton off Mt. Hamilton Road. It’s one of my favorites. For some reason it seems to descend forever.

But I digress. San Felipe Road is home to a couple of old road graders. From what I can find out online, they were horse-drawn, built in the late 1800s, maybe in the Midwest (it looks like a J.D. Adams, made in Indianapolis, IN). The driver sat up front while the person raising and lowering the blade sat in the back.

It’s sad to see all the ancient equipment rusting away. People collect them but they have no use and just turn to rust when left outdoors. These graders go for about $500 on Ebay.

I’d like to know the grader’s history. The stories it could tell.

Coyote Creek Trail near the Coyote Creek Golf Club.

Coyote Creek Trail near the Coyote Creek Golf Club.

Mushroom weather in Portola Valley

November 28, 2016

Sunday was ideal weather for mushrooms. This is what 1.5 pounds looks like.

Sunday was ideal weather for mushrooms. This is what 1.5 pounds looks like.


After a “dry spell” of two years, I finally found some chanterelles, in Portola Valley. During our ride in December 2010, Jobst revealed his secret spot a week before his fateful accident.

Unfortunately, the reclusive mushroom is found in remote locations or on private property.

My two favorite locations haven’t had any chanterelles in more than two years. Sometimes they just disappear. They don’t like seeing their environment disturbed. They also can’t be cultivated.

2017 Bay Area Bike Rides Calendar

November 25, 2016
2107 calendar cover. Available now.

2107 calendar cover. Available now.

I create a Bay Area Bike Rides calendar every year, mostly for fun and to remember my rides for the year. Enjoy.

Transportation manifesto for Silicon Valley

November 14, 2016

Silicon Valley rail plan. We have a lot of work to do. (Google Maps)

Silicon Valley rail plan. We have a lot of work to do. (Google Maps)


Since we’re in the mood for blowing away the entrenched establishment, it’s time we remapped the valley’s transportation network — more light rail and fewer cars.

I’ve been seeing what’s coming down the pike — the urban village — which is another word for Europeanization. I’m all for it. It’s happening in your back yard, along Winchester Boulevard, Stevens Creek Boulevard, Mountain View’s San Antonio area, Tasman Drive in Santa Clara, north First Street in San Jose.

Denser housing is a way to maintain regional growth, but when it comes to finding ways for these new residents to get around, we bury our heads in the sand and rely on cars. This lack of transportation planning can’t continue on its present trajectory.

All we have to do is adopt the model of cities like Zurich, which rely on light rail for short trips and regional trains between cities. There are still cars, just not so many. Bicycles play a bigger role, especially in the Netherlands where 31 percent of the populace count cycling as their main mode of transportation.

I included a map of Silicon Valley where light rail could run, shown in red. We can start with major corridors like: Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Tomas Expressway, El Camino Real, Central Expressway, Lawrence Expressway, Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Homestead Road, Winchester Boulevard, etc. Many of these historical routes had light rail, back in the late 1800s.

There’s plenty of room for a lane of car traffic (more one-way roads), maybe even two lanes, and bike lanes. We can keep the freeways as is.

You might think that the autonomous car will solve all our traffic problems. Not so. Some experts predict there will be even more traffic. Robot cars will greatly reduce accidents, but they’re not the answer. Light rail is the ultimate solution. Autonomous vehicles will be useful for those with special needs and, of course, the uber wealthy.

From attending recent community outreach programs with Caltrans and Valley Transportation Authority, I get the impression these government entities are stuck in the past. They need a wake-up call.

Zurich transportation map. Rail line everywhere.

Zurich transportation map. Rail line everywhere.

Screw job

November 9, 2016

Where the screw goes beneath the saddle.

Where the screw goes beneath the saddle.


No, I’m not referring to the presidential election result, but a solution I found to a creaky saddle that has been taunting me for a year.

My Avocet Gelflex saddle is comfortable and I don’t want to part with it over a little creak. I tried Super Glue, which worked for a while, but the creak came back.

I know the problem is where the rails go in at the tip of the saddle.

I decided I had nothing to lose by driving in a wood screw, about a half-inch long. I had already drilled a hole a while ago to drizzle in Super Glue.

The result today after a seven-mile climb in the saddle was more than satisfactory. I’d say it is 95 percent successful. I don’t know if it will hold up though, so I can’t say 100 percent.

Of course, your results may vary.

I came to realize that saddle comfort and which brand you prefer depends a lot on what you “grew up with.” My gluteal muscles developed around the Avocet saddle. That’s all I like these days, and I’ve tried others.

Back to all steel

November 7, 2016

New Saso steel fork, left, and the old carbon fiber put out to pasture.

New Saso steel fork, left, and the old carbon fiber put out to pasture.


For the past six years I’ve been riding a carbon-fiber fork, but that ended today when I installed my new steel fork, built by Dale Saso. I painted it.

I’m not knocking carbon fiber. It’s a reliable material used extensively by the aerospace and aeronautics industry, so you know it’s going to hold up.

Carbon-fiber forks have broken though. I’ve come across a handful of reports in discussion groups and a friend knows a doctor who works in the Stanford hospital emergency room.

Of course, steel forks break too. Usually you get a warning in the form of creaking sounds. I know that’s not always true for carbon-fiber forks. They can fail without warning.

I worried about the possibility on my ride, so I did the only thing I could think of to put that concern to rest.

I got other benefits too — plenty of tire clearance and no more annoying lawyer lips on the dropouts. Those are little irritants that build up over time, like saddle sores.

Bike weight increased by 11 ounces, not a big deal. As for handling, I don’t notice any difference, but I can tell that my smaller Ritchey is a little more front-wheel sensitive riding no-hands compared to my larger Saso frame. That’s all due to frame size.

As you get old, you think about these things, at a time when it doesn’t matter so much anymore. Funny how that works.