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 April 2004: More information on setting up your bike for left-hand shifting using a standard Ergo lever
Click here

November 2004: Yet another solution, this time with Triathlon shifting
Click here

Several years ago, we had the opportunity to ride and chat with a rider who had lost the use of his right arm.  We were embarking on an extreme, 200-mile event, but there was little doubt that, despite his handicap, both he and his Campy-equipped bike would finish the event.

That rider--and many like him who have lost the use of an arm, either permanently or temporarily--is a testament to the human spirit, and the ability to forge ahead no matter what.  

It's also a tribute to the ingenuity of riders who have had to find a way to adapt their machines to their new needs.  Specifically: How to make a modern bike shiftable using only one hand?

Presented below and on the linked pages (see the bottom of this page) are several options for making the conversion to left-hand-only shifting, ranging from complicated to relatively easy.  We hope this information helps other riders get back on the road.

Making the Conversion

When dealing with a modern, Ergo-shifting bicycle, there are two basic options for converting to left-hand shifting:  Convert the left-hand Ergo lever (which ordinarily shifts the front derailleur) to move the rear derailleur instead; or, switch to the use of a down-tube shifter for the rear (or for both front and rear) and operate it with the left hand.  In addition, there's also the issue of braking to deal with--both brakes must be operated by one lever.  The two types of conversions described here deal with both issues.

Ergo Lever Conversion

Converting the left-hand Ergo lever to shift (and index) the rear derailleur is basically a matter of switching the internal cam for a version which has indexing indents which mirror the right-hand lever.  (For instructions on rebuilding your levers, click here)  In most cases, the left- and right-hand cams are slightly different, which means that the left-hand lever will not index the rear derailleur properly.  Therefore, this conversion requires the machining of a new left-hand cam which is basically a mirror of the right-hand version.  This work can be done my many qualified machine shops--we are not aware of any after-market source for this part.

If you're running 9-speed, however, the change may be easier.  One reader (Ben Anderson) recalls one rider who simply hooked his pre-2001 9-speed rear derailleur to a stock left-hand Ergo lever and found that it worked.  Ben wrote to us:

"I came across a rider for the old 7-Up/Colorado Cyclist team who broke his right wrist and needed to continue training a few years ago. All he did was run the cable from his left shifter to the rear derailuer and it worked fine for him. This was the 9spd generation, so I am not sure how earlier or later model will work. But it seemed to be ok for him. He may have had to put a little "english" on the throw, but overall it worked so well that he kept his bike that way for the rest of the season and evenually sold it that way."

This fix still leaves the question of how to apply the rear brake--see our next section for info on this issue.

Note:  For riders with the use of only the right hand, the conversion is somewhat simpler, and should involve use of a down tube shift lever (or perhaps a bar end shifter on the right-hand side) to move the front derailleur.

Down-Tube Shifting

Welsh rider Tim Danaher has approached the shifting-braking issue by using down-tube shifters (which are still available for 9- and 10-speed) and a tandem brake lever on the left hand side. ("Tandem"-style levers allow two brake cables to be connnected to one lever. They are commonly used on tandems to control the standard brakes, with the other lever being used for a drum or disc brake.)  Rear shifting using the right-hand shift lever and one's left hand takes a little getting used to, but it can be done--with a little practice, it's also possible to shift the rear and trim with the front at the same time with one hand on both levers!

Tim provided these photos of his setup:

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Tim's Bianchi

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On board the Bianchi

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This photo shows the brake cable routing--left-hand lever works front and rear brakes

Tim's notes on the tandem brake conversion:

"On the old Record Aero levers, this was easy to set up due to good barrel / lever / nipple clearance, and the symmetrical cable outlets (each lever could be used left- or right-handed). It's a little more complex with the new Ergopower levers, but I've successfully modded (with the expert help of my local bike shop) a Xenon lever on my winter bike to take the tandem cable (it involved a little drilling, cutting and filing).

The artificial arm was modded to my own spec, including elastic suspension of the elbow and free-rotating wrist joint, allowing me to change position easily and ride out of the saddle (and not just on the Turbo Trainer!)."

Bar-End Shifters

One other potential setup would be to use a right-hand bar-end shifter on the left-hand handlebar end.  Campagnolo makes bar-end shifters for 10-speed, and there are 9-speed versions out there as well, or you could use any number of friction-shifting versions if you can live without index shifting.  With this setup, you could use an Ergo lever for the front derailleur, and then move to the bar-end for rear shifting.  If you'd rather use the left-hand Ergo lever for rear shifting, convert it (see the discussion above) and then use a bar-end or downtube shifter for front shifts.  In either case, you'll need to convert the brakes as well to operate both front and rear with only one lever.

Brake Setup

Several readers have written to suggest the use of a "cable splitter" to operate both brakes with one lever.  This device--which should be available via special order almost anywhere--has one cable going in and two going out, and is generally used in tandem applications.  Warning--brake setup can be touchy, since you're operating both at once.  It takes some doing to get the brakes actuating correctly so you're not locking up one wheel before the other starts braking.  Click here for a very unusual brake setup.

Other Setups?

We're interested in your experiences converting Ergo levers (or other types of Campy shifters) for use by riders with the use of only one hand. Email Us and we'll post the information here.  Photos would be most appreciated.

  Left-Hand Shifting, Part 2 | Left-Hand Shifting 3 | Back to Campy Only

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