3D Printed Bike Shifter


[Rich] is embarking on a fairly long bike trip in a few weeks – Seattle to Portland – and thought including some 3D printed gear on his ride would be a fun endeavor. His first idea was a printed belt drive, but the more he looked at that idea the less realistic it seemed. He finally hit upon the idea of creating a 3D printed bike shifter, and after an afternoon of engineering and printing, the shifter ended up working very well.

[Rich]’s shifter is actually a friction shifter. Instead of ‘clicking’ into position, this type moves the derailleur gradually. It’s much more tolerant of slight misalignment, and most touring bikes – the type that would embark on long journeys along the coast of the Pacific northwest – have these types of shifters.

Total printing time was about one and a half hours, and was attached to [Rich]’s bike with off-the-shelf hardware. He’s already put about 150 miles on his custom designed shifter with no signs of failure.

26 thoughts on “3D Printed Bike Shifter

  1. I don’t know if this is an improvement or not to these overprices, low quality, impractical, franken-bikes. I have never seen a so called “riders bike” from a non cycling country were no extraneous effort was put in every details to make it more illogical, more awkward and more expensive than the part it tries to mimic.

      1. Franken-bikes are bike’ish contraptions with so much shit bolted on that it could do with a new definition, because “bike” doesn’t seem to do it any more.
        A riders bike is a version of the concept that actually has a proper use and a durability that does not equal formula one racing engines.
        Non cycling countries, naturally, are countries where cycling and bikes are purely recreational, non functional and detached from the collective cultural upbringing.
        What I’m saying is that I’m wondering if these bikes get shittier of better when attaching 3d printed bits and bobs, as they are in such a sorry state to begin with.

      1. Not complaining, just observing that standards of quality for these vehicles diver a lot throughout the world. It’s really odd. German bikes for example are awful and Asian bikes are far better generally than Australian or US bikes.
        English, Danish and Dutch bikes amongst others are superior in every way compared to those, although their quality has been declining for some time.
        Probably this has to do with the needless obsession for lightness which results only in less durable and useful bikes and only an initial marginal speed/distance bonus.

        1. An example of the questionable choice of parts for bikes can be seen in the picture. The break handles are die cast aluminium pieces of shit. This same type is used on the Strida folding bike and on this it even is a piece of crap. A part used in a poorly constructed inner-city bike, used on a touring bike? That is almost masochistic. I bet they cost a sweet penny as well.

          1. You can get aluminum brake levers for $10 check ebay amazon etc. I can see what you mean by complaining about everything since $10 is a “pretty penny” for you. I bet any bike over $100 seems OVERLY EXCESSIVE

      1. “you have no clue man”
        I think, owning and having owned several types of bike, maintaining them and several others myself and using them daily on distances that would dwarf this single 200 mile, pretty weather, road tripe on nearly a weekly basis, I could have somewhat of a clue.
        To suggest I do not without any proper argumentation does make me suspect that I just uttered something that really goes against your unfounded opinions, which I can’t really apologize for.

  2. Most touring bikes do use indexed shifters, often on the bar ends. I don’t know where you got it in your head that “most touring bikes don’t use indexing.” Most touring bikes don’t use brifters (brake shifters) because they have far more mechanical complexity.

    There’s little point to not having indexing. If you’re touring and you don’t know how to take care of a misalignment, you shouldn’t be touring. That’s what barrel adjusters are for, and they’re not rocket science.

  3. KISS. Clickers and ratchets on the rear shifter are annoying when all you want to do is go from the lowest gear to the highest quickly, like in stop and go traffic. Do you want to sound like you’re loading a firearm on a nearly silent bike? KISS.

    1. You shouldn’t be shifting like that anyways, unless you are on like a 5speed bike. it is bad for the chain, and more likely to hurt you as the chain either jams, or jumps off the rear freewheel.

  4. An hour and a half to print a short stick with a hole in it.

    3D printing has a looooooooooooooooooong way to go before it’s actually practical.

    //but kudos to the early adopters for debugging and improving it for the rest of us who can wait until it’s actually handy/quick/accurate/fast/useful//

      1. Die-casting is not quicker for a one-off than 3D printing, if you include the time needed to manufacture the injection die that’s required.
        Machining a new lever out of a piece of steel or aluminium, on the other hand, should be faster than either.

  5. I’m not sure how practical this is. I’m a ME and a cyclist. I think it would be fine if he sent out the design to be 3d printed in SLS Aluminum (shapeways can do it) or something. I don’t really see the point in replacing a $5 friction shifter with an ABS printed one. ABS (or PLA, or any other plastic) has serious creep problems. The longer it runs, the higher the chance of failure, and 150 miles isn’t all that much of a shakedown. Some touring riders do that in a day.

    I mean, granted, the screw and washers are doing most of the work, the 3d printed part just sees a little compression, but still….

    Oh yeah, using nylocks to hold a variable tension is just begging for trouble. If someone wants to duplicate this, use a lock washer.

    I admire his gusto, but this has some design flaws to work out. Just be sure to carry a spare shifter, just in case.

    1. For how little stress this part encounters vs the size n thickness of the parts he printed, I don’t think that the material will be the issue. The issue I see all comes from the mating surfaces between the thumb shifter and the part that clamps to the bar as well as the tensioning system. 150 miles or 10000000 miles doesn’t matter, it is how often they are shifting.
      Every thumb shifter I have worked on that isn’t a total piece of crap has been aluminum so that the can overcome the issue of the parts wearing out etc.
      Falcon shifters (chinese) are about $6 and almost all metal. They work pretty good too.

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