Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

TECH NEWS

Back to the future? Road bike friction shifters you can mix and match and adjustable SPD-style pedals unveiled by Japanese component manufacturer

Growtac has developed the EQUAL shifter system that is compatible with a whole host of groupsets and mechs, allowing you to shift between two and 13 gears and even add in a dropper post

Thought non-indexed shifting had been consigned to history? Well Growtac, a Japanese bike component manufacturer, is looking to change that with the introduction of its new EQUAL friction shifters, a mechanical system that allows for any number of wild component combinations if the tech works as Growtac claims. There's also some very interesting, fully adjustable SPD-style road pedals coming too.  

Although the announcement of the new products coincides with the Taipei Cycle Show, Growtac says the EQUAL Control Lever and the EQUAL Adjustable Road Pedal remain unreleased for now, but working versions exist and allow us to have a closer look at what these products promise to deliver...

> Is this budget electronic groupset a Shimano and SRAM killer?

Friction shifting, which is shifting without the 'clicks', has been around since way before the bike world moved mostly to indexed shifting in the 1980s. In essence, a friction shifter quietly glides freely along the cassette, rather than 'stepping' between the cogs like an indexed shifter. This means that in theory, you can sometimes not quite be fully in gear, but still happily pedalling along without much issue.

Other than reviving something that has mostly been consigned to bicycle history, what's actually new here with the Growtac levers, then, you might be asking? Well, even the modern friction levers - such as Gevenalle - are usually quite different from STI levers, so the way Growtac has integrated the system inside the lever is quite new. 

 Growtac EQUAL Control Lever broken down pic

Growtac itself calls the EQUAL Control Lever a ‘free control lever’ and says it's compatible with any manufacturer, groupset, number of speeds, dropper seat post control, and so on. Not only do you get the usual braking and shifting, but the EQUAL Control Lever allows you to have a third lever (kind of a thumb lever) on it for controlling a dropper seatpost, to give one example. 

The Growtac EQUAL Control Lever is designed for drop bar bikes and built around ‘step-less’, non-indexed shifting for drivetrains from 2 to 13 gears. Despite the drop-bar target market, these shifters work equally well with road and mountain bike derailleurs, claims Growtac.

 Growtac EQUAL Control Lever two cables

The EQUAL Control Levers can handle up to three shift levers and two shift cables, which means that a variety of things can be accomplished. You can set the shifting paddles to work in a similar way to a SRAM system, where a tap of the left paddle takes you to an easier gear and the right one drops you down a cog. Or you can use the levers as Shimano-style shifter-brakes, barely brakes or, by utilising the third lever, a shifter-brake-dropper post control. 

> Your complete guide to Shimano road bike groupsets

Inside the shifter, there is a winding pulley that determines the amount of pull of the shift cable. By changing this pulley size, it is possible to make the operation compatible with various derailleurs - and if you wish to index the gears and have that click with each gear change, you can do so with a replaceable index plate. 

The external shape of the shifters has been designed so that it suits a variety of hand sizes, and Growtec has added a higher position brake pin for an easier pull of the brake lever, and you can also adjust the brake lever to be up to 8.5mm closer to the drops for safe reach. 

The claimed weight for a pair of the EQUAL Control Levers is 420g and they should be available late this year. A ‘standard kit’ is said to cost 50,000-60,000Yen (£310-£360). 

EQUAL Adjustable Road Pedal

2023 Growtac EQUAL Adjustable Road Pedal

Another cool-looking product from Growtac is its EQUAL Adjustable Road Pedal, which, as you can guess from the name, is an adjustable road cycling pedal. The SPD-style pedals allow you to adjust:

  • the stack height in 1mm increments from 2.5mm to 20.5mm
  • the angle of the pedal from negative four degrees to positive four degrees
  • the pedal’s distance from the axle (47mm, 51mm or 55mm)
  • the fore-aft position can be tweaked between -4mm to +4mm and
  • the cleat rotational angle (we assume, the float) can be set to negative or positive two degrees or a neutral zero degrees. 

SPD-SL v SPD — which clipless pedal option is for you?

2023 Growtac EQUAL Adjustable Road Pedal exploded view

In essence, the list of things that these pedals allow you to adjust could eliminate the need for all the adjustments you usually need to make to your shoes or cleats. It definitely sounds like a great solution, especially if you need a vastly different kind of pedal for each of your legs. 

These pedals should weigh about 300g and the launch is scheduled for June-July 2023. The price in Japan is between 26,000-29,000 yen (£160-£180). 


Check out more details of the products on Growtac's website. What do you think, will Growtac's levers lead to the proliferation of super unique franken-shifting set-ups? Let us know in the comments as always. 

Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops. 

Add new comment

20 comments

Avatar
Crankwinder | 1 year ago
4 likes

I use unconventional mixtures of road and MTB equipment on my road bikes because the big brand groupsets don't recognise that avoiding traffic often leads to very steep hills, or that not all cyclists are young male athletes, or that touring with luggage is even a thing. So please don't call it franken-shifting!

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

Quote:

The EQUAL Control Lever allows you to have a third lever (kind of a thumb lever) on it for controlling a dropper seatpost, to give one example.

Is that the one and only example? I can't think of any other application for an extra lever.

Avatar
mrml replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Rendel Harris wrote:

Quote:

The EQUAL Control Lever allows you to have a third lever (kind of a thumb lever) on it for controlling a dropper seatpost, to give one example.

Is that the one and only example? I can't think of any other application for an extra lever.

Another use might be to control a third (drag) brake such as a drum brake or mechanical disc brake on a tandem or cargo bike.  I use a thumb shifter for this purpose on our old Dawes Super Galaxy tandem.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to mrml | 1 year ago
0 likes

I doubt a plastic thumb shifter as illustrated would be sufficiently robust or offer enough leverage to operate a brake, would it?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Reverse gear on an e-bike?

Avatar
NOtotheEU replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

AUDI seeking missile launcher?

Avatar
Daipink replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes

Suspension fork lock out is another one. I think the idea is you have options rather than expecting every lever/button to have a use.

Also handy for people with a disability who may not be able to use both hands to shift gears or use paddle shifters easily.

Avatar
nickyburnell | 1 year ago
2 likes

There are others on this idea too. Check out Path Less Peddled on youtube. Ratchet ones (as Campy used to do with front shifting) are a damn good idea and completly universal. 

Avatar
michophull replied to nickyburnell | 1 year ago
3 likes

nickyburnell wrote:

 (as Campy used to do with front shifting) 

It's CAMPA​G in Great Britain. Only bloody Yanks call it "Campy".

Cease and desist. Pronto.

Avatar
southdownswolf replied to michophull | 1 year ago
2 likes

Perhaps you need to remind Campagnolo then, as they have "Campy Code" stores in the UK as well as Europe.

Avatar
quiff replied to michophull | 1 year ago
2 likes

And what if the poster is American?

Avatar
Daipink replied to nickyburnell | 4 months ago
0 likes

I really missed the multiple shift from Campag for the front mech. I always assumed it was just the same mechanism as the right hand shifter.

Avatar
Off the back | 1 year ago
1 like

Lets wait to see their futuristic steel frame with down tube shifting tech. 
 

also coming soon, 19mm super skinny tyres and leather saddles 

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to Off the back | 1 year ago
1 like

Can't wait, one of my bikes might just actually be fashionable once again.

Avatar
levestane | 1 year ago
2 likes

It's good to see some attempt to break the tyranny of the groupset. I never got into non-friction shifting so it's strange to read 'non-index shifting'. I guess the jargon should now be friction = stepless!

Avatar
peted76 | 1 year ago
2 likes

I can't work out who in the world might want to go back to non-indexed gears... ?

Can we not produce cheap enough indexed gears for people..? .. Have I time slipped again to the early 80's.. am I in Quantum Leap?

Avatar
Bmblbzzz replied to peted76 | 1 year ago
2 likes

It sounds like it's not actually going back to non-indexed gears, but being adjustable so one lever can fit any set of indexed gears: regardless of number of cogs, road or mountain, manufacturer. Or of course friction shiftin too. 

That is if it isn't about four days early... cool

Avatar
Steve K replied to Bmblbzzz | 1 year ago
0 likes

which I can see some attraction to, if you like to upgrade your bike bit by bit, rather than having to get a whole new groupset.  Whether its practical in the real world is a different question.

Avatar
Bmblbzzz replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
1 like

Assuming it actually exists in the real world!

Avatar
geomannie 531 replied to peted76 | 1 year ago
3 likes

peted76 wrote:

I can't work out who in the world might want to go back to non-indexed gears... ?

Can we not produce cheap enough indexed gears for people..? .. Have I time slipped again to the early 80's.. am I in Quantum Leap?

I fix a lot of old bikes for a charity & indexing takes up about 40% of my time and effort. Even then, with old knacky components indexing can be approximate. It's also getting increasingly difficult to find matched drivetrain parts to keep old bikes on the road.

So if slick shifting is really important to you, perhaps for racing, & you are happy to scrap  your bike when the bits gets old, indexing is for you. If you are trying to keep old bikes on the road and you like relaxed riding, in paticular the ability of friction shiftera to dump all your gears with one simple movement, then friction is the b*llocks.

Latest Comments