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...
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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 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.
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
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.
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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.
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