How To Use Stem Shifters


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Have you ever ridden a bicycle? If yes, you already know how the whole gear shifting may confuse the newbies. After all, there are multiple shifters to do the same job, changing gears. However, they all operate in different ways. Which ones seem familiar to you?

Today, we will discuss a particular type of shifter, the Stem Shifter. Now, why are they called so? How to use stem shifters? What are the other bike gear shifter types? Are these questions popping into your mind right now?

Well, no worries, we have got your back. We will start from the basics so that you can understand easily. Let’s proceed further, shall we?

What Are Stem Shifters?

Before we tell you about ‘stem shifters,’ do you even know what shifters are in general? The shifter is that part of a bicycle that usually helps change the bike’s gear. It decides how fast or slow your bike will run. This is only applicable to bikes that don’t have a fixed gear system. 

The Stem shifter is quite an old one that has been around since the 70s. They have their name because of their position on the bike’s stem. It is a friction-type shifter with no indexing option like other newer shifters. 

So, are stem shifters bad? Of course not. Even though there is no indexing, you can easily control the stem shifters through sliding. They are known for their robust build and durability. They are also quite preferable among new riders for their simple operation. 

Benefits Of Using Stem Shifters

If you compare the stem shifters with the modern shifters available nowadays, you may find them a little backdated. After all, shifters have also passed through the evolution phase and gotten more advanced. However, even to this date, many people like stem shifters. Why is that?

Users will only like these shifters if there are some benefits, right? Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of using stem shifters. 

  • Stem shifters are easy to use. You only need to slide upwards or downwards to change gears. 
  • They allow you to shift through the whole gear at once. It indeed saves from the hassle of multiple clicking. 
  • Another great thing about stem shifters is they stay in place. Don’t worry if you still need to remember your current gear. Just look at your shifter’s position, and you will know. 
  • Stem Shifters have a great lifespan. It will provide fantastic service for a long time if taken care correctly. 
  • Along with low maintenance, it is also effortless to replace. You can do it at home by yourself. Or you can also do it on the roadsides if needed. 
  • Unlike fixed gear systems, any stem shifter can be used on any bike. There is no complexity in finding a suitable model for a particular bike. 
  • Lastly, stem shifters are more affordable than any modern shifters. 

How To Use A Stem Shifter

A Stem shifter is a sliding type of shifter. It means you have to slide the shifter back and forth to control the gear on your bicycle. But how to use stem shifters exactly?

There are two levers, left and right, two derailleurs, and some wires to manage the whole system. Here’s how they all combine and work together-


Proper installation of shifters gives you ultimate control over your cycle. And for that, first, you need to see whether your bike comes with shifter fittings. If it doesn’t, you will have to mount a baseplate to attach the shifters. Slip the shifters in the baseplate and screw it securely. 

Now, insert two cables or strings through the shifters on each side and attach them with the derailleurs controlling the chains. The shifter on the left side should be connected with the front chainrings. And the right one should be attached to the rear chains. 

Gear Changing

As mentioned before, the left stem shifter should control the front chains. If you push it forward, it will slide the chain into the smaller sprockets. It also means it will switch to a higher or fast gear. And you have to slide the lever the opposite way to move to a larger chain ring or slower gear. 

For the right shifter, the whole thing acts the opposite way. You push it forward to move to a bigger sprocket. And slide downwards to switch to the lower chains. 

The bicycle’s front and rear chain sprockets are usually placed in the opposite direction. If the larger chain ring in the front is placed in the outer orientation, the back one will be placed inside. That’s the reason why the shifters operate oppositely. 

Tips For Successful Stem Shifting

Using stem shifters is relatively easy. However, making the shifting successful for a smooth ride may require practice. And some tips may come in handy for the new riders along with training. 

  • Without experience, it is wise not to switch from the highest to the lowest gear at once. It may cause some injury.
  • Keep the tension between the wires for perfect control over the gear. If it becomes loose, tighten the screws.
  • Make sure that you have got the alignment right. Cross-chaining can lead to accidents.
  • Do not put the chains in an extreme position. For example, never put the chain in the first sprocket in the front and last in the rear. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid 

There are some common mistakes made by riders that can decrease the lifespan of the chain. In a worst-case scenario, it may lead to accidents. 

  • You should not change the gear while the cycle is standing still. The paddles on the bike must be moving. Else, the chain can derail. 
  • Putting the chains in an extreme position, having 45° or more angle between them, makes them prone to wear. Always try to have a straight alignment.
  • Pushing or pulling the levers too hard can cause the wires to come loose. Be gentle with it. 
  • Change the gear beforehand, not while making a turn or riding a hill. Changing it too late brings trouble.


1. How do I use paddle shifters?

Paddle shifters are usually used in cars. They are easy to use. You can find two switches labeled ‘+’ and ‘-‘ on the right and left sides, just behind the steering. You need to push the right one to change to uplift and the left to a down lift.

2. Do you have to use the paddle shifters?

In the case of automobiles, it is not necessary to use a paddle shifter. You can stick to your manual gear shifting. However, paddle shifters make easy, accurate, and swift gear changes. 

Conclusion: Maximizing The Benefits

Despite being a 70’s innovation, stem shifters are still popular among riders due to the benefits it brings. It can be an excellent tool for a new rider to start his cycling journey. However, how to use stem shifters? You have to know that for a smooth and easy ride. 

Hopefully, the article gave you a clear idea about stem shifters and their operation. We wish you to enjoy your riding to the fullest.