Swapping Out Triple for Double Shifters


Your biking needs may change over the years. It may happen that you buy a bike which has a triple shifting transmission, a system that you don’t need. Alternatively, you could find yourself no longer riding on hilly terrain so you don’t need a triple set-up anymore, the range of gears is just unnecessary. Perhaps you just want to simplify the gearing of your bike, shed the weight of your heavier transmission. Or, like me, your triple shifters just no longer work. Whatever the reason, it is possible to replace just the shifters alone on your bike and use a double shifting transmission.


Image of broken Sora, swapping out triple for double shifters

Check your Shifters!


I bought a 2009 Specialized Allez recently with triple gearing, providing 27 gears and lots of flexibility for tackling different terrain. I wouldn’t have changed this system if everything had been functional; where I live is quite hilly and I would have been glad for the extensive gear ratios. However, foolishly, I didn’t test the left Shimano Sora shifter when I was checking over the bike at the point of sale. This shifter manages the front derailleur and therefore also`the triple crankset with its 52/42/34 chain rings. In fact, I was so distracted that I didn’t even notice that the front derailleur had no gear cable installed! So that’s on me. It’s my own fault that I bought the bike with this problem.


Image of Ultegra 9 Speed, swapping out triple for double shifters

The Ultegra replacements

The Sora 9 Speed Shifters


It wasn’t until two days later that I realised my mistake, discovering the broken shifter on the bike stand with that dreary sense of disappointment. I knew immediately that I would have to replace at least one shifter, but most likely both. It’s not easy to find one older model of shifter in the used bike market, as most are sold in pairs. What’s more, both shifters were very tatty and their rubber hoods were gruesomely damaged from heavy use. Gripping each hood left a sticky residue on my hands, left behind by old electrical tape that had been used to try and repair them. It was just a mess.


Image of old wheel; swapping out triple for double shifters


The Problems Mount Up..


It was not only the shifters that were worst for wear, the more I checked over the bike the more I saw just how close it was to being junk. Here were some of the main problems:


  • The front wheel had been replaced with a cheap 1970’s 27¼ inch rim laced to an old hub. Heavy and ugly!


  • There were some heavy scratches and two small dings in the aluminium tubes. The paint wouldn’t come back to life.


  • The handlebar tape was a disaster and all cables and tubes needed replacing.


Swap out triple for double: Sora front derailleur


Back from the Brink


This bike had a tragic story and this is part of the reason why I didn’t complete a full mechanical checkup as I was buying it. I was distracted by the very sad story that was behind the sale of the bike, and even when I realised all the work needed to get it back on the road, I felt a sense of duty to repair it. The story I was told put everything into perspective and I thought the least I could do would be to restore this Allez to the best condition possible without spending hundreds of dollars.


Image of Tiagra Triple derailleur


To repair the bike, I bought the following:


  • 9 speed Ultegra shifters: $50
  • New gear and brake cables: $10
  • New handlebar tape ( Cinelli cork ): $20
  • Mavic Askium front wheel: $30
  • New inner tubes: $10

Total costs for repair: $120


Image of damaged downtube

The dinged downtube


You Don’t Have to Change Everything


Sometimes you have to weigh up the costs involved in doing a restoration in relation to the value of the bike you’re mending. In this case, replacing all the derailleurs, the chain and crankset just to mount the double Ultegra shifters would not have been a viable solution. I did that here for a vintage bike a few years ago. It’s true that the front derailleur is extended and shaped differently to a double, and it’s also obvious that a triple rear derailleur is longer than a short double model; a triple transmission is designed to cope with the bigger gear ratios, but it can also work well without using all of its mechanical potential and functionalities.


Image of Allez top tube


The Shifting Solution – Video


When I bought the double Ultegra shifters to use with this triple set-up, a bike mechanic shook his head and told me “You can’t do that, you can’t use double shifters on your triple – it won’t work”. It turns out that this is not the case, as long as you are willing to adjust the front derailleur and not use the third chain ring on your crank. Yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly doable, and currently the bike works very well. I may have to trim the front derailleur a little bit more than I would if I was on a standard double set-up, but it’s a hardly noticeable difference when riding this rejuvenated and modified 18 speed bike.





Image of 2009 Allez Drive side

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