• Forge Shifters
  • £65 (silver); £67 (black); £36-38 (mounts only)
  • www.forge-mtb.com
  • 01452 386999

You've probably noticed that there're a few different sorts of shifter on the market these days. Shimano's RapidFire+ is coexisting with their Dual Control levers, as seen on XTR and 2004 XT, while SRAM have Gripshift units and have just launched their own trigger shifters too. That's the big guys. Then you've got UK micromanufacturer Forge-MTB harking back to days of yore with these lovely retro items...

These are thumbshifters, and they were the standard way of changing gear until Shimano launched their original Rapidfire STI units for the 1990 model year. Thumbshifters are extremely simple, just levers that pull cable with some clicks in the rear one to make the indexing work. Shimano's own XT thumbies and SunTour's XC Pro units are much sought-after in retro circles, but it's not just a retro-cool thing. While few would argue that more modern shifters are ergonomically superior, the bombproof simplicity of thumbies can't be denied.

Cunningly, Forge's units use the mechanism (such as it is) from Shimano's bar-end shifters, sold for touring and time trial bikes and available in 8 or 9 speed. Forge has manufactured new handlebar mounts for the levers, incorporating a clean, single-bolt design - the same bolt clamps the mounts to the bars and holds the shifter mechanism on - and making use of the barrel adjusters originally designed to live on the downtube. If you've already got some bar-end shifters, Forge'll do you the mounts on their own.

We must admit an interest here - we suggested this idea to Forge a while back. The end result, though, is lovely. Although at first glance the levers look a little too far from the bars, the placement is actually spot on. The clamps sit happily with all sorts of brake levers (including Hope Pros with sticky-out clamp bolts) and the actual shifting is fast and smooth. And you can trim the front mech to remove any irritating rubbing, something that's simply not possible with RF+.

To be honest, though, we're not going to junk our RapidFire+ in favour of these. Not on all our bikes, at any rate. But then, we're not riding across the Andes or something - long-haul tourists will find the friction shift option and rugged simplicity a huge boon.

Verdict: These are lovely things. They're ingenious, simple, light and work well, if ultimately not quite as well as more modern shifting solutions. They're clearly not for everyone but we're sure there are plenty of people out there who've been waiting for something like this. Form an orderly queue...

Performance: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Overall: 4/5