1. Stem shifters were ubiquitous on tens of thousands of entry- to mid-level bikes sold in the USA from the 1960's to the 1980's. Easier to reach than shifters placed on the downtube, they worked just fine -- so fine that, for a relatively brief period in the 1980's, at least three manufacturers (Suntour, Shimano and Simplex) were offering very nice stem shifters with an internal spring-loaded ratchet mechanism (Suntour's "Power ratchet" was the smoothest of the three). Before it all ended, there was even an indexing model with a friction option, just like the mountain bike thumbies had.
Of course, because this is the bicycle industry we're talking about here, stem shifters went the way of the dodo when "Brifters" (brake-shift combo road levers) trickled down from pro racers to bikes for the great unwashed (the rest of us). With everything at your fingertips, you never had to take your hand off the hoods until you went into the drops to sprint. While that makes plenty of sense for racers, for entry-level road and touring bikes it's pointless -- and wasteful -- overkill.
(Warning: race technology trickle-down rant ahead.)
Never mind that brifters were far more vulnerable in a crash than stem or downtube shifters -- and, being made of a shockingly high percentage of plastic, far more delicate. Never mind that the complicated contortions often required for re-cabling brifters took away some of the best wrenching minutes of my life, never to return, while a lycra-clad customer fumed and fidgeted impatiently to get back on the road and finish his training ride to nowhere.
And finally, of course one brand was not easily compatible with another, meaning that you really had to work some serious voodoo to make your Shimano cogs and chain work with that Campy shifter. (And we used to joke that if you actually managed to make it work, rumor had it that one or the other company would send covert ops to kidnap you in the dead of night before you could tell other shop mechanics how you did it. Because planned obsolescence is the real patriotism.)
Since leaving the industry, I have made it my personal mission to avoid brifters like the plague on my home refurbishing projects. Not because they don't work -- they do -- but because it's not sustainable technology. Something that fragile and fussy has no business on any bicycle I lay my wrench on. Call me a crank, but since I mostly take old turds and turn them into real transportation, I have no worries.
Here's a lovely example of a refugee bike in progress. It came in with steel drops, suicide brake levers and a whole lot of rust. Since the bike is being turned into functional city transportation, off came the drops. But I saved the stem shifters, because they work and oh, hey! -- there's nothing wrong with them.
2. Cable stops, when and where you want them.
Here's a bike I recently sent off to Catholic Charities. A friend brought me the frameset with some parts, an ex-roommate's aborted fixie project. After taking off all the fixie bits, I rebuilt it as a multi-geared, practicel city bike. (Please notice the lovely stem shifters. Suntour Power Ratchets. They're pure friction, incompatible with anything indexed and smooth like buttah. If you have any, I'll gladly accept them as donations for the cause.)
a. Wrap some cloth bar tape around the seat tube where you want the cable stop to go. The tape gives your clamp more purchase with less risk of stripping out the screw.
b. Make sure the unused side of the double stop is positioned so it won't interfere with the front derailleur function in any position. (I only mention this because some bikes with triples don't give you as much room to work with. I had to deal with this on one of my old bikes so I mention it now. You'll see in the photo that for this bike, it wasn't ever a problem.)
Dear Bicycle Industry: I'm disgusted with your insistence on pushing a trickle-down racing agenda in bicycle and component design. It's not "green", it's not cool and it sure as hell isn't sustainable. When coupled with your policy of purposely phasing out older technologies that still work just fine, it makes you all environmental pigs.
(Yeah, it's true, I never got over that conversation with my Shimano America rep back in the day where he chastised me and our shop for continuing to offer 5- and 6-speed freewheels, an "ancient" technology we had lots of demand for in our repair work, when our job was actually to stock and promote the newest bikes every year. Yes, he really said all that. So did his supervisor when I complained. Fuck you, Shimano. You murdered Suntour and now you're helping to murder the planet.)
Next time in Bike Hacks: Why disc brakes aren't the Second Coming.
Rubber side down, kids, and happy riding.