Bicycle front shifter compatibility. With which front derailleurs (FD-s) do which shifters work

Compatibility [06] Front shifters

Updated: 27/09/2019.

This post explains bicycle front shifter compatibility, i.e. which shifters can be mixed with which front derailleurs, chains and chainrings.

Front shifter lever is used to control the front derailleur, that is to change gears in the front. There are numerous designs of various manufacturers. However, for compatibility considerations, the only important factor is the amount of cable pull. It should match the front derailleur (FD in the rest of the post) required amount of cable pull that the shifter is paired width.

There are three major types of front shifters: friction shifters, double and triple shifters. Compatibility will be explained by these groups.

1. Friction front shifters

With friction shifters it is irrelevant what type of FD is paired – each will work with each. They pull enough cable for full FD movement range – regardless of the FD manufacturer, or type (double vs triple, road vs MTB). 

2. Double front shifters (indexed)

They are indexed with just one click – for shifting between the two front chainrings. Tensioning the cable moves FD and chain to the larger front chainring, while clicking to release the cable changes back to the smaller chainring.

Double shifters can be used with a triple FD, but they still only have one click. That means that, if there is a triple crankset, one chainring will not be used – either the smallest, or the largest.

Most double front shifters can be used with most FDs. Mixing different models of shifters from the same brand is no problem. Even mixing one manufacturer’s shifters with another manufacturer’s FDs is not a problem. Mixing road shifters with MTB FDs (and vice versa) works fine as well.

3. Triple front shifters (indexed)

They have two clicks, for changing gears between three chainrings.

Triple shifters work fine with double FDs, but one click will be unused. FD movement should be limited with limit screws (this should be done regardless of the shifter used on all derailleurs), so that shifter’s extra click doesn’t produced any effect and doesn’t move the derailleur.

In order to avoid damaging the shifter in case of moving lever hard, it is best to set the triple shifter on a double so that maximal cable tensioning puts FD over the larger chainring. That way, there are just two clicks left – first one will drop the FD to the smaller chainring, while the second will just loosen the cable, but the FD will not move because it is limited by limit screws.

The other possible setup, so that shifter is in the middle position when FD is on the larger chainring means that second click will drop the FD to the smaller chainring. The problem is when FD is on the larger chainring, there is still lever movement left to tighten the cable. Since FD is already on the large chainring, limited with a limit screw, this can cause damage to the shifter if the lever is pulled hard, since the cable will not move.

Mixing brands and models is the same as for double shifters – most combinations work fine.

Road vs MTB front shifters

Road double shifters can often be combined with MTB FDs and vice versa.

Road triple  shifters with MTB FDs and vice versa can be mixed. Tuning is a bit more tricky with some models, since there are three speeds, not just two, but usually works fine.

Combining front shifters and FDs of various manufacturers

Each should work with each. Friction shifters always, while indexed ones (whether double, or triple) in most cases.

Trim option

It was said before that double shifters have only one click, while triple have two. This, however, is not the whole truth. Many manufacturers and models have the trimming option. That is like a small click that doesn’t change gear, but moves FD cage slightly left-or right. It is used to avoid chain rubbing the FD cage when riding cross chained.

One exception in compatibility are Shimano road 11 speed shifters. They will work nicely only with Shimano road 11 speed FDs and Shimano Tiagra 4700 10 speed road FDs. Same goes for Tiagra 4700 10 speed shifters. Newest Campagnolo 11 speed system: Revolution 11+ (older one is Revolution 11) also requires matching (Revolution 11+) shifters and derailleurs.

Another exception is the new “gravel” group (with hydraulic brakes): Shimano GRX. Caple pull wise it’s the same as Tiagra 4700.

Compatibility posts are also available in eBook (printable and Kindle) and paperback editions on Amazon:

Bicycle Drivetrain Compatibility on Amazon
Bicycle Drivetrain Compatibility on Amazon
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10 thoughts on “Compatibility [06] Front shifters”

    • It’s a double – using limit screws to limit the FD movement allows it to shift and not move too far off. Tiagra shifters move the cable more than enough for that FD’s cable pull “needs”.

      Having said that: I have not been able to make it work as well as I’d like with a road crank and road FD that is not 11 / 4700 Tiagra compatible, with Tiagra 4700 shifters. Always either a bit “sluggish”, or at a risk of “over-shifting” off the largest chainring (depending on the limit screw setup). Haven’t tried 4700 shifters with MTB cranks and FD though. Took a lot of fiddling and trial & error to make it work OK – but not perfect. Playing with cable pre-tension and limit screws.

      MTB FD-s pull ratio is a bit different than road FD pull ration – but for all I know, it still doesn’t match the “new” 11 / 4700 cable pull standard.

  1. Which triple shimano front shifter pull more cable dynasys mtb 3x or road 3x?

    Tiagra ST-4703 pull is the same as ST-4603 (unlike ST-4700 which is not the same as ST-4600)

  2. Relja, which GRX FD should I use with Tiagra 4700 10s shifters (and a GRX 11s crankset) – 10s or 11s?

    • As far as I know Shimano GRX derailleurs have the same cable pull ratio as the rest of Shimano 11 speed road (and Tiagra 4700) derailleurs. So either should work.

      Disclaimer 1: I haven’t yet tested any GRX equipment.
      Disclaimer 2: Shimano, usually quite conservative, says only 10 speed GRX is compatible in their compatibility charts.

  3. Relja, I have an old M772 FD and need to replace it. Would most Shimano triple shifters be compatible? Thanks.

    • As far as I know, when it comes to front derailleurs, Shimano road Tiagra 4700 and all Shimano road 11 speed front derailleurs require longer cable pull.
      With MTB derailleurs, different mounts and cable attachments were made (side swing), but cable pull hasn’t changed.
      So I would expect all Shimano MTB triple FD-s to work fine as a replacement.

  4. Hi Relja

    Hope you’re doing OK in these challenging times.

    I’m hoping you can help. I’m trying to convert a 90s MTB to an adventure bike with drop bars and road shifters. The bike hs a triple chainset and a 10-speed cassette, although I only want to use two chainrings up front as the 105 road shifters I have are 10-speed doubles. The problem is the bike needs a top-pull FD and one with enough range to reach the outer two chainrings (so plenty of MTB triple FDs I could use) but it needs to work with the road shifters. Have trawled the internet but am just getting more and more confused about compatibility. Any suggestions?



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