Paul’s Thumbies

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I pretty much love all the Paul’s components in my collection.  I have used Paul’s chainkeeper, Paul’s cantilever brakes, and now Paul’s Thumbies.  These products were developed here in the US, and the company is home-grown, hailing from Chico, California and founded by Paul himself back in 1989.

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Paul’s components have a distinctly industrial look – similar to that of Mafac brakes.  While some people may be turned off by this lack of “beauty”, I find it charming.

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Nitto Rando bar with downtube Shimano shifters

As I have been recovering from my broken leg last Fall, I noticed that I really wanted to ride in a more upright position on my 1980’s Guerciotti.  I had previously set it up with a Nitto Rando bar and stem, but when I originally purchased the frame, I had set it up as a city bike with upright bars, as shown below.  The only reason I changed this configuration was that my Nitto city bars were recalled and no replacement ever materialized.

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Guerciotti with Nitto city bars which were recalled

So, it was time for a new bar, stem and shifter set up for the Guerciotti.  Since I was going to be using flat bars with this new configuration, I wanted to bring the shifters up onto the handlebar.

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To use Paul’s Thumbies, you need some shifters which don’t have a curved mount to the square boss on the downtube.  That means that all Shimano bar end shifters will work, but that many downtube shifters will not.  The above Shimano downtube shifters which were on my Guerciotti will not work with Paul’s Thumbies for this reason.

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“Pointy” Shimano shifter pods

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Right side shifter mount

So that meant I was going to replace the shifters with some bar-end shifters.  Shimano 8 speed bar end shifters are very versatile, due to their friction mode, which is how I shift with this bike’s drive train.  Once you’ve figured out which shifters you are going to use, you will need to add some shifter pods to the downtube bosses if you weren’t already using bar end shifters.  I found these 1980’s Shimano pods in my parts bin – they are very pointy compared to their modern counterparts, and look fun to me.

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The set up is very simple, once you have chosen the appropriate shifters.  Paul makes Thumbies for both Shimano shifters and Microshift shifters, and for MTB and Road bar sizes.  So, when you order, pay attention to the fine print.

Once the Thumbies are mounted to the handlebar, it’s just a matter of placing the shifters in the correct position, and screwing in the supplied bolt and washer.  You can control the feel of the shifter by tightening or loosening the supplied bolt, in the same way you would do with the Shimano bolt for any bar end or downtube shifter.

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I was concerned that the bar end shifters I mounted to Paul’s Thumbies might be “ergonomically incorrect”, in that they weren’t designed to be used on the top of the handlebar.  Fortunately, they were very easy to use and felt at the ready with a simple touch of my thumb.  They needed no fine tuning after an initial rainy commute.  While some people may balk at spending an extra $50 bucks or so to move your shifters to the handlebar, in my view that is better than throwing out your shifters and buying new ones.  And, if you ever want to go back to your downtube or bar end shifters, you can easily do so.

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8 thoughts on “Paul’s Thumbies

  1. I do admire Paul’s components but I have yet to feel I can afford to buy anything of theirs. I was looking at their thumb shifter mount for a bicycle problem, but I used the velo orange thumb shifter mounts because they will mount many types of shifters old and new. I was able to use Campagnolo victory down tube shifters that were already on the bicycle. You can contact velo orange and see if they will mount your vintage shifters. It’s a great idea, I love having the shifters right at my hands. I am too short, and my arms far too short to reach down and shift down tube shifters! So you can save on buying more parts, re use old parts. hurray.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with the VO competitor to this Paul product. I haven’t checked out their thumbies. Glad you like them. I think we should all consider paying the real cost of bicycle gear. Stuff manufactured in China and Tawain is cheaper because they have no worker protections and environmental regulations.

  2. Hi Nola,

    So Paul’s thumbies are for using existing down tube or bar end shifters when you want them moved to the bar for upright cycling/shifting? Is this the same set up as having the old-school thumb shifters that were mounted in this position on almost every mountain bike in the 80″?

    Thanks, Daryl

    • Yes, Daryl. These thumbies are for existing shifters. Valid point made: why not just get some MTB shifters and be done with it. One reason is that those shifters were made before we had more than 7 speeds on the rear cassette. Another reason might be one’s fondness for they feel of a particular set of shifters.

    • Yes, vintage mountain shifters are a great option. But… better quality NOS or clean used components carry a price premium (often as much as Paul thumbies + bar end).

      Shimano M700 (deerhead, friction only) and SL-M732 (7 speed XT with friction option) are a few examples.

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