Mountain bike shifters: everything about mountain bike shifters

With MTB shifters you can shift the mountain bike to another gear. An MTB shifter is coupled to the derailleur, which moves the mountain bike chain at the cassette to another cog. There are many different mountain bike shifters. On this page I tell you everything you need to know about these shift units.

What are mountain bike shifters?

MTB shifters are also called shift units. They are the small levers on the MTB handlebars that allow you to shift your mountain bike into a different gear. The shifter is coupled to the MTB derailleur, often via a gear cable. When you shift, the derailleur will ensure that the bicycle chain is moved to a smaller or larger sprocket on the mountain bike cassette.

mountain bike shifters
A mountain bike shifter from Shimano. © MTBdex.com

Mountain bike shifters separate from brake levers

When you go to buy new shifters in a webshop, you will see that there are also brake levers among the range. Unlike most road bikes, the shifters on mountain bikes are separate from the brake levers.

Buy MTB shifters: buying tips

A mountain bike shifter can quickly break in a crash. This is because it is an excellent little lever on the handlebar. Do you want to replace the MTB shifter and are you going to buy new MTB shifters? Then it is advisable to pay attention to the following points:

  • There are left and right MTB shifters. Think about which side of the steering wheel you want to mount the shifter on
  • You may want to consider buying a complete shift lever kit. This includes a compatible MTB derailleur
  • Check whether the shifter is suitable for your shift group (think of the amount of gears)
  • Go for shifters from leading brands

With good brands you should think of Shimano or Bertin.

mtb shifters buying tips
With a singlespeed crankset, a single MTB shifter can often be found on the right side of the handlebar. © MTBdex.com

Frequently asked questions about MTB shifters

What is a MTB shifter?

The shifter of a mountain bike is also called a shift unit. It’s the little lever with which you can shift your mountain bike into a different gear. The shifter is coupled to the derailleur, which ensures that when you shift the chain, the chain is moved to another sprocket.

Do I place a shifter on the right or left side of the handlebars?

If you have a crankset with a single chainring, you can be faced with the choice to place the shifter on the left or right. In many cases, the choice is made to place the switch unit on the right.

What should I pay attention to if I want to buy a new mountain bike shifter?

Check whether it is suitable for your gear set. Check how many gears the shifter is suitable for and whether it is compatible with the derailleur.

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