Written by 12:42 am MTB, MTB Gears • 4 Comments

Best Mountain Bike Speed Shifters (Reviews & Buying Guide)



Best 12 speed shifter for the money
Trigger:  YES
Gearing: 12-speed
Weight: 112 g
Easy to install
Crisp and smooth shifting
No cons it’s great
Check Price
on REI.com
Ergonomic lever shape
Trigger: YES
Gearing: 2 x 10
Weight: N/A
Optical gear display
Great price
One buyer complaint about no getting the lens that let you see which chainring it is in.
Check Price
on REI.com
Best for enduro
Trigger: YES
Gearing: 2 x 11
Weight: N/A
Precise shifting
Great price
Single lever for up and downshifts may cause confusion
Check Price
on REI.com
Best for serious performance for any recreational activity
Trigger: NO
Gearing: 3×7
Weight: 120g
Incredibly lightweight
Quick view ledge indicator
Slim design
Most people have trouble adjusting the gears
Check Price
on REI.com
Best for smooth rolling terrain and technical downhill rides
Trigger:  NO
Gearing: 3×6/7/8
Weight: 120g
Accurate shifting
Light and incredibly precise indexing
Great compatibility
Doesn’t come with adjustment instructions
Check Price
on REI.com
Best for riders looking for a straightforward, and yet powerful shifter
Trigger: YES
Gearing: 2×11 or 3 x11 
Weight: 121g
Quality build
Anti-slipping features
Shifting not as smooth as its predecessors
Check Price
on Amazon.com



  • Trigger:  YES
  • Gearing: 12-speed
  • Weight: 112 g
  • Pros: Easy to install, Crisp and smooth shifting, Reliable
  • Cons: No cons it’s great


  • Trigger: YES
  • Gearing: 2 x 10
  • Weight: N/A
  • Pros: Optical gear display, Great price
  • Cons: One buyer complaint about no getting the lens that let you see which chainring it is in.


  • Trigger: YES
  • Gearing: 2 x 11
  • Weight: N/A
  • Pros: Precise shifting, Great price
  • Cons: Single lever for up and downshifts may cause confusion, 


  • Trigger: NO
  • Gearing: 3×7
  • Weight: 120g
  • Pros: Incredibly lightweight, quick view ledge indicator, slim design
  • Cons: most people have trouble adjusting the gears


  • Trigger:  NO
  • Gearing: 3×6/7/8
  • Weight: 120g
  • Pros: accurate shifting, light and incredibly precise indexing, great compatibility
  • Cons: Doesn’t come with adjustment instructions


  • Trigger: YES
  • Gearing: 2×11 or 3 x11 
  • Weight: 121g
  • Pros:  Lighter, quality build, anti-slipping features
  • Cons: shifting not as smooth as its predecessors


This is a crucial component of your mountain bike. It basically allows you to change on the move gears. It comes truly in handy in technical terrains. These kinds of shifters normally do their job by pulling cables which move to the derailleur. This will then force the chain to move on different cogs/sprockets. Here is what you need to consider when buying this crucial component.

Types of Shifters

There are three types of shifters available in the market today; Twin-lever trigger shifters, twist shifters and electric shifters. They come in different designs. They are also operated differently and you may want to go for a particular shifter based on your needs.

  • Twin-lever trigger shifters

They are pretty much common and quite popular among most riders. It comes with two triggers; one allows you to change up a gear, and the other one is for downshifting. You will find these types of shifters on Shimano and SRAM bikes.

Trigger shifters are quite popular among many people because of a number of reasons. Easy to use and different features are some of the best things about these types of shifters.

  • Twist Shifters

They come second to twin lever trigger shifters in terms of popularity. How the whole thing works is pretty much simple. It twists the mechanism that forms part of the grip on the handlebar.

One thing you should know about twist shifter is they often come with very limited options when it comes to positioning. They are usually mounted right on the handlebars. That can actually give you a wide range of grip length options. It is also incredibly simple to set up. Plus, it comes with great indicators that let you know what gear you are in that moment.

  • Electric shifters

As the name suggests, these are electronically controlled shifters. These types of shifters are battery-powered, and their working is seamless and quick. For example, you can easily change gear right across the entire cassette in one single motion. You will find these shifters on top of the range mountain bikes.

Thumb or Twist Shifters

Ideally, when it comes to deciding which one to go for; ease of use and reliability and most importantly performance are the things that will come into play.

  • Twist shifters

They are cheap but still manage to offer great reliability. This is the best option if you are looking for something simple and straightforward. All you have to do is just rotate them until you shift gear.

  • Thumb shifters

This, on the other hand, is the best if you are looking for neat and faster hear shifting. They are incredibly accurate. One of the key reasons why these are quite popular among many people is that you only have to use your thumb when you are shifting to a higher gear and your index finger when downshifting.


This is another thing you need to take very seriously when choosing the best mountain bike shifters. Is the shifter compatible with your derailleur? There are two major companies that design these components; Shimano and SRAM. Their shifters are almost similar in design but come with one key difference.

SRAM shifters are said to pull the cable at a 1:1 ration while Shimano, on the other hand, pull at a 2:1 ratio. This difference in incredibly insignificant and won’t even notice the switch. However, Shimano shifters are said to be quite easy to shift. SRAM shifters on the, on the other hand, do a beautiful job in the mud.

In the end, really, when choosing these components in regard to compatibility, you need to make sure it is compatible with your derailleur. If you find out these two popular brands do not work, you will need to check the ratio and decide on what to buy. Word of caution though; stick to the same ratio. Do not try to force if they don’t match.

Friction or Indexed Shifting

  • Indexed shifting

If you are looking at striking both precise and accurate shifting, indexed is all you need to go for. With a simple press on a button, you can shift your gear. This kind of shifting technique also does great when placed under load. So if you are looking for a flawless and high-performance shifting technique, indexed may be your cup of tea.

  • Friction shifting

This technique is being replaced with indexed shifting. It is one of the oldest and very soon we won’t be able to see it in the market. All you had to do with this type of shifting is to push the chain left or right.

Range of Gears

Just like cars, bike shifters also offer a wide range of gears. So when you are out there shopping for one, figure out the number of gear range you actually need. Many times, if you are just looking at upgrading your ride, you need to find out the exact number of gears you currently have and make sure the shifters you choose will accommodate them all.


We all want something that can last now and for years to come; another reason why you need to pay attention to how the shifter has been built when you are making your selection. It must come made of quality materials. Additionally, it must have been expertly put together. Ideally, you need something that can withstand the test of time. Moreover, if you know you are a serious technical and rough rider and you often hit some of the craziest terrains, make sure you get something solid and durable. This part must be able to survive any harsh and rough riding.

Ease of use

It doesn’t make sense to put your money on a set of a shifter that will take you hours or even days trying to figure out how to use. The choice you go for must be easy and straightforward to use. Ease of use, however, must not compromise the performance. The shifter must be easy to use, yet still performs optimally.

Deal with reputable brands only

For an industry that is growing really fast, we have seen small players come in and claim to design the best products in the market. That is not entirely true. Although most of their products are ridiculously cheap, there is a catch. They often come made of poor materials. In short, they won’t last you long before you need another replacement. So don’t be lured by those cheap prices; only get your shifter from a big brand like Shimano or SPRAM. Yes, their products sit at the top of the price range, but worth it. They are well built and most come with plenty of features. What is true in other industries is also true here. You get what you pay for.

How to care for your bike’s shifter

Like mountain bike chains, you buy today; after spending a good amount of money on the best shifters in the market, obviously, the last thing you want is this part developing some mechanical issues Thankfully, there are a couple of things you could actually and you have your shifters working optionally and fewer breakdown issues.

  • Give it a good clean

Like most parts of your bike, giving this part a good cleaning comes with plenty of benefits. Good cleaning and well lubrication will enhance the over performance of your shifters. Moreover, most of the time, assuming there is nothing actually wrong with the cables and derailleur, a pretty good number of issues can be solved with a quick and easy cleaning.

A great way to make sure it is left clean is by loosening the shifters. Flip them over on the handlebars, leaving the bottom part facing up. Once that is done, use an aerosol degreaser and give it a thorough cleaning. Make sure every single piece of dirt and debris and also grease are rid of.

Lastly, once you are done with degreasing the shifter, take the lube and apply it to the inside. Additionally, use a small amount of lube and make sure all the moving parts of the shifter are also well lubricated. It cannot get better than that.

Bottom Line

As you all know; shifters form an integral part of our mountain bike, and if you are planning on upgrading this part, ensure you go for the best option that specifically suits your bike best. Take your time and review every single make and model before you have it packed for you. If you are a professional rider, chances are you already know what suits you best, however, try to find out about those newly added features as they come with plenty of practical benefits. It cannot get better than that.

Updated on December 24, 2022 by Ben

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