I've always been a sceptic of indexing, probably as my first experience was with the early years of 'click to shift' - a pain to set up and too sensitive to being knocked out of alignment. If friction shifting was good enough for Eddy and The Badger, it was damned well good enough for me! Stubbornly I stuck my head in the sand.
I've recently acquired a 1984 Mercian that is fitted with 9 speed Campag (Chorus Ergos, Record Racing Triple mechs and chainset). My initial thought was to swap out the Ergos for downtube shifters and sell off the parts to offset the cost of the bike. I'd had Dura Ace 8 speed STIs in the past and was not particularly impressed. However riding it offroad at the Wendover Bash as well as a couple of long rides in the past week has caused me to reconsider.
The 9 speed Ergos were certainly impressive - comfortable, reliable even with thick gloves and a rear mech and cassette full of mud and robust enough to cope with being in the back of the car over bumpy roads. Quality has clearly improved a lot in the past twenty years (surprise that!).
However I still have some reservations namely:
1) Compatability - I've always liked a mix and match approach to equipping my bikes but Ergos/STIs pretty much remove that (I know of Shimergoing - more info on the CTC website - but that really seems like a compromise). Good for the manufacturers, not so great for the consumer - try buying a bike with non index shifting!
2) Cost - Ergos/STIs are SERIOUS money; for example Dura Ace 7900 STIs RRP £440
(although they can be found for a 'mere' £320!). Go with aero levers and downtube shifters and save £250+!
3) Combining shifting and braking in one unit seems a compromise - go to a bike shop and see the STIs pointing heavenwards which is ok for shifting/riding on the hoods but pretty much rules out braking on the drops which you need if you really want to stop (and don't get me on the real compromise that sees angled up STIs and then cross top levers fitted so that braking is easy!). Set up the STIs for use in the drops and shifting is not so readily to hand. If you don't ride on the hoods then you have to move your hands to change gear - any different to moving them to a downtube or barend shifter?
I guess the bottom line is whether STIs/Ergos are really needed unless you are racing? Most people ride for enjoyment, to keep fit or as a form of transport (a simplification, there are often multiple reasons). Have more people started or continued cycling because of the ease and smoothness of shifting?
Ok, enough rambling on and revealing my Luddite approach, any thoughts?