The Vivo F3 Shifter is Pricey, but for this Customizable, Boutique Component it May not Matter

We try out the new Vivo F3 shifter. At $300 it's not for everyone, but it may be perfect for the boutique bike nerd.
vivo f3 shifter underside

Mixing in non-SRAM or non-Shimano brand components within a drivetrain isn’t unheard of. Race Face and E-Thirteen cranksets are often installed with the remainder of a drivetrain and some might opt for a more affordable cassette option when their original gearing wears out.

Shifters on the other hand tend to be uniform with the rest of the system. Even according to the marketing materials on new drivetrains at launch time, the gearing platforms are referred to as “ecosystems” and the technology usually plays best with componentry of the native brand.

Long-time cycling industry component designer and engineer John Calendrille still saw an opportunity for an aftermarket shifter, something radically different than what the Big S’s allowed for. His first product is aimed toward SRAM riders.

“The demand right now is for Eagle, is what we’re finding,” says Calendrille. His first boutique, self-produced shifter, the Vivo F3 is sort of the antithesis. Most SRAM and Shimano shifters are made from a mix of plastic and stamped metals. The Vivo F3 is CNC machined from 6061 and 7075 alloys, G5 titanium and hardened and stainless steels, with 3D-printed plastic paddles and covers.

Vivo might venture into Shimano territory, but they started with SRAM whose riders seem to be more apt to upgrade their shifter than Shimano riders. He isn’t quite sure why, but that’s where his research led him.

Component manufacturers are driven by consumer demand to keep the product price as low as possible. Those prices come down by big machine manufacturing in volume. The range of SRAM shifters, from SX, to NX, GX, XO1, and the top-shelf XX1 range from $30 to $180.

At ~120g, the F3 weighs almost the same as an XX1 shifter.

Prices for Shimano’s Deore shifter starts at around $24 and the nicest XTR shifter sells for close to $140.

About the Vivo F3 shifter

The Vivo F3 shifter starts at $300. Additional paddles, covers, and clamp inserts are sold for an additional cost.

Vivo has nine different barrel adjuster types for sale, nine clamp band inserts, 16 housing covers, 20 different lower shift paddles, and 14 different upper shift paddles.

The shift paddles have different “thumb reach ratings.” Some have big and deep concave shapes while others arch outward toward the thumb. There are paddles with fine grooves, bumps, and grids and a shape for just about everyone.

The higher the “thumb rearch rating,” the closer the lever is to the thumb

“I wanted a project where I could just kind of go crazy. And without the constraints of working with a brand name or company who has cost parameters and that type of thing. I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do, build in some adjustability with these changeable paddles and just have fun with it.”

The Vivo F3 shifter is not mass-produced like most shifters and is instead eeked out by machining and 3D printing to match each custom order.

The upper shifter can be activated by either a push or pull and the levers rotate on double cartridge bearings.

The Vivo F3 shifter was as straightforward as any shifter to install. Buyers will lose the ability to pair this with a brake lever. The F3 cannot be used with a Matchmaker mount for now.

I played with a few different paddles that Vivo sent and found one that fit my thumb reach best. Both up and down lever paddles are easy to swap with a T15 Torx bit. The machining is nicely done and makes the job stress free and easy.

After that, there was nothing to do but ride and get a feel for the shifter.

On the trail

I will say the Vivo F3 has a very nice shifting feel, distinct from both Shimano and SRAM but also similar in ways to both. The Vivo F3 feels light and crisp like a SRAM shifter, especially in the down shift lever, where you can sweep through a few gears in a single swipe. As Vivo says, there’s an audible sound to these shifts and it’s easy to tell when it’s complete.

The upshift paddle can only complete one shift per push, or pull, like a SRAM shifter but unlike a Shimano shifter. The up shifts tend to feel more Shimano-like in that the feeling is more chunky and not quite as short a throw as an upshift from a SRAM shifter.

I’ve always considered this an advantage of SRAM shifters. The upshift paddle throw feels so short and precise that you can hammer through shifts with mostly motion from your upper knuckle whereas on Shimano shifters there’s more of a push through to complete the shift(s). I don’t think this detracted from the shifting experience on the F3, but it’s worth noting.

As far as the buying experience, I can’t speak to that a whole lot, as Vivo sent a test shifter with a selection of paddles to try out. One area that seems like it could be difficult though is trying to find the right paddles for your thumb.

Upper paddles are $15 and lower paddles are $22.50 and returns are only eligible for unused, packaged products. Calendrille says finding the right paddles are a challenge they’re working to address. Understanding your hand size and the reach ratings of the paddles will be the best route for riders to understand which ones are right for them.

Lastly, the price is hard to overcome, with the F3 costing more than $100 than SRAM’s XX1 shifter, or twice as much as a Shimano XTR when Vivo has a Shimano-ready product available.

“It is a boutique product, there’s no denying that. It’s made in small batches, each product is hand assembled in the U.S., it’s a handmade piece, limited quantities and this is the initial launch year of the product, so it’s brand new. With all parts being CNC’d, plus the titanium hardware plus the customization, it’s going to be a high price.”

Pros and cons of the Vivo F3 shifter


  • Sharp, smooth shifting
  • Customizability for perfect fit shifter — small or big hands.
  • Nice, customizable aesthetics


  • Too many choices?
  • May be time consuming and expensive to find right paddles
  • SRAM only at the moment

Bottom line

The Vivo F3 shifter isn’t without it’s faults. It’s an expensive shifter alternative to the big brands, but if you’re looking at this product, there’s a chance you’re into boutique, hand-made bicycle products anyway, so that might not matter. It’s still a great feeling and looking shifter that will add some glam to your bike.