13 November, 2006

Non-Index Shifting -- Part 1


There is a certain joy to shifting the old way, reaching down and gently nudging a lever on the down tube. If you are practiced the chain will almost silently hop onto the intended cog.

But today there are few down tube shifters made and very few good ones. So we've dug up some classic new old stock shifters. On the left are genuine Campagnolo Nuovo Record shifters ($39). Next are the superb Suntour Superbe shifters with the ratcheting feature. These, like the Simplex Retro Friction, allow a similar tension when shifting up or down (though Simplex used a different mechanism). These are among the best down tube shifters ever made ($45) . Third are the Suntour LD4850 which also have the "Power Ratchet" mechanism, but weigh a few grams more and are not as shiny ($32). Finally, on the right, are the inexpensive, but very usable Suntour LD4250 ($22). We also will have some Suntour shifter stops for those of you who prefer bar-end shifters or brifters. We'll have them available in the store in a day or two, but like all these old parts, quantities are very limited.

Soon I'll post about some classic brand new Simplex, Huret, and Sachs derailleurs we've found. We're also waiting for some cool old ATAX seat posts and a few Stronglight, yes Stronglight, seat posts. It's like 1980 all over again!

Finally, due to several requests we now stock the less expensive Quicker X-Treme MTB pump. This is a nice pump for big 650B and 29er tires.

16 comments:

Andrew Karre said...

I agree with your assement of the joys of downtube shifting, but you've got an important particular wrong. Simplex Retrofriction shifters do not ratchet (I've got them on all my bikes, except our tandem, which has Riv's Silver shifters). The shifters contain a spring that pulls against the derailleur's spring, allowing you to set the screw tension lower and get that wonderful smooth action. They're great, and so are Suntour's Power Ratchet shifters, but they are mechanically different.

(And I did a doubletake when I first read your post. It made it look like you had Simplex Retrofriction shifters for sale. I almost injured myself looking for my credit card.)

Thanks for everything!
Andrew

Chris Kulczycki said...

Hi Andrew, Yes, you are right. The Simplex version acomplishes the same thing, but uses a diffrent mechanism. I'll fix the description. I also use and love Simplex retro friction shifters and we've been looking for a NOS stash of them.

david_nj said...

Friction shifters are so awesome for any bike that isn't raced or ridden really hard. Heck, Sean Kelly used them well into the STI/Ergo age -- he won Milan-San Remo with the doggone things in 1992! Plus how insanely great is it to not have to worry about the settings, just stuff in a wheel and you're done.

The main place where you get shelled with friction shifters is in the hills. STI/Ergo is a godsend for that. This only really matters if you do faster group rides or race though.

Andrew Karre said...

NV: If someone is sitting on a stash of these, they're crazy. eBay prices on these things are murder.

AK

nipponvelo said...

AK
Dunno if they are crazy but MelPintoImports have Atax, Simplex and Stronglight posts as well as Simplex, Huret, and Sachs derailleurs listed FS on their site.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Nipponvelo, I first met Mel over 30 years ago when I was a talentless young racer. We often buy stuff from him and he sends us old stuff he knows I might like. He's a good guy. But he doesn't have any Retro Friction shifters; that was the first call I made.

nipponvelo said...

Chris and AK -
Sorry, I misunderstood your comments posted after my original Mel Pinto Imports post (which had somehow disappeared).
I was inquiring if the NOS items Chris is planning on offering were being sourced from MPI - I was not suggesting that they would have a stash of Retro Fiction DT shifters. I do have a pair that are not currently in use, and no, they are not for sale ;)

Sorry for the confusion.
NV

david_nj said...

Yannow, given that (i) the Simplex shifters are so good, and (ii) the patents would long since have expired: how brutal would it be to have repros made? There are just a few parts, and there aren't really any high-precision ones.

Chris Kulczycki said...

David, The funny thing is that with CNC machines the precision parts are not the problem, It's the molds for the aluminum levers that would cost a lot. That's probably why TA is taking so long to get their new pedal molds. I may take a trip Taiwan this winter and I'll take a Simplex lever to show around, along with a bunch of other stuff. The minumum quantity they'll want to make may be very high.

MDGColo said...

" The shifters contain a spring that pulls against the derailleur's spring, allowing you to set the screw tension lower and get that wonderful smooth action. "

Not so. You just think that because you saw a coil spring inside. It is a one-way clutch and does the same thing that Suntour's ratched does: decouples the friction mechanism when you pull back. Unhook the cable from the derailleur and work the lever, and you'll see what I mean.

The mechanism is called a spring clutch. I learned it about it when I used to be a mechanical engineer at IBM and worked with some of the guys who designed the Selectric typewriter. It is used extensively in the Selectric because it continues to work well regardless of wear and lubrication. It's sort of a rotational chinese finger puzzle. - Mark G., Longmont CO

olivier, london said...

hi,
a stupid question. i'm trying to install a set of simplex friction shifters and can't work out how to do it. i have a simplex slj 5500 derailleur. when i shift down the mech moves fine but once i let go of the lever i immediately goes back and the chain moves back into the heaviest gear. is the cable too tight? i've tried loosening it. in vain. any suggestions? velo orange is great. wish you existed in the uk. vive le velo! olivier

Chris Kulczycki said...

Oliver, Make sure the shifter is properly assembled. I recently posted a diagram of how these go together. Also make sure the screw is tight, very tight.

PoliticalSpazz said...

I bought some simplex retrofriction shifters (no name, teardrop shape cut-outs on the handles) but they did not come with a collar/clamp. I also picked up a replacement NOS rear and front Simplex Prestige Derailleur and new cables to tune up my Mercier 200 club racer, but no one will touch the job until I find the proper clamp for the shifters. The shifters do not have a D clamp, just a slot for regular screwdriver, and the inner bosses are square shaped. This is a 1970 bike so I'm not sure if I bought the wrong style shifter or just need the right clamp.

PoliticalSpazz said...

I'm trying to replace the black plastic simplex shifters which keep snapping off. So this part of the job would be an upgrade to retrofriction

Anonymous said...

Simplex retrofriction shifters:
Disassemble
1. Unscrew the screw. There may be a plastic washer holding it in. Push up on the screw with a pencil or stick to create some friction while unscrewing and the screw should eventually come off.
2. Clean the lever as well as you can. I use an ultrasonic cleaner to get most of the solids out of the lever/ferrule/spring. This needs to be done, otherwise the caked grease/dirt glues the innards together to the lever.
3. Put the braze-on shaft on the braze-on post on the bike, put the lever on the shaft, then screw in the screw. Use only the screw, no washers.
4. Use a small round punch, screwdriver, etc. to push the end of the spring, which is coiled around the ferrule, in the opposite direction of the coil while gently turning and pulling the lever. Take care not to puncture yourself. Wear leather gloves.
5. It should slide off after a few attempts. There will be rust and gunk on the ferrule and spring.
6. Push/pry the spring out of the lever. Clean all parts with a toothbrush, wirebrush, etc.
7. Polish the ferrule, spring, and lever where they make contact.
8. Grease well with Molypaste or equivalent.
9. Remember to round over any sharp points on the spring to prevent catching or scoring.
10. Work step 4 backwards to assemble.
-Scott Y

Martin Hartley said...

Just got me a set of silver shifters for my touring bicycle. I don't know how anyone can put up with SIS or STI nonsense once they have used these. All you have to do is set your top and bottom derailleur limiters and then forget all about adjusting your levers. Their action is light but secure, and they are a doddle to use. I don't know why anyone would use anything else, especially on a touring bicycle.