16 November, 2006

Non-Index Shifting -- Part 2

One of the problems with modern front derailleurs is that some don't work as well with classic cranksets. That's because the outer cages are often shaped or too wide and hit the crankarm. This is especially true with Shimano derailleurs

So We found some of the best classic front derailleurs.

The Simplex Super LJ 503 front derailleur, upper left, is made for triples and is simply one of the best and prettiest derailleurs ever made. The cage has a lovely brushed finish and it's very light. We only have a few of these and they will not be cheap.

The Simplex on the upper right is the Super LJ 523 which is almost the same derailleur, but with a shiny chrome cage and the cable attachment on the front. The Simplex derailleurs have narrow cages, this means you may need to trim the front more often, but it helps them shift like butter. This is also a handsome derailleur. I should have wiped the oil off the cage before taking the photo; these were actually packed in oil-paper.

On the lower left is the Huret-Sachs Rival for double chainrings. It's not quite as nicely finished as the Simplexes, but shifts just as well. Unlike some of the early Huret front changers, the Rivals were improved to be more rigid and less fragile.

Finally the Simplex 102 for doubles is less expensive and a touch heavier, but still a rugged and fine shifting mechanism that will last for decades. It is also a very good looking derailleur. I think this is the best value of the bunch.

Notice that the triple derailleurs have deeper, or lower, back cages. This helps them upshift from small granny rings. But they are fine for doubles too. In fact many people even use double derailleurs with triples.

All of these derailleurs will shift with Campy Ergo levers and some Shimano systems. I'll have them in the store in a few days.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris, I'd like a 503 and a Rival. But how much will they set me back?
-Alf

neil m berg said...

I don't know anything about French components. Are these better the the Campagnolo SR I have a couple of bikes? I've seen Super LJ. How does that compare to LJ503?

Chris Kulczycki said...

The Campy stuff is a little shinier. The high-end Simplex rear derailleurs are much better than anything Campy made at the time because they have an upper pivot spring. Later they had drop and slant parallegrams like Suntour which just blew the doors off Campy and all the Italian manufacturers; the SR was still using 1966 designed geometry.

For front derrailleurs it's closer. I like the Simplex Super LJ line for shifting perfomance, but the Campy SR and NR were a little nicer in finish.

Also, these are the Super LJ; I just forgot to write "Super".

Chris Kulczycki said...

Hi Alf,

They cost $69 and $38 and are now in the store.

Andrew Karre said...

It would be neat if you could get a hold of some NOS Suntour XC Pro and Superbe Pro front derailleurs. I have an old Superbe, and it is. The XC Pro would be nice (though certainly not necessary) for those who like to run small front rings.

-Andrew
(whose Simplex Retrofrictions shift a Suntor XC Pro rear and a Superbe Pro front over a 48/32 TA Cyclotouriste double and a 13-28 8-speed Shimano cassette. Viva la Friction!)

Lesli L said...

Which of these would you recommend for use with a compact double (ta zephyr).

LL

Chris Kulczycki said...

LL, Any would work. The best buy is the Simplex 102, though I might just spring for the LJ 523 because I like its bright chrome cage.

Cooper Dragonette said...

Chris
A great site! Just found out about it recently and read it almost daily. How do you manage to be so diligent about posting.
Keep up the good work.
Cooper
Portland, Maine

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd mention...: NOS Campagnolo 980 front derailleur currently on eBay at $9.99 BIN. 28.6 clamp-on, alloy body/steel cage. I've had one on my Pinarello for almost 20 years. Cheap and simple, seems to work about as well as anything.

Lesli L said...

Any possibility that you will be offering (elegant, matching) rear derailleurs to go with these...?

LL

Chris Kulczycki said...

We're working on the rear derailleurs. We have Huret Rivals now and should get a shipment of Simplex derailleurs today. I'll look at these and probably keep some and reject others.

I doubt we'll find any new SLJ models though; too many people know how good they are. But Simplex made many models that were all but identical so you can sometimes find models you've never heard of that are wonderful.

david_nj said...

The Super LJ rears are amazing. They require far less cable pull than many of the slushy, undersprung Simplex touring RDs like the SX-610. They're not finicky to set up, and they shift like a Rolex watch on amphetamines.

I don't have a friction-shift bike just now but for that purpose I would say that hands down the Super LJ-5500 or -6500 are the best performing derailleurs I ever had the pleasure of racing with.

The only other one I can think of that worked as well was an old wierd-looking Mavic unit, I can't remember much about it though.

The Campy Nuovo and Super Record RDs weren't even in the same ballpark performance-wise, although the build quality was surely quite a bit better.

Never tried it, but I bet the Simplex FDs would work well on modern 10s drivetrains. For what it's worth.

Chris Kulczycki said...

David, I agree with almost all of what you say, but I think you have the SX-610 mixed up with the older derailleurs. The SX 610 was a slightly lower priced version of the SLJ-5500 racing derailleur and shifted almost as well, It has the famous drop pivot slant parallelogram geometry and is all metal. In fact I'm trying to get some.

Matt Roche said...

Can the Superbe pro front derailleur be used with a triple chainring?