06 December, 2006

Holiday Ornaments, by Simplex and Allara


Cars with wreaths on the front bumper have always seemed silly to me. If you're going to decorate a vehicle it should be your bike. Not by hanging wreaths though; they are hardly aerodynamic, never mind the weight. We've found a couple of pretty new items to liven up your bike for the holiday.

The first is these lovely laminated Ale toe straps. They have nice soft pads under the buckles and are embossed with a glittery gold logo. Right now we have them in Christmas red, but we'll be getting some in Hanukkah blue soon.

Next are genuine brand new Simplex retro friction shift levers. These are the pinnacle of friction shifting technology. The two types on the right are in stock right now. They are made of delrin with a festive metal decoration on top, but the inside bits are genuine French metal. These are expensive, but they are also rare. And we paid a lot to rescue them, otherwise they might have languished in the dark corner of a warehouse for another 30 years.

We'll soon have some of the pretty spoon shaped retro friction shifters that Simplex made for Gipimme. There will be just a few of these since I'm keeping a couple for myself.

The levers on the left we don't have yet. That's my personal set, but we're still looking.

Simplex retro friction levers last almost forever, but they should be cleaned every decade or so.
Here's a good article on the subject or here in the original. By the way, this article shows the one other style of retro friction levers that I'm aware of.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anybody else notice how the pictures change?

Chris Kulczycki said...

I did. ;<)

Anonymous said...

Chris,

You seem to be the guru of downtube shifters. Could you please publish an article on the technology of popular shifters with strength and weaknesses? You must have all that were ever made, so I know of no one else who would know any more than you about downtube shifters. I am real confused with all of the variety in downtube shifters (ie - ratchet, index not used, brands, ...).


Thank You

neil m berg said...

"...Simplex retro friction shift levers. These are the pinnacle of friction shifting technology." What is "retro friction" and as Anony implied, what is the advantage of these over, for instance, Suntours, other than rarity?

Anonymous said...

Chris,

In addition, when is adjustable resistance desirable and undesirable? Which shifters do best with new technology Shimano rear(/front) derailleurs and say, IRD classy HG freewheels? The shifter technology seems like it could bridge the 'index marketing trap' gap nicely. Are all index downtube shifters a compromise when 'not' on index and in friction mode?

With the newer technology Shimano derailleurs, which cable sets and routing are optimal for ease and for longetivity (may not be the same)? For example, are the totally enclosed silicone housing cables the best? I think newer rear derailleurs will have better spring force, and how does that integrate with older classic shifters?

Just thought I'd throw more specific questions downtube shifter buyers may want to know. And if we get one that does not work well, it will just be attributed to down tube shifters, and may throw us back in Japanese Index marketing trap game again.

This seems like a real fine point of upgrading nice older bikes, which are superior in many ways: but they need to be properly integrated to be effective.


Thanks Again

Anonymous said...

Chris,

One last thing please. The 'life' of the downtube shifter seems to be tied to nylon or UHMW plastic washers holding them on. When those wear out, is there any alternatives for nice older shifters? It seems a waste to throw away a perfectly good classic shifter because the plastic washers are worn out. But that may be the only alternative in this unperfect world.


Thank You

Chris Kulczycki said...

Retro friction shifters have a sort of clutch that allows you to move the lever in either direction with the same effort. They are also very smooth. Because the barrels are small they work well on 5-6-7 speed setups; you must move the lever a fair distance to shift which offers greater control. They are also very pretty. Plus, Neil, they are French and the first rule of this blog is that French thing are always cool.;<)

Suntour power ratchet shifters accomplish the same thing by using, well, a ratchet mechanism that unlocks a clutch. They are not as smooth and the larger barrel means you move the lever a shorter distance to shift. Folks who shift across 8-9-10 cogs love them. Japanese things are also cool, but particularly so when they are copies of French things.

According to Jan Heine the newer derailleur developed for index shifting do not work as well as the older sort for friction shifting. I use modern derailleurs with index systems only, so I can't really comment on this.

I've only used Campy downtube index shifters which have a bad reputation, but worked fine for me.

If you keep shifters clean they will last for a very long time. And some of the French shifters have no plastic bushings, just good old French metal.

Anonymous said...

Very nice Chris, that explains a lot.

As far as using your stainless housings and teflon cables (assuming they reach to low bar brake levers), do you just route the cable housing with no sharp bends, and bypass the 2 open cable guides on lower tube and one friction bent-cable guide for each derailleur? Full housing cables may not exactly be 'retro', but it seems to be more efficient, and maybe better labelled 'comfort' biking :-)

The use of all the ferrules and cable housing seals is somewhat still a mystery at this point, but the continuous SS housing should reduce most of that hardware to plastic tie-wraps like a motorcycle - ?.


Thank You

neil m berg said...

Full cable housings are very "retro".

neil m berg said...

You can buy some very nice looking metal cable clamps for the down tube and stays...maybe from Loose Screws?

Anonymous said...

Chris, folks-
I've used the Simplex Retrofrictions with an Ultegra 9 speed RD on one of my bikes for quite some time. Shifts perfectly. I have limited experience with older RD's - a few Simplex & old Campy's but, in my experience, modern Shimano shifts the best. I also have limited experience with DT shifters - a few Suntour models and the Simplex RF's. The Simplex are the smoothest. I have the silver alloy models with the looped ends. They are really lovely.
That said, these days I prefer not to take my hands off the bars when shifting. This has become especially important as I have been riding more and more [very rough] dirt roads. It's really nice to shift with your hands on the bars when being jackhammered over washboard dirt roads. So it's bar-ends or STI shifters for me.
nv

david_nj said...

I don't follow some of the Jan Heine stuff. Like bikes "planing" or old friction derailleurs workin' better than modern ones for friction shifting. That's a buncha baloney IMHO -- I ran friction shifters for a while on my modern Campy Ergo setup (damaged the rear shifter in a crash, didn't get around to fixing it for a long time) -- the shifting was great, much better than with the old derailleurs, even a Super LJ. I mean let's keep it real. Sure, the old stuff looks cooler but that really is about the extent of it.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Here is an exploded part view of what you sold new (temporarily out now) and said they were one of finest ratcheting shifters ever made.

http://www.alansue.com/ebay/superbe1.jpg

What exactly is the ratcheting mechanism? It it the shifter and all components interfaced, or is this an older model before the racheting mechanism was introduced into their line?


Thank You

Anonymous said...

Here's a 'permanent' picture of the Suntour Superbe downtube shifter exploded parts view.

http://www.dooberywhatsit.com//files/SuntourSuperbedowntubeShifters.jpg

It does look like jewelry.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Annon, That's an older model. If you decide to get Suntour shifters, I'd get the LD4850s; same shifter guts, just a bit less shiny.

David, The new derailleurs are "looser" to better jump into gear without that bit of over shifting that, for us older guys, is instinctive. So modern derailleurs could be said to be less precise. I'm not sure this matters a whit, but there you have it.

As for planing, have you ever hammered up a hill and felt as if the bike was slightly bouncy, like a spring returning energy? That's planing, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Your attached article with exploded diagrams of Simplex parts was great. Are the Suntour ratcheting mechanisms the same with a spring inside?


Thank You

neil m berg said...

What David said.
I've never experienced the sensation of planing. Maybe my bikes suck. Maybe I don't ride hard enough. Or maybe it's purely psychology phenomenon.

david_nj said...

Chris, you just mean that the top pulley floats on indexed RDs. Other than that, they sure ain't no looser!

tim said...

I'd be more than a bit worried about "the reed leprosy of structure" that the first article talks about. What could that possible have actually meant?