DISRAELI GEARS - A bicycle derailleur collection
June 11, 2020 7:46 PM   Subscribe

DISRAELI GEARS - A bicycle derailleur collection. "I have been working in bicycle shops since the mid 1970s, and I decided to put together this collection to represent rear derailleurs that I have worked on, sold, heard about or seen at trade shows in that time. Some are gears that I had only heard of, vehemently discussed by crusty old geezers in draughty Cyclist Touring Club club rooms, some are models that I personally sold in their hundreds and some are exotic beauties that I dreamed of owning"
posted by Slap*Happy (90 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry, main site link is here.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:48 PM on June 11


This is so cool. Looking now.
posted by nikaspark at 7:53 PM on June 11


Derailleurs are complicated, finicky things, but their inherent smexiness cannot be denied.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:25 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Geared machines are intrinsically fascinating.
posted by aramaic at 8:29 PM on June 11


I love this website so much. I have a drawer full of old suntour derailleurs and a handful of ebay alerts because of this website.
posted by One Thousand and One at 8:33 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I am on record as a nearly rabid derailleurphobe (Sturmey-Archer is more my speed, or three of them, at least), but this is a beautiful collection.
posted by sonascope at 8:38 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I love my SRAM X5 drivetrain. I've taught myself how to properly set up, diagnose and tune index shifters and it took me years to get even remotely comfortable with it until I did some homework.

There's nothing quite as mechanically sexy feeling to me as a well tuned bike and how solid it feels when nothing is rattling around, every part from handlebars to tires feels rock solid and every gear shift is perfect.

Ripping through a bunch of gears as I speed off down the road is literally one of my favorite sensations of all time and as a hedonist that's saying a whole lot. The bike is part of my body and I feel like very sure-footed cat clawing at the ground with each stroke of the pedals and it's just so good.

On that note iI'm probably due for a brand new chain and a drive train tuneup.
posted by loquacious at 9:11 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


Sonascope - What do you think of Rohloff hubs? I'm having a mid-life crisis, so a blank build of a Rivendell Atlantis frame might be what's prescribed, without a motorcycle or divorce. Mostly gently rolling hills where I'm at with the occasional no-kidding tarmacked ski jump named after an unpopular politician I'd rather ride up than walk up. SRAM's Gravel gearing, with the liddle 1x ring up front and a 50-tooth rear cog out back looks kinda cool, but a Velo-Orange triple crank with an IRD wide range freewheel really looks good, too. Rohloff looks the weirdest, so... I know it's not British Quality Control at its finest like SA, but it makes for a clean looking tourer.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:17 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Neat! I've ridden fixed for 15 years, but I find drivetrains infinitely intriguing and hope to someday own another 80s Bianchi; god I loved that bike and that weird Ofmega derailleur.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:32 PM on June 11


It saddens me that nobody makes a derailleur with the functionality of the new wave of clutch models (to take up greater chain slack allowing a greater range) with the refined elegance of a Sachs New Success, Shimano 7700 or Mavic. Bike parts today are designed to look like movie robot greebling. Enough with the cheap matte black surface finishes! Bring back polished alloy!
posted by St. Oops at 9:48 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Derailers are beautiful machines, but I maintain are a poor default for everyday cycling. I hope the cycle industry works out soon that performance optimisations like non-step-through frames, hunched-forward handlebars, skinny tyres, lack of rack and dynamo/lights, and derailer gears are just marginal gains that make cycling less appealing to the everyday person seeking transport.

Now planetary-geared hubs are also works of great beauty and ingenuity, and are the default on all municipal hire bikes out there (along with comfy seats, upright handlebars, and step-through frames). That's the kind of gear system that everyday transport needs!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:15 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Derailleurs are complicated, finicky things, but their inherent smexiness cannot be denied.

I deny it!

Fiddly, fragile, filthy, flimsy, clunky, crunchy, crude, crappy, rattly, wretched, rotten little fuckers. Changing gears by hauling a roller chain sideways off its sprockets is just a shitty design concept, and making incremental refinements to derailleur gears has always been a turd-polishing exercise.

Over the decades I've been cycling I've run and maintained everything from cheap white-box Chinese generics to high-end Campagnolo, Suntour and Shimano sets and I'm fed up with all of them.

Change gears twice and they fall out of adjustment. Push too hard or not hard enough through a change and they fall out of adjustment. Hit a bump half way through a change and they fall out of adjustment. Pick a poor combination of front and rear sprockets and they stretch the chain, scrape and clatter and rattle, throw the chain off the rings and crash you and then fall out of adjustment. The only thing worse than derailleur gears is wheel-rim brakes.

My Big Dummy has one of these in the back. Now that's smexy.
posted by flabdablet at 1:50 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


flabdablet, I *almost* went with the CVT, but ended up sticking to my affine 8-speed one. Are they more durable and easy to register?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:50 AM on June 12


Step-through frames, big saddles, wide handlebars, big gears at the wheel hub - all these things lower the bike's centre of gravity and make them harder to move when not riding. There was a study that said that ebikes (big heavy battery) resulted in a lot of injuries when mounting and dismounting, because riders often forget how heavy it is when using it. Turning a bike into what is 'comfortable' is the same design thinking that makes every new car an SUV.

IMHO, bikes work best as a light frame with which you can do many things, and a derailleur is a lightweight answer (even with 1950s tech!) to the problem of gears. Maybe you disagree, which is fine; I enjoy zipping around on my steel frame racers.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:33 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Are they more durable and easy to register?

Can't say much about achieved durability because I don't have enough thousands of km on mine yet to make that call, but because it's a CVT the only registering that needs to be done is to make sure that when the twist shifter is at maximum, so is the hub, and that's very easily done. The shift action is transferred via two opposed cables, so every control movement is positively pulling a cable; there's not much slop in it at all.

Because the entire thing is sealed and oil-filled and all the internal load transfer happens via rolling contact, I would expect durability to be very good indeed.

Ratio between lowest underdrive and highest overdrive is nominally 3.6:1 which is pretty damn good for a hub drive. That might vary a bit as it wears, but whether it will get narrower or wider is hard to say.
posted by flabdablet at 4:00 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


a derailleur is a lightweight answer (even with 1950s tech!) to the problem of gears.

Certainly weighs less than my hub does, by a considerable margin. But in the context of a bike like the Big Dummy, which is indeed an SUV of bikes and primarily designed to carry big loads (and at 150kg I am a big load!) that matters a lot less.

What I gain in reliability, robustness and ease of operation as a tradeoff for the extra weight is well worth it, for me. And when it comes right down to it, I get more value by taking a kilo off me than taking one off the bike.

I enjoy zipping around on my steel frame racers

As have I. Not an option at my present bodyweight, unfortunately. Main thing I need is something I won't break when I put enough force through it to haul me and a load of camping gear up a big hill.
posted by flabdablet at 4:17 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Came for the Paul Powerglide, was not disappointed.
posted by box at 5:14 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I hope the cycle industry works out soon that performance optimisations like non-step-through frames, hunched-forward handlebars, skinny tyres, lack of rack and dynamo/lights, and derailer gears are just marginal gains that make cycling less appealing to the everyday person seeking transport.

You're pretty much just talking about road (racing) bikes. City bikes, hybrids, cruisers, mixtes, (and for recreation, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, CX bikes, and fat bikes for snow) are designed to a whole different set of principles.

The Velib'/Dublinbikes/Citibikes have internal hub gears by the way, because they're way more low maintenance than derailleurs (no bent hangers!).

Surprised nobody has commented on what a fantastic name Disraeli Gears is by the way.
posted by kersplunk at 5:16 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]




Started building bikes around the same time, I think, but I am apparently less OCD. This brings it all back.

Special place in my heart for Huret... the Jubilee is the sexiest derailleur of all time.
posted by skippyhacker at 6:38 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


A "new"[1] hotness in bikes are geared hubs and geared bottom brackets. Both have advantages in terms of reliability and cleanliness over derailers[2], but both are heavier and, for the moment significantly more costly. Costly as in, you could buy several basic bikes for what one fancy gearbox costs. OTOH basic bikes are very cheap and within a certain range (under $1000 or a bit more), you do get what you pay for in terms of comfort and ride in bikes.

The sealed gearboxes also allow use of belt drives which make the whole bottom of the bike much, much cleaner (no more calf tatoos!) as well as much greater reliability again and lower maintenance needs.

It all costs money of course. But there are increasingly good options at mid-to-high price ranges now. They're not going to be on any road racing bike anytime soon because of weight issues, but there are major advantages for anyone who races in mud (mountain and cyclocross) as well as for everyday riders who have to deal with road schmutz like commuters.

[1] Geared hubs have been around for decades. The one linked is about 10 years old. Geared bottom brackets are new. So the two systems are seeing a bit of a re/evaluation right now.
[2] RIP Captain Bike.
posted by bonehead at 6:57 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I have spent many, many hours contemplating high-end bike jewelry, though it was decades ago.

The existence of the thing at the link warms my heart.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:40 AM on June 12


flabdablet, you say you've "run and maintained everything from cheap . . to high end," but your follow-up suggests that maybe you weren't doing it right. If two gear changes mess up your setup, something is definitely wrong.

I put thousands and thousands of miles a year on derailleur bikes in a mix of 9-speed (bar ends, on my Surly), 11-speed Ultegra, 11-speed SRAM RED, and 11-speed SRAM eTap, and none of them have required the kind of hothouse-flower treatment you describe. I just clean them periodically.

(I'll definitely own that the 9-speed bar-end setup requires less love than the 11-speeds do, but it also gets fewer miles, so it's hard to say which is the bigger factor.)

So there's a place for hubs, I guess, on big heavy bikes with limited gear ranges, but derailleurs are still the go-to for good reason: they work well and are generally cheaper and a bit more efficient (not to mention lighter). Insisting derailleurs require constant attention is both inaccurate and unfair.
posted by uberchet at 8:01 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I'll give you that pre-1990's derailers were finiky to set up, especially on the front, and I've never been a fan of the un-named groups Shimano setts to department store bikes. But even from Tourney level and up, once set-up properly shifters are pretty reliable. The only times I have to change them are when they get damaged or if I'm changing a rear cluster or something.

I've been running some of my systems for nearly 20 years with thousands of km on them now and they're still shifting just fine, both with Shimano and Campagnolo mid-low end groupsets. My personal Shimanos are indexed bar ends and the Campys are brifters. I've also done dozens of other people's bikes over the years.
posted by bonehead at 8:15 AM on June 12


Uberchet, you might be surprised at the ranges on the modern hubs. Bigger than most road sets for sure, competitive with triple ring sets ups. They're very appropriate for off-road uses. Maybe not gravel bikes, but just about everything else. My major issue with them is that as a shadetree guy, there's really nothing I can do if they have a problem, unlike most derailers.
posted by bonehead at 8:20 AM on June 12


This is a joyful reminder of my teenage years and, hopefully, the year soon that I have enough space in my apartment for a mountain bike. I switched to an internal hub for a while and it was enough to make me pine for exposed, clearly-defined, tweakable ol' gears.
posted by tmcw at 8:32 AM on June 12


bonehead: The Nuvinci wikipedia page quotes a 350% to 380% range.

The drive train on my Specialized Roubaix is (as it came from the factory) 50/34 in front and 11-32 in back, so the max ratio is about 4.5:1 and the lowest is about 1.1:1. That's significantly wider (430%), and the wide-range setup on that bike is super common on endurance-frame road bikes.

My more aggressive bike has an 11-28 and a conventional crank (53/39), so its range is tighter (about 380%). I'd like to tighten it further, to an 11-25, but this is a bike intended for go-fast behavior with a strong rider. Most more casual riders are on a setup more like the Roubaix, which prizes range over smooth shifting transitions.

Triples are pretty rare these days -- I've not seen one in a shop in FOREVER. I think the compact crank + wider cassettes killed them for most applications. Even mountain bikes have mostly gone to 1x11 or 1x12 setups with super tiny front chainrings.

And, of course, the decreased efficiency, higher weight, and higher cost would remain dealkillers even if the range available with sealed hubs was truly an advantage.
posted by uberchet at 8:49 AM on June 12


The best thing about derailleur gears is that you can repair them. The worst thing about derailleur gears is that you must repair them. The very worst thing about derailleurs is that you must wear silly clothes to use them as they are incompatible with regular trousers.

Missing, mercifully, from the Disraeli Gears site, is Shimano's point-and-laugh (and so aptly named) FFS (1982): front freewheel system, where the chainwheels idled and the rear spockets were fixed. I saw it once on a decrepit catalogue bike and haven't stopped laughing since.

I am on team hub gears because I spent most of the 90s and early 00s having to adjust derailleurs on ill-advised recumbents and thus have used up my lifetime bike repair hour allocation. Massive respect to the SunRace 595 on my SWB bike that could index and change the triple-length chain with a satisfying clang.

These days I trundle about on a very refined Batavus, 8-speed hub gears with brakes in the hubs where they belong. It has automatic lights and guards on everything. It weighs more than your bike and you put together. I don't care: it's still the nearest thing to human flight, and it rolls sweetly and silently.

I do have a derailleur bike: a Fisher Sawyer 29er. I would ride it more, but the 2×9 gearing is so low that in top gear I'm spinning out before even getting to a gentle cruising speed. I fear that replacing the geartrain with something more appropriate is far beyond my means as it uses weird splined stuff and I'm far happier grinding the correct taper on a cotter pin.
posted by scruss at 8:57 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Surprised nobody has commented on what a fantastic name Disraeli Gears is by the way.
"You know how the title came about – Disraeli Gears – yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who'd been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric [Clapton] was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went 'Oh yeah – Disraeli gears!' meaning derailleur gears...We all just fell over...We said that's got to be the album title." - Ginger Baker
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:01 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The worst thing about derailleur gears is that you must repair them. The very worst thing about derailleurs is that you must wear silly clothes to use them as they are incompatible with regular trousers.
I really wish the hub zealots would confine themselves to saying true things they like about hubs and stop it with the exaggerated and untrue complaints about derailleur geared bikes.
posted by uberchet at 9:02 AM on June 12


Surprised nobody has commented on what a fantastic name Disraeli Gears is by the way.

Well, I mean, it was the only option for a title. What the heck else was he gonna choose?

...

See? Nothing. No other acceptable title. Ergo, no free will, ergo minimal applause.
posted by aramaic at 9:08 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The Rohloff hub in my first link is 526% while the Pinion front gearbox goes to 568%. One of the main differences is where you want to put the not-insubstantial weight of the transmission, under the bottom bracket or on the rear hub. The MTB crowd seem to like the BB solution the best for handling reasons. But there's absolutely no denying either systems' ability to shed mud compared to a derailer system.

The Shimano Alfine/Nexus products are really aimed at the commuter/Sunday rider market where granny gears aren't as necessary. Some of them even have coaster brakes!
posted by bonehead at 9:15 AM on June 12


The Rohloff hub in my first link is

a truly outstanding example of modern production engineering.

But as a kid I took my Sturmey Archer 3-speed to pieces and put it back together, and seeing as how that involved having to retrieve tiny spring-loaded parts from inaccessible corners of the workshop, just imagining the insides of a Rohloff gives me the cold robbies.

If two gear changes mess up your setup, something is definitely wrong

I might have been exaggerating for rhetorical effect.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Bonehead:
The Rohloff hub in my first link is 526% while the Pinion front gearbox goes to 568%.
That definitely is wider, which is surprising.

I assume this is mostly due to a much lower low gear to accommodate the 15-pound hub?
I might have been exaggerating for rhetorical effect.
See prior commentary. In literally every discussion of hub gearing I've ever seen, the predominate form of hub boosterism is telling lies about the failures of derailleurs. It's a little tedious.
posted by uberchet at 9:58 AM on June 12


I can't remember the model, but one of the weirder ones we ever got through the shop was a derailleur where we went to adjust it, and discovered that there were two shift cables. It was just a normal derailleur, but with a separate cable to move it each direction. Similar to the one seen here.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:24 AM on June 12


One of the true things I like about hub gears is that the fixed chain position makes a fully enclosed chain guard feasible, so that greasy chains don't touch my trousers the way filthy lies about derailleurs touch nerves.
posted by flabdablet at 10:31 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


flabdablet:

I have to say that the 10-spd Shimano Deore setup on my Big Dummy is one of the smoothest shifting and most reliable setups I've ever used but the fact that cargo bags contact the derailleur when they're filled makes a geared hub _verrrry_ attractive. I didn't know you could fit a Nuvinci back there!
posted by tmt at 10:31 AM on June 12


I assume this is mostly due to a much lower low gear to accommodate the 15-pound hub?

No, it's for slow speed technical work on a MTB and for hill climbing, at speeds that aren't necessary on road bikes.

Better folks that I have done comparisons for weight in detail. Between being able to go from a 2x system to a 1x and losing one entire shifter, the weight surplus of the hubs are smaller than than you might naively expect, on the order of 400 to 600g or 1-1.5 lbs. Going to belts over chains save a few ounces more of weight even.
posted by bonehead at 10:33 AM on June 12


the way filthy lies about derailleurs touch nerves.
Whatever.
posted by uberchet at 10:43 AM on June 12


the 15-pound hub

Whatever :-)
posted by flabdablet at 11:10 AM on June 12


Everyone here keeps talking about the problem of making a bike "heavier".

What are you Pippi Longstocking, carrying a horse around town instead of riding it?

I'm the heaviest thing in the bicycle+rider equation. The bicycle carries me!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:19 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


The best thing about derailleur gears is that you can repair them. The worst thing about derailleur gears is that you must repair them. The very worst thing about derailleurs is that you must wear silly clothes to use them as they are incompatible with regular trousers.
Precisely! Derailers are a great default only if you're someone who thinks that all cars should be Formula One and all computers should run Linux in a command-line only mode.

People who insist on derailer gears are the kind of people who cut their toothbrushes in half so they won't weigh as much by the side of their sinks at home.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:23 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


It was just a normal derailleur, but with a separate cable to move it each direction.
White Industries had a derailleur like that in the 90s.
posted by St. Oops at 11:25 AM on June 12


bonehead, geared hubs have been around for well over a century. The first was somewhere around 1905.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:26 AM on June 12


I love this site. What a throwback to remembering what the internet used to be like.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:30 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Just yesterday SRAM released a new cassette with 520% range (10-52 12 sp). These cassettes are a lot more expensive than typical like 8 sp cassettes, partly because the construction is more involved. To save weight the cogs are typically riveted to an aluminum carrier that slides on the freehub. This is a solution that was super sexy for bike needs when it showed up in the 90s, but I am starting to question the wisdom of it since I sheared the middle cogs off the carrier on a climb on my mountain bike last weekend. The traditional solution of solid punched steel cogs with plastic spacers has its advantages.
posted by St. Oops at 11:32 AM on June 12


Everyone here keeps talking about the problem of making a bike "heavier".

It's not an unreasonable thing to worry about, even for non-racers. Some of us need to carry bikes up stairs to our walk-up apartments, or need to lift them onto bike racks.

I don't believe in shaving grams off my commuter (which is why it's kitted with rear rack + full fenders + kickstand) but I sure wouldn't complain if it was lighter.
posted by invokeuse at 11:59 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Generally, the overlap between people who don't understand why bike weight matters and people who have never ridden a sub-25-pound bike is a circle.
Just yesterday SRAM released a new cassette with 520% range (10-52 12 sp).
We should note there that this is a CASSETTE with a 520% range. No front derailleur required, though I'm not even sure it's an option with SRAM Eagle.
posted by uberchet at 12:25 PM on June 12


Generally, the overlap between people who don't understand why bike practicality matters and people who think that a bike is a kind of exercise machine that has pretty views is a circle.
posted by ambrosen at 12:49 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Change gears twice and they fall out of adjustment. Push too hard or not hard enough through a change and they fall out of adjustment. Hit a bump half way through a change and they fall out of adjustment.

...no?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:54 PM on June 12


For anyone who's interested, there's also a Disraeli Gears FB group. I've learned a surprising number of people collect old and weird derailleurs.
posted by adamrice at 1:17 PM on June 12


Also, gearheads should go straight to the weird derailleur section of the site. Pneumatic derailleur? It's there. Automatic shifting? Yep.
posted by adamrice at 1:25 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


It is a true thing that derailleur gears are not for everybody.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:39 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Why no AI derailleurs that just know the right gear to be in?
posted by sammyo at 1:58 PM on June 12


>Why no AI derailleurs that just know the right gear to be in?
The hub crowd already claimed the AI Hub.
posted by k3ninho at 2:05 PM on June 12


It is a true thing that derailleur gears are not for everybody.

I should add that--while beginning in the 70s derailleurs of varying quality were marketed to people who would have been much happier without them--I'm not here to yuck anyone's yum. There are some wonderful devices here worth marvelling over and that's probably the best use of this thread.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:41 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


It is a true thing that derailleur gears are not for everybody.
Which I wouldn't dream of disputing.

However, this post is ostensibly about a fansite for the beauty of derailleurs.

As with lots of things here, though, some folks decided to make the thread about how much they hate the thing the site is ABOUT.

So. Yeah. Whatever.
Generally, the overlap between people who don't understand why bike practicality matters and people who think that a bike is a kind of exercise machine that has pretty views is a circle.
Could be true. No idea how that's germane here, though. I think most bikes are enormously practical -- far moreso in lots of contexts than a car or other motor vehicle.

But bike weight matters a lot even if you're not racing and don't care how fast you go, because most bikes eventually have to be wrangled up stairs or through rooms or onto racks or into trucks.

This is doubly true if there are hills where you live.
posted by uberchet at 2:49 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


sammyo: "Why no AI derailleurs that just know the right gear to be in?"

That "weird derailleurs" page on Disraeli Gears does include a fantastically Rube Goldbergesque automatic shifter that relies on a centrifugal governor to shift. I think there's a reason this is a historical footnote.

It's only recently that this has become technically feasible. It would also be very expensive. There are electronically shifted bikes, and that one feature adds about $1000 to the price of the bike. It could probably be done more cheaply, but it still wouldn't be cheap. You'd need to add to that the smarts to figure out your preferred cadence, and probably a power meter to figure out what load you prefer to shift under (which would make it a lot more expensive again).
posted by adamrice at 3:04 PM on June 12


As noted, there's no AI, but the electronic shifting groups from Shimano and SRAM both have some "smarts" in them that will allow neat tricks.

For example, in Shimano's Di2, you can basically abstract the whole shifting thing, and set it up to just shift up to the next ratio, or down to the next ratio, and not care about whether that shift involves moving one or both derailleurs. This is kind of neat.

SRAM's new AXS group will do some compensatory shifting if you want. By this I mean that you can set it to shift the rear up or down in response to a front-derailleur shift, to lessen the usually-jarring transition of switching between the front two chainrings.

I'm pretty sure both can do lots more, but since I don't ride either I don't have first-hand knowledge.
This isn't "smarts" or anything, but it's also cool to me that when SRAM built an electronic shifting group, they realized that there was no reason to keep the old mechanical paradigm. On eTap, your right shifter button takes you to a harder gear on the cassette, and your left one takes you to an easier one. Pressing both shifts the front derailleur.

This sounds goofy but you get used to it REALLY REALLY QUICKLY.

(Shimano's Di2 controls much more closely mirror traditional cable-pull shifting; they were first to market, so it may not have occurred to them. Shimano's is also more configurable, but still requires wires. With SRAM, the shifting is wireless, which is pretty neat.)
posted by uberchet at 3:34 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Not to derail the discussion, but the Trivia - Music section of the site is amazing.

Look! I found this sweet track called 'Performance' by MC SpandX, which I disagree with on a molecular level, but find fascinating and hilarious.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:27 PM on June 12


I saw a person with a fancy Renovo wooden bike realize the battery for his Di2 shifters was dead and he had to ride the last 60 miles of Reach the Beach in one gear. There are some use cases that make electronic shifting worth it but 99% of the time cable shifting will get you there just as well.
posted by tmt at 4:28 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Those Rohloff hubs look amazing to me, but violate my one basic principle of bicycles—that I can't fathom paying more than $50-100 for a bicycle, and the idea of spending $1400 just for the hub melts something in my brain (hell, that's more than I paid for a car until I was 30). I love my bicycles and have a small fleet dangling in various states of renovation or repose in my workshop, but whenever I see whisper-light high-end bikes, I wish them well, but then happily climb onto my ridiculously heavy Schwinn Speedster and carry on cycling.

I've got a lovely bike I've been riding lately that my similarly bike-mad brother found for me for $60, knowing for my adoration of French geometries, and it's a Mongoose Crossway 250 with a mixte frame that I have never been able to find in their catalog to identify when it was made, except that its apparently untouched new tires have flaking gumwalls from age. I'm unused to indexed derailleurs that are just always, always chittering and chattering and suddenly jumping on hard pedaling, which nearly launches me off the bike every damn time. I usually limp home to make angry anti-derailleur postings on social media, followed by a fruitless search for a 700c wheel with a vintage Sturmey-Archer AW hub before huffily looking for some unhealthy snack to drown my sorrows.

Despite the fact that I drive the Frenchest car imaginable these days and am wild for French engineering, I curse derailleurs every time I get stuck on a bike beleaguered with them. The old friction kind, like my Varsity has, are at least manageable by skill, but the modern ones? Oy vey. Plus, having to clip my pants leg to avoid being sucked into the machinery is a indignity too far. I love them as neat little clockworks to hang on a wall—I've got a set of vintage Campy parts from my too-tall Gitane Hosteller that I just love to look at as art objects—but give me a bike an elderly widow would ride down to the chemist to get six bottles of Fruney's Green Eyewash for a contest any day.

My bikes are generally leaden fifty-pounders, but my approach is to just lose twenty pounds, which makes the bike net thirty in terms of mass I'm hauling around.
posted by sonascope at 8:02 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


the kind of people who cut their toothbrushes in half so they won't weigh as much by the side of their sinks at home

Top tip: if you cut it in half and discard the brush end, the half you have left will take years to wear out.
posted by flabdablet at 8:33 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


You'd need to add to that the smarts to figure out your preferred cadence, and probably a power meter to figure out what load you prefer to shift under (which would make it a lot more expensive again).

Aren't most phone bike computers already collecting that information (at least the ones being used by people paying a $1000 premium for shifting)? Cadence, velocity, grade and acceleration would get you most of the way there. Add a pressure transducer in the peddles to get chain tension and it should be possible to determine "best" shift points. Individual users could train their system with manual shifting until the machine is anticipating one's shifts. One wouldn't even need a separate cadence meter, you could get that information indirectly from the pressure information.
posted by Mitheral at 8:36 PM on June 12


The old friction kind, like my Varsity has, are at least manageable by skill, but the modern ones? Oy vey.

Seconded. My old touring bike - the one I used to commute on daily, before I got heavy enough to need a Big Dummy - has friction Campag levers on the bottom tube pulling open cables, and beside being lovely things to touch and as lightweight as you'd ever get, these did indeed allow me to compensate for most of the quirks that the various makes of derailleur that have been on that bike over the years would exhibit on long rides.

It's always seemed to me that the best thing about derailleurs is extreme simplicity coupled with the fact that operator skill is required to get the best out of them; executing perfect shifts on friction-lever derailleurs yields the same kind of joy as making perfectly rev-matched, passenger-imperceptible shifts in a manual car. It's all about the dance.

So when I see manufacturers devoting so much engineering to the attempt to eliminate that skill altogether, I do get sad. Stopping a front derailleur from scraping on the chain should require only the barest touch on an analog control lever, not endless roadside fiddling with a balky indexer in a doomed attempt to persuade it to do that job properly all by itself under all conceivable riding conditions.

I dunno. The idea that a bike should be this Platonic ideal of a machine that just does everything for you strikes me as weird. I like my bikes to feel more like prosthetics designed to overcome my body's congenital wheel deficiency, and the more direct is the control I have over the operation of the drive train, the easier it is to keep that feeling.
posted by flabdablet at 9:11 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Well, times they are a changin. Used to be a skilled bike mechanic with a set of tools that could be had for under $2000 (for good tools mind you) could fix just about anything on any bike.
Nowadays, what with electric shifting and gear boxes and hydraulic brakes and pedelec batteries and proprietary this and discontinued that forget about it.
Yeah, derailleurs are kind of a dumb way to change ratios what with everything exposed to the elements but at least one can just look at the setup and diagnose problems. I hate front derailleurs as much as the next guy but acknowledge that they fulfilled their function with aplomb and you didn't get back clusters with cogs as big as dinner plates and wonky chain lines.
posted by St. Oops at 11:56 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I've got old-school friction gear shifters on my touring bike handlebars and, even though it took a few kilometers to get used to them (I wasn't around in the 70s so I've never used them before), I really appreciate their benefits touring around Europe.

Like some others here, I was never keen on adjusting indexed click-style shifters. Now I just adjust on every gear change, and havent touched my rear derailleur in 3 years and tens of thousands of kilometers. Just need to clean and replace the little wheels once in a while.

I wouldn't recommend them for mountain biking, of course.

This website is fantastic.
posted by romanb at 12:33 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


I have a fair number of old derailleurs: mostly Suntours, including Sprints, Cyclones, XC9000s, XCpros, Superbes, and Superbe Pros; some Shimanos, all old style DuraAce except for one Crane, which has a very long cage and looks ridiculous; a number of old Campagnolos that I don't remember the names of except that earlier this evening I found a 2 gal jar sitting on a shelf in a closet that had three Rallys in it plus the Shimano Crane.

It was dumb (and in retrospect more than a little antisocial) to buy all those although they were really cheap in Seattle back in the mid 80s to early 90s because of the existence of Recycled Cycles and a few other shops such as 2nd Ascent, and Wright's Bicycle Co-op. I never really even came close to putting the vast majority of them on a bicycle; it was like I expected to fission into several clones and devote large fractions of our lives to putting together and riding classic steel bicycles. Freewheels were really cheap too. I bought GOK how many Suntour New Winners and XC Pros and a clutch of DuraAce; Recycled Cycles was selling the Suntours for $1 apiece and the Shimanos for not that much more. I thought the indexed stuff was just garbage. Of course that's not true, but it felt like it to me, and I stopped buying when they displaced the older style from the stores.
posted by jamjam at 1:56 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


The worst thing about derailleur gears is that you must repair them. The very worst thing about derailleurs is that you must wear silly clothes to use them as they are incompatible with regular trousers.

It's more like "the bikes sold on the American market are incompatible with regular trousers because things like chain guards/mudguards/rack/lights are treated as aftermarket extras"? There are solutions for this; the SKS Chainboard is an aftermarket chainguard that works pretty well and isn't obtrusive, even on a triple front chainring.

And European "trekking" bikes manage to combine the relative utility of a city bike with the range afforded by derailleur gears (if you live someplace with steep hills, having low gearing makes a difference, and a Rohloff hub costs as much as a decently-equipped derailleur-geared bike). I have a Dutch Gazelle that came with fenders, rack, chainguard, frame lock, dynamo hub and lights as stock equipment...and a Shimano Deore groupset instead of a Nexus or Alfine hub. Never had any issues with getting my trousers caught in the chainring.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 4:37 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]



It’s absolutely true that the gains you get with electronic shifting — speed, essentially eternal consistency, lighter touch — come with their own trade off: the battery (or batteries).

Di2 really has no fallback position. There’s one central battery, and it’s on you to keep it charged. You’ll go months or riding between charges, but you do have to pay attention. Probably 20% of the non-puncture mechanical faults I’ve seen on group rides in the last 5 years are of the “oops, didn’t charge my Di2” variety (generally from the same small number of people, honestly).

This is another place SRAM had a better idea. On eTap, each derailleur has its own battery, and they’re identical — and trivial to swap, so if you find you forgot to charge, you can swap the front for the rear and get home, or at least get to a more palatable gear. Each derailleur also has a little LED that flashes on every shift; the color tells you the charge level. No app required. (I think I’ve seen maybe one or two eTap failure on rides in that same time period.)

(The shifters have coin cells in them that you should probably replace annually.)

As for friction shifting, well, it’s been 30 years since I rode a bike with friction shifting or downtube shifters, and I would not go back to either. Keeping my hands in the cockpit is way more comfortable to me. My Surly has (indexed) bar ends, and they’re fine if you’re, or don’t care about smoothly shifting up a hill or whatever, but the minute you’re in a pack they get kinda terrifying.

St. Oops, your “back clusters with cogs as big as dinner plates” have returned on a new mountain bike at a store near you. ;)
posted by uberchet at 5:42 AM on June 13


Imagine if people told you only kit cars were practical because everyone has to haul their car up into a third-storey flat.

Campaign for secure at-street-level cycle parking, folks.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:38 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


For the record, I have ridden lightweight frames before. It was the most uncomfortable experience I've ever had on a bicycle. My weight was thrown forward onto my wrists, inflaming my RSI, and I couldn't ride while sitting straight up properly. Taking one hand off the handlebars to indicate caused the damn thing to swerve to the other direction, and I couldn't brake on the rear wheel half the time while turning because it didn't have backpedal brakes; indicating meant I always lost access to one set of brakes!

And hunching forward put pressure on my perineum in a way that was singularly unpleasant, and put strain on my lower back. And without a step-through frame, coming forward off the seat meant I nearly always rammed myself between the legs. Why is that style of frame gendered for "men" again? I have to believe they are only referring to cis men, right? It doesn't add up.

And since it had derailer gears, I couldn't just come to a stop and crank from top gear down to bottom while waiting at a stoplight. I had to rattle through the whole set under crank power, which apparently meant lifting the back wheel to do it. Is that why you people faff about weight so much? It was the primary reason I had to come forward off the seat, which never worked out properly.

And let's also not forget that it did not come with a chaincase, mudguard, lights, or ring-lock. It was a specialist piece of racing kit that people call a "road bike" as if it's the obvious choice for taking a trip on local roads.

I will say that the combination brake handle and gear-shifting mechanism was kind of neat, if fiddly and easy to get wrong. How long do those things last, compared to a bog standard hub gear clickbox?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:47 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


SRAM make a cool two-speed hub with automatic shifting and backpedal brakes. I rode a hotel bike in Copenhagen once that had it, and it was kind of a dream having everything driven by the pedals without any fiddly cables to require maintenance. Once you got enough torque into the hub you could feel it shift up, and the moment you freewheeled for a full rotation it'd pop back down again.

This meant that when you were at speed, you'd spin wildly for a little bit before it "bit" again, but it still worked out rather well. And it doesn't need fancy computers to work out when it's time to shift.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:51 AM on June 13


Electronic shifting has been a boon to those of us with special needs. I'd dreamed of electronic shifting since I started riding in the early 70s. Now I have SRAM etap, and it's wonderful for me. Link to what I did just in case it can help others.

But back on topic, DISRAELI GEARS is so wonderful. I love that I live in a time where I can see this love and attention someone has brought to a field I enjoy so much. Thanks!
posted by cccorlew at 7:22 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Sounds like you rode a lightweight bike that was also absolutely not set up to fit you at all, but sure, blame the weight for things unrelated to the weight.
And since it had derailer gears, I couldn't just come to a stop and crank from top gear down to bottom while waiting at a stoplight.
Also not weight related, but yeah, you do have to follow the instructions. Derailleur gears work differently than hub gears.

The "pick up the rear wheel to shift at a light" thing is a fallback measure. I rarely ever do it, because lights are predictable. You just shift down before you get there.
How long do those things last, compared to a bog standard hub gear clickbox?
Given that I've only ever SEEN a very few bikes with hub gears, it's weird to call them "bog standard" as if they were the norm.

But your question: How long to modern integrated shifters last? In my experience, thousands and thousands of miles, minimum. I'm one of those people with super caustic sweat, so my right shifter failed "early" due to corrosion at about 8,000 miles. I also had to replace the handlebar at that point. (You should have seen my trumpet in junior high.)

If you don't have that gene, though, it seems like they last indefinitely. I know folks who ride quite often (so, > 5K a year) on bikes with 5 or 10 year old shifters, so think in terms of tens of thousands of miles.

Actually, having glanced at your user page here and seen your screen about "I aM nOt a CyClisT", I get the idea now that you're hostile to the whole NOTION of a good chunk of recreational cycling, and probably see this thread as a chance to get on your hobbyhorse about how bad the very thing the post is about is.
posted by uberchet at 10:43 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


A local collector showed a few vintage bikes with the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa 4-speed derailleur. It worked with two levers down to the rear hub.

One lever unlocked the quick release axle, so the the wheel could move forward or backward in the dropout. Riders unlocked it while riding! The frames had cog teeth in the dropout so the axle would stay straight in the frame.

Now use the second lever to push the chain onto a different sprocket. Then re-tighten the axle with the first lever. Amazing!

Scroll down halfway for photos of a Legnano bike with this setup.

And here's a youtube video with the shifter in action. It works better than I expected.

---------------
Electric shifting

My Shimano Di2 electronic shifting has been fantastic. No maintenance, just keep track of the battery charge level. I can instantly shift, even under load, and the front shift is quick and drama free. For riding on rolling hills, I'll shift just for a few pedal strokes, then shift again. I'm never in the wrong gear now.

Auto shifting:
It would be tricky to have the bike shift by itself, and work correctly in all situations. I suppose it would be mostly for casual riders.

Is there a hill just ahead? Am I riding all-out, as fast as possible, where I want a fast spinning cadence? Or riding on a slight downhill and picking up speed, but I don't need to shift, just coast for now. Or my legs are tired, so I want to shift one easier gear than normal. Or I'm coming up to a stop sign, so I want an easier gear when I take off after the stop. It's complicated.

The Sram manual shift method is simple for new riders: one shift lever is harder pedaling, the other is easier pedaling. But even the Di2 with two buttons on each side is quite easy after a few rides. It becomes quite automatic, I barely think about shifting.
posted by jjj606 at 11:14 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't recommend them for mountain biking, of course.

Yeah, this is why I would never go back to friction shifters whether it's on the downtube or on flatbar thumb levers or bar ends, and I'm a bike tourer. I can ride friction shifters just fine, I just don't like them, but I'm ok with tuning my indexed gears on the road.

I'm basically running what amounts to a gravel bike with flat bars and big doofy bar ends like I'm riding a 1992 StumpJumper, and I do a lot of dirt climbing and cross-country riding.

Apparently there's a name for my kind of bike now and it's called X-biking. Not quite road, not quite gravel, not quite cyclocross or cross-country, not quite pure touring, either. X-bikes are basically old school mountain bikes without suspension and a taste for the tarmac and speed. Business in the front and party in the rear, a bike mullet.

Oh dear I'm going on a nerdy bicycle cockpit rant to explain why I love my indexed MTB trigger shifters and flat bars.

My bike is basically is almost the same thing as an old school pre-suspension mountain bike but with skinnier 700c tires and a road bike-ish geometry that's more forward and aggressive than an old school 26" MTB with a saddle that's a bit higher than my cockpit and bars just like a road bike. If you put some gravel or touring drop bars with brifters on it it and took off all the touring hardware and racks it would basically look and ride like a traditional road bike or maybe a cyclocross bike except for the triple chain rings and MTB style drive train.

I really want my gears to have positive tactile shifting, and I want rapid fire triggers and fast shifting. The SRAM X5 is stupid fast on the gear changes and when tuned it competes with electronic shifting. I might actually be able to go from bottom to top and back again even faster than electronic shifters because of SRAM's logic and high spring tensions and the fact I can ratchet and rip through multiple gears at a time, even shifting front and back simultaneously. Yeah, going "down" as in releasing spring tension, vs ratcheting it up or storing tension is still one click per gear but going up I can jump all three gears in the front in one throw and like 5-ish at a time in the back, and I can spam the hell out of the one-click-per-gear downshit so fast it'll crawl right across the span of my rear cassette practically in one cassette rotation or pedal rotation.

I don't really know how SRAMs X-series systems do this but every other indexing system I've used (mainly Shimano) has to wait for more cogs/gear teeth to pass for their weird cog bumps and offsets to kick the chain over to follow a derailleur shift.

I can maintain positive control of steering, braking and shifting without ever shifting my grip when things get technical or twisty. I also want to be able to reach my brakes from any hand position, including an outside grip on the bar ends. I even use the doofy gear position indicators on my trigger shifters so I don't have to look down between my legs if I get lost about my gear combo.

I wouldn't trade my slightly unusual cockpit and configuration for anything. It's taken me years to dial everything in just how I like it, and since I'm running what amounts to a flat bar MTB style cockpit, everything can be adjusted independently, so my brake levers, index triggers, bar ends, ergo paddle grips and bar ends all can be adjusted to whatever angle I want. Even the "flat" bar riser angle can be tweaked for optimum comfort and function.

The ergo paddle grips and bar end combo is a particular favorite touch. The grips are actually upside down "backwards" as in the right is on the left and vice versa so they're inverted from the suggested install as found on a comfort or townie bike. it's like all the best parts about a flat bar with bar ends and bullhorn bars with lots of different hand positions, some of which resemble riding on the brake/brifter hoods of drop bars. The "upside down" install of the ergo grips also gives me a grip that is also effectively the same as a round-grip MTB flat bar for great off road grip, but with a flat surface from the paddles that flows into the bar ends that's also like the flat/aero/ergo top bar found on modern drop bars or trekking bars.

The end result is that sitting on my bike is practically more comfortable than sitting on a couch. There's no hot spots in my hand positions, my saddle and pedal reach is just so, and I can rip through gears one at a time or many at once with precision when I'm shifting between climbing, descending or flats all while keeping precision off road steering, braking and grip when things get weird and bumpy and rough.



Also, a general indexing derailleur tip and advice - if you're having trouble tuning an index shifting system there's a couple of common problems that people overlook:

If you have a bent derailleur hanger or bent rear derailleur cage, you'll never get it adjusted right. People bend their derailleur hangers all the time by dropping their bike on the drive train side or bashing it on something and easily overlook it, and derailleur hangers are usually pretty affordable and a quick replacement.

Seriously, if your index system is giving you issues inspect your hanger. If it's bent or twisted even a little, replace it. If you're even in doubt and you've dropped it on the drive side at all and your indexing is giving you problems, replace it anyway.

You can usually replace it without breaking your chain or taking it off or taking the wheel off, just shift down to your lowest/slackest chain position, unbolt the derailleur and move it gently aside, unbolt the old hanger, put on the new hanger and re-hang the derailleur on the new hanger.

I've had indexed shifting problems just disappear by doing this and found that I didn't need to adjust or re-tune anything at all, it was just a bent hanger. I actually started carrying a spare on tours and put it in my tool bag because they're really usually that affordable and it's a small but important part that's really kind of meant to be a consumable part like chains, tires and tubes. Hangers are usually made out of soft cast aluminum because they'll bend before your frame dropouts and hopefully before your derailleur frame and cage.

Similarly if your derailleur cages and frames aren't aligned well on the downtube or hanger you're going to have chain path and indexing problems, and these things also get bent or shifted around on their mounts.

If your chain is stretched and needs replacing it also will cause problems with index shifting.

And if your derailleur cable is stretched or unlubricated it will also cause problems with the return or tension springs having to work too hard, and no amount of barrel adjusting will fix it.

The procedure for tuning index shifting varies from system to system depending on the "logic", IE, top normal or bottom normal, the place that the spring puts the derailleur when there's no tension on the shifting cable but there's usually a basic step by step procedure that involves dropping your derailleur to the "normal" spring-is-released position, unbolting the cable, setting your gear stop to that point, retensioning and bolting the cable and then adjusting to the "sprung" stop on the other end. This presumes a good chain and cage alignment and all that.

Once you figure out the procedure for your drive train it gets a lot easier to adjust and tune index shifters because it's not actually wizard magic, but that there's a step by step thing that needs to happen so that adjusting those high-low stop screws actually get set to the right places, the cable gets reset to the right tension and neutral barrel adjuster positions and everything is lined up right.


And I have one more derailleur tip for the bike tourers, cross country and other off-road riders - whenever you get off to push and walk your bike up a hill, portage or carry through rough terrain like tall vegetation, weeds, grasses or bramble, woody log-strewn areas, rocky areas or anything that you might catch or bash your rear derailleur on - take a moment to shift your rear derailleur to the smallest/fastest cog to tuck in your derailleur up high and tight against your dropouts and frame, even if you have to do it by hand by lifting your back tire and spinning the pedals.

And when you re-mount, remember to reverse this and manually shift in place to a larger/lower gear if you're going to resume climbing.

Why? Usually when you get off your bike to push or portage through an area your derailleur is in your largest/lowest climbing gears and your rear derailleur is just sticking way out ready to get snagged or bashed by something.

I have bent hangers by pushing my bike through vegetation and other terrain and not paying attention to this while on tour and portaging to a stealth or off piste camp location, and it doesn't take much when the rear derailleur is at full extension for a large climbing gear. A good stout piece of grass wrapped up around it can be more than enough force, not to mention tougher bramble or vines, roots, bashing it on a rock or log, etc.
posted by loquacious at 12:13 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


SRAM make a cool two-speed hub with automatic shifting and backpedal brakes.
SRAM made the Torpedo hub developed by Sachs and acquired along with the rest of their bike component catalog in the 90s, but ended production a year or so ago to focus on the premium market.
posted by St. Oops at 12:23 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Apart from being lighter than the alternatives, the benefit of roller chains and derailleurs is that they're really efficient. A high-quality, well-maintained drivetrain is 98% efficient, which is crazy good. Internally-geared hubs are not as good (Rohloff claims theirs is, but I am skeptical). Even a crappy, out-of-tune drivetrain is probably about 85% efficient.

The human body makes for a weird motor. We can develop a huge amount of torque, but very little power. A world-class cyclist can probably develop as much torque as the engine on a small car, but can only sustain an output of about ⅗ horsepower, which is less than the engine on a chainsaw. So we need drivetrains that won't fail under load , but won't rob us of much power. If you're commuting a few miles, you might reasonably say "I don't care about burning an extra 5 watts, I could use the exercise." But that is part of the calculus. If we had power to burn, we could have shaft drives on bikes, which have been done, but are heavy, inefficient, and expensive.
posted by adamrice at 1:23 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Another video of a Campagnolo Cambio Corsa 4-speed derailleur equipped bike mounted on a stand and showing a gear change (at 2:30). Insane to think of doing this rolling down the road.
posted by Mitheral at 1:41 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


THAT IS AMAZING.
posted by uberchet at 3:52 PM on June 13


A high-quality, well-maintained drivetrain is 98% efficient, which is crazy good.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on CeramicSpeed's "Driven" shaft drive, which they claim is 99% efficient and also lends itself to protective/aerodynamic encasement. Still too fragile for prime time for the time being, though.
posted by flabdablet at 2:06 AM on June 14


uberchet, you seem to be making this personal now, which is disappointing. My point in this thread is that derailers are cool racing kit, but a terrible default for everyday utility cycling. I wasn't the first to make the point in here, but I seem to be the target of a lot of frustration from sport cyclists who seem to think that any mention of utility cycling is "sport erasure" or something?
  1. "Sounds like you rode a lightweight bike that was also absolutely not set up to fit you at all" — No, it was adjusted to my height, but riding hunched forward is simply uncomfortable for me. I typically ride bolt-upright with no weight on my arms and shoulders to avoid pain, and the very idea of drop (or even straight, after a while) handlebars is an excruciating ordeal for me.
    But consider the very notion that a bike needs to be completely re-engineered for each rider. Imagine if we said that adjusting the seat wasn't enough to drive someone else's car, and you had to have the entire driver area re-built to fit their specific body. This seems like more "marginal gains" thinking, to me. It makes sense for an olympic competition, where swimmers are sewn into their custom low-friction suits, but could you imagine if we defaulted to that process for each trip to a municipal swimming pool?
  2. "Given that I've only ever SEEN a very few bikes with hub gears..." — To a first approximation, all bikes are single-speed or hub-geared. Nearly all of the bikes you see in the Netherlands, Denmark, China, as well as every municipal hire bike system out there is hub-geared. Go anywhere that people cycle in great numbers, and you're drowning in hubs. And I can hop on any of these hire bikes in just about any city in the world and they work great for me. I don't even need to think about it!
  3. "I get the idea now that you're hostile to the whole NOTION of a good chunk of recreational cycling" — Nonsense. I cycle recreationally and socially as well as for ordinary transport. The "I am not a cyclist" motto came in reaction to omnipresent press coverage where "cyclist hit by car" headlines covered up the tragedy by reducing the victim (who was a son, daughter, sister, brother, etc...) as "a cyclist" (making it sound like some kind of partisan dogma such as "communist" or "fascist") and reducing the culpability of the driver by attributing the killing to the weapon itself.
    If I die on the roads, I don't want to be remembered as "A Cyclist" but as a father and campaigner for safer streets.
  4. "a chance to get on your hobbyhorse about how bad the very thing the post is about is." — Again, these derailers are gorgeous, and the novel shifting systems are really fun to look at and learn about as arcane Heath Robinson devices, and the efficiency gains are no doubt essential for competitive racing. I'm just frustrated that when you go into a bike shop to buy a commuter bike, so many of them have derailers on instead of more sensible hubs.

    Incidentally, you do know that "hobby horse" was a derisive nickname for the earliest bicycles, don't you?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:44 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]



It’s not just you, hobo. But review how you’ve handled any positive mention of derailleur shifting here — again, in a thread literally ABOUT a derailleur fan site — and try to see why your posts may be frustrating.

You don’t like them? That’s fine. But that doesn’t make them an objectively terrible choice for utility cycling. The lower cost, higher efficiency, and lower weight are all pretty great advantages.

1. A significant chunk of what you complained about in your previous past is directly attributable to either fit or geometry, not bike weight or gear tech. Conflating these issues in your anti-derailleur crusade is misleading at best. Your car analogy is kind of absurd, since one is MUCH more physically engaged with the act of riding a bike than with driving. There’s 8 inches of height between my wife and I, but the only change required when we switch drivers is seat pitch. I couldn’t ride her bike comfortably with any amount of changes.

2. Hub gears predominate in the areas you prefer to cite? Maybe. In the circles I live and ride in, they’re nowhere except on the muni bikes. If i had to ride a muni style bike every time I rode a bike, I probably wouldn’t ride at all — those things weight as much as a Camry and handle like a Best Western. Imagine how much more cycling joy all these people might have if they had access to better bikes!

3. That’s not what the “I am not a cyclist” comes off as, buddy.

4. You buy the slow, inefficient, clunky bikes you want. Nobody says you can’t. What’s annoying and frustrating is the fact that this thread descended into slagging on the very tech the post was *about*. So you don’t really have any room to be “disappointed” or “frustrated” when someone pushes back.
posted by uberchet at 5:49 AM on June 14


  1. I have 8 inches of height difference between my family members and I, as well. I put swept-back handlebars on a refurbished Royal Mail bike and a quick seat-adjustment is all that is needed to switch between my wife riding it, me, or our child. Utility bikes don't require this kind of "sewn into the swimsuit" model, for some extremely good reasons. This is a very real disadvantage of selling racing bikes for everyday transport.
    And what's more, the utility bike can also carry dozens of kg of shopping or other cargo without prior preparation.
  2. The areas I cited are the only areas where mass cycling happens to a measurable degree. To a first approximation, numerically, no one else rides a bike. It's a simple fact that in areas where everyone cycles, the bikes are comfortable upright utilitarian vehicles instead of lightweight hyper-optimised racing machines with razor-blade saddles.
    And in the Netherlands many people do have both kinds of bikes. They prefer to commute on the standard "granny bikes" (their word: "omafiets"), and keep the carbon fibre weight-weenie machines for special racing excursions. I think your take on comfortable practical bikes is born of your own biases rather than an actual look at the data.
  3. To you, perhaps. Your comment here "comes off as" projection, to me.
  4. Again, I was the third or fourth person to say "Wow these derailers are beautiful and cool, but boy howdy are they impractical for anyone who isn't an utterly dedicated sport cyclist." This was already the topic of the thread when I joined, and befitting of the admiration of these clever objets d'art that we were fawning over.
    It would be similarly on-topic to discuss the impracticality of runway models' heels in an article about a fashion show, and the negative effects that had on footwear sold to the public.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:42 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


[hobo, chet, may be time to take this side discussion to MeMail?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Hey everyone let's not derail this thread.
posted by romanb at 9:56 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


That ship sailed with flapdablet's fabulism, waaaay uptopic, and that's precisely what I was complaining about.

But whatever. I see the bias here.
posted by uberchet at 9:58 AM on June 14


Hey everyone let's not derail this thread.
Romanb deserves a thousand favorites.
Hub gears and derailleurs both have their place. In Stockholm bikes account for seven percent of journeys today and I'd estimate that deraileurs are equipped on about half of those bikes, and on a clear majority of those traveling more than 5km, and maybe 90% of journeys over 10km. And no, the hub gears are not all Rohloffs, but rather Sturmey Archers, Shimanos, older SRAMs or even older SACHS or similar. I spoke wrong before about the SRAM automatic 2 gear hub: it was the Automatix, not the Torpedo. They were kind of weird in that they were available in two spoke counts designed for 2 wheel diameters, with different spring rates for triggering the shifting mechanism. If you laced up a rim of inappropriate diameter for the hub, it shifted all crazy. I put together a fleet of these someone else had ordered with 24 inch wheels, which was halfway between the designated sizes, and they didn't shift until you were up over 20km/h, way too high gearing for urban runabouts.
posted by St. Oops at 1:01 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Today I learned there are rabid fans and detractors of derailleurs and geared hubs. I also learned that they used to have a grease fitting for the bottom bracket on Italian race bikes, WHICH MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I also learned that there are geared bottom brackets which make less sense. Geared hub is unsprung weight behind where the bodymass of the motor is and requires a weird wheel rather than a weird frame...

I also learned I am tri-lingual, English, French and Italian, when watching you-tube videos about vintage racing bicycles and their components.

I have learned, the hard way, spending a lot of money building a bike returns a larger investment the cooler the bike is. My old Electra Townie 21 was not cool, and is now just done. Bent chainrings, warped wheels, ovalled bottom bracket. The Shimano indexed thumb shifters, replacing the stock triggers, are still miracles of engineering, as is the threadless headset and fixed fork upgrade. Bap-bap-bap-go-go-go! I need a new bike, gonna build it from the frame up to last, so I can hand it over to any hypothetical grandkid.

You are all beautiful human beings and others... let's ride bikes!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:57 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


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