Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

15 November 2016

"Check" Out This SunTour Derailleur

When I first became a dedicated cyclist--more than four decades (!) ago--a common perception among cyclists was that "if it's good, it's from Europe".  Or, at least, it was built (as the Schwinn Paramount was) from European equipment such as Reynolds 531 tubing and Campagnolo components.

As I became more involved in cycling, that belief started to change, at first with derailleurs.  For many of us, one of our first revelations was shifting the SunTour or Shimano derailleur on someone's Fuji or Nishiki or even Vista. (Yes, a bike that was a cheap imitation of the Schwinn Varsity had a derailleur that shifted better than the ones on bikes costing five times as much!)  When we wore out or broke our Simplex Prestige, Huret Allvit or Campagnolo Valentino derailleurs, we replaced them with a Shimano or, more frequently, a SunTour model.  Sometimes we didn't wait:  We changed our derailleurs as quickly as we could.

From the time I outfitted my Schwinn Continental with a SunTour GT, I rode a number of different SunTour, and a few Shimano, derailleurs on my bikes.   And, because I worked in bike shops, I felt as if I had seen every model SunTour produced through the 1970s and '80s.  It seemed that the only cyclists who wouldn't ride Japanese derailleurs were those few who remained unconvinced of their superiority, or were simply snobs.  (The most expensive SunTour derailleurs typically sold for about as much as the least expensive Campagnolo models or mid-range offerings from other European makers--and shifted better.) The rest of us rode happily with our SunTour, and sometimes Shimano, derailleurs--sometimes on otherwise all-European bikes.

I used the iconic, successful SunTour derailleurs such as the Cyclone (first version and MK II), the V and Vx series and  the almost-otherworldly Superbe Pro. I also  saw the commercial and technical failures like the Superbe Tech L (the derailleur that started SunTour's downfall) and the ones which were well-designed and -made, but came along at the wrong time, like the S-1 (S100).   And I installed and adjusted any number of derailleurs like those of the AR series, which came on many bicycles during the 1980s.

I really thought I had seen them all--yes, including the "Love", "Hero" and "Chroma GX".  Today, however, I came across a SunTour derailleur I've never before seen.  

A seller in Poland listed it on eBay.  It could mean that the "Checker" was sold only in Europe or other markets.  Or, perhaps, that it was so short-lived that only a few found their way into other countries.  

At first glance, it looks rather like the SunTour AR II of the early 1980s.  At least, it has a similar main parallelogram and knuckles, though the Checker's body is closer to the mounting bolt than the AR's.  Also, it has a cable mounting outside the parallelogram, instead of the inside-the-parallelogram mounting of the AR (which I never liked, apart from its looks).  And the finish looks similar.

I am guessing, though, that the Checker--for which I couldn't find any information--was made later than the AR series because the Checker is made to be used with SunTour's indexed gearing systems, which weren't yet made at the time the ARII was produced.

With a name like "checker", though, I have to wonder what its intended purpose was.  A retro pedi-cab, perhaps?  A Peugeot?  Or maybe it was intended to rhyme with the name of another derailleur.  That would make for quite the slogan:  Checker The Pecker!


  1. Looks like they are trying to get back into that business, This even tempts me to replace my old campag rally which has seen better days but I only have six max cogs to play with...


  2. That is truly one I've never seen before. Though as you point out, under the unusual name, there are a lot of familiar details.

  3. Coline--I knew more than a few riders who had full Campag bikes and replaced the rear derailleur with a SunTour--usually a Cyclone or, later, a Superbe.

    Brooks--You probably know more about SunTour than anybody on this side of Frank Berto. So I don't feel so ignorant in not having known about the Checker before the other day!