09 October 2014


These days, shift levers are curved pieces of metal with cylinders at one end.  The shapes vary somewhat, and the ones attached to brake levers (e.g., Campagnolo Ergo and Shimano STI) are longer.  But, for the most part, they don't call attention to themselves. 

Probably the most elegant shifters ever made were the "teardrop" retrofriction levers Simplex made during the 1970's and '80's:

Next in my beauty contest are the Superbe Pro levers SunTour produced during the 1980's"

Some might say they look even better with the gum-rubber hoods SunTour offered for a time:

I'd probably want those hoods if I were going to install the levers on Vera, my British Racing Green Miss Mercian.

Campagnolo Record levers of that era also had a fairly understated design:

unless some bike maker decided to re-fashion them:

Now, some would argue that an Olmo of that era simply wouldn't be an Olmo without those shifters.  I wouldn't disagree, though I've never owned an Olmo.

I've never owned a Schwinn Sting-Ray, either.  That's probably a good thing, considering the shifter that came with it:

I can't help but to wonder whether it has something to do with the decline in birth rates.   Supposedly, the shifter "clicked" or "indexed".  It's hard to imagine how that was accomplished with the derailleur that came with the bike:  a Schwinn-branded ("Schwinn Approved") Huret Allvit.

In a way, though, I can understand why that shifter was used on Sting-Rays:  the bike's designer was invoking the spirit (or something) of "muscle cars" from that time.  I guess some kid could push or pull that lever and imagine himself on the track at Daytona or something.

But there's no such excuse for this lever, which was made for adult bikes:

If you think somebody cannibalized a Simplex "Prestige" derailleur and glued parts of it to the tops of these lever, you'd be right--sort of. After all, these levers were made by Simplex around the same time they were making all-plastic derailleurs.

And then there are these levers that dare not speak their name:

The "333" on the sticker means that Shimano made them, probably during the 1960's or early 1970's.  SunTour's components were sub-branded "888".  How these companies came up with those numerical designations, I don't know.

One way you can tell it's from that period is the red adjuster knobs and trim.  Both Shimano and SunTour--as well as a couple of other less well-known Japanese manufacturers--made derailleurs and other components with red trim or even small parts. That practice seems to have lasted only a few years, and no one seems to know what inspired it.  The "rising sun" of the Japanese flag, perhaps.

I wonder whether it will work with Campagnolo cassettes. ;-)


No comments:

Post a Comment