DISRAELI GEARS

1960s

Sanko Procyon PV-III derailleur main image SunTour Gran-Prix derailleur main image Shimano 3.3.3. Wide black derailleur main image

With the dawn of the new decade the pull-chain derailleur was dead and the parallelogram design was the only game in town. The very last new pull-chain designs that I am aware of are a 1960 Sanko H-2 and, naturally, the 1960 Simplex Juy Record 60.

In simple terms this was a decade in which:

  • The Italians perfected the art of making bicycle jewellery, Campagnolo’s Nuovo Record set new standards for combining unjustifiable expense, beautiful finish and extreme desirability. This was not machinery, it was a proper luxury good, to rank alongside a Maserati motorcar, a Gucci handbag and a pied à terre in Monte Carlo.
  • The French perfected the art of obtaining money for old rope. The Huret Allvit and the Simplex Prestige are two of my all-time least favourite designs. They were vaguely acceptable in the first few years of the decade - but a disgrace by its end. Nevertheless Simplex and Huret manufactured them in their millions and continued to do so well into the 1970s. Unlike the Allvit and Prestige, I have a soft spot for the sheer simplicity of the Huret Svelto, but you couldn’t consider it to be an eloquent expression of the design engineer’s craft.
  • The Americans perfected the art of selling derailleur bikes to the general public. Spearheaded by Schwinn, the ten speed became a consumer product, an essential wall-hanging in every suburban garage.
  • The British - well - the British perfected the art of being vacuously cool, turning on, tuning in and dropping out. It was the swinging sixties, with Twiggy climbing in and out of a (small wheeled, full-suspension) Austin Mini and Alex Moulton swanning around on his iconic (small wheeled, full-suspension) Moulton bicycle. At least Eric Clapton was fancying buying a racing bike - and I believe Mick Jagger enjoyed a spot of cycling too.
  • And finally, and without anyone in the West much noticing, the Japanese were perfecting the art of designing and manufacturing a decent derailleur. Sanko were the first to manufacture an aluminium parallelogram derailleur, SunTour invented the slant parallelogram and introduced the SunTour V series and Shimano cleaned up Simplex’s design, rebranded it as a ‘Servo-Pantagraph’ and manufactured it with commendable competence and in steel (as the Shimano Skylark), defining the low-end derailleur for the next four decades.
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