Everybody remembers the Shimano Santé groupset for its pretentious name, its pretentious white colouring and its embarrasing pretentions to attract a new high value consumer to cycling. Shimano didn’t help by claiming that Santé had a ‘high-tech look of pure precision’. Hmmm...
In our bike shop, we certainly struggled to work out how to get the e-acute to appear correctly in Pagemaker on our new Apple Macintosh computer. We also struggled to ‘attract a new high value consumer to cycling’ - particularly as the UK had just plunged into recession following Black Monday. Norman Lamont may have been singing in his bath (or was that on Black Wednesday? How many times a week did Norman bathe?) - but that didn’t help us sell any Santé.
Look beneath the lustrous hype and the Shimano Santé is one of the most innovative and influential derailleurs in recent history. Its all-over-painted look set the tone for Shimano’s road derailleurs for the next decade, and marked the road product out as looking distinctly different from the mountain bike equipment. It dispensed with the external Allen bolt head on the front knuckle for the first time. It had ceramic bushings in its pulley wheels, and was the first Shimano derailleur to support seven speeds (even before Dura-Ace). It had a plastic ‘pusher plate’ on the flange of the outer pulley cage plate to make changing smooth and silent. It is tiny in a way that previous Shimano road derailleurs were not, but Ultegra most certainly was.
And it was innovative in other ways, even though these may not have caught on. It has one adjustment screw in each knuckle, like a Gian Robert. The pulley bolts do not show from the outside and the outer cage plate is an intricate casting.
Santé was dismissed at the time as a groupset for dilettanté poseurs, but I have noticed that nearly every Santé derailleur that I have ever seen has had heavy use and a thorough dose of road rash. Ebay is hooching with mint examples of Dura-Ace 7400 and Record C, but, strangely, Santé seems to be out there putting in the miles. Beauty must suffer.
This example is the ‘mid length’ pulley cage version. For some (probably very good) reason it has a 10 tooth guide pulley and a 9 tooth tension pulley.