In 1962 Lucien Juy, the boss of Simplex, made one of the most radical decisions in the history of the derailleur industry - he decided to make his entire derailleur range from a new wonder material - plastic. He did not do things by halves - instead of dipping in a toe and using the odd plastic part - he jumped in up to his neck and made the entire parallelogram - both knuckles and both parallelogram plates - out of polyoxymethylene (which Du Pont branded as ‘Delrin’). It was a bold, dynamic, modern and, ultimately, disastrous move.
The first plastic model was the Simplex Prestige (532). It is often billed as being a plastic interpretation of the Simplex Juy Export 61, and there are many similarities. The overall geometry is much the same, it retains the ‘dished’ outer pulley cage plate with its asymmetric pulley wheels and high and low gear adjustment is by thumb-wheels.
There are also some differences, the cable clamp is located on the front knuckle, not the outer parallelogram plate (as on the Juy Export 61). The cable clamp mechanism uses a grub-screw system rather than the nut and washer on the Juy Export 61. These both feel like retrograde steps. However, the Prestige 532 is, as Lucien Juy promised, devastatingly light weight.
Most of all, though, the Prestige (532) lacks the feel of precision and value that the Juy Export 61 exudes. It feels clunky where the Juy Export 61 is svelte, the fittings are not nicely chromed, the plastic is - well - plastic, the pulley wheels do not have the two-part brass bushings etc. etc.. And as for the twinkly golden logo, you don’t know whether to suck it like a boiled sweet or wear it around your neck on a leather thong as a mood stone.
It’s hard to see you wanting to fit the brutalist Simplex Prestige (532) to your elegant 1960s Reynolds 531 frame with its pencil thin seat stays and delicately chromed ends.
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