Super Champion

French Patent 736,594 Addition 45,572 - Super Champion main image French Patent 992,273 - Super Champion Mondial 45 main image French Patent 1,009,039 - Super Champion Super Mondial main image

Super Champion was the derailleur brand of Oscar Egg, one of the giants of cycling history, and a man who should surely have had best pals named Horace Herring and Mr Potato Head - but I digress.

Oscar Egg was an outstanding Swiss track rider who set the World Hour Record three times before the First World War. To round out his palmares he won stages of both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. He is also something of a hero of the Human Powered Vehicle movement as he built recumbent and fully faired aerodynamic bicycles between the two World Wars.

Oscar Egg owned a bicycle shop/workshop in Avenue des Grandes Armees in Paris. In 1932 he introduced the Champion derailleur, a device which involved a derailing fork mechanism attached to the seat stay and a chain tensioner that was attached to the chainstay just behind the bottom bracket. This was a similar design to a 1928 Vittoria.

Oscar Egg refined this design over the next several years. In 1933 the derailing fork moved to below the chainstay and the name changed to Super Champion. By 1935 the Super Champion had assumed its famous form, with the chain tensioner attached to the base of the downtube. This gear was enthusiastically adopted by the racing fraternity, and it was largely pressure from Super Champion, and Super Champion users, which cajoled the Tour de France organisers into allowing derailleurs into the Tour from 1937. The 1937 and 1939 Tours were won using Super Champion derailleurs, with the 1938 Tour being won using the conceptually similar Vittoria Margherita. The famous legend is that derailleurs had such an impact that the last rider in the 1937 Tour averaged the same speed as the winner of the 1936 version. The effect on the cycle racing world was immediate and substantial, Frank Berto reports that Oscar Egg sold over a million Super Champion derailleurs in the period from 1932 to 1939.

In addition to his racing derailleurs, Oscar Egg also introduced touring models, the Super Champion Route and the Super Champion Grand Sport, these were derailleurs with two pulley wheels that attached to the chainstay. However designs that used pulley wheels never really captured Oscar Egg’s interest, and as the derailing fork designs (deservedly) fell out of favour, Super Champion ended up licensing twin pulley designs from other manufacturers. By the mid 1950’s Super Champion had stopped making derailleurs.

In addition to his derailleurs, Oscar Egg made extravagantly cut out lugs, and branded them as Super Champion. I have a fanciful notion that the famous Super Champion aluminium rims (including the much loved Model 58 touring rim) may have been produced by the descendant of Oscar Egg’s company - but I have no evidence for this aside from the fact that they are both French, share the same brand name and used a somewhat similar type face in their logo. The Super Champion rim company was taken over by Wolber, perhaps in the 1980’s, and I think Wolber, in turn, was taken over by Michelin, perhaps in the 1990’s. Wolber continued to use ‘Super Champion’ as a sub-brand until possibly the early 1990’s.

In Britain Super Champion derailleurs were imported by the Constrictor Tyre Company and rebranded as Osgear.