Shimano M2?

Shimano MX5? main image

BMX was probably born somewhere in California, sometime in the 1960s. But it only became a craze that swept the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is hard to credit it, but BMX was literally everywhere at the time. The mainstream bicycle industry was left stunned and confused.

Both SunTour and Shimano responded by releasing very successful ranges of luridly coloured BMX hubs, BMX pedals, BMX headsets etc. etc.. But both the Japanese mega-brands also released rather less successful,BMX derailleur systems.

A 'BMX derailleur system' is a slightly contradictory concept. The essence of a BMX bike is bombproof simplicity. Derailleur systems are always just slightly fragile and complex. But the notion that the Japanese engineers alighted on was that, for a very few seconds at the very start of a BMX race, the rider could benefit from a lower gear. Once up to speed, the rider would move into the normal gear and batter around the course as per normal. So the design brief called for an extremely simple, robust two-speed system.

Shimano designed two parallel options. The first was a rear derailleur system combined with a two-sprocket freehub cluster. The second was a double chainwheel and a rock-crushing front derailleur. Theoretically these two systems could be combined to give a four speed BMX transmission - but I can't remember ever seeing this. Instead I always considered them as two alternative solutions to the same problem. Shimano quickly seemed to form a preference for the double chainwheel option. But the notion did not survive exposure to reality, within a very few years Shimano decided that any kind of BMX derailleur system was madness, and both options disappeared forever.

Shimano produced two very similar, but slightly different, versions of their BMX rear derailleur. The higher-end of these two was the Shimano SX (MX10). This had a 'main arm' that was a substantial piece of well chromed steel. It mounted outside the dropout and was clearly and prominently branded. It was operated by a rather techy-looking metal lever lever with the product code, you guessed it, SL-MX10. The Shimano SX (MX10) was widely marketed world wide as a serious piece of BMX racing kit.

This example is the lower-end version. It had a slighter, zinc-plated 'main arm'. I believe that it was called the 'Shimano M2'. It mounted inside the dropout. I believe that this version was fitted as original equipment on some 'BMX-style' children's bikes made in, and only marketed in, Japan. This derailleur was operated by possibly the weirdest gear lever in the history of the world. It was a wide handle rather like the electric switch that Dr Frankenstein used to bring the monster to life. Like the Shimano SX this was a 2-speed system. You pulled the gear lever once to shift down, you pulled it again to shift back up etc.. This massive gear lever was mounted on a sci-fi plastic box fitted to your stem bolt. This box (obviously) also included a funky horn and some kind of zany lighting system. Only in Japan.

Shimano MX5? additional image 01
Shimano MX5? additional image 02
Shimano MX5? additional image 03
Shimano MX5? additional image 04
Shimano MX5? additional image 05
Shimano MX5? additional image 06
Shimano MX5? additional image 07
Shimano MX5? additional image 08
Shimano MX5? additional image 09
Shimano MX5? additional image 10
Shimano MX5? additional image 11
Shimano MX5? additional image 12
Shimano MX5? additional image 13
Shimano MX5? additional image 14
Shimano MX5? additional image 15
Shimano MX5? additional image 16