Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friction Shifters

There are really only two shifters that I am considering using on this bike.  Rivendell silver (Based on Suntour ratchet shifters) and Simplex retro friction shifters.  Both of these shifters have their own benefits and detractors but I am pretty much set on the retro fiction shifters.  I have used Suntour bar-end and thumb ratcheting shifters for years, so I am very familiar with their feel and have no issue with them.  The Simplex shifters I am not familiar with.  I have used other Simplex shifters before, but not retro friction.  I basically want to just give them a try since they come so highly recommended by many bike aficionados and in my opinion they look much nicer than the Rivendell shifters.

above; Rivendell Silver shifters (Suntour ratcheting shifter copies)

So far I have acquired three different sets of the retro friction shifters.  The first set I found at a local DIY/used bike part shop.  They are first generation delrin (black plastic), which were a part of the Simplex LJ group.  I have been told by a fellow cyclist that despite the fact these shifters are made of delrin, they still function just as well as any of the other retro friction shifters.  Delrin components tend to have a bad rap which I feel came from the derailleurs Simplex was manufacturing in this same parts group.  I myself have snapped a rear Simplex derailleur made of delrin when adjusting the limit screws, but the derailleur was on a 1974 Peugeot, so I wouldn't exactly call a derailleur that has lasted for longer than I've been alive to be of poor quality.

left; Simplex LJ shifters. right; Simplex SLJ shifters.
The other shifters that I have to choose from are the aluminum, Simplex branded SLJ model and Simplex made for Gipiemme, GPM Crono Sprint 870BC, which I am waiting to receive in the mail.  The main difference between all of these shifter are looks and weight.  The internal mechanism is identical in all of these shifters, with the main difference being that the spring in the black, LJ model is upside down, which is the reason for the extra nub protruding at the bottom of the shifter.  Simplex likely made this change to save on material and a small amount of weight.  I think there was also a sort of inadvertent benefit to the original design as well, in that with the spring being somewhat shielded by the screw, less gunk was able to infiltrate the spring. 

Top; shows the first retro friction design with the spring wound into an extra nub 
on the shifter.  Bottom; shows later version with spring incorporated into the shifter lever.
Another note about the Gipiemme branded levers is that they have a separate shifter stopper which is clearly less bulkier than the one incorporated in the original Simplex shifters.  This will likely make the Gipiemme lever the lightest of the retro friction levers.  The entire shifting system also appears to be completely enclosed within the shifter.

above; Gipiemme GPM Crono Sprint 870BC

In a future post I plan on compiling a sort of history on the retro friction lever and all of it's incarnations.

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