Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simplex Retro friction Shifters Part 1

With this posting I am trying to compile all the info I could find on the history of the Simplex retro friction shifters.

above; All of the retro friction levers I am aware of

Simplex introduced retro friction shifters in 1972 and continued producing them for a number of different brands until 1995 when the company went out of business.  During their production, they were manufactured under 4 different brands, Simplex, Spidel, Gipiemme and Mavic.

The first available retro friction shifters were the bar-end version in 1972 and were a part of SLJ groupset

First generation clamp-on SLJ shifter exploded diagram

The first generation of these shifters were available in two of Simplex's groups, LJ and SLJ.  These shifters were available as either braze-on, clamp-on or bar-end.  These shifters differed only by the material the shifter bodies were made of.  The internal parts were identical for both models.  The LJ model was made using delrin, a black plastic that was also used in the LJ group's derailleurs.  The SLJ model and its group derailleurs were made of aluminum.  Both of these shifter were marked with a Simplex 'S' surrounded by a star.  The feature that makes these first generation shifters different from other incarnations was an extra nub at the bottom of the shifter.  This nub held the spring mechanism in place.  The nub was removed on all future versions of the shifter, as the spring was later mounted pointing up the shifter body handle.

This appears to be either a dealer or commercial add for the LJ groupset featuring the delrin retro friction shifter.


Second generation SLJ retro friction shifters were nearly identical to the first generation.  They shared the same logo and lever handle shape, but the nub that held the spring was removed as the spring was re-positioned into the shift lever.  This change likely took place by 1975.  The levers did not change again until around 1983 when the shifter handle was re-designed.  Simplex also made a re-branded version of the LJ shifter for Gipiemme that bore a less impressive logo.  Both the LJ and SLJ levers were also included in groupsets sold under the Spidel name, however, the shifters were not re-branded as the derailleur in these groupsets often were.


above; the SLJ shifter without and the LJ shifter still with the nub

Also available during the both the first and second generation of the SLJ shifters was a gold anodized version, which was likely produced to match the anodized versions Mafac 2000 and competition brakesets and levers.  Shown below is a photo of a boxed, nos, gold, anodized SLJ groupset and  more diagrams of the second generation retro friction levers.

NOS, boxed, anodized, 1st generation Simplex SLJ groupset

Part 2 of this post will show the final versions of these shifters.

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