Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Un bref historique de retrofriction Simplex

In the 70's and 80's, one of the most popular off-sponsor upgrade seen in the pro peloton was the Simplex retrofriction lever. Where the Nuovo Record might slip from the frame wrenching inflicted by a pro rider, the Simplex Retrofriction would hold its gear while allowing effortless shifting. Where traditional shifters relied solely on friction to hold the derailleur in place, Simplex utilized a novel spring clutch mechanism - pull back and the friction plate is disengaged, while the spring holds it in place when pushed forward, giving a balanced feel in spite of the pull the rear derailleur spring.

There were a few versions of the Simplex. Introduced in 1973, the mechanism lived for a very, very long time under a different of guises and vendors.

It'd be easy to label the first of the Simplex levers to be the above left, with the weird growth on their bottoms, and the example on the above right, with an internalized spring to be the more recent. Unfortunately, this may be incorrect, as the right example is detailed in their 1974 catalog, followed for the next 7 years by goitered example. In 1981, the clean hidden spring version returns. If you're looking to outfit a bike of the period, I suppose, technically, you'd be safe with either example. They were also availbale in gold and black anodized aluminum, as well as a delrin version.

By the 1981 catalog, the lever shape changed to the "tear drop cutout" shape. I believe this version was introduced in 1978 or 1979.

A few different brandings of this lever are found. The unmarked version was sold both as Simplex and Mavic. In the late 70's, Simplex was a member of the Spidel "collective", and labeled it's levers as such.

While this is the last lever people often associate with Simplex, there were a few versions that came after.

The front shift lever supplied with the Mavic Zap group was produced by Simplex. Simplex also sold a pair of these in the early 90's.

The Mavic Mektronic front lever might just give a view in to what might have happened had Mavic been first to introduce integrated shifters, instead of Shimano. Retrofriction lever sort of grafted on to the side of the lever body. Every time I'm in a less than optimal gear on a Shimano equipped bike, I wish I could have the infinite trim afforded by this sort of setup.

There were more variants! Gipiemme sold a version of the Simplex retrofriction lever, and I'm sure others did as well. Have any cool examples to share? Drop me an email with a picture! is a phenomenal resource. If you ever find yourself looking for a catalog, check it out - chances are good you'll find something there. It's also a great place to get lost in exploration!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mavic Tools

Here's something you don't see every day - the "full" Mavic tool kit.

Being a something of an out-ed Mavic nerd means I get contacted from time to time by other Mavic fans, either working on cool projects or who have some obscure/hard-to-find item they're looking to pass along to someone who'll take good care of them.

That description fits me to a T. You've got Mavic stuff you want a good caretaker for, I'm your guy.

I was contacted a bunch of months ago by someone who came across the blog who had been carting around a Mavic toolkit since the 90's, when a well equipped shop might actually have one of these. Now my relatively well equipped (work)shop does, and I'm really excited to put it all to use.

Some of the tools are familiar - or at least, tools you've heard about, while some of them aren't as common. Here they are, along with pics of them in use where I could find them.

The Mavic bottom bracket cutter is probably familiar to most of you. It was sold in pieces, designated 652 (cutter), 653 (centering cones), and 654 (the handle). This one has two sets of centering cones mounted. They're reversible to handle cutting English/French or Italian sized bottom brackets. (Yes, I know French and English aren't the same size, but for the purposes of the centering cone, they're close enough.)

The drift is Mavic's 6703.

Mavic's 6702 bearing set. Used to gently persuade bearings in to bottom brackets.

6704 hub bearing set.

The 670 bearing adjustment tool. Used to install, remove and adjust bearing covers on the Mavic hubs and bottom brackets.

The 6705 bottom bracket installation wrenches.

These are actually LOOK pedal wrenches, used to remove the outer bearing covers on the early Delta pedals, like Mavic's 646 LMS.

The 671 and 672 headset wrenches, used with the 300/310 series headsets.

Finally, the 6701 pedal bearing set. Used to insert the bearings in to a variety of Mavic pedals.

The foam in these toolkits is always deteriorating, some 20 years after they were manufactured. I have an empty spare toolkit case that sooner or later I'll cut replacement foam for.

What are the compressor/vacuum fittings for in the topmost pictures? Another project altogether! More on that shortly...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mavic's first cassette hub - the 570

Mavic's first "successful" cassette hub was the often talked about (on here at least) 571. The 571's design was similar to the other hubs of the era - a driver with a spline pattern, cogs held in place by either a threaded outermost cost (571) or a lockring (571/2).

The 571 wasn't Mavic's first cassette hub, however. That distinction goes to the MRL 570 hub. Also known as the Z-Hub, the 570 was an interesting, albeit quirky French take on the cassette.

Where a modern cassette would have its splines, the 570 has threads - what might be called by some an Acme thread, they're similar to the threading often seen on the lead screw of a lathe. Mavic made a number of claims about design that were of specious validity. The design of the 570 (and the 571, 575 and 577, for that matter) allowed the cassette driver to be removed from the hub using only hex wrenches. This, Mavic claimed, would allow you to have drivers loaded with cogs, ready to go for quick changes of your gear ratios. Aside from the fact that spare drivers were non-existent, one attractive quality of a cassette is the ease with which you can swap cogs - having a pre-populated body doesn't sound all that attractive. The 570 also had its issues. The driver was prone to splitting - perhaps it was machined rather than forged, and the loads it sees either from cogs snugging themselves down too far or through torque could cause it to crack perpendicular to the threads.

It was also possible for the cogs to overtighten, making their removal a chore - and given that they all threaded on, it was easy to land in a situation where you needed to wrestle all 7 cogs off by hand. Fortunately there was a tool to hold the cassette mechanism in place, lest that 7th cog stay on there forever...

A cheap hub this was not. With a retail of close to $400 with a front hub and alloy cassette, it's no surprise there aren't many to be found.

The 570 was available for a year or 2 before it was replaced by the much more refined 571.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Drillium restored

I just realized the URL's for the drillium articles I posted 6+ years ago (!) were 404'ing. If you were looking for them, I changed the links to copies I had - for once I had the insight to save backups.

New posts soon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A box-sectioned eulogy

Not that long ago, the cobbled classics were an anomaly in the cycling calendar. While a team might employ the same frame, component and wheel choices for 95% of their race calendar, the month or so bounded by semi-classic Omloop Het (Volk, Nieuwsblad) and Paris-Roubaix was a special time. The ubiquitous, obvious choices went out the window, replaced by cobble specific setups. Custom frame geometries, cantilever brakes, doubled-up seat clamps, chain catchers, aluminum rims—a myriad of hardware rarely seen outside of the season. For the tech-junkies among us, it was an assault of unique, purpose driven bikes, and it was glorious.

By the early oughts, teams stopped with the total insanity the 90's had introduced in to these races—the Rock Shox and full suspension rigs replaced with frames like Specialized's Roubaix, or in some cases, teams employing cyclocross bikes. Sure, there'd was the occasional one-off custom, carefully hidden under paint, but they became the exception rather than the rule. The last bastion of unique was the rim.

Up until the last handful of years, box section aluminum rims were the only option for the cobbles. Rims like Mavic's Paris-Roubaix SSC dominated. As the supply of SSC's dwindled in the late 90's, the Ambrosio Nemesis became the rim of choice. A similar extrusion to the SSC, it was easily identified by its polished brass badge, supposedly placed to compensate for the imbalanced introduced by the drilling of the valve hole, but just as likely there to make sure no one would question what rim you were really looking at—for although everyone knew they were being ridden by a majority of the peloton, only a handful did so without some token attempt at rebadging them.

The last few years have been unkind to the box section. To butcher a quote often credited to Andy Hampsten, it would seem the only thing scarier than riding the cobbles on carbon rims is not riding the cobbles on carbon rims. The past three years have seen all of the cobbled classics won on carbon—the last win on an aluminum rim was Boonen's in the 2009 edition of Paris-Roubaix. The SSC, Nemesis or similar aluminum box section, once the rims of spring, have been largely replaced—and while 6 out of 9 of the last cobbled classics wins came on Zipp 303's, the other wheel vendors have also gotten in on the wins as well, including Mavic, Campagnolo and HED. Their reputation for fragility, whether ever warranted or not, has fallen by the wayside as they've demonstrated they're ready for the rough stuff.

2012 saw few aluminum box sections actually hit the cobbles, being mostly relegated to spare wheels or also-ran teams. Mavic tubulars, in particular, are few and far between, save a relic or two riding neutral support. While we'll probably a few of these aluminum shod wheels around next year, their day seems to be coming to a rapid—and unfortunate—end. So long old friends.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Campagnolo Doppler Tech Notice

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Less spoken about is the value of a drawing.

Often the source of head scratching is the orientation of the dished spring washers for the Campagnolo Doppler retrofriction shifters. Do the two washers nest in to one another, or are they opposing? Do they face inward or outward?

The above information notice, dated April 30, 1987, should answer those questions once and for all - they nest in each other, with the convex side facing the frame boss.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1999 Mavic Mektronic Catalog

So just the other day I found myself at dinner with former French pro Jacky Durand. The sole non-French speaker at the table, I spent a pretty ridiculous amount of time nodding and smiling when I really had no clue what was going on. In between stories I'm pretty sure were about Jacky's mom dropping her friends on rides on the farm and how the sound of a pig being slaughtered can carry for kilometers, I picked up an all-too-familiar story about Mavic Mektronic. Power lines in the distance, Jacky related, were a sure sign that he and anyone else in the peloton stuck riding Mektronic were about to be in for a sufferfest - the system, when encountering interference, would cause the derailleur to reset it self, dumping them in to the smallest cog in the back.

Apocryphal or not, hearing Durand (and watching him act out) the effects of this on his performance were very comical - the guy can tell a story. I never got to play with Mektronic when it was new, given what it cost. I've since acquired a couple of sets, but haven't been able to bring myself to use it - a combination of fragility, obsolescence, and stories involving my already poor climbing abilities suffering in the presence of overhead power lines have killed any curiosity I once had about what it was like to ride.

Should you find yourself in possession of a set, and feel motivated to give it a try, I hope these manual pages come in handy.

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