cycling utah October 1998
By Greg Overton
Weíve been going through the Classic Corner basement lately, you know, doing that annual pre-Velo Swap cleaning. Itís the usual, "Oh, We need to look for some of those, a few of these, and whoa how did we end up with so much of that?" But the idea for this issue struck as we encountered some of the oddball and dare we say goofy stuff still finding a place down there.
For instance, there is the long-before-GripShift-plastic Modolo plastic rear derailleur from the Kronos group. This was around in the early Eighties, and was indeed the lightest group on the block. All you guys probably had one, right? Well, if you want one, weíve got the light plastic shifters and brake levers, broken. How about the plastic headset? Got that too, broken. Surprisingly, the rear derailleur is in tact along with the very cool Delta style brakes. These are very compact, triangular shaped centerpull brakes that, well, slow down your progress a bit, but hey, when do you actually stop in a race?
While that Modolo group was the lightest sum of parts, there were individual pieces that were lighter. The Huret Jubilee rear derailleur was, and we believe still is the lightest ever. And in our opinion, itís probably one of the prettiest ever. Very simple design with absolutely nothing superfluous, and to top it off, some of them even had drilled cages. Our best recollection of the weight, not that weíre into that, was less than 100 grams.
At a similar weight was the CLB ceramic brakeset. Not sure if they are actually ceramic, but they are actually very lightweight. There is no pivot bolt, the mounting bolt acts as that part, and the caliper arms themselves are scary light, all mounting hardware is "high tech" aluminum. Calipers and levers weigh about as much as one current dual pivot caliper. How do they work? See "when do you stop in a race" reference above.
Enough of the weight weenie stuff. Some of the other oddball parts have nothing to do with weight saving. Like the Avocet headset. Yeah, the cyclocomputer guys used to sell components also. In fact, they had a crank and bottom bracket that was top notch, but this headset was a little strange. The top and bottom cup/race assemblies were each one piece essentially held together by the bearings. Itís like the thing was machined around these odd cylindrical bearings. itís quite cool and very weather proof, but kinda tough to press in and adjust. There were no threads, just a sort of cone shaped spacer to center the top cup assembly, and then a regular threaded crown nut.
Speaking of no-weight weenie components, how about the Campagnolo Gran Tourismo rear derailleur. All steel construction, this thing is the size of a small cat, and probably out weighs it. But itís so beautiful to look at with its big curvy cage, chromed finish and engraved surfaces. Sticking with Campy, how about those SGR clipless pedals? Once again very beautifully designed and finished, but apparently constructed of cast iron. Compare these to the other end of the spectrum, Aerolites and thereís probably a pound difference per pedal. But aesthetically, forget it. The SGR is chromed and beautiful, probably typically bulletproof as well. The Aerolite is a spindle covered with plastic, looks like the pedal is broken and most of it is missing.
Then there is the Cinelli M-71 clipless pedal. The first of the clipless pedals, from the mid seventies. Kinda looks like an adaptation of a regular track pedal. Cool to have, death trap to use.
Got some weird stuff from little known companies like Galli. This Italian component maker was into anodizing big time. While Campy, Mavic and the rest were anodizing beautiful finishes on their products, Galli went kinda nuts. There is the orange derailleur, and the blue brakes. Gold headset, and red brake levers, or the crank combining all those colors. Wow guys, thatís really pretty.
Hereís a different idea from Gipiemme, another Italian company: A front derailleur with no clamp to attach to the frame, no braze on attachment either. Nope, if a builder wanted to use this gem, he had to braze in a threaded fitting like a bottle boss to the side of the seat tube because this "high tech" baby just bolts right on. Imagine the framebuilder trying to guess what chainring size to place the hole for.
We love this kind of stuff here at Classic Corner, even though we make fun of it, and a lot of it would never find its way onto our bikes, it is still fun to try figuring out just what the idea behind something goofy was.
Not that more current products are exempt. Can you say Biopace, Dynadrive, Air shifting, or Zap? Oh wait, Zap is back for 1999 (see the Interbike story by Editor Bob).
And there arenít many totally original ideas out there, either. One need only look back a few years to Roval wheels to see the idea of Cosmic/Shamal/Rolf wheels of today. And integrated shifting can been seen from Suntour over a decade ago. They were too goofy then to be taken seriously. But air shifting, now thatís the next big thing. Happy Riding!