Window Shopping

Not too long ago I lauded the 10-speed friction shifting on my newly-finished Milwaukee:

Well, I shouldn’t have to tell you that the Great Lob On High does not let such hubris stand, and of late I’ve begun to experience some ghost-shifting when climbing. While perhaps this is some fundamental issue with using friction and 10-speed shifters together, I suspect it may be the derailleur, for when I grab it and move it side to side it’s all wiggly, like a loose tooth:

None of the other derailleurs I have in service exhibit nearly this much play (or in fact any at all), and having subjected this drivetrain to foul conditions that have already worn out the front chainrings and previous set of pulleys, it would not surprise me if, like its owner, its simply worn out and tired and ready to be consigned to the parts bin. Again, it could be some other problem, but given all that slop it’s not hard to imagine it moving enough to auto-shift when I’m climbing, my diminutive power output notwithstanding:

[I measure my power output in DFUs.]

While I can certainly scavenge another derailleur from my vast holdings and at the very least test whether or not this is indeed the problem, it’s still tempting to window shop. The derailleur performs a crucial function on a bicycle, and yet it’s also kind of like your bike’s earring, because it just sort of dangles there and is thus an opportunity to make a fashion statement. I never really fully appreciated the manner in which the derailleur acts upon the psyche of the bike dork until I read this by Grant Petersen, in which he points out that people will judge an entire bicycle by its rear derailleur, and yet there’s really very little functional difference between a cheap one and an expensive one. You can pay like $20 for an Altus:

Or like $400 for a Campagnolo Super Record:

Yes, obviously with indexed systems they’re only going to be compatible with certain shifters, but if you bolt them to a bike with friction shifters most likely you’d never know the difference. Not only that, but thanks to the whole Campagnolo Aesthetic Inversion thing that happened around the time they went to 11-speed, the Super Record derailleur is also several times uglier than the humble Altus, which despite its weirdly embiggened pulley has a certain understated elegance.

Indeed, Grant’s article inspired me to buy an Altus myself–and yet I’m such a victim of the very phenomenon he describes that so far I have not been able to live with it for very long, either on the Eye of the Tiger Bike:

Or on the Faggin:

I mean it kind of hit the spokes on the Faggin in low gear, and I’d probably still be using it on the Eye of the Tiger Bike if Paul from Classic Cycle hasn’t sent me a snazzy XTR derailleur, but the fact is that he did, and I put it on there faster than you can say “RapidRise.”

So let’s set aside functionality for the moment and lean into the idea as the derailleur as fashion accessory. Just for the sake of today’s post, let’s take a break from sifting through the parts bin and instead browse aisles at Bergdorf Goodman. What’s going on out there in the realm of the derailleur-as-status symbol?

Well, having spent some time with the Campagnolo C-Record derailleur I will admit it’s perhaps one of the most beguiling components I’ve ever used (in addition to being impressively overbuilt), and here’s one that can be yours for under $800:

I had one working just fine on a 9-speed bike (didn’t even hit the spokes), and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it could handle 10-speed too. Still, that’s about as much as a Super Record electronic unit:

Though an electronic derailleur is about as appealing to the mechanical derailleur enthusiast as an NFT is to an art collector.

Regardless, whether you’re shopping for new or vintage, high end or low end, Campagnolo pricing follows its own logic–or, more accurately, the logic of Campagnolo enthusiasts, who are about as logical as oenophiles on laughing gas. Also, oddly, Campagnolo Record 10-speed derailleurs are still available new from a number of online retailers, though they’re quite expensive:

In fact they’re more expensive than current Super Record mechanical derailleurs:

This makes no sense, unless you judge them entirely by their appearance, in which case it totally makes sense.

Of course, if you’re looking to impress the handlebar bag set, you’ll get more indie cred out of something like this:

It’s nowhere near as pretty as Campagnolo and it’s actually made by Simplex, but you may get some Gen Z-er who has a mustache and rides a Crust to admit he had no idea Mavic used to do derailleurs.

Anyway, when someone wants $250 for a boring-looking derailleur like that just because it’s French and was popular in the 80s like Gérard Depardieu, it can make spending $160 on something like this seem like an absolute bargain:

You may recognize the Huret Jubilee from David Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers:”

I may be old, but I’m not that old, so I have no idea how a Huret Jubilee would work on a modern bike. For the same price you might be safer going with a SunTour Superbe Pro, which will be a lot more familiar mechanically and yet still make Crust guy cream all over his frame bag:

Ever since Peak Fixie, hip cyclists have loved SunTour, since it’s not made anymore, but it’s not quite so old they can’t pretend they weren’t already familiar with it.

Less obscure but still full of vintage panache is this hopped-up Dura Ace unit:

Though the bang-for-your-buck winner is probably the long cage Shimano Crane, which is perfect for your gravel bike:

Or just go normcore with the MicroShift, whatever works for you.

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