Batteries Not Included

Yesterday evening, riding home on the Hudson River Greenway, I came across the aftermath of a nasty-looking collision. The police were already on the scene and I didn’t want to get in the way, nor did I want to stand around snapping pictures, which felt sleazy and disrespectful. However, I did allow myself to rubberneck as I passed, and one of the people involved was on one of these things:

Now, I know the old saying: “When you jump to conclusions you make an ass out of you and me.” So I know I shouldn’t assume that it was the scooter rider’s fault. Also, the scooter rider looked pretty hurt, and I hope he’s okay.


These things go fast. Really fast. What started out as some little motorized gizmos that were supposed to replace short car trips has now morphed into people in body armor speeding by you on the bike path at 30mph looking like they’re mining for precious minerals on the surface of an alien planet. Then mere yards from the scene of the crash you’ve got these bruhtzes whipping around on electric dirtbikes or something:

And by the time to get to the George Washington Bridge it’s basically all gas-powered motorcycles:

Interestingly, riders of high-powered electric “micromobility” gizmos almost always wear full-faced helmets, whereas riders of unregistered gasoline-powered motorcycles almost always wear no helmet at all. I have no particular feelings about this, mind you, I’m merely documenting their folkways.

As for my feelings about fast-moving motorized contraptions on the bike lane (be they powered by electricity or gasoline) I’m not sure what to do about it, and at this point I don’t know that there is anything you can do about it, but it’s really starting to suck ass. All over the rest of the country it seems like people are increasingly turning to gravel riding and mountain biking because they no longer feel comfortable on the roads, but here in New York City we’re getting close to the point where instead of riding in the bike lane you’d rather ride in the street where it’s “safe.”

Moving on, this is a derailleur blog now, and a commenter yesterday mentioned this:

What is the point of weighing an electric derailleur without the battery?

It makes about as much sense as a “wireless crankset:”

But yes, in its useless battery-free state the latest Super Record derailleur–which is probably the most expensive derailleur you can buy apart from that bizarre Jan Heine thing–weighs only slightly less than a long cage SunTour CX Comp derailleur from the late 1980s:

Which is the next chain-moving device we’ll be looking at in the increasingly tedious Classic Cycle 21st Century Friction Shifter Shootout:

Now, obviously the SunTour is better than the Super Record Wireless unit in every way–and if you don’t believe me, go buy a Super Record Wireless derailleur and see if it’ll work on any of your bikes. But how does it stand up to the other derailleurs in our test? Well, despite its age it’s got all the modern features, including the much-vaunted slant parallelogram, which of course SunTour invented:

It was also designed to work with an indexed system:

I know firsthand that it didn’t click very well because the Rock Combo came with SunTour so-called “Accushift” shifters, and it’s a good thing the rear one had a friction mode because it indexed very poorly indeed. Furthermore, when I changed the rear wheel to Hyperglide, I found that the XC Comp rear derailleur would hit the spokes when in the lowest gear on the 8-speed cassette. For this reason alone, I was skeptical. However, looking at the inboard side of the cage, it did seem like the profile was a lot smoother than the one I had been using, so maybe there was hope:

Indeed, my skepticism turned out to be unfounded, and once mounted there was no spoke contact. Here’s the derailleur in the large cog and small chainring:

And here it is in the large cog and large chainring:

Obviously this is quite a stretch for a long-cage derailleur meant to wrap a triple-length chain, but I doubt it’s enough to cause any damage if I were to shift into that combo by accident.

Shifter position in low gear was right in between the 90-degrees-from-downtube position of the older derailleurs and the parallel-with-the-floor position of the newer ones:

And as far as performance, it worked perfectly well:

I suppose it seemed to run a little less quietly than the newer derailleurs, but if so I’d imagine that was probably a result of the 10-speed chain running on 7-speed-era pulleys. I also didn’t have that “Holy crap, this is perfect!” moment I had with the Veloce, which somehow felt more “precise,” though that could merely be a function of the SunTour’s comparatively dowdy appearance:

Faux crabon weave parallelogram notwithstanding, when riding a road bike it’s useless to pretend you wouldn’t rather look down and see a shiny silver Campagnolo derailleur, so while it’s tempting to say the Veloce objectively feels better I can’t discount the possibility I’m simply imagining it:

That aside, it accommodates the entire cassette, it works great, it’s got all the modern features, and unlike Campy stuff it isn’t pointlessly expensive on the used market:

(Though given my experience with spoke clearance on the Rock Combo it’s possible some model years work better than others on newer bikes.)

So yes, as Paul’s Post-it portended, friction is indeed the answer here, and if I didn’t have a whole box full of shiny derailleurs there would be no reason not to keep using this one:

And yes, I can’t wait to finally settle on a winner and tidy up that cable, though I’m kind of surprised not doing so hasn’t become a trend. After all, like uncut guitar strings, an uncircumcised cable does have sort of a beatnik insouciance:

I’ll look forward to my Nobel Prize.

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