On this Friday evening, with the gentle cool breeze blowing across my summer garden, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite photos of my bicycle restorations from the 1920’s through the 1950’s:
Rear dropouts determine what derailleur options are available for a given frame. Rear dropout spacing also determines hub options, with derailleur equipped vintage bicycles having narrower spacing than their modern counterparts. And, the shape and style of the dropout are important as well: horizontal dropouts allow for wheel adjustment fore and aft, whereas vertical dropouts make rear wheel removal easier. Eyelets on the dropouts mean integrated fender and rack mounts, a definite plus.
Little attention is paid to this important feature of any vintage steel bicycle. Vintage dropouts include: old style Simplex dropouts (shown above – but often model specific), newer style Simplex dropouts, Huret drop outs (several styles), Campagnolo dropouts, Shimano and Suntour dropouts, and stamped or forged dropouts with no integrated derailleur hanger. Some vintage bicycles feature chainstays with integrated braze-ons or dropouts for Simplex, Cyclo, Huret and other rear derailleurs.
Plain dropouts require a “claw” attachment for the rear derailleur or a braze-on or clamp for the chain stay. For vintage bicycles, plain dropouts without a hanger do not in any way indicate a lower end frame. Many nice upper end vintage steel frames did not have manufacturer specific brazed dropouts. So, do not be afraid of the “claw”. In fact, having plain dropouts on a vintage bicycle can be helpful, because derailleur options are automatically expanded, depending on the style of claw chosen.
The above Daniel Rebour drawings depict two different styles of Huret dropouts. Huret rear derailleurs can be a bit (translate “a lot”!) more difficult to set up than Simplex derailleurs. By contrast, setting up Shimano, Suntour or Campagnolo derailleurs with their matching tabbed and threaded dropout at 7 o’clock seems almost too easy.
After the early 1980’s or so, dropout hangers were not so much an issue, because dropouts on derailleur equipped bikes after this point in time featured standard Shimano/Campagnolo hangers which were adopted as the standard by other component manufacturers.
Sheldon Brown developed this helpful chart shown above, although it is missing some key information. He does not address the baffling array of hanger styles which existed in days of yore.
There is only one resource on the web that seems to have a comprehensive overview of dropout styles and rear derailleur compatibility issues. This helpful chart can be found at a site called The Headbadge. Velobase also has an extensive database of vintage style dropouts. These resources can help anyone restoring a vintage bicycle determine whether and how to change the existing rear derailleur, and how to determine compatibility options.
In addition, there are a few other web resources that can help you with derailleur and dropout considerations:
The Dancing Chain by Frank Berto is also an important resource – even more so because it is in book form. If you don’t want to explore vintage derailleurs and dropout styles, the information presented in Chapter 15 – “How Derailleurs Work” will be worth the cost of purchasing this book. The author’s discussion of derailleur composition, chain gap, pulley spacing, cage geometry, and spring loaded pivots is invaluable to an understanding of how derailleurs work.
I purchased this 1962 Daniel Rebour Cycle booklet from Jan Heine about 5 years ago. Back then I carried it with me whenever I took public transportation to work (TriMet) so I could peruse its French language pages and stare longingly upon its Daniel Rebour drawings at my leisure. While I have never taken a French language class, I studied Spanish extensively in my youth and was at one time fluent in that language. That made it easier to have a rudimentary comprehension of what I was engrossed in while bumping along toward downtown Portland on the bus. Eventually I realized that I didn’t want the pages of this rare vintage publication to become dog-eared, so I set the booklet aside in my special bin for special stuff not to be messed with.
I have consulted this little tome a few times since then when I needed some background information on components and bicycles produced in the early 1960’s. Recently, I dug it out because I had remembered an odd through the frame cable routing for a rear centerpull (Mafac) brake. And even more recently, I wondered if this little booklet contained any information about French Cyclo rear derailleurs. I figured probably not, as these derailleurs were becoming obsolete by the late 50’s. And, I was right about that. But, I once again was drawn into this publication, which is organized by bicycle component categories: Frames and tubing (Le Cadre); Bottom Brackets (Les Roulements); Cranksets (Le Pédalier); Chainrings (Les Plateaux); Pedals and Toe Clips (Pédales et Cale-Pieds); Wheelsets (Les Roues); Tubular Tires (Les Boyaux); Derailleurs (Les Derailleurs); Brakes (Les Friens); and the remaining chapters on saddles, handlebars, and accessories.
Daniel Rebour’s treasured drawings are featured in a number of print publications. One of these is Frank Berto’s The Dancing Chain. I frequently consult Berto’s book for insight and guidance on setting up vintage derailleurs.
Daniel Rebour contributed significantly to our understanding of vintage bicycle components. He left a legacy that all cyclists benefit from, especially those of us committed to preserving the legacy of vintage bicycles, and we are all the better for it. I am grateful for his contribution.