Huret Rear Derailleurs

1980 Huret Challenger rear derailleur

There are some vintage components which I have never taken a liking to. Huret parallelogram rear derailleurs are one example.  These rear gear changers were introduced in the 1960’s.  The Huret rear derailleur line of this era ran the gamut from  the lower end Alvit models to the very lightweight Jubilee models.  In between are the Eco, Challenger, various Luxe models, Svelto, and the titanium version of the Challenger – the Success.  In my experience, the lower end Alvit models can actually perform quite well, even though they are fairly heavy and unattractive.

Huret Titanium Success rear derailleur

This titanium model (one of many Huret models in my parts bin) is very visually attractive, but is essentially exactly the same as its Challenger counterpart, engineering-wise.  One feature of both the Challenger and Success models is the ability to move the cage pivot to accommodate 24 or 28 teeth.

This is accomplished by screwing the cage pivot bolt into either the 24 or 28 tooth drillings on the parallelogram.  That is all very well and good.  Apparently, these derailleurs can accommodate a 31 tooth gear range, so they can be adapted to touring applications with the right set-up.  Frank Berto’s book The Dancing Chain has a comprehensive discussion of these derailleurs, along with commentary regarding his own experience using them on his bikes.  While noting their obvious shortcomings, Berto states that he has successfully used the Duopar models (which have TWO parallelograms), on his friction shifting touring bikes of this era.

Non “bastard” dropouts on the Meral…Huuureet!

Baffling complexity for what should be a simple attachment to the dropout. The black (not silver) bolt turns out to be one clue not to ignore.

Fortunately, the dropouts on the early 1980’s Meral Rando bicycle that I am currently working on are NOT Huret style dropouts.  They are standard Shimano/Campy so can accommodate pretty much any kind of rear derailleur option.  That set my mind at ease, in case something went wrong with my urge to disassemble the Huret Challenger which is original to the bike.

If you are into overhauling rear derailleurs, RJ the Bike Guy has a wonderful video showing the overhaul and reassembly of a Huret Challenger rear derailleur.  As it turns out, the process of overhauling is very straightforward.  The pulleys run on bushings which just need cleaning and lubrication.  The body also needs to be cleaned, with the pivot points lubricated.  The pivot spring on this derailleur was kind of kinked up, so we’ll see how well it performs once it has been cleaned, greased, and re-installed.

Huret rear derailleur instructions, courtesy of http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Huret_instructions.html

Now to the most challenging part of the overhaul process:  installing the Huret derailleur into the dropout.  This step would normally be something no mechanic would ever even discuss, except to recommend torque settings for the installation bolt.  Not so with Huret rear derailleurs.  There are all kinds of parts, including bolts, washers, clamps, and b-screw adjusters to be considered.  I found myself really questioning my sanity as I attempted to mount my freshly overhauled derailleur to the dropout on the Meral.  Fortunately, disraeligears.co.uk came to the rescue.  As it turns out, the BLACK mounting bolt is very important – signifying the method which is necessary to secure the derailleur to a non-Huret drop-out.  This also determines the line-up of the b-screw adjustment piece, which can be put into two different positions – see above.  If you don’t have a headache by now, you are to be commended!  I will circle back around once I have the Huret Challenger installed and tested.

Bum Deal

I haven’t written much about bicycle saddles, and there is a reason for that:  saddle preference is a matter having little to do with “cycling lore” and much more to do with your body, the bike you are riding, and your riding style.  Just because I like a particular saddle on a particular bike does not mean anyone else will feel the same way.  That simple fact must be maddening for saddle manufacturers, which may explain the vast array of saddle choices available in the marketplace.

Leather saddles have survived the test of time, and are enjoying a resurgence of popularity today.  I ride on a couple of leather saddles on a regular basis.  However, there have been a few leather saddles that I have simply had to remove from my bike due to the astounding discomfort I experienced.  Over time, I have developed my own technique for breaking in leather saddles, which is probably true of many cyclists who prefer leather over other materials.  Daniel Rebour had his proprietary break-in technique as well. I also ride regularly on some leather and non leather covered plastic base saddles, which I have found to be on par with the comfort offered by some leather saddles.  Comfort being a relative term.

WTB Deva saddle with cro-mo rails

One of the plastic base saddles that I find very comfortable is this WTB Deva saddle with cro-mo rails, shown above as mounted on my 1972 Mercian. Bearing a strong resemblance to an ironing board, it is a saddle that many riders would probably eschew.  But, actual comfort is counter-intuitive when it comes to bicycle saddles.  Thick padding decreases comfort.  Wide and heavy saddles with large suspension springs may not necessarily be comfortable either.  I discovered this WTB Deva saddle only because it arrived on a frame and fork I had purchased a while back.  I was going to donate that well-worn saddle to the Community Cycling Center, but decided to try it out first on one of my bikes.  I was amazed at the comfort the saddle provided – it supported my bum in all the right areas, and was equally comfortable on a bike with low handlebars as well as a bike with a more upright riding position.  I tried riding the saddle with jeans, and after experiencing no discomfort, decided to purchase several of these saddles to keep on hand in case I wanted to install them on some of the bikes I ride regularly.  One thing I have learned about cycling components is that if you like an item now, buy several, as you may never find that model again.

One saddle that I could never make peace with is this beautiful Brooks Team Pro saddle.  I have never ridden on a more uncomfortable saddle, and I’ve ridden on a lot.  This Brooks would not break in, even after years and miles of use.  It has been treated, lubricated, left in the sun for days, pushed and pulled, but the saddle has never relented.

Here is the Brooks Team Pro on my old Davidson.  On this journey, about a decade ago, I decided to explore the cranberry bogs of Bandon, Oregon.  Unfortunately, the saddle became so unacceptable on my little tour, that I cut it short and headed home.  Bad, bad, saddle.

But, there have been several Brooks saddles that I have loved, two of which were used on my Cannondale T2000 for many years – a Brooks Champion Flyer and a Brooks B-17.  Both saddles broke in easily and provided many miles of service.

Because of the inconsistency in Brooks saddles I have used, I currently ride Cardiff leather saddles.  Shown above is the Cardiff on my Meral (left) and the Cardiff on my Panasonic (right).  These saddles resemble the Brooks B-17 saddles, but have a slightly different shape, as well as longer saddle rails.  This model is the “Mercia” which is 10 mm wider at the back than its Brooks B-17 counterpart.  As with all leather saddles, each one is different, even though the same model. The darker saddle on the left is actually far more comfortable than the saddle on the right.  Why?  It could simply be that the saddle mounted on my Meral is more optimized for a less upright riding position than that of my Panasonic winter bike.

From my own experience, Ideale leather saddles seem to have it all over Brooks and other competitors.  The saddles shown above are just a few examples of the many models manufactured by Tron and Berthet – a company founded back in 1890 and which went out of business 100 years later.  Too bad.  These are probably the nicest leather saddles ever made.  Below is an advertisement dating to the 1960’s.  Each time I have ridden an Ideale saddle on one of my restorations, I have been pleasantly surprised by the comfort Ideale saddles provide.

1969 Tron & Berthet brochure

A Brief History of Splined Cranks and Spindles

1948 splined crankset, courtesy of The Data Book

My recent overhaul of a Shimano Octalink bottom bracket made me wonder about splined cranksets and whether they had a history that preceded Shimano’s 1996 offering.  I pulled out my copies of The Data Book, Rebour (by Rob Van der Plas), as well as the small collection of Le Cycle and Le Cyclist magazine in my library to review spindle and crankset design through the decades.  I also checked Bicycle Design to see if it contained any chapters on crankset and bottom bracket design, which it did not. As it turned out, the best resource for my research was VeloBase.com.

Rebour drawing of 1950 Gnutti splined crankset, Le Cycle Magazine, 9 Oct 1950.

After learning from the Rebour book and The Data Book that Gnutti had introduced a splined spindle and crankarm by at least 1948 or 1949, I searched VeloBase and found several examples of this design.  From the Rebour drawing above you can see that the splined portion was nice and long, and was also spliced.  I have not observed these splices on later photos of Gnutti splined spindles dating from the early 1950’s.  There are a boatload of splines on this spindle, and the splined area is very long – so it does seem like a robust product, especially when compared to the Shimano Octalink V1 spindle, with its very short splines.

Williams catalogue, courtesy of VeloBase.com

Another component maker to offer a splined spindle and crankarm was Williams, who were more well known for their low end steel cottered cranksets rather than their higher end alloy offerings.  Their AB 77 crank and spindle was introduced in the early 1960’s or late 1950’s and had fewer splines than the Gnutti competitor, but was apparently easier to install and remove.  The blog midlifecycling.blogspot.com has a nice discussion about these cranks and their strengths and shortcomings.

Gnutti splined crank spindle, courtesy of classiccyleus.com

To add to the mystique surrounding splined cranksets, I discovered this intriguing 1967 Jack Taylor custom bicycle built for Jerry Collier, which was created by the Taylor brothers to feature components from earlier decades.  The bike has a 1930’s Osgear derailleur, the earliest known cassette hub by Pallandini, as well as a splined Gnutti crank spindle, shown above.

Gnutti splined crank and spindle, courtesy of VeloBase.com

As is true of most modern cycling “innovations”, what is new was actually invented decades ago.  Index shifting, integrated brake/shifter levers, bar-end shifters, and splined cassettes with freehubs are just a few examples.  We can add splined cranks and spindles to the list.