SunTour Components

SunTour, (which began as Maeda Iron Works in 1912) was considered the most important Japanese manufacturer of cycling components up until 1988. At that time, the company was bought out by SR (Sakae Ringyo, which itself was bought out by Mori Industries around the same time), and from that point forward SunTour lost its dominance in the marketplace to Shimano.  The forces which brought about these changes involved too-low pricing, less than insightful management decisions, R & D missteps, and just plain bad luck.  The lovely Cyclone rear derailleur pictured above is an example of SunTour’s prowess in its heyday.  This mid-70’s derailleur weighs 175 grams, and features SunTour’s patented (in 1964!) slant parallelogram design with a spring on the upper pulley. The outer pulley cage is broken for easy chain replacement.  SunTour’s patent expired in 1984, and the rest is history.  Shimano copied SunTour’s slant parallelogram design, and became the dominant supplier of derailleurs for many decades since.

The quality of SunTour components has always impressed me.  I have used SunTour components in many vintage rebuilds.  So, I decided to equip my new Rivendell Appaloosa frame with a full SunTour gruppo.  First up was the crankset and bottom bracket, for which I decided upon the Sprint lineup, which was competitive with Shimano 600 at the time of its introduction in the mid-80’s.  I was fortunate to source a NOS bottom bracket, plus a gently used crankset with useful 48/40 rings.  The gold /bronze lettering will pick up nicely on the Rivendell’s frame colors.

For the front derailleur, I selected a Superbe model from 1981, according to the date code on the back of the cage.  This derailleur is so light weight that it doesn’t even register on my weight scale, which is calibrated in pounds and ounces.  SunTour’s catalog lists its weight at 90 grams. One of the goals in building up my Appaloosa is to save weight where possible, and this derailleur is part of that plan, not to mention its purported excellent performance.

The Appy is equipped with canti bosses, and I really puzzled over the right cantilever brake set for this bicycle.  Once I narrowed in on SunTour, it was a no brainer to look for the best SunTour cantilever brakes, all the while knowing that these brakes were manufactured after SunTour was taken over by SR.  These are the “champagne color” brake arms, and I was looking forward to seeing how they would look on the Appaloosa frame.  I was not disappointed.  While these brakes, with their internal springs, can be a little challenging to set up, I’ve used them a few other times and have gotten the hang of it (Paul’s cantis are similar in design).  These brakes have a useful toe in washer, shown above, plus a ratcheting mechanism on the brake shoe shaft which makes fine tuning easier than other cantilever options.

I had already planned on using SunTour’s bar end shifters (aka “Barcons”) for this project, but just in case, I also sourced some ratcheting 22.2 bar mount thumb shifters, shown above.  SunTour’s friction shifters are some of my favorites from this era.

But, I fully expect to use these SunTour Barcon’s, shown above mounted to a porteur style handlebar.  While I have used Shimano’s bar end shifters on many of my bikes, I really do like the feel and subtlety offered by these amazing pre-indexing ratcheting shifters.  They are another example of the quality and reliability of SunTour components.


Hello, Little ALAN

My tiny ALAN bicycle that I had converted to a commuter and forwarded on to a family member has returned home.  It’s sojourn into a new household involved many changes to help make it more comfortable for the rider in question, including an upright riding position and simple to use index shifting with a single chain ring up front.  Unfortunately, its new owner could not make peace with it, nor with any two-wheeled machine, and is now investigating trikes, which are a great alternative for cyclists who experience wrist pain while riding.  I love all the alternatives that are now available to those who wish to enjoy the benefits of cycling:  e-bikes, trikes, recumbents, small wheeled bikes, folders – the list goes on!  Not only is the bicycle is the most efficient human-powered machine out there, nothing can really rival the joy of cycling – whether on an old three speed or a new racing machine.

Today I took the opportunity to take the little ALAN out on a ride, to assess its condition and consider ergonomic changes, and to just enjoy riding this 19 lb machine with its 48 x 48 frame and 24 inch wheels.

ALAN bicycles were first produced back in 1972 when the company introduced its aluminum frame cyclocross bikes.  Stainless steel engraved lugs hold the aluminum tubes in place.  Those tubes are not just bonded with glue, but also threaded in.  Riding an ALAN frame is a lot like riding a steel frame – the bike is flexible and forgiving, but not excessively so.

Little ALAN as originally purchased

This ALAN is an unusual bike, with its 24 inch wheels and small frame.  All of its components were Dura Ace and Shimano 600 when I aquired this bike several years ago.  Its wheelset is Shimano 600 hubs laced to Mavic rims, producing a competent and comfortable ride.

I kept the Dura Ace brake calipers and bottom bracket, and the original wheelset.  I installed micro knobby tires to make the bike a bit more versatile.  While these tires might slow you down a bit on a road ride, they are perfect for venturing out on a goat path (or two).

And today, that’s exactly what I did . The ALAN and I explored unknown territory with grace and aplomb. The bike can be ridden for hours, without any feeling of fatigue.  It’s such a special machine, and one that I look forward to riding more.

Buying a Bike for its Parts

Late 1980’s Deore thumb shifter with optional friction mode.

Vintage bicycle parts are often hard to come by.  While I have decided not to participate in the current trend of dismantling and re-selling vintage bikes and parts on eBay, sometimes buying a bike for parts is the only way you can acquire what you are looking for.

1989 Bridgestone MB3 – with non-garish 80’s color scheme

So, almost by accident, I purchased a 1989 Bridgestone MB3 in order to harvest the parts I wanted: Deore friction/SIS thumb shifters, Deore derailleurs, and a very unusual lavender anodized Nitto dirt drop style stem and Nitto bar (see below).  I also noted that the bike’s wheelset looked pretty good – Deore hubs, laced with Wheelsmith spokes to a Ritchey Vantage rim.

When the bike arrived, I was a little taken aback by the quality of this frameset:  triple butted Ishiwata oversize tubes, and forged drop outs with eyelets.  These features, combined with the two bottle cage mounts and rear seat stay rack mounts, make for a versatile frame.  The secret is out that lugged steel mountain bike frames make great Portland winter commuters.  I think my 1987 Panasonic MC-7500 is feeling a little threatened right now.  I had planned on selling or donating the MB3 frame, but now I am not so sure.

The Shimano Deore groupset dates to 1989, except for the shifters which have a 1987 date code.  The Nitto bar is not original to the bike, and is in as new condition.  The Ritchey wheelset turned out to be a real bonus.  With a simple hub overhaul and minor truing, this wheelset is as nice as any 26″ example out there.

Nitto lavender anodized stem

Appaloosa color scheme

The parts I wanted have exceeded my expectations, with the lavender anodized Nitto stem being the absolute gem in the group.  It is shown pictured above as an idea for the stem on my new Rivendell Appaloosa.  The stem color picks up the brown/purple accent colors in the paint scheme, which is just what I hoped for.