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.

Sachs Maillard 6 Speed Freewheel

I removed this very nice early 1980’s Sachs Maillard 6 speed freewheel from the Méral Randonneuse I am currently restoring.  Since the bike is already in great condition, probably the better word is “servicing” – there isn’t much restoration involved for this Méral, being very well preserved already.

Meral Randonneuse – early 1980’s

Sachs Maillard 6 speed freewheel

This freewheel looked sparkly after just a tiny bit of cleaning.  It spins sweetly, with that pleasant sound that some vintage freewheels emit, like a Suntour or a Regina. The freewheel is well engineered, and is lightweight.

Notched tooth pattern

As I was cleaning and lubricating this freewheel, with its useful 13-28 cogs, I noticed these interesting notches on the cog teeth.  That made me wonder if this was a freewheel designed for indexing, and perhaps added later to the bike.  But that didn’t make sense, as the Méral is equipped with friction Simplex downtube shifters, which were clearly original to the bike.

So, I did a bit of research to find out what model this was, as well as to determine the timeline involving the Maillard and Sachs companies, wondering when they had merged.  According to Velobase and other sources, Maillard was absorbed into Sachs in 1980.  By 1989 the Maillard name was no longer used.  Sachs did indeed develop an indexing compatible freewheel, which supposedly can index with any system.  This was the ARIS model which stands for Advanced Rider Indexed System.  It appears the Aris line was developed in the late 1980s’, using their proprietary “Rapid Grip and Shift” tooth design.  So, why does early 1980’s this freewheel’s teeth have these notches?  Is it an early indexing model, or is it an idea that Maillard had developed before indexing was standard?  As far as I can tell, these notches in the cog teeth were present in early 1980’s models.  Velobase.com has several Sachs Maillard freewheels from this era, all of which have the notches on the freewheel cog. Reader insight is welcome!

The freewheel takes a standard splined tool, which can be had from Park Tools or other suppliers.  That was a pleasant surprise.  And, I won’t be needing to overhaul this freewheel.  With a little bit of lubrication – a light oil at first, and then heavier automotive oil – this freewheel will probably last another 35 years or more, and we’ll see how these notched teeth work out on the road.

Why I Love Cycling

1974 Touring Bicycle with fillet brazed joints – Photo credit – DeLong’s Guide to Bicycles & Bicycling.

In 1974 I was a high school senior, soon to graduate. I often rode to classes on my 5 speed derailleur bicycle, and that involved a number of steep hills, some of which I dismounted to ascend.  The bike I rode seemed incredibly incompetent, heavy, and badly geared.  At that time, I knew nothing about lightweight steel tubing, expertly brazed and filed lugs, and quality components.  I was riding the bike my parents purchased for me, after much goading on my part.  I can’t even remember if my 5 speed was a Sears or a Schwinn, but I think it was the former.  All I knew then was that I loved to ride bicycles, and wanted to be on my bike whenever possible.  My parents did their best to accommodate this odd request coming from their middle child – a daughter no less.

Baby blue Volkscycle

Upon graduation, my parents presented me with a beautiful blue Volkscycle. I was in heaven, as this was the nicest bike I had ever ridden.  After riding this bike in my college days in the late 70’s, I took a hiatus from school, and moved to the Oregon coast.  That was when my cycling energy surged. Every Sunday I mounted my blue Volkscycle and rode inland up Yaquina Bay, to Toledo, and back.  I rode this bicycle whenever I could, leaving my funky Datsun 510 truck in the carport most of the time.

After a while, I began to realize that the Volkscycle might not be the best bicycle out there for me. There was no internet at this time, so my knowledge came word of mouth talking to other cyclists, some of whom were part of the 1976 BikeCentennial.

Later, I acquired my 1976 Centurion Pro-Tour – a bike which really defined my cycling experience.  The frame was “too big” for me, and yet I toured all over the Pacific Northwest on this amazing bicycle.  I crashed it back in 1999, and that is what prompted a life long search for an equal partner.

But that never happened.  Instead, I ride on several bicycles regularly.  I have never found my one true love – the bicycle of my youth which comported me over miles of challenging terrain.  I don’t know what to think about why that is – but the upside is that I now enjoy riding a number of wonderful and interesting machines.