Re: [CR] Ebay auction: Le Spirax NOS derailleur

(Example: Framebuilding:Tubing)

In-Reply-To: <>
References: <>
Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2009 18:07:22 -0700
To: Tom Hayes <>, Classic Rendevous <>
From: "Jan Heine" <>
Subject: Re: [CR] Ebay auction: Le Spirax NOS derailleur

At 7:11 AM -0500 3/29/09, Tom Hayes wrote:
>Any comments, beyond "wow," on the now-closed auction for a Le Spirax
>derailleur at the following:
>Anyone ever use one of them? Interesting display of the derailleur and
>shifter's component parts and well-presented auction too, I thought.

I've ridden a Spirax, and reported on it in the "Riding with Classic Derailleurs" series in Bicycle Quarterly. It is without doubt the best-shifting derailleur ever made. You don't even notice the gear changes, and this is without Hyperglide cogs or anything. Shimano's and Campy's latest offerings can't match the smoothness with which the Spirax engages the gears.

However, Ernest Csuka of Cycles Alex Singer remembers them being made from materials that wore quickly, so they didn't have a great reputation. And Cyclo back then had so many sales and so many ads and a product that looked so elegant (even though it stopped working if it got muddy), that it was hard to break into the cyclotouring derailleur market.

The one I used did not have indexing - in fact, I had never seen the indexing lever. The price seems about what I'd expect for something this rare.

The auction description is of course total nonsense: "The first successful index shifting derailleur"? What about the Chemineau, made by the thousands starting in the 1910s? And all those Tour de France bikes with Super Champions had indexing, as you can see in our book "The Competition Bicycle." The Funiculo on the 1930s Schulz also had indexing, and shifted very well. In fact, indexing came first, and friction shifting was seen as a major improvement when Cyclo introduced it.

And "unique"? Frank Berto might not have one, but I know of at least a handful. None NOS, though...

Since the derailleur did not require overshifting, the indexing probably does work quite well. But few people saw the need for "old-fashioned" indexing back then.

Indexing with a 1956 Campagnolo Gran Sport? Blasphemy! And I want to see the Gran Sport that handles a 52-26 chainring combination.

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly
140 Lakeside Ave #C
Seattle WA 98122