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Simplex SLJ Retro-Friction Shifters

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Simplex SLJ Retro-Friction Shifters

Old 06-04-16, 09:42 AM
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Areion
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Simplex SLJ Retro-Friction Shifters

Last night, I ordered some Simplex SLJ Retro-Friction Shifters from Bikes-Vintage in Poland, of all places! I built up my Vitus 979 restoration this past winter with Modolo Kronos 'carbon' levers, and they're just not as good as I remember them. They flex a lot, and I have to keep them very tight, in order to avoid self-shifting off a large cog when climbing. One of my hands is slightly arthritic, and it's a little painful using the Modolos. So, I'm getting the Simplex shifters. I know they were heavily favored by professional racers back in the '80s, and since I prefer friction to index shifting, I'm hoping they will fill the bill. They're not branded, so that leads me to believe they were rebranded for Mavic, who also sold the Simplex shifters under their name. Pics below (from Bikes-Vintage).

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Old 06-04-16, 10:58 AM
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Everyone's favorite friction shifter! Look beautiful, work wonderfully, vintage, high end . . . The only shame is that they are not cheap!

Last edited by jyl; 06-04-16 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 06-04-16, 11:12 AM
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Yeah, I paid $73 (which included shipping from Poland). I'm constantly amazed by how much money suppliers are getting for vintage stuff--NOS or used. Of course, I've been riding for forty years, so my financial mindset harkens back to what I paid for similar components at the time.
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Old 06-04-16, 11:53 AM
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I think you're really going to like them.

I bought some for my Eroica build after all the rave reviews and they are surprisingly light to the touch, exact, and effective. The hype was real =)

I'm now looking for a 55cm frame WITHOUT shifter bosses on the downtube so I can use my Simplex retrofrictions including the Simplex clamp on band, I'm that fond of them. I also got them from Poland via eBay, but paid a little more (I needed asap, haha).

I hope yours treat you well!
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Old 06-04-16, 12:00 PM
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I heard they were (some say still are) the best of them all.
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Old 06-04-16, 12:27 PM
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Yes, the unmarked ones were made by Simplex for Mavic to include in their groups.
I've generally had very good luck sometimes buying my Retrofrictions used but do be aware that they do eventually wear out and that some used ones might not perform 100% and not give you all the benefits they should provide, so it is best if you avoid ones that look beat up or showing signs of very hard use, as the spring clutch can eventually wear down the barrel they grip on for the one way action. The worst one I ever bought actually had grooves from the springs worn into the pivot barrel, and I noticed that it did not have as much one way resistance as my other Retros. I eventually bought another not so pristine set for cheap (but with excellent internals) and was able to assemble a good pair by combining parts from the two sets...... (Yours look to be in excellent condition externally, by the way)
There also had been some rare instances of the clutch springs breaking and not providing the essential one way clutch action for the shifters. most likely attributable to defective manufacturing of the spring. replacements springs sometimes still occasionally pop up from French parts sellers at eBay if they break, but you might have to wait some time to snag them if they do come up.
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Old 06-04-16, 12:51 PM
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Old 06-04-16, 01:01 PM
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I've had good luck on eBay.fr. I've picked up a couple pairs - one NOS banded first style, and one braze on later style, both for about $45 shipped. But that's from about 3 years of lurking.
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Old 06-05-16, 08:53 AM
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Here's a fun read about Simplex Retro-Friction shifters, by retired racer, Dana Albert:

albertnet: Simplex Retrofriction
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Old 06-05-16, 09:51 AM
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I feel fortunate that these came with my McLean when I purchased it.

Just about the only dt lever I like to use, other DA 9/10 speed.

I happen to have two additional Simplex sets just waiting for my Marnati and McLean projects.

I just happened on another McLean frameset, but this Marnati may take me a very long time to find.

Untitled by gomango1849, on Flickr
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Old 06-05-16, 10:10 AM
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Love mine. Don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Old 06-05-16, 05:45 PM
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The Mavic type shifters were already on my 979 when I got it. Very happy with them.

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Old 06-05-16, 06:58 PM
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I have them as part of a full MAVIC gruppo on my Peugeot from mid-1980s. They are wonderful!
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Old 06-06-16, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by gomango View Post
I feel fortunate that these came with my McLean when I purchased it.

Just about the only dt lever I like to use, other DA 9/10 speed.

I happen to have two additional Simplex sets just waiting for my Marnati and McLean projects.

I just happened on another McLean frameset, but this Marnati may take me a very long time to find.

Untitled by gomango1849, on Flickr

Cool bar end plugs!
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Old 06-06-16, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
I heard they were (some say still are) the best of them all.
I think so... not that I'm the most experienced with "bicycle" stuff... but these have the nicest action of all the friction shifters I've played with.

Unless you've used them, you don't quite get them. Sorta like I mentioned in the thread @juvela linked to- they don't ratchet, they're clutched- so they're not pure friction. People refer to other types of friction shifters, like Shimano's and Suntour's and call it "retrofriction." But it's not. Regardless of what it says on Velobase.
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Old 06-06-16, 09:16 AM
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Judging by all this great feedback about the shifters, I'm glad I ordered them! I was hoping to get a smooth, light touch from the shifters, and it sounds like I will. My mildly arthritic hand will be very grateful!
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Old 06-06-16, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Areion View Post
They flex a lot, and I have to keep them very tight, in order to avoid self-shifting off a large cog when climbing.
Suggest you doublecheck that you have all the parts and they are correctly installed. Flexing does not seem right. They do need to be tight although - the force to upshift and downshift should be approximately equal.

I have a pair and half (one 5 speed setup) - The pair I picked up used were missing a washer between the handle and braze-on boss (that I was able to replicate) and one of them had gunk so hard I had to hammer the braze-on boss out of the bushing. I completely disassembled them, cleaned and greased, and now they work great. I used the advice from @gaucho777 to disassemble and reassemble.

Good luck

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Old 06-06-16, 09:26 AM
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Thanks, Joe. The version of the Kronos shifter I have, appears to be an early production model. When I had a pair of these back in the '80s, they were reinforced in the narrowest part of the shifter with some ribbing on the back side. The ones I bought this past winter, lack that ribbing. I do have all the parts, as I double-checked. Like I mentioned, I don't remember needing to keep the shifters so tight, to prevent self-shifting. I attribute the flexing to that, in combination with the unreinforced waist on the shifters. My other concern, is because they do flex, they might break eventually. I've read accounts about that, too.
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Old 06-06-16, 01:50 PM
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oops, I thought you were referring to the retrofriction shifter flexing - I should have read it closer - you won't regret getting a set of retrofrictions

Joe
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Old 06-16-16, 08:24 PM
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My Simplex levers arrived a couple days ago, and I put them on my bike this afternoon. I cleaned them up first, and added a light coat of lithium grease to the inner workings. I was also surprised that the cable holes in the levers were too small for a standard derailleur cable end! I had to grind the ends down to a smaller diameter, to get them to fit.

I'll be trying out the levers on a ride tomorrow, and I'll let you know what my impressions are. The lever action is indeed very smooth, and I expect I will like them!
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Old 06-17-16, 11:39 AM
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So, I just got back from a 33-mile ride using the Simplex Retro-friction shifters. I have but one word to describe them: magnifique!
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Old 06-18-16, 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
Cool bar end plugs!
Rootboy strikes again.

I didn't commission this exquisite set, but I'm sure glad the previous owner of my McLean did.

I'll be ordering another set this winter for another McLean I just finagled....
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Old 06-18-16, 07:59 AM
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I'm surprised Grant Peterson or Jan Heine haven't resurrected these shift levers. Of course with the manuflacturing setups and low-volume sales they'd cost $200 new...

They are the shiznit, however. I refurbed my dad's '73 Gitane TdF and immediately replaced the old Delrin shift levers with Retrofrictions. She never even knew what the old levers were like, if they came even be called "shift levers" more like "$h!t levers." And when I expectantly asked her, "How does they shift?" and she simply replied, "Fine," I was tempted to rip the Retrofrictions right off and put the original shifters back on... I feel like Rodney Dangerfield sometimes.
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