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Confusion about Retro Friction

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Confusion about Retro Friction

Old 01-11-19, 04:21 PM
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Confusion about Retro Friction

I have 3 sets of shifters described as retro friction, with differing characteristics. I find myself confused.

Sun Tour Bar Cons: Clearly a ratcheting shifter, like the Power type down tube levers.

Sachs Huret braze on down tube shifters. Also ratcheting, but subjectively more refined

First generation Simplex SLJ clamp on: No ratchet. Lighter feel on the up stroke. Smooth feel.

So what gives? Are ST & Huret characterized incorrectly? Or do all 3 qualify?

TIA
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Old 01-11-19, 05:46 PM
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Only the Simplex Retrofriction shifters (with one exception) are Retrofriction.

Some dud who liked to use words they didn't understand, or wanted to sell some stuff started referring to every ratcheting, or clutched shifter as "retrofriction."

If it ratchets- it's not a Retrofriction shifter.

If it doesn't have a smooth, clutched action- it's not a Retrofriction shifter.

Suntour NEVER made a Retrofriction shifter. Regardless of what it says on Velobase.

Sachs/Huret Never made a Retrofriction shifter. Regardless of what it says on Velobase.

Shimano never made a Retrofriction shifter. Regardless of what it says on Velobase.

Campagnolo did make a "retrofriction" shifter- a spring loaded, clutched shifter- it was made around 1985- right before the indexing era.



Suntour made 2 different types of ratcheting shifters- the same action used on the Bar Cons and other ratcheting shifters throughout most of the 70s and half the 80s. Around 1984/85 there was a version of ratcheting shifters that is commonly referred to as the Sprint shifters- they have a much finer toothed ratcheting action. This is the action on the ratcheting shifters for Sprint and Superbe Pro shifters- then later on the left Command Shifter. This is also the action that was copied by Rivendell/DiaCompe for the Silver/DiaCompe ENE shifters.

Sachs Huret made some ratcheting shifters that have a really similar toothing (is that a word?) to the Suntour Power shifters, but the clutching action was a little different. I think they feel smoother, more buttery.

Shimano made a few different shifters that have been referred to as "Retrofriction." The old Fingertip Control shifters have a spring that counters the spring on the derailleur. There's no real clutch- so you pull the lever and it either pulls against the derailleur spring or the shifter spring- and I guess you hope that it stays put. Shimano also made some pretty nifty 2-way ratcheting shifters- they're pretty nice- the toothing is, again, pretty similar to the Suntour Power Shifters, but they ratcheted in both directions, unlike the other ratcheting, clutched shifters.
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Old 01-11-19, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by vtchuck View Post
I have 3 sets of shifters described as retro friction, with differing characteristics. I find myself confused.

Sun Tour Bar Cons: Clearly a ratcheting shifter, like the Power type down tube levers.

Sachs Huret braze on down tube shifters. Also ratcheting, but subjectively more refined

First generation Simplex SLJ clamp on: No ratchet. Lighter feel on the up stroke. Smooth feel.

So what gives? Are ST & Huret characterized incorrectly? Or do all 3 qualify?

TIA
All 3 shifters use a mechanism to disengage the friction plate in the cable-pull direction, and so the pure meaning of the phrase "retrofriction" can be intelligibly applied to all three. However, Simplex sort of adopted "Retrofriction" early on as a description of their spring-clutch mechanism, so to avoid a small amount of confusion and a large amount of inexplicable anger, it's usually best to refer to ratcheting shifters like the SunTour as simply "ratcheting."
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Old 01-11-19, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
All 3 shifters use a mechanism to disengage the friction plate in the cable-pull direction, and so the pure meaning of the phrase "retrofriction" can be intelligibly applied to all three. However, Simplex sort of adopted "Retrofriction" early on as a description of their spring-clutch mechanism, so to avoid a large amount of inexplicable anger, it's usually best to refer to ratcheting shifters like the SunTour as simply "ratcheting."
I'm one of the ones, (or maybe I'm the only one) that has this as a pet peeve... Because words mean things.

Just out of curiosity- can you point me to the use of the word "retrofriction" as an engineering term that would mean to "disengage the friction plate in the cable-pull direction"?

A google search of "retrofriction" only comes up in reference to bike shifters.

As far as I can tell, I don't see any other company referring to their shifters as retrofriction, or having a retrofriction action- it's just people since the advent of the internets. However Simplex did refer to their shifters as Retrofriction.
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Old 01-11-19, 06:35 PM
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Brifters
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Old 01-11-19, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
I'm one of the ones, (or maybe I'm the only one) that has this as a pet peeve... Because words mean things.

Just out of curiosity- can you point me to the use of the word "retrofriction" as an engineering term that would mean to "disengage the friction plate in the cable-pull direction"?
It's not an engineering term, but it's clearly what Simplex meant by the phrasing. "Retro" is an abbreviation of the French "retrograde." When you first cable up a friction shifter, it's in its fully-released position; cable-pulling is the first action you can do with it, and cable-releasing reverts it toward its initial state, hence cable-releasing is the "retrograde" direction of a shifter. Friction plate applied in the cable-release direction -> friction in the retrograde direction -> retrofriction.
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Old 01-11-19, 07:39 PM
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FWIW, I tried some Simplex retrofriction levers on a bike recently. They're smooth as butter, and work as advertised...until the screw loosens a bit. Then I started get ghost shifting. Tighten the screw, works fine, a few days later, loosens, ghost shifting.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

But I decided to switch to some new Silver microratcheting, which are the modern version of the old Sun Tours. Works like a champ, holds the shift.
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Old 01-11-19, 10:06 PM
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@gugie Put a little natural bees wax on the screw. It works like a bit of loctite but without the lock. It also helps a slippy Phillips screwdriver, stick the point of the screwdriver in a block of beeswax and spin it a bit so that some sticks to the cross pieces of the point and then use it, it helps prevent the slipping.
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Old 01-12-19, 12:01 AM
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Huret made a relatively small number of true retrofriction levers with a level of friction that adjusted itself based on the cable tension. It worked by anchoring the cable head to the end of the spring instead of to the lever itself. I consider these the most sophisticated "friction" levers ever, with the most linear effort force curve across the lever's range of motion and better able to accomodate a wider range of weird old derailers without slipping. Perfect for the Gran Turismo with it's heavy return spring!

Shimano Unishift DT levers (also found as headset-mounted on certain Schwinns), and Shimano M700 "stag's head" Unishift thumb levers all have a true clutched release.

Campagnolo offered Doppler retrofriction levers.

I'll cast another vote for the micro-ratcheted Suntour Sprint levers as seeming to be functionally the equal of most retrofriction levers.

If a retrofriction lever is loosening, either one of two possibilities exists.
Either the screw is self-loosening because of the anti-rotation plate, washer or mount having some back-and-forth freeplay, or the spring clutch is seized or unlubricated, forcing the screw to serve as a tensioning adjuster (it is supposed to be tight, with the inner sleeve/bushing not turning as the lever is moved).
Perhaps lubricating the lever internals thoroughly will free up the clutch wrap spring, allowing the mounting screw to hold the bushing stationary and thus remain tight.
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Old 01-12-19, 12:35 AM
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A tip for Simplex Retrofriction users,
It will be good if you replace the lever mounting screws from the original slotted ones to stainless steel ones with an Allenhead socket on them (get the ones with a button shaped head). It makes it easier to install and tighten adequately as the Allenhead socket is much harder to strip than the slot on the original bolts. Plus the original slotted screws tend to rust badly as the chrome they used was thin and bad quality.
Half of my bikes have retrofriction shifters and I have changed all the mounting bolts on them and have never had any problems with them loosening on me.
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Old 01-12-19, 12:36 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Maybe I'm doing something wrong.
Yes, you haven’t boxed them up and sent them to me - that’s what you’re doing wrong... or not using blue locktight on the threads. But definitely one of those two.
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Old 01-12-19, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
Campagnolo did make a "retrofriction" shifter- a spring loaded, clutched shifter- it was made around 1985- right before the indexing era.
Campy made 3 versions of retrofrictions. There is a very rare Super Record version, a later 'normal' version and finally a 'big barrel' version. All of the levers in the pic below are Campy retrofrictions, the 'big barrel' version is in the center.

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Old 01-12-19, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Choke View Post
Campy made 3 versions of retrofrictions. There is a very rare Super Record version, a later 'normal' version and finally a 'big barrel' version. All of the levers in the pic below are Campy retrofrictions, the 'big barrel' version is in the center.



After I'd posted, I'd seen something about Mavic building retrofriction shifters around 1995-ish...
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Old 01-12-19, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
After I'd posted, I'd seen something about Mavic building retrofriction shifters around 1995-ish...
The only Mavic retrofricion shifters I've ever seen (or heard of) are rebadged Simplex.
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Old 01-12-19, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Choke View Post
Campy made 3 versions of retrofrictions. There is a very rare Super Record version, a later 'normal' version and finally a 'big barrel' version.
Can you expand on this a little? Are any of the ones in your pic the Super Record ones? How does one tell SR from the others?
I looked on velobase, and in one of the descriptions they talk about them having two conical washers that should be installed "flying saucer" style (2nd gen).
VeloBase.com - Component: Campagnolo C-Record Retro-Friction (2nd Gen.)
Reason I am asking, is that I think I have a set I was planning on putting on my Pinarello (so I can get rid of the SL-01RE CG that are on there now), and am wondering if they are truly retrofriction or not. They have what look to be little ball bearing cages inside, as well as the two conical washers. I can post "exploded views" of them, but for now, here's what they look like:



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Old 01-12-19, 08:20 PM
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I don't know nuthin bout no retrofriction. I describe it like I this: It's just like the drag on a nice fishing reel. It clicks. Suntour did it the best. Nuff said.
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Old 01-12-19, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by hazetguy View Post
Can you expand on this a little? Are any of the ones in your pic the Super Record ones? How does one tell SR from the others?
I looked on velobase, and in one of the descriptions they talk about them having two conical washers that should be installed "flying saucer" style (2nd gen).
VeloBase.com - Component: Campagnolo C-Record Retro-Friction (2nd Gen.)
Reason I am asking, is that I think I have a set I was planning on putting on my Pinarello (so I can get rid of the SL-01RE CG that are on there now), and am wondering if they are truly retrofriction or not. They have what look to be little ball bearing cages inside, as well as the two conical washers. I can post "exploded views" of them, but for now, here's what they look like:




I believe they're called "Doppler" shifters.
I also have a set that's going on to my Pinarello Montello.
The 1st gen Synchro indexed shifters on the bike just don't work as well as I want them to, so I decided to finally break out the NOS Dopplers that I have in my stash to mount on the bike instead, this winter.
Curious to find out if they work as well as all my Simplex Retros, but I'm sure I'll like them much better than the Synchros.
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Old 01-12-19, 09:09 PM
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Zeus "Cosmos" shifters are another retrofriction model that appeared briefly after Simplex's patent lapsed and before indexed shifting took over the market.

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Old 01-12-19, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Choke View Post
The only Mavic retrofricion shifters I've ever seen (or heard of) are rebadged Simplex.
Apparently from the "Zap" group in the early/mid 90s


IMG_1248 by Dave The Golden Boy, on Flickr
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Old 01-12-19, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Choke View Post
The only Mavic retrofricion shifters I've ever seen (or heard of) are rebadged Simplex.
Actually, the Mavic Retrofriction is a "De-badged" Simplex Retrofriction. It did not have any brand markings on it......
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Old 01-12-19, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
Apparently from the "Zap" group in the early/mid 90s



IMG_1248 by Dave The Golden Boy, on Flickr
Actually, I think that's just one half of the set thst's for the FD. The RD half of the lever set can be set to indexed or friction. Not sure if the friction mode of the RD shifter had the Retrofriction function.
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Old 01-13-19, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
Actually, I think that's just one half of the set thst's for the FD. The RD half of the lever set can be set to indexed or friction. Not sure if the friction mode of the RD shifter had the Retrofriction function.
According the the blurb I read (and stole the pic from), it's just the left/front shifter.

Again, I just ran into this after posting.
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Old 01-13-19, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by hazetguy View Post
Can you expand on this a little? Are any of the ones in your pic the Super Record ones? How does one tell SR from the others?
The Super Record ones look like normal SR shifters except the barrel is wider. You can see pics of them here - VeloBase.com - Component: Campagnolo Super Record Retro-Friction Note the last pic...the later model retrofrictions look like that on the inside as well - both shifters - so if it doesn't look like that inside then it's not a retrofriction. It's impossible to tell the 2 versions in my photo apart from the non-retrofriction models just from looking at the outside.

And here is how they are assembled....




Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
Actually, the Mavic Retrofriction is a "De-badged" Simplex Retrofriction. It did not have any brand markings on it......
I'd have sworn I have seen versions marked 'Mavic' but a quick search didn't find any so you may well be right.
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Old 01-13-19, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
According the the blurb I read (and stole the pic from), it's just the left/front shifter.
If it's from the Zap group it would only be for the FD....the RD was electronic shifting.
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Old 01-13-19, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
Curious to find out if they work as well as all my Simplex Retros, but I'm sure I'll like them much better than the Synchros.
FWIW I think they work as well as the Simplex. These big barrel ones are shifting a 10sp cassette....

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